There are SO many trails around us where we live now. One of Chattanooga’s big selling points for outdoorsy people is having a lot of trails within half an hour of the city, and it’s so, so true. We didn’t make it to nearly as many of them as I had hoped.
But—being so close to the city means city noise. As beautiful as Lookout Mountain is, I-24 curves around it, and you can hear the highway for many of the more iconic hikes.
Here in rural Maine, there are mountains everywhere. The topography here is so fascinating, as someone who lived in Virginia for most of her life. The Blue Ridge stretches across the western part of the state like a spine, but everything east is increasingly flat. Even in our area of Tennessee, we lived at the base of the Cumberland Plateau--you had the Smokies to the east, the Tennessee Valley, and then the Plateau, stretching into eternity. So it’s a really neat contrast living in a place that goes from 0 to 1100 ft above sea level in one hike—and on repeat.
Still, that part of me that grew up in Richmond, that had to drive two hours to do a mountain hike, tends to forget that I can look within 10 miles of home to find any number of trails with elevation gain.
Bald Mountain in Dedham is one of those trails, and has been on my list of nearby places to check out, so when another family in our homeschooling group suggested it for our weekly meet up, we quickly said yes. Close to home, and a 1.5 mile loop, it was a great way to spend an afternoon, and short enough we could still make it to Kairi’s dance class later that afternoon.
There’s not a lot to say about this one, as it’s incredibly straightforward. There is no parking lot, just street parking at the trailhead, beside a wide rock face that narrows briefly into a spruce forest before meeting an intersection. Take a left, and the trails spends the next half a mile with some very intense elevation gain. My watch clocked a total gain of 505ft though alltrails.com lists it at 570ft. At any rate, the majority of this climb is in that half mile section. Stop every so often to look behind you while climbing—views of Blue Hill Mountain, and the Gulf of Maine are visible on a clear day.
After a grueling climb, you reach several utility towers, and continuing to the left brings you to a beautiful overlook with views all the way to Baxter Peak and Katahdin if the conditions are right! We were lucky enough for those conditions, and oohed and aahed at being able to see so far (87 miles as the crow flies), and at all the snow on the mountaintop.
The kids spent most of their time at the overlook skating on the frozen run-off planes, playing with the partially frozen puddles, and making us grown-ups worry about hypothermia.
Retrace your steps to return, and be mindful that all of that elevation gain on the way up is the same on the descent--if you are like me, you'll want some ibuprofen for your knees handy! And again I must mention the ice--a lot of the runoff on our way up had re-frozen by the time we were headed down.
It took us total of 1 hour and 36 minutes, including several breathers on the way up and a long time playing at the top. It’s a good combination of strenuous and short, with beautiful payoff. Plus, while we did not get to take advantage in November, there are low bush blueberries everywhere, so in blueberry season you get a bonus snack along the way!
Overall Family-Friendly Rating: 4/5 The steep elevation change makes this more challenging for kids and especially for caregivers wearing babies. The 3 and 5 year olds probably had the least amount of trouble with the ascent, but if we didn’t have friends along as motivators I am pretty sure my 5 year old would have been whining the whole time about how hard it was. Also the ice had me worried in a few places, so a word of caution for that—if you go during the cold seasons it can be very slippery, but I don’t want to dock the trail itself since this is a seasonal hazard. There are steep drop-offs at the top, but wide enough areas that they can be easily avoided.