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Old 06-07-2019, 12:15 PM   #1
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 13
Dix Range Traverse (73 to 73)

So I'm planning a Dix Range Traverse for this summer. Current plan is to enter on 73 and go up to Grace via the Boquet Forks Trail, do the ridge, then come back down over Dix itself and exit at Round Pond. I have three questions (actually two, one with two parts):

1- going up Boquet Forks. Is it easier to follow starting on the south side of the river, or the north side/the so-called "high water route"? I'm less concerned about getting my feet wet as I am about wasting time having to pick my way through to follow the trail, or doubling back because I hit a dead end at a campsite, etc.. So which is easier to follow summertime, all else being equal? and

2a - going from Macomb to Hough. Which route would have less elevation change, going down from Macomb a bit towards Lilian Brook, and then up toHough. Or, going from Macomb past the Lilian Brook cutoff back up to South Dix, and the over to Hough? From the map, I assume going down towards Lillian Brook to come back up will involve more elevation change, but am curious if anyone knows from having been there. (I understand there's a "Pough Peak" in there someplace, not really marked on the map that may be hiding elevation from the uninitiated...) And...

2b - would going down towards Lilian Brook from Macomb en route to Hough mean I could refill water at a stream? Can I reliably plan to replenish and filter water that way, or not a factor and should I just plan to carry more from the start?

Thanks for any answers to these, and any other thoughts or suggestions you may have about the Dix Range via this route in summer.
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Old 06-07-2019, 02:08 PM   #2
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1) The trail running along the south side of the river is far more visible than the one on the north side. Both are unmarked but the south-side one is the most popular and the beaten-out path is self-evident. However, where it crosses the river to the north side is not self-evident. If you miss the crossing, the south-side trail peters out, seemingly into the river. They'll be a high embankment on your left and evidence of a trail ascending it. This trail is not on any map and connects to several other unmarked paths. If you follow the right one it will led you to Shoebox Falls where you can cross the river and connect with the Boquet Forks Trail running along the north side. However, it would be best to simply locate the correct river crossing earlier and avoid potential getting spun around on the unmapped trails.

Alternately, you can follow the fainter 'high water' trail, running along the north-side, from the very start and completely avoid any major river crossings. The first 100 yards or so are self-evident (running along what used to be an access road) and leads to a clearing (old campsite) and then … seems to disappear. Don't attempt to descend from there to the river. Instead, head up the slope on your right where the faint trail remains high above the river and heads west until it joins the regular Boquet Forks Trail.

2a) Far less elevation gain if you avoid the Lillian Brook Cutoff (which loses a lot of elevation). From South Dix's summit heading west you will pass a junction within several yards of the summit. The trail on your right (north) leads to Hough. The trail straight ahead (west) leads to Macomb. You will descend ~250 along a lovely open, rocky slope to a col where you will find yet another junction. The trail on the right is the Lillian Brook Cutoff which descends to the Lillian Brook Trail. Avoid it. The trail straight ahead leads up to Macomb.

When returning from Macomb, avoid the Cutoff, re-ascend the rocky slope (which will probably feel a bit steeper now) back to the junction near South Dix's summit. Head north to Hough. The trail will immediately descend then slowly ascend the facetiously named "Pough" then descend to a muddy col. Many years ago there used to be a designated campsite here and that explains why the area is a muddy mess. The Lillian Brook Trail joins in this col but it's not entirely self-evident. The trail to Hough is due north but you may need a few moments to identify its start. Once you locate it, the rest is distinct and climbs steeply up Hough. Beyond Hough, the trail descends steeply to a col then rises along Dix's shoulder. This is a beautiful section of trail that occasionally veers out of the woods and onto open rock with superb views of Elk Lake. The final ascent to the Beck-Horn is steep and involves ascending a few man-high ledges including a V-shaped trough (you'll know it when you see it). You're really close to the Beck-Horn once you're past the trough.

