White Mountain National Forest

Rock Formations
Gorp.com
White Mountains National Forest
White Mountains National Forest (courtesy, VisitWhiteMountains.com)

New Hampshire has an untold number of rock formations, profiles, and huge boulders. Some have quite distinct shapes or features while others take some imagination.

The Cannon: Cannon Mountain, the largest talus (rock) and sloping mountain in the area, gets its name from a natural stone table that sits on a boulder resembling a cannon poking out from the parapet of a fortress. From Profile Lake, look a short distance past the Old Man's head to get a glimpse of this.

The Old Lady of the Mountain (a.k.a. the Watcher): From a small clearing at the south end of Profile Lake, look to Eagle Cliff, a part of Mt. Lafayette. On the right side of the highest pan of the mountain is the profile of the Old Lady, or the Watcher, as she is called. She is facing east and has her head bent as if watching for strangers or perhaps visitors. She is the smallest profile in the Notch and can best be seen in the afternoon.

Boise Rock: This huge rock is located on the east side of I-93, also in Franconia Notch State Park. The legend goes that Thomas Boise of Woodstock, while traveling through the Notch, was caught by a fierce snowstorm. Seeing this large boulder with its sheltering ledge, he killed his horse, wrapped himself in its hide, and wedged himself in the rock. He was found alive the following day by a search party who had to cut the frozen horse hide off him.

Shining Rock: Hike the Fallings Waters Trail 2.8 miles to the Shining Rock side path to view this steep granite ledge over 200 feet high and nearly 800 feet long. From springs in the woods above, water usually covers this ledge. When seen from a distance, the ledge shines like a mirror in the sunlight.

Dewey Rock: Find this profile, named for the U.S. Admiral, George Dewey, who visited here in the early 1800s, because of its resemblance to that man. It is found on Artist Bluff and can be best seen from the road on Route 18 near Echo Lake in Franconia.

Sleeping Astronomer: This profile can be found on Route 302 near the I-93 overpass in Littleton. It can be seen from I-93 near Exit 41, but for a closer view, take Exit 41 to Littleton. Turn right onto Route 302 east (just past the Eastgate Motel) and continue 0.5 mile to the Elks Club, which again is on the right. A dilapidated sign points uphill to a clearing between two powerlines. From atop a small hill, this face looks upward from a reclining position as though star gazing.

Martha Washington Stonehead: From a bridge crossing the Ammonoosuc River above the Upper Falls, look downstream to the right to find this stonehead. The falls are located off Route 302 on the Base Station Road in Bretton Woods.

Elephant's Head: As seen from Route 302 in Crawford Notch, this profile resembles the head and trunk of an elephant emerging from the forest. It can best be seen from the Crawford Depot by looking South past the headwaters of the Saco River. For a closer view of this gray ledge with white quartz veins, follow the Webster-Jackson Trail, which is found on the east side of Route 302 0.1 mile south of Crawford DePot. The trail runs through a clearing and enters the woods. Veer right onto a side path for an easy 0.1-mile trek to the top.

Pulpit Rock: This immense boulder is found on the east side of Carter Dome jutting out above Carter Notch. It is partly detached from the cliff and is evocative of a Pulpit.

The Sphinx: This formation can be found on the Sphinx Trail, a one-mile trail that connects the Great Gulf Trail to the Gulfside Trail between Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Clay. Along the trail it can best be seen just below the meadow where water is found, shortly before it reaches the Gulfside Trail.

Imp Profile: This profile, a peak in Carter Range, is said to resemble a distorted human profile. It can best be seen from the Dolly Copp Road (off Route 16 in Pinkham Notch) at the monument marking the site of the Dolly Copp house. Early settlers Hayes and Dolly Copp settled in Pinkham Notch in the early 1830s. Dolly named Imp Profile, which was clearly visible from her cabin door.

