Mt. Israel (NH)

Special: New Hampshire Edition

Introductory Guide to Visiting the White Mountains

This four mile hike is included among New Hampshires ‘52 with a View‘ – this list is composed of ‘view hikes’ with summits under 4,000 feet.  They’re generally considered milder hikes compared to the above-treeline 4,000-footers.  Mt. Israel is still a steep climb – ascending close to 2,000 feet in two miles. The view at the top wasn’t as nice as many other hikes we’ve done in the area, but it was still a good choice for a beautiful summer day.

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Mt. Israel
A few of Mt. Israel from the valley floor. Below: The Mead Base Conservation Center; The trailhead; Stone stairs.

  

Christine Says…

Our last day of vacation was the only day we had low-humidity, cool breezes, and bluebird skies!  We had packing to do, so we needed a final hike that was relatively short and located close to my parent’s home. Mt. Israel was another hike we had passed over in our hiking guide several times. The route outlined in the book was an 8-mile loop with quite a bit of road walking. Generally, I prefer to avoid road walks, so we had always opted for other hikes. Then, I happened to stumble across a four-mile, no-road-walking route on the ‘52 with a View‘ list, and decided that Mt. Israel might fit the bill after all.

Parking for this hike was at the Mead Base Conservation Center. The center has programming, concerts, community events, camping, and plenty of parking for day hikers.  Our route to the top, the Wentworth Trail, starts just to the left of the building (as you’re facing it).  The hike gets off to a quick ascent and is relentlessly uphill all the way up to the ridgeline.  Like most New Hamsphire trails, there are lots of roots and rocks. There are a few places with slick slab granite, but they’re not terribly steep or extensive. The terrain is generally simple and non-technical.

Views of Squam Lake
On the climb, you get an obstructed view of Squam Lake. Below: More scenes along the trail.

 Views from the Climb of Mt. Israel Views from the Climb of Mt. Israel

The first view comes from a little rocky outcropping about a mile and a half up the mountain.  It’s obstructed, but if you peek over the trees, you’ll get a nice look at Squam Lake.  You can’t see the lake from the actual summit, so this is a good spot to get a different vista.  Shortly after the lake view, the trail levels out and goes through a mossy, piney, boggy area. Right before the ledges, you’ll pass the junction with the Mead Trail.  The Mead Trail and Guinea Pond Trails are part of the loop I mentioned earlier in the post.

After the junction, you walk a short distance out onto a series of rock ledges.  From the first ledge, bear to the right and continue following the trail through the trees.  There is a little bit of very mild rock scrambling through a little saddle before you come out on more ledges.  These ledges are more open and provide a nice mountain view. The actual summit of Mt. Israel supposedly is marked by a large cairn – however, it appeared to be mostly toppled when we hiked.  The rock pile had once clearly been a cairn, but it was reduced to a gathering of football sized rocks.

We sat on the summit for a while, enjoying the picture-perfect day.  We always love the time we spend in New Hampshire and appreciate the endless options for trails the area provides.  We eventually made our way down, following the Wentworth Trail again. On our way home, we stopped one more time for lobster rolls at our favorite little lakeside shack. Until next time, New Hampshire!

Views from the climb of Mt. Israel.

Views from the Climb of Mt. Israel Views from the Climb of Mt. Israel Views from the Climb of Mt. Israel

Adam Says…

As Christine said, this was our last day before heading back to Virginia.  We had trouble picking a hike for the last day.  We love it when we can get an amazing hike to remember, but this wasn’t one of the best up here.

I would say that this is a great trail for trail runners.  From my experience with trail runners, they tend to look more out for where their feet are stepping and less on the scenery around them.  A trail like this one would give plenty of challenge with terrain and elevation gained, but the summit is less than ideal.

Christine enjoying the summit views from Mt. Israel. Below: The junction of the Wentworth Trail and the Mead Trail; Summit scenery.

