East across Rt 16 from the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center is a rock cliff that juts out of the side of the Wildcat Range. Known as Square Ledge, the formation is .5 miles up a fairly easy but continuous, instantaneously heart-rate increasing 400’ ascent that from the top on a clear day affords phenomenal views of the northern Presidentials– Mt. Madison, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Washington. One can simply sit and enjoy looking out at the dramatic landscape that includes Huntington and Tuckerman Ravines as well as the Gulf of Slides. The trail is mainly dirt, rock, and roots but the last section is a steep rocky staircase with loose scree.
For something a bit more adventurous than hiking up that last section of trail, Square Ledge offers several relatively short (for the local area) rock climbing routes. The two pitch 130’ face is beginner grade and easy to protect. There are three finger crack trad routes on the face. They are, from left to right, The Prize 5.5, Standard Route 5.4, and Joe’s Place 5.6. There is an obvious belay ledge approximately halfway up and the easy walk off the top means only one rope is necessary.
To the right of the face is a 5.10a arête, a 5.12b slab, and an 80’ 5.5 chimney. It is possible to top rope the chimney by placing gear in the horizontal cracks toward the back of the ledge above the climb and building an anchor with a static line. To the right of the chimney is a 5.8 top rope only and a very short 5.6 30’ finger/hand crack in a right-facing corner. And older but complete resource for routes on Square Ledge is Rock Climbs In The White Mountains of New Hampshire Third Edition East Volume.
The crag is composed of horizontally-banded schist/gneiss with excellent, if not sharp, holds. On a hot day, head back down the Square Ledge Tr and just before the bog, turn left onto the Lost Pond Tr and hike along the river until you reach a wide wooden bridge where there is great spot to cool off in the river.
Rock climbing is dangerous! There are no bolts on the climbs or for building anchors. Climbing here should not be attempted by anyone without appropriate experience and knowledge. There are many guide services and climbing schools in the area for those interested.
This hike is listed in the AMC White Mountain Guide and is found on AMC Map #1 for the Presidential Range. Consider a stay at the Joe Dodge Lodge across the street from the trailhead. Reservations can be made at 603-466-2727 Monday through Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
Call us here at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center front desk to check on weather, trail conditions, or for backcountry advice. We can be reached at 603-466-2721 from 6:30am to 10:00pm, 7 days a week. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.