Giant Stairs: The Davis Path leaves from a large park on the west side of Route 302, 2.1 miles north Of the Sawyer River Road. Found on the Montalban Ridge, it is a 4.5-mile hike to the two massive step-like terraces between Mt. Resolution and Stairs Mountain that give Stairs Mountain its name.

Lion Head: This profile, as seen from the Glen House, lies on the southeast shoulder of Mt. Washington. Look for the Glen House on Route 16 opposite the Mt. Washington Auto Road. Originally this formation was known as St. Anthony's Nose, but around 1875 was changed to Lion Head due to its shape resembling a lion's head. The more distant crags on the left are the Hanging Cliffs of Boott Spur.

Davis Boulder & Goodrich Rock: These two are found on the east shoulder of Mt. Osceola and can be reached by hiking the rich Rock Trail, an easy one-mile walk. From the parking area on Livermore Road (FR53), leave the Livermore Trail and follow an old truck road, veering left at 0.9 to the Goodrich Rock Trail. The Goodrich Rock is one of the largest glacial erratics in New Hampshire.

George Washington Boulder: Near the Christmas Farm Inn on Route 16B in Jackson, this profile on Thorn Mountain can be seen facing Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range. Though named for George Washington, some find he more closely resembles Alfred Hitchcock.

Duck's Head: Look for this profile on a spur of Iron Mountain west of Jackson, New Hampshire, near the Iron Mountain House. An easterly ridge descends almost to Route 16, ending in this cliff called Duck's Head. Its name was derived from the shape as seen from nearby pastures.

Glen Boulder: This immense rock perched on the end of the spur on a high bare ridge is found about 8 miles north of Jackson, New Hampshire, on the west side of Route 16 (Pinkham Notch). As seen from the Glen Ellis Falls parking lot, its outline against the sky makes it look as though it's about ready to topple into the Notch. For a closer inspection, hike the Glen Boulder Trail, a moderate-to-difficult 1.6 miles leaving from the same parking area.

Cathedral Ledge: Both Cathedral Ledge and White Horse Ledge can be found in the Echo Lake-Cathedral Ledge State Park. From North Conway, take the road just north of the Eastern Slope Inn and bear left onto West Side Road. The park is on the right. Check the map provided at the entrance for directions to the parking lot of Echo Lake for the best views of this ledge on the east side of the Moat Range. Look for a resemblance to a cathedral in the face of the cliff. It was named in 1859 by members of a family named Parsons. It had previously been known as Harts Ledge. There is a path to the summit of this ledge, as well as an auto road.

White Horse Ledge: The face on this cliff is a light-colored patch that some believe resembles a dashing white horse. Legend has it that if an unmarried woman wished to get married, she would look at the cliff. If she saw a white horse, then counted to 100, the next man she saw would become her husband. The best views of this can also be seen from the Echo Lake parking lot. A 1.7-mile hike to the summit leaves from the rear (east) of the parking lot.

Madison Rock: From Conway, take Route 16 south to Route 113. On a side road off Route 13 in Madison is one of the largest glacial erratics in the world. An erratic is any rock that is significantly out of place. During the ice age, this massive rock was pulled off the mountaintop and carried along by a glacier until it reached this spot. It is about 3 stories high, more than 80 feet long, and is designated as a National Natural Landmark.

Index Rock: From Colebrook, take Route 26 to the Balsams in Dixville Notch to Mt. Sanguinari, which forms the north wall of the notch. The trail starts at the Flume Brook picnic area of the Dixville Notch State Wayside on the north side of NH 26 east of the height-of-land. The trail ascends one mile to a ridge, then descends past Index Rock to the entrance road at the Balsams Hotel, 1.5 miles in all. A short hike with breathtaking views.

Table Rock: This platform, no wider than a table, juts out from the north side of Mt. Gloriette in Dixville Notch. The vertical slabs are less than 10 feet wide at the narrowest point and extend over 100 feet from the mountain. It can be accessed from Table Rock Trail beginning at a parking area east of Lake Gloriette. It is a steep 0.3-mile path to the rock. From its 700-foot height it offers excellent views.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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