Trail split Summit of Israel Summit of Israel

The hike started off in thick forest and had some areas of rocky areas and narrow trail.  There wasn’t anything dynamic to talk about much during the hike until we reached the view for Squam Lake.  The view of Squam Lake in the distance was nice, but was probably nicer 10-15 years ago before the trees obstructed the view.  About half a mile past this viewpoint, you reach the summit.  The summit is actually just a larger boulder that you can climb to take in the view.  Again, the trees growing up here has obstructed a lot of the view.  We spent a while walking around from the summit boulder to try and see if there was a nicer spot for a viewpoint, but after investigating for quite some time, we found things were obstructed in every direction around here.  We enjoyed a snack at the top before heading back.  It is always nice to take in some New Hampshire mountain views, I just wish it had been more dynamic for our last hike of our visit.  This may be in the ’52 with a view’ list, but there isn’t much of a view keeping this on the list.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 4 miles
  • Elevation Change – 1808 feet
  • Difficulty –  4.  The climbing is quite steady, but there is nothing tricky or technical.
  • Trail Conditions – 4. Trail clubs in the area have taken very nice care of this trail.  There are some obvious improvements with stairs, waterbars, and grading along the route.
  • Views –  3.5. They weren’t as nice as we hoped for.  Trees have grown taller, obscuring a lot of the view.
  • Waterfalls/streams – 0. None of noteworthiness.
  • Wildlife – 3.  Normal squirrels, birds, and chipmunks.
  • Ease to Navigate –  4.5. The Wentworth Trail is a straight shot to the summit.  There is one place that seems like it’s the top, but is actually a false summit. If you look out toward the view, the trail actually continues through the woods to the right. The actual summit is a few hundred yards past this point.
  • Solitude – 3.  It’s a fairly popular trail with locals. We started early and saw a small handful of people, all on our way down the mountain.

Trail Map:

Click to download full size map.

Elevation Profile:

Click to download full size elevation profile.

Directions to trailhead:

The Boulder Loop (NH)

Special: New Hampshire Edition

Introductory Guide to Visiting the White Mountains

This three mile hike takes you through cool boulder field up to a ridge with a couple spectacular viewpoints!  It’s an easy hike with a big pay-off!

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Albany Covered Bridge
The Albany Covered Bridge. Below: Parking for the loop; Trail signage; Boulders on the route.

Parking for the Boulder Loop  Boulder Loop

Adam Says…

One challenge we face often with hiking in New Hampshire is trying to pick a hike that will work for that day.  Typically, weeks before traveling there we are stockpiling a bunch of hike ideas knowing that we will likely adjust to what the day gives us.  The night before, we are consulting weather sources (what type of cloud coverage is in the high peaks, when showers may start, etc.), looking at how long a drive we have for the next day, and determining how the day will all fit together with meals and plans for other activities.  When you’re on vacation you want to make the most of the time you have.  The weather was telling us there would be some cloud coverage in the high peaks of the White Mountains, so we tried to look at some lower elevation plans.  Knowing we were going out to eat for a long breakfast and showers that were likely coming in the afternoon, we felt we needed to pick something shorter.  So, we decided to give this Boulder Loop a try.  A few books we had read didn’t make us feel overly excited to try it, but once we were done with this one, we would highly recommend it.

Massive Boulders on the Boulder Loop
Massive boulders on the route.  Below: Rocks to climb; Pretty evergreen forest with lots of rocks; A nice view before reaching the ledges.

 Roots and Pines The first view

We started off with a mostly empty parking lot.  We are always early morning hikers to beat the crowds and we were glad that we did.  We crossed the road and started on the trail.  The beginning starts with a slight incline.  At .2 miles, you come to a junction sign; either way leads to the ledges, but we headed to the left as our books had mostly done.  The boulders on this lower elevation section are quite impressive, and you can just imagine the power of glaciers dropping off these large masses of rock before melting away.  The yellow-blazed trail steepens through sections of rocks and roots, quite common for well-traveled trails in New Hampshire.

