North Tripyramid, Middle Tripyramid, and
Sabbaday Falls

Destinations:  North Tripyramid (4180'), Middle Tripyramid (4140'), Sabbaday Falls (1400')
Trails:  Sabbaday Brook Trail, Mount Tripyramid Trail, Pine Bend Brook Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Sandwich Range Wilderness
Location:  Waterville Valley, NH
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summits, views, brooks, waterfall, rock scrambles, loop hike
Distance:  11.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  3200 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 9:00   Typical: 7:00  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 10:45   Typical: 10:00  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  04/25/2009 (Saturday)  
Weather:  40's80's, sunny, 20 mph summit winds
Author:  Bill Mahony

Sabbaday Falls (photo by Bill Mahony)


Route Summary   

This is a loop hike to Sabbaday Falls, Middle Tripyramid, and North Tripyramid with very restricted views from North Tripyramid and better ones from Middle Peak. Sabbaday Falls is beautiful and encountered right at the beginning of the hike.

The final mile of this loop is along Kancamagus Highway. If you have more than one vehicle, you could spot cars at two trailheads and omit this road walk.

Sabbaday Brook Trail requires several stream crossings which may be difficult at high water. If hiking during snowmelt season or during/after heavy rains, allow extra time and be prepared to turn back if the crossings turn out to be too difficult.

Ascent to Middle Tripyramid:
  • Start the hike on Sabbaday Brook Trail which you will follow to its end. The first 3 miles are on easy/moderate grades with the last 1.9 miles climbing at moderate/difficult inclines.
  • Almost immediately, bear left on a side path which will bring you past several overlooks to Sabbaday Brook and Sabbaday Falls.
  • The side path rejoins the main trail after 0.3 mile.
  • Above this point, the footways diverge and rejoin on either side of a rocky brook bed.
  • You will reach the first of three stream crossings in quick succession 0.7 mile from the trailhead. If the water is high you may skip the first two crossings by bushwhacking for 0.1 mile up the west side of the brook.
  • You will enter the Sandwich Range Wilderness 1.0 mile after the first stream crossing.
  • After another 1.1 mile, the trail turns sharply right and then crosses Sabbaday Brook for the fourth time.
  • Three stream crossings and 2.1 miles later, Sabbaday Brook Trail ends where it meets Pine Bend Brook Trail and Mount Tripyramid Trail in the saddle between North Tripyramid and Middle Tripyramid.
  • Turn left and climb steeply on Mount Tripyramid Trail for 0.3 mile to reach the summit of Middle Tripyramid which has views out to Mount Passaconaway and Mount Chocorua. Look to the right (west) of the trail near the summit to find an outlook to Mounts Tecumseh and Osceola in Waterville Valley with Mount Moosilauke making an appearance farther out.

From Middle Peak to North Peak:
  • After enjoying a break, retrace your steps north for 0.3 mile on Mount Tripyramid Trail. Make sure you leave the summit in a northerly direction; Mount Tripyramid Trail also continues south over the summit.
  • Upon returning to the col where Mount Tripyramid Trail, Pine Bend Brook Trail, and Sabbaday Brook Trail all meet, continue straight ahead (while Sabbaday Brook Trail goes right) on the combined Mount Tripyramid Trail and Pine Bend Brook Trail.
  • Climb moderately for 0.5 mile which will bring you to the summit of North Tripyramid where the views are mostly overgrown.
  • Continue about 20 yards beyond the summit where Mount Tripyramid Trail and Pine Bend Brook Trail diverge. If you wish, you may veer left and follow Mount Tripyramid Trail for 0.1 mile to the top of North Slide where there are some views; then you will need to retrace your steps back up to the junction to continue the loop hike.

