The first featured trail is one of my favorites—the Colette Trail that runs along Bicknell Brook .
Beauty, nature, and a pristine stream await just a few paces from your car at this Upper Valley outdoor gem in Enfield. Downstream from a one-lane bridge over Bicknell Brook, a series of dramatic waterfalls lead to Crystal Lake. Upstream natural and human history can be seen. There one finds beautiful broad falls, active beaver wetlands, and the remnants of a stone wall that created a millpond for a former saw mill just downstream of the bridge.
The Colette Trail in both directions from Boy’s Camp Road can be hiked in any season. It is particularly dramatic in late winter or early spring when the remains of the natural ice sculptures along Bicknell Brook contrast with the roaring water of the brook. Early in spring the water may be largely hidden under the snow. But if you time your trip right the mix of ice and water downstream from the bridge can be spectacular. However, caution is in order this time of year. The trail is not difficult, but, if it is icy, footwear with cleats is strongly advised to help prevent a potentially dangerous slip.
After you park north of the bridge, walk back over the bridge, passing the entrances to the trail on both sides, and look down. Upstream you will see some nice rapids. The photo above is an example. At your feet below the bridge on the downstream side is a spectacular waterfall. Look for the large “grandfather rock” on your right as you head downstream from the bridge along Bicknell Brook on the Colette Trail. See if you can find his face in the rock in the photo to the left.
To your left are great views of the falls below the bridge and the rapids beyond them. Along the quarter mile to Crystal Lake on this part of the Colette Trail one finds dramatic falls and numerous beautiful rapids flowing over smooth ledge and large rocks. Just before a series of steps down, you can carefully walk out on an elevated peninsula of land to look out at the largest of the falls (below) tumbling below you and curving around your natural platform. The remainder of the trail from this spot to the lake is less dramatic but very worthwhile. The trail continues along Crystal Lake for a short distance.
Upstream of the bridge, Bicknell Brook flows over several broad drops before you reach an old wall and some active beaver areas. The falls along this section are less high than the lower section, but several of them are truly beautiful as they tumble down wide steps. This area often shows signs of spring when the downstream sections are still icy. Dams, lodges, and beaver-chewed trees can be seen. Be alert for beaver, deer, and even moose. Further upstream the terrain is flatter and wetter. Less than a mile from Boy’s Camp Road the Colette Trail reaches the Bicknell Brook Loop Trail. One can take either path to a parking lot on Grafton Pond Road or follow the loop around a shrubby swamp and back. Beyond the parking area is Grafton Pond, the source of Bicknell Brook. Since the water level in Grafton Pond is often lowered in preparation for winter, one can find waterfalls in fall along the Colette Trail when many other area streams are dry.
As you hike the several miles along these trails observe natural succession at work. Abandoned beaver sites are filled with sediment creating a wetland marsh and then a shrubby swamp. Over time early-succession sun-loving tree species such as red maple, aspen, and white pine establish themselves. Eventually the forest fills with “climax species” of trees such as large hemlocks, spruce, and other shade-tolerant trees. They form a dense canopy that results in minimal undergrowth because of the limited sunlight. All of these stages, which take many decades, can be seen at various spots along this short and easy trail. For a wonderful series of easy-to-read explanations of how forests in this area evolve and change, read Tom Wessels’ book, “Reading the Forested Landscape”.
The Colette Trail was created as a memorial to Colette Drape by her father and property owner Robert Drape. Colette, a Dartmouth graduate and lover of the outdoors, was tragically killed in a car accident in France in 1991 at age 30. Working with Alan Strickland of the Enfield Conservation Commission and the Upper Valley Land Trust, Robert Drape preserved this beautiful spot for future generations. The UVLT holds the easements for these two trails managed by the Town of Enfield and maintained by the UVLT.
Directions: From Lebanon follow Route 4A east past the Shaker Village through Enfield Center. For the Colette Trail make a left turn on Boy’s Camp Road which is about a half mile past George Pond on your right. Park in a broad area on the left side of Boy’s Camp Road shortly beyond a one-lane bridge one mile from 4A. Walk back to the trails which head in both directions on the same side of the bridge where you parked. To reach the Colette Trail from the Bicknell Brook Loop Trail go one mile past Boy’s Camp Road on Route 4A and turn left onto Grafton Pond Road. Trailhead parking is less than a half-mile on the left.
In addition to the slide show below, you can also find three pages of large panoramic images you can zoom into and explore in detail by clicking HERE and then click the three Bicknell links near the top of the page in turn.
Here are 75 images of Bicknell Brook and the Colette Trail in a self-running slide show. You can also view three pages of panoramic images by clicking HERE and then clicking the Bicknell links.You can also see some photos from January 2011 by clicking HERE and HERE.