At the 1.2 mile marker, we came to a crest of the hill we had climbed.  I noticed a rocky path off to the right leading up and decided to take it.  Sure enough, this was the way we should have gone.   There is a sign marked “View .2 miles”, but it is placed on a tree facing the other direction of the trail, so be sure not to miss this.  We feel that many people could miss it if they weren’t paying attention and then miss all the glory of this hike.  We climbed up and stayed on a yellow-blazed path that led first to a rock outcropping for some amazing views and then to a larger cliffside.   Be careful up at the top of these cliffs.  There is a large sharp dropoff from the viewpoint and something you don’t want to do with reckless children.  While the views aren’t as high up as some of the 4000+ nearby White Mountains, they are quite impressive.  We could look over to Mount Chocorua and Mount Passaconaway on clear days.  We stayed up here a while until we could see clouds moving in.  We then went back the way we came off the spur trail until we reached the junction again with the boulder loop.

From here, we went down to the right to continue the loop.  We began to see more people coming up so we knew we beat the crowds for this hike.  Based on the exhausted looks on the faces of those coming up the other side, we knew we picked the best route to ascend.  The way down did seem to be steeper and rockier than the way we had come up.  On the way down, you really can enjoy the openness of the forest and when you descend low enough walking through the large boulder field is impressive.  The return trip from the junction was 1.2 miles back to the initial junction of the loop trail and we made it back very quickly with the descent.

We took a left at the junction and had a short .2miles back to our car.  We were impressed with how the combination of the boulder field with the expansive views from the top make this a wonderful hike when you are trying to fit in a short hike into your day.

Climbing the Roots
New Hampshire’s rocks and roots. Below: The spur trail out to the view; Rocks to negotiate.

 

Christine Says…

We’ve flipped past the Boulder Loop in our New Hampshire hiking guide, year after year, for many years now.  The hike just didn’t look fun or pretty. The only photo the book included was one of a middle-schooled aged boy looking at a shelf fungus growing on the side of a tree.  Sorry, but I don’t hike for fungus! However, this year – upon closer inspection – I noticed that the long text description of the hike mentioned ‘views from a ledge’.  After that, I Googled ‘views Boulder Loop hike’ and found some amazing photos in the results.

We knew bad storms were on deck for the afternoon, so we decided the short Boulder Loop would be a great choice for a quick hike. We started the morning with a big breakfast with my parents at Polly’s Pancake Parlor.  The restaurant is a family tradition and we always try to eat there at least once on every visit. After breakfast, we made our way back to Lincoln and hopped on the Kancamagus Highway. The highway is a scenic drive through White Mountains National Forest.  There are sweeping vistas and pull-off viewpoints along the road – it’s kind of like Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park (but free.)  We found our trailhead right along the highway, next to the Albany Covered Bridge.

Views from the Ledges
Views from the ledges on the Boulder Loop. Below: More views from the Boulder Loop ledges.

Boulder Loop Views Boulder Loop Views Boulder Loop Views

We found the lot nearly empty, and paid the day-use fee for parking. I took a few photos of the bridge and the river before hitting the trail. The Boulder Loop is an interpretive trail with numbered stops and descriptions. It would probably be fun for a family who wanted to take lots of breaks along the route. We skipped that aspect of the hike and just focused on reaching the views.

We hiked the loop clockwise, passing enormous lichen-covered boulders. The trail climbed steadily uphill over lots of roots and rocks. Eventually, we reached the ridgeline and came to our first viewpoint. We could see the road and the river below, a plunging cliffside lower in the valley, and mountains as far as the eye could see.  It was GORGEOUS!

After the first view, we continued along until we found the sign for the spur.  The sign says ‘viewpoint’ on a small wooden plaque. It’s kind of small and blends in to the forest, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. To follow the spur, look for faint blazes on the rocks.  The spur goes for about .15 mile over rocks and ledges with several places to stop and take in the views.  We could see lots of mountains in every direction, but Chocorua was especially recognizable with it’s stone dome.  We both remarked to each other that the ‘kid with the fungus’ was such a disservice to this beautiful hike.

More Boulders on the Descent
More Boulders on the descent.

After soaking in the scenery and watching clouds roll in from the distance, we followed the spur back to the main junction.  We continued clockwise on the loop.  At first, the trail dropped quite steeply over loose dirt and rocks.  Eventually it leveled back out, passed through another cool boulder field, and returned us to the parking lot near the covered bridge. The hike was such a pleasant surprise – relatively easy terrain with excellent views at the top.