Descent:
  • From the Mount Tripyramid Trail and Pine Bend Brook Trail junction, turn right if coming directly from the summit, or left if coming up from the slide, onto Pine Bend Brook Trail which you will follow all the way back to Kancamagus Highway.
  • Descend steeply for 0.8 mile which will bring to a junction with Scaur Ridge Trail. Veer right to continue following Pine Bend Brook Trail.
  • Continue a steep descent for 1.1 miles, crossing a couple brooks, until reaching the Sandwich Range Wilderness boundary (since you'll be exiting the wilderness area, you'll have to look behind you to see the "entering" sign).
  • Still on Pine Bend Brook Trail, descend for another 2.1 miles, now at moderate grades and crossing branches of Pine Bend Brook several times.
  • Upon arriving at the trailhead parking area, turn right (east) and walk along Kancamagus Highway for 1.0 mile to return to the hike's starting point at the Sabbaday Brook Trailhead.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Sabbaday Brook Trailhead (1320') 0.0 0.0
Fourth crossing of Sabbaday Brook (2100') 2.8 2.8
Jct. with Pine Bend Brook and Mount Tripyramid Trails (3850') 2.1 4.9
Middle Tripyramid summit (4140') 0.3 5.2
Jct. with Pine Bend Brook and Mount Tripyramid Trails (3850') 0.3 5.5
North Tripyramid summit (4180') 0.5 6.0
Jct. Pine Bend Brook Trail/Scaur Ridge Trail (3440') 0.8 6.8
Pine Bend Brook Trailhead (1370') 3.2 10.0
Sabbaday Brook Trailhead (1320') 1.0 11.0

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Trail map of hike route to Middle Tripyramid and North Tripyramid in the Sandwich Range Wilderness (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

I decided to do this loop hike to see the Tripyramids before the trails started to get crowded with summer hikers. I chose the route to be a nice loop that would take me over new terrain for the whole trip. I originally planned to start on Pine Bend Brook Trail and end on Sabbaday Brook Trail, but after reading about trail conditions I decided that the reverse would be better for an early morning start. That is, I expected Sabbaday Brook Trail to be still solid while I climbed in the morning (I was very wrong... more later).

I started at the Sabbaday Brook parking lot just after 6:00 a.m. and I still hadn't seen any moose or bear along the Kancamagus Highway as I drove in. The weather was looking great and the temps at the bottom were comfortably in the 40's even at 6:00 a.m. The trail starts out right away along Sabbaday Brook and comes to Sabbaday Falls very shortly.

The falls look very touristy with railings and stairs. The stairs were closed due to ice, but since it was early I decided to check everything out anyway. The falls were uncrowded and beautiful... I was looking forward to a nice dayhike and this was a great way to start.

Pool at Sabbaday Falls with some snow on the ledges (photo by Bill Mahony) After I took some photos at the falls, I moved on up the trail. I saw lots of evidence of moose, but no photo subjects. As I got to the first crossing of Sabbaday Brook, I had to bushwhack up the west side of the brook for a while to get to a good crossing point. No sooner did I get to the other side when the trail crossed back over to the west side again! Not to be fooled, the next time the trail went to the east side I bushwhacked on the west side and followed the brook. The nice part was that much of the west side was sunny and the snow was gone from the woods, making movement easy. The woods had not greened out yet so that made it easier too. Bushwhacking was fun, but it is nicer to move on an existing trail that allows you to not have to concentrate on your path so much.

The bonus of the bushwhack was that I came upon a spot that someone had camped at not that long ago and I found a set of fairly new LL Bean hiking poles. Since I hadn't brought any, I took them and figured they might come in handy (they did). I crawled along through the brush for about two miles, checking the map and compass frequently to be sure I was in the right place. Finally the trail came back to the west bank and I was able to follow the established footway again.

I had been working hard up to this point and I was looking forward to a more leisurely stroll for a bit, but it was not to be. Now I had to don snowshoes because the snow patches on the trail were very deep: 5–6 feet (and I was still under 3,000 feet). I've never used snowshoes before and it was taking some getting used to not stepping on my own feet and not tripping. The pace was decidedly slower than barebooting and the snow was fairly soft for 9:00 a.m. The "monorail" (the packed narrow center strip that often forms on snow-covered trails) was not much help and the hike was a slog. As the trail winds along and starts to head west, the climb began to increase too. A couple of brook crossings were a challenge in snowshoes and off-and-on of the snowshoes was getting to be a hassle. The soft snow was making the climb very tiring. Then came the steep section of the trail.

The last mile of Sabbaday Brook Trail is very steep. It's wooded but you can start to get some views of The Fool Killer (a 3,548-foot high mountain that the trail skirts around on the way to the Tripyramids). This part of the trail was downright painful with snowshoes on. I frequently tripped, slipped and sunk deep into the soft, but scratch-corn snow. At one point I decided that I might be better off barebooting this section. So off came the snowshoes.