2b) Personally, I would not want to lose/regain so much elevation in order to get water. Well before you reach the summit of Grace, the Boquet Forks Trail parallels the Great Slide for a short distance. At a certain point during its ascent (well before you even get your first glimpse of the slide), the ascending trail crosses a stream from left to right and that's where I stop to get all the water I need for the balance of the traverse. Consider this spot to be your last opportunity to get clear, running water from a reliable source. Any water you may find after that point, at a higher elevation, will be due to luck.

FWIW, the portion of the Boquet Forks Trail that ascend Grace provides you with just one good opportunity to view the Great Slide (it's a bit higher than the water-source). You can step out onto the slide and gaze up at the rocky block, high up near the summit. In fact, you can ascend the slide in hiking shoes or boots and it makes for a far more scenic ascent than along the trail. However, the upper reaches are overgrown and you have to zig-zag a bit to get around the worst of it before emerging near the base of the block. No rock-climbing skills are involved anywhere along its length (unless you seek out spots requiring them). Be advised that if you initially step out onto the slide's smooth rock and discover it is wet from running water, you may want to reconsider ascending it (it's crazy slippery).

This is a beautiful but physically demanding route (about 17 miles end-to-end and about 6200 feet of ascent). Plus the trailed descent of Dix's north side is the steepest in the High Peaks so it won't be kind to tired legs. Once you've descended the steepest portion, the trail emerges at the base of broad smooth slide where you'll find water (the trail descends the slide for a short distance and crosses over it). Budget 11+ hours for this challenging, but very rewarding route.
Looking for views!
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Old 06-07-2019, 05:20 PM   #3
Join Date: May 2018
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I highly recommend climbing the Great Slide on Grace. Huge fun. Did it last year with a dog, 2 kids, and a cancer survivor (my wife)...strenuous, but way more fun that the herd path that then requires an out and back to Grace summit. Fantastic day, and tossed in South Dix for good measure. Routefinding on Boquet Forks path was sometimes a challenge, but the OSM sections I downloaded to my phone ahead of time were spot on.

Agreed on water. Very dry range, though this year who knows. When I first did the range as a kid it was one of the summers when NYC was on water rationing. Crazy hot and dry; drank straight from Lilian Brook as soon as we found it, after having been without water for 3 of the 5 summits.
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Old 06-07-2019, 06:29 PM   #4
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Thanks, this is very helpful.
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Old 06-07-2019, 09:10 PM   #5
Join Date: May 2018
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My report from last year:
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Old 06-07-2019, 10:17 PM   #6
Join Date: Jan 2005
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Generally good info here.

Avoid the north side "high water" trail. It gets very little travel, and as TB pointed out, can be hard to follow. The south side trail is rock solid.

Cross the river at shoebox falls. The "early" crossing is inferior, and often under water. As TB mentioned, the trail will seem to peter out into the river. Just splash along the bank for a couple hundred yards, and the trail climbs back out, and runs beautifully along nice flat ground to shoebox falls. Ignore all trails climbing way up the hillside to the left; that's a mess and will just cost you time. The crossing at shoebox is easy and scenic. Come back on another day just to swim!

Once on the Dixes, stay on the ridges. No reason to drop down.

Have fun!
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:42 AM   #7
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I go to Shoebox Falls often just for a swim!
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Old 07-04-2019, 08:59 AM   #8
Join Date: Aug 2014
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Did this route yesterday (Weds, July 3rd). Parked at Round Pond and jogged down to the Boquet Forks Trail. Opted for the north side (high water route). I had to check my gps once or twice to make sure I was still on the trail, and then again a couple times up where the trail follows and crosses back and forth along the South Fork. Bugs were bad, especially on Beckhorn and Dix. But otherwise no issues; all in all a beautiful trip. Several great views of Elk Lake. Many thanks to Trail Boss for the tip on filling up on Grace right before the slide. That was, indeed, the last water I saw before coming down past the slide on Dix. I did not climb Grace's slide: too wet for me. Entered Boquet Forks at 6:00 on the dot and came out at Round Pond just before 4:00.
Happy Fourth of July!
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