After packing up, we made our way into North Conway to get lunch at Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery.  It’s one of our favorite lunch stops – they make great nachos.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 3 miles
  • Elevation Change – 1161 feet
  • Difficulty –  3.  Some of the sections are quite steep, but the shortness of the overall trail makes this one a popular family hike.
  • Trail Conditions – 4.  The trail was in good shape, but the rocks and roots can make this a challenge in some parts.
  • Views –  4.  Nice 180 degree views from the cliff summit. 
  • Waterfalls/streams – .5  We passed a small stream through the mountains on the way back, but nothing impressive. 
  • Wildlife – 2.  Evidently, bears can be spotted here in the fall.  May be a good place for birdwatching at the low and high elevations.
  • Ease to Navigate –  4.  It is a self-contained loop.  It loses a point since the trail to the view isn’t clearly marked on both sides.  Be watching when you crest the high point on the trail.
  • Solitude – 2.5.  As mentioned above, this is popular with families, so you will likely see people along the way.  Time this for early morning or late in the afternoon to maximize your solitude.

Trail Map:

Click to download full size map

Elevation Profile:

Click to download full size elevation profile.

Directions to trailhead: Parking coordinates are 44.005395, -71.239270.  There is a day fee for parking in this area.  You will cross the Albany Covered Bridge and park in the lot labeled Boulder Loop Parking.

Appalachian Trail – Etna to Hanover (NH)

Special: New Hampshire Edition

Introductory Guide to Visiting the White Mountains

This 8.7 mile stretch of Appalachian Trail is pleasant but unremarkable. It’s a walk in the woods, over rolling terrain, that ends in downtown Hanover, NH (where you can eat gelato).

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Appalachian Trail: Etna to Hanover
The hike begins in shady, muddy woods. Below: AT benchmark; Ewww… mud; There were lots of swampy, buggy spots along the trail.

Marker Mud on the Appalachian Trail Swampy Appalachian Trail

Christine Says…

The summary above doesn’t make this hike sound very exciting – it wasn’t. You might ask, “Why bother to hike this piece of trail when there are so many other amazing hikes in the area?” Well – it was convenient, we had a shuttle ride from my parents, and it let us add to our mileage toward one day completing the entire trail.  Not every mile of AT is sweeping vistas and babbling brooks. A lot of it (ok… most of it) is a long green tunnel. It’s not always thrilling to walk the trail, but it’s rewarding to take little steps toward completing a goal.

We hoped to get out on a three-day backpacking trip like we did in Vermont last year, but with a new puppy (Indy) to care for and a long run of unusually hot, stormy weather; we settled on just day hikes for our 2018 NH trip.  Adam found this stretch of trail in our AWOL AT Guide and figured it would be easy to knock out on the same day my mom had an all-day baking class in Hanover.  We left our car parked in a small lot along Three Mile Rd. near Etna, NH.  From there, we walked south toward Hanover.

This section of trail was much easier than what you imagine when you think of typical Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire (granite slabs, boulder scrambles, 4,500 foot climbs, exposed cliffsides, and violent storms that blow up out of the blue). This piece of trail had soft footing, gentle hills, and barely more than 1,200 feet of climbing over the entire 8.7 miles.  It was extremely muddy in places and there was one extremely steep but brief climb and descent near the midpoint, but the challenges were few and mild.

Meadows Along the Appalachian Trail
There are many meadows along the AT. Below; We saw so many indian pipes; the cemetary on Etna-Hanover Center Rd;  Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) signage.

Indian Pipes Cemetery at Road Crossing 

There’s really nowhere to get lost on this section, either.  There are some road crossings, junctions with other trails, and parts of the trail have two names. The Dartmouth Outing Club maintains the trail and shelters in this area, so they’ve given club names to parts of the AT.  You’ll see bright orange signs with the DOC logo and names like the Hanover Center Trail and the Velvet Rocks Trail.  They’re both still the Appalachian Trail, and as long as you keep following the white blazes, you’re going the right way.