I never made it one step. Once the shoes came off I was mired in soft snow somewhere between waist and chest level. I had to pretend I was in quicksand and float myself up on my back to get my feet to somewhere I could see them and then try to put the snowshoes back on. For a feeling of what this would be like, try this: Put on winter clothes, make your bed at home nice and tight, climb under the covers with all of your hiking gear (don't forget the backpack) and put your snowshoes on.

Now I have to try to stand up without falling down the hill. You can't fall far because of all of the trees, but try to stand up while inverted on a 45-degree slope. Okay, so I managed to get myself together, but I also found myself falling over a few times on this slope and so had to repeat the standing procedure several times. My water pack was being depleted rapidly and I was sweating a ton despite wearing only light hiking pants and an Under Armour type T-shirt. In the direct sun the temperature was reading around 75 degrees by this point.

If you look at the map of the last section of Sabbaday Brook Trail, it climbs quite sharply for the last half- to three-quarter of a mile. It was this section that took me around an hour to climb, but given the snow conditions I was happy to have made it at all.

View of Mt. Techumseh and Mt. Moosilauke from Middle Tripyramid (photo by Bill Mahony) At the top of Sabbaday Brook Trail I was supposed to go left and head toward Middle Tripyramid, but I never saw the junction. I checked the map and knew that I was heading for the summit of North Tripyramid and at this point, I wasn't sure if I was going to go back to do Middle. I got to North Tri just after 11:00 a.m. and continued across the summit and started to hike in deep snow toward the top of North Slide. I saw the sign for Pine Bend Brook Trail (my return route) just north of the peak, but I wanted to check out the slide first which was down Mount Tripyramid Trail. I went down Mount Tripyramid Trail for about 100 yards, but after my slog up Sabbaday Brook Trail, I did not feel up to climbing back up to the Pine Bend Brook Trail intersection after making a sharp descent for this detour, so I bailed and went back to the intersection near the North summit.

Once there I met another hiker who had taken Livermore and Scaur Ridge up to the summit (hah, that was the easy way). He informed me that Middle Tripyramid had nice views, a nice place to sit in the sun and have lunch and was well marked with a sign at the top of Sabbaday Brook Trail so I decided to backtrack in order to check it out. Fortunately the trail between the North and Middle peaks was well shaded and the monorail, even at 11:30 a.m., was still solid and easy to walk with snowshoes on.

I made the trek back to the intersection of Mount Tripyramid Trail and Sabbaday Brook Trail and, lo and behold, there was the sign. It just wasn't visible from the Sabbaday Brook Trail. I made my way up Middle Tri and had a nice hike knowing that a long rest, some lunch, and dry socks were awaiting me. Upon reaching the top, I snapped some photos and then spent about an hour lounging at the summit eating, resting, and drying out my shirt, boots, socks and underwear.

Now this was the first hike I've ever done in snowshoes and I found that, while helpful, they were slow and allowed my boots to get soaked by holding the melting snow right next to the leather. I've used these boots all winter, postholing all the time and never have they gotten wet, but this time they were drenched. I had to wring out my socks (and lots of water came out). The warm sun and some fresh dry wool socks made the start of the trip down a pleasure.

I was cheerful again now and I was hiking along and singing and whistling when I came upon another hiking party. They were in snowshoes – everyone I met had MSR snowshoes – I wonder if that's supposed to tell me something. The other party had come up via the route that I was planning on going down and they said that the trail gets pretty soft down low.

Getting into the descent after passing across North Tripyramid's summit again, I found that Pine Bend Brook Trail was fairly solid all the way down past where Scaur Ridge Trail departs to the left (although I never saw the sign for the junction despite looking carefully and checking the map frequently). The trip down afforded some nice sights at the beginning and some nice meadows along the ridge to Scaur Peak. This is where the hike got interesting again.

Stream along Pine Bend Brook Trail (photo by Bill Mahony) My bladder (drinking bladder that is) ran dry and the first stream of the return trip was about a half-mile away. Okay, so I can get a half-mile downhill pretty quickly... I just didn't realize how quickly. The snow was very soft and the trail was very steep, but open. i.e. If you fall there's nothing to stop you for a while. For the best part of the last quarter-mile to the first stream I struggled to find a controlled manner of descent.

