Halfway Done: The Bonds

The 4th of July weekend brought us halfway through our NH 4,000-footer goal. Our latest hike? The Bonds: Bondcliff (4,265 feet), Mount Bond (4,698 feet) and West Bond (4,540 feet). The Bonds are located in the Pemigewasset Wilderness and part of the Twin Range in the White Mountains.

We decided that for this hike we would do an overnighter (with Chris’ dad, Rob, in tow). And we weren’t the only ones who had the same idea. When we arrived at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center, just down the road from the Hancock Campground, the parking lot was already half full at 7:30am. We would see a slew of hikers and dogs on the trails. We even encountered Rachel and Isis who were doing the entire Twin Range traverse. And it was a gorgeous weekend to boot.

The hike starts off at the suspension foot bridge over the East Branch Pemigewasset River and onto the Lincoln Woods Trail. This trail parallels the river and is a flat 2.9 miles. As you walk along the trail, you can see train track remnants from those old logging days. This trail allows for 4 – 5 hikers to walk abreast, a rare thing to do on trails! There’s not much excitement until you get to Franconia Falls and the trail junction just passed it, though there are some great openings to the river. One hiker who tore past us had a fly reel – we didn’t see where he ended up but it’s certainly a beautiful place for some fishing. At the trail junction, hikers have the option of taking the Franconia Brook Trail (for a much longer loop) or the Wilderness Trail/Bondcliff Trail. We opted for the Wilderness Trail/Bondcliff Trail.

At this point, the trail gets a bit more traditional. The gradual elevation gain and water crossings begin as you continue on the Wilderness Trail for 1.8 miles. It was muddy with some tree blow downs and a few wobbly rocks for the water crossings. At 1.8 miles, there is a trail junction for Bondcliff where we turned left and continued onward to Bondcliff. As we were planning to camp for the night, we decided to locate a camping spot so that we could lighten our load by setting up and continuing on to the summits the same day. Looking at the map, we decided to camp around the 2,500 – 2,900 foot elevation mark as it looked relatively flat and would be much easier to find a spot than at higher elevation. (And all the huts and camping sites were probably full too). Easy to say that when looking at a map but when actually looking for a physical spot was hard because of the no camping within 200 feet of water rule. Well, we were bad (and desperate after searching for more appropriate places) and ignored that rule and found a camping spot about 2 miles in on the Bondcliff Trail that was previously used with log seats, campfire and all. It was okay as long as we were neat and tidy right? I’d like to think so. After setting up camp and me changing my socks (I’m pretty bad at water crossings), we were able to lighten our load and continue our trek onward to Bondcliff. From our camping spot to Bondcliff was another 2ish miles of mud, rocks and roots to navigate as well as encountering hikers descending and ascending.

We knew we were close to Bondcliff when we encountered the Alpine Zone sign and plenty of rock scrambling. As we approached the summit, there were already plenty of people hanging around either snacking or waiting to get their photo op on the infamous Bondcliff. We kindly waited while an AMC group (who we would play leap frog with on the trail) took their photos. When it was our turn, we took a few including our best impression of the Lion King with Milo as Simba. I couldn’t help myself. And many others before me couldn’t either.


Milo just can’t wait to be king!

With obligatory photos and snack break, we continued the 1.2 miles to Mount Bond. And boy, was it a tough one. Though there was wind on the open ridgeline, it was still hot with the sun bearing down on us coupled with negotiating footing on the rocks. What we thought would be a short hike from Bondcliff to Mount Bond ended up taking us an hour with the steep incline and our slow moving feet. When I encountered Rob (as I’m the slow hiker of the group), he declared that this would be his last summit and would wait for us as we bagged our last peak of the hike. I felt the same way when we finally made it to the top. Though we wanted to retire and head back to camp, Chris, Milo and I just couldn’t do it. If we left West Bond for another day, it would be the same hike so we opted to continue. From Mount Bond, it is another .5 miles to the turnoff for the West Bond Spur trail and then another .5 miles to West Bond. Man, was it exhausting! You would think it would be easy because it’s only another mile to get there but it’s not! There’s a good amount of descending before finally ascending to the West Bond summit. It took us nearly an hour to get there! We met a British guy (who we passed on the trails earlier) who was exhausted as well and also attempting the NH48. Who isn’t?! We sure met a fair number of peak baggers that day. We took our summit photos and left as it was 4pm at that point and we wanted to make it back to camp before sunset.


USGS marker on Mount Bond.


West Bond

We retraced our steps and returned to Mount Bond. Chris and Milo got there first with Rob getting a head start back. When I arrived, we took a much needed break. None of us wanted to move, not even Milo. Poor pup wanted to just sleep right then and there (and Chris too), but we had to keep going. On the ridgeline to Bondcliff, Milo was slow often stopping and looking back at me with the “Do I still have to keep going?” face. I had to keep encouraging him to move forward. There was one point where I carried him because he just looked so pathetic and was lagging behind me. At Bondcliff, we switched his pack for his harness and what do you know? Milo bamboozled us. He was much more chipper and himself when he saw another dog on the summit. Well with that solved, we continued our slow trek back to camp. Slow and steady with feet hurting (and knees for the guys). We were back at camp around 8pm, quickly refilled our water bottles, made dinner and settled into our tents. No one was moving until we had to the next morning.


That’s one tired pooch.


The Bondcliff ridgeline with Mount Bond in sight.

And when we did, we were glad not to be summiting that day. It was too painful and exhausting to even think about. There were already many hikers ascending in the early morning hours. We were just glad that we had 6 miles of flat terrain to get back to the parking lot. Albeit it was slow and tortuous, it had to be done. Milo wasn’t having it either. We had to hold his leash to coax him to keep going. He was even carried for a bit and he loved every moment of it. We were quite frequent in our breaks at this point. Not only was it physically exhausting but mentally as well. We just had to keep going. By the time we got to Franconia Falls and beyond, we encountered plenty of day hikers including families. We were so close yet so far. We just had to keep going. The suspension foot bridge seemed elusive.

When I saw the turn to the bridge, I was excited beyond relief. I think Milo was too. We sped up and booked it to the car. Milo immediately jumped into the car and I sat down to change from boots to flip flops, a wonderful feeling. Chris and Rob joined shortly after.

All in all, it was a 22.6 mile hike. Not our longest, but a challenging one. Highly recommended for the views.

[Fun Fact: Bond is named after Professor George P. Bond (1825 – 1865) of Harvard University.]


32px-Black_Paw.svg   A Dog’s Walk:

The Bonds hike is considered a tough hike for dogs. Though it is fairly flat the first 5 miles or so, the packed gravel is not easy on the pads. There is plenty of rocks (of all sizes) to navigate and scramble on once on the Bondcliff trail as well as along the ridgelines. Milo did great hiking to all 3 summits but when coming back from West Bond and re-summiting Mount Bond, he started to drag behind when he often leads the pack. When we took a break on Mount Bond, he wanted to go straight to sleep! We had to carry him for a bit and even used his leash to coax him onward. There were also a few scrambles and some “steps” to Bondcliff that your pooch may need an assist getting up and over. Milo needed to be picked up over some of the larger hurdles. After the 20+ mile hike, his pads weren’t doing so great. So please keep in mind your dog’s ability on this hike and take special care of their pads whether using something like Musher’s Secret on their pads or having your furry friend wear booties to save from wear and tear.



© Elizabeth Tran 2011-2017