We stopped for lunch at the top of the only steep uphill climb of the hike. It was along part of the trail known as ‘velvet rocks’. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the name was given due to the abundance of huge, moss-covered boulders all along the trail. They really do look like rocks covered with plush green velvet. There was no view at the high point, so we settled for eating lunch on a big flat rock right along the trail. I had a poorly-chosen lunch of crackers, cheese, and pepperoni for lunch. I know sealed pepperoni stays fresh and safe even in hot weather, but there’s something so unappealing about sun-warmed meat. I ate it, but I also gagged a bit. I should have known better – I can’t even look at beef jerky without being nauseated, so pepperoni isn’t all that different. We also brought a HUGE lemon-blueberry whoopie pie from a local bakery to share. That was much more palatable than the slimy meat.

The descent from our lunch spot was really steep and muddy. There was even a rope tied between a few of the trees to act as an assist, but I was able to manage it by crab-walking downhill.  About a three quarters of a mile past the lunch stop, we reached the blue-blazed northern access spur to Velvet Rocks Shelter. The spur trail to this particular shelter has both northern and southern arms. Hikers that use both arms of the spur miss a .6 miles the AT (missing any of the AT is a big deal to ‘purists’.) The sign at the northern spur said the shelter was .4 miles away. The northern spur also went straight up a very steep, rocky hillside, so we decided to continue south on the AT and access the shelter at the southern arm instead. The shelter was an easy .2 mile walk via the southern arm of the spur.

Old Stone Walls
Much of the AT in this area is a narrow corridor through private land. You’ll see many old stone walls. Below: One of the many pretty small streams we passed; Pine forests are nice; Orange DOC signage.

 Pine forest 

Velvet Rocks shelter was very old and dingy-looking. There was an old tarp slung over the wall and lots of dumb graffiti. There was no sign of a shelter log, either.  I think if I were thru-hiking or on a long section hike, I’d skip this shelter and just stay in Hanover.  When we visited, there were a couple south-bound thru-hikers already stopped for the day around 1:00 p.m.  They both said they were hot and fatigued and didn’t feel like hiking anymore. It really was a sweltering day, and we knew we only had about a mile and a half to go before we were in downtown Hanover.

The next .75 miles was all downhill through shady forest. The trail exited the woods in Hanover right behind Dartmouth College athletic fields.  We walked along the fenceline and turned right onto NH 120.  There was a Co-op Grocery store right on the corner, so we got a couple cold drinks and sat in the shade. The last three quarters of a mile of ‘hiking’ were just a stroll through town. We had to pay close attention to find white blazes marked on lightposts along the road. There was no shade and the mid-day sun was beating down on us. Despite being completely flat, this was probably the hardest part of the hike because it was just so hot! We finally got to our meet-up spot.  I had time to wash my face and wipe the mud off my legs in the Dartmouth bookstore. No one even looked at me funny – a sure sign that a town is used to hikers and backpackers.

My dad picked us up and took us to Morano Gelato – so good! After that, we went to the Cabot factory store and ate free cheese. Then we went to King Arthur Flour company and ate cookies while we waited for my mom’s baking class to end. And then we went out for a proper dinner.  It’s a lot of eating, but I think we earned it. After dinner, my parents drove us back to where we had parked our car earlier in the day. Then it was home for showers and relaxing!

Adam Says…

Hiking is often about changing plans for us.  As Christine mentioned, we had initially came up with some plans for doing a multiple day backpack of the Appalachian Trail.  But, with a new puppy, we didn’t want to subject the babysitting grandparents to the attention he needed (he has been an extremely high-energy puppy).  So, I looked up some possible day hikes we could do to still cover a tiny bit of New Hampshire AT miles.  It is a goal of ours (we will see how attainable, ultimately) to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail in sections.  Working full-time with limited time off, we have to do what we can for now.  We will hopefully finish what we have left when we retire, so this hike was a way to knock off a very tiny percentage of the trail and connect to our trip last year with a few more contiguous miles.  We coaxed Christine’s dad to pick us up in Hanover and drive us back to our car, so the change in plans worked well for us.

Velvet Rocks
I’m pretty sure the Velvet Rocks area is named for these huge moss-covered boulders. Below: This pond was so full of cattails, we couldn’t even see the water; Our lunch spot at the top of the only big climb of the hike; Side trail to Velvet Rocks Shelter.