I tried going straight down the trial very slowly, but tumbled "ass over teakettle" – as my grandfather used to say – for 15 to 20 feet. This resulted in a bent hiking pole (boy, was this activity going to be expensive at this rate!). After I recovered myself I tried traversing... but the snow was so soft that I merely slid down the hill sideways into a large tree. Fortunately I landed only six feet from the stream and the trail. Unfortunately, the hill was still a black diamond trail by skiing standards and I slid sideways right into the stream as soon as I stood up.

Luckily for me I could fill my handy-dandy filtered water bottle ($7, Thank you, Sierra Trading Post) and the trail began to resume a more comfortable downhill slope. Very quickly the snow disappeared from the trail (or at least opened up enough to bareboot comfortably) and I continued down the trail refilling my water bottle several times at the many small stream crossings.

The last mile or so of the trail was easy hiking, but I was tired and had very wet boots. I was looking forward to getting to the Pine Bend Brook trailhead to make some gear changes and rest a bit. I tried to hike quietly here to see if I could spot an errant moose, but no such luck. The last mile was looking very spring-like with greenery just beginning to pop out.

At the trailhead I took a well deserved break and took off my boots to put on my sneakers for the last mile back to the Sabbaday Brook parking lot. I must have looked a bit like a vagabond with boots, snowshoes, wet socks, hiking poles and a sweatshirt all hanging from my pack in various stages of dryness. Someone stopped to offer me a ride, but I wanted to finish what I started. Frankly the last mile, despite my being very tired, was a cakewalk compared to most of the woods I had just hiked.

Once I got to the car I was already comfortable (although hot due to the 83-degree weather), so I got in and drove away although I did stop at Rocky Gorge on Route 112 for a quick sightsee and a chance to cool down.
 
View from North Tripyramid (photo by Bill Mahony)


"Entering Sandwich Range Wilderness" trail sign (photo by Bill Mahony)

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Moose scat covering the ground (the dark brown areas) (photo by Bill Mahony)
 


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

This loop hike passes through two trailheads with the official start at the Sabbaday Brook Trailhead in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. You could optionally start at the Pine Bend Brook Trailhead in Livermore, New Hampshire or you could spot cars and make this a point-to-point hike. Although located in two different towns, these trailheads are only a mile apart along the Kancamagus Highway (Route 112).

Sabbaday Brook Trailhead:
  • Coming from the west, the Sabbaday Brook parking area is located about 20 miles east of the junction of I-93 and Kancamagus Highway (Rt. 112), on the right.
  • Coming from the east, the Sabbaday Brook parking area is located about 15.5 miles west of the junction of Rt. 16 and Kancamagus Highway (Rt. 112), or about 3.2 miles west of the junction of Bear Brook Road and Kancamagus Highway (Rt. 112), on the left.
  • Coming from the Pine Bend Brook parking area, the Sabbaday Brook parking area is located 1.0 mile east along Kancamagus Highway (Rt. 112).

Pine Bend Brook Trailhead:
  • Coming from the west, the Pine Bend Brook parking area is located about 19 miles east of the junction of I-93 and Kancamagus Highway (Rt. 112), on the right.
  • Coming from the east, the Pine Bend Brook parking area is located about 16.5 miles west of the junction of Rt. 16 and Kancamagus Highway (Rt. 112), or about 4.2 miles west of the junction of Bear Brook Road and Kancamagus Highway (Rt. 112), on the left.
  • Coming from the Sabbaday Brook parking area, the Pine Bend Brook parking area is located 1.0 mile west along Kancamagus Highway (Rt. 112).

Facilities   

Toilets at Sabbaday Brook parking area are open in season.

Other Notes   

A parking permit is required to park at White Mountain National Forest trailheads and parking areas. You can purchase a WMNF permit from the forest service and other vendors and can also pay-by-the-day using self-service kiosks located in many parking areas.

For more information on parking passes please refer to the White Mountain National Forest website.

Rates:
  • $3 per day
  • $5 for a week-long pass
  • $20 for a year-long pass
  • $25 for two year-long passes (one household/two cars)

Brook (photo by Bill Mahony)

 
 

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