 Our lunch spot Velvet Rocks Shelter

It took us a little while to find our start point for the trail on Three Mile Road with questionable GPS service that made it difficult to navigate some of these backroads.  But, we ultimately got to the correct road and found the AT crossing and a place to park our car on the side of the road.  We started off at the road crossing and headed south on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail.  The initial trail marker showed we had 8.6 miles to reach Hanover, NH.  The trail started off through the fern-covered woods heading slightly downhill through a muddy area.  Green was all around us in this lush forest setting.  At 2.5 miles, we crossed over the paved Etna-Hanover Center Road (heading east under a mile would lead you to Etna, NH), where there was a cemetery on the opposite side of the road.  We crossed the road and continued on with this trail marked by the DOC signs Christine mentioned above.

Shortly after crossing the road, you walk over a couple of footbridges carrying you over a stream.  The trail opens up a bit after this where you cross over a field before entering back into the woods.  You cross over the paved Trescott Road at 3.9 miles and then pass over a boardwalk over a marshy pond at 4.6 miles.  From here, the trail begins to climb up and does reach a very steep section that will reach its peak at 5.4 miles.  At the peak, we took a break and ate some lunch before pushing on.  The trail descended and then we reached the junction with the north shelter loop trail at 6.2 miles.  At this point, we did start seeing some people that were hiking about on this loop trail to check out the Velvet Rocks area.  We saw the many mossy boulders that give the area the name ‘Velvet Rocks’.  We passed the northern spur to the shelter and decided to stay on the AT.  At 6.8 miles, we reached the southern shelter sidetrail and took a break to go check it out.  While the sign said it was only .2 miles away, that was the longest .2 miles we have ever seen (it felt more like .35 miles).  When we got to the Velvet Rocks Shelter, we were able to talk with a few people that were staying there and doing some larger sections of the AT.  We went back the way we came to rejoin the AT (I didn’t include this side trip in the mileage totals).

From the junction with the shelter sidetrail, it was a steep downhill climb until we came out of the woods near a Dartmouth sports field.  The trail continues along the back wall of the field and comes out by a convenience store onto NH 120.  We took a right at the road and walked by a Food Coop and got a fresh drink.  It was just a short walk from here into town to meet up with Christine’s dad, but the exposure into the sun made for a hot walk back into town.  We did cool off a bit with some nice gelato.  This was a great hike to do if you can have two cars or a pickup plan like we did.  The terrain was relatively easy and it is always good to end a hike at a town with lots of amenities.

Velvet Rocks Shelter
Velvet Rocks Shelter. Below: Pretty pine-needle forest floor; Some minor rocks on the final descent into Hanover; The trail comes out of the woods behind a Dartmouth Athletic Field.

 Hike into Hanover We Reach Town

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 8.7 miles
  • Elevation Change – 1204 feet
  • Difficulty –  2.  This is a really easy stretch of Appalachian Trail – especially for New Hampshire. Our only real challenge was the heat.
  • Trail Conditions – 3. The trail is in nice shape, but was quite muddy when we hiked.
  • Views –  1. There are a few minor views in small meadows, but nothing grand.
  • Waterfalls/streams – 2. There are lots of small streams that provide adequate water sources.
  • Wildlife – 2. Squirrels, birds, and chipmunks!
  • Ease to Navigate – 4. Just follow the white blazes.  The only misdirection might come from the dual-named DOC trails.
  • Solitude – 2. Expect to see a good number of people when you’re close to a large college town.

Trail Map:

Click to download full size trail map.
Click to download full size elevation profile.

Directions to trailhead:

Parking coordinates are 43.718 -72.176. There are two parking areas along Three Mile Road near the Appalachian Trail Crossing.  This is a gravel road.

Mt. Kearsarge (NH)

Special: New Hampshire Edition

Introductory Guide to Visiting the White Mountains

Mt. Kearsarge is located in state park land in Central New Hampshire with 360-degree spectacular views from the summit.  On a clear day you can see Mount Washington, the White Mountain range, Merrimac Valley, and Vermont’s Green Mountains.

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Mt. Kearsarge Summit
The summit of Kearsarge is marked by a large cairn.

Adam Says…

Mt. Kearsarge kept popping up on lists of hikes we had not done in New Hampshire that had amazing views, so we decided to tackle it on a day where we could capitalize on the views.  The hike starts off in Winslow State Park, reached by driving up Kearsarge Mountain Road and then taking a right on Winslow House Road to the top.  The area at the top of the road is a large picnic area, with shelters and outdoor grills that would be perfect for a family gathering before or after the hike.  The trail starts through an opening in the trees, near the southern back corner of the parking lot.

You quickly reach a large kiosk that shows the split of the loop trail.  We took the Winslow Trail up and returned via the Barlow Trail.  The Winslow Trail was quite steep and led through a lot of trail that was filled with lots of roots and rocks.  If you do this hike after a lot of rain, expect it to be quite slick in some spots.  The trail had us going a bit slow since it was a steep trail that required you to watch your foot placement in order to not twist your ankle.

The Winslow Trail
The Winslow Trail is a steep one mile climb to the summit. Below: The Winslow and Barlow trails make a loop over the summit of Kearsarge; A little mud; Lots of rocks and roots.

Trail Signs Muddy Trail 

The trail then passed a large split boulder on the left around .8 miles.  We were able to climb up to the top of this rock and then look behind us which opened up some views that were getting near the top of the tree line.  At .9 miles, we reached the top junction with the Barlow Trail and we pushed on from here to reach the top shortly after at the one mile mark.  The tower was in the middle of the huge rock expanse, but there were views all around.  We took some time to enjoy the views all around.  Fairly soon, we were joined by a few other hikers that had approached the summit via Rollins State Park – this is a shorter hike to the top of Mt. Kearsarge.  We first talked to a woman with her great niece.  The niece was probably about 11 years old and was not a fan of the hike or views.  She didn’t want to even look at the views.  She just wanted to know if she could touch the rock and leave immediately.  I could tell the great aunt was disappointed that her niece didn’t enjoy nature like she did, which was disappointing to witness.  The next person was a young woman from New Jersey that came here to do a quick day hike.  She had also approached from the Rollins State Park side, but she was hoping to make a larger loop and ended up adding the Winslow and Barlow trails to her day.

We then went to the fire tower.  Christine decided to climb to the top, but when I felt the rickety nature of the structure and was nearly hit by squirrel droppings from a squirrel that Christine had upset, I decided to just wait at the bottom.  Some men soon arrived to do some maintenance work on the dishes and they were talking about some of the mountain ranges around us.  While I am sure they are doing some hard work, I was envious wishing I had an office view like this one.

New Hampshire Granite
New Hampshire is called The Granite State with good reason.

We made our way back to the junction at the edge of the treeline with the Barlow Trail and followed the yellow blazes for this way back down.  We continued along the top as we walked by an alpine bog and then to some other views.  Dragonflies were everywhere at the top and it was neat to see so many of them at this high elevation.  We were glad we did the loop the way we did since we had views ahead of us on the way down.  The trail had some steep sections going down but weren’t nearly as treacherous as the way up.  Most of the trail was deep in the woods, but it was pretty scenery all around us.  We eventually made our way back to the lower junction between the Winslow and Barlow trails at 2.6 miles and then took a quick turn to the parking lot and we were done.  While the trail was a shorter one at 2.7 miles, the hike up took longer than we would have normally taken and the views at the top will make you want to take a large break to take it all in.

The books we had read and internet research we had done in advance probably didn’t give this hike enough credit.  This is definitely one to hit while in New Hampshire.  The length of the hike may also make it suitable for a lot of families and there is a wonderful picnic spot where you park to make this a memorable experience for the entire family.

The first views from Kearsarge on the ascent. Below: We had to crossed some slab granite. Fortunately, it was dry; Cairns mark the way over granite; Cell phone tower and an old fire tower on the summit.

  Towers Atop Kearsarge

Christine Says…

Mt. Kearsarge was our first new hike in New Hampshire during our summer 2018 trip.  The small, but  prominent, mountain is located in the Dartmouth-Sunapee region.  Geologically, the mountain is what is known as a monadnock – a mountain that rises steeply and abruptly from relatively flat land. This type of mountain always looks taller and more imposing than it is in reality. It was a fantastic choice for an easy morning hike  – great views, fun terrain, and not too lengthy. We chose to ascend on the Winslow Trail and then come back down on the Barlow Trail, making a 2.7 mile loop.

The Winslow Trail is shorter and quite a bit steeper than the Barlow Trail. I always think it’s nice to tackle the tougher terrain when my legs are fresh. I also appreciate the challenge of a tough climb. Upon entering the woods, the trail is soft and covered with pine needles. However, the trail footing soon becomes rooty and rocky. Red blazes will help you navigate across jumbles of boulders and granite slabs.

Summit of Kearsarge
The summit view from Kearsarge is fantastic. Below: Adam at the summit cairn; There is an elevation sign and a couple picnic tables next to the tower; Christine enjoys the views.

 Summit Sign Taking in the View

Your first views from the mountain come from atop a huge split boulder right before you break the treeline. This is also where the junction with the Barlow trail is located. You’ll pass the junction at this point and make your way toward the summit. In the bald, open area, cairns are used to guide hikers to the top. The park has posted several signs imploring hikers NOT to build new cairns. Moving rocks disrupts nature and building new cairns can make wayfinding confusing for hikers.

The summit of Kearsarge is marked by a big rockpile.  From the top, the view rolls out in every direction.  It’s GORGEOUS! When sky conditions are clear you can see the imposing White Mountains and Mt. Cardigan to the north, the Merrimack valley to the south, and to the west are Vermont’s Green Mountains. Just below the summit, the vista is interrupted by an old fire lookout and a communications tower.  There is also a picnic area and a sandwich-board sign noting Kearsarge’s elevation (2,937’).

Descent on the Barlow Trail
We followed the longer Barlow Trail for our descent. Below: A small alpine bog; The descent on the Barlow trail had lots of nice views; Blueberries – some of the only ones we saw on this year’s New Hampshire trip.

Alpine Bog  Blueberries

While the towers aren’t pretty, they barely detract from the magnificent views in every direction. I climbed the tower while Adam hung out below.  On my way up the stairs, I encountered a very angry red squirrel. I thought he was going to dive-bomb my face, but he settled for loud chattering. The view from the tower wasn’t really any better than the view from the summit, so I made my way back down and found a nice rock to sit on.

After taking in summit views, we made our way downhill to where the Winslow and Barlow trails meet.  The yellow blazed Barlow Trail passes across open areas with more stunning vistas. We saw blueberry bushes and a small alpine bog on our way down. When we visited, dragonflies were swarming the mountain. If you look closely at our photos, you’ll see loads of them!

Eventually, the trail will traverse some slab granite and dip back into an evergreen forest.  The trail continues downhill over roots and pine needles.  There is one small footbridge over a swampy area near the end.  The trail ends at the initial Winslow-Barlow junction near the picnic area at Winslow State Park.

Pine Forest
Pretty evergreen forests of New Hampshire. Below: Scenes of the descent along the Barlow Trail.

Barlow Trail Barlow Trail Barlow Trail

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 2.7 miles
  • Elevation Change – 1224 feet
  • Difficulty –  3.  The trail was steeper than we would have expected, but take your time.
  • Trail Conditions – 3.  Due to the steepness and the abundance of roots and rocks, this could make for a more difficult hike after heavy rainfall.
  • Views –  5. 360-degree views all around from the summit.  There is a fire tower that obstructs some of the view but you can rotate around it to take it all in.
  • Waterfalls/streams – 0.  Non-existent.
  • Wildlife – 2.5  A decent spot for bird-watching and squirrels. 
  • Ease to Navigate –  4.  The trail was fairly well-blazed.  The junctions may make things a bit tricky, but follow our map.
  • Solitude – 2.  This is a popular spot and with two approaches to the summit, you may not realize how many people you may see at the top.  You should be able to carve out your own solitude at the top since there are views all around.

Trail Map

Click to download full size map.

Elevation Profile:

Click to download full size elevation profile.

Directions to trailhead:

Coordinates for this hike are 43.390281, -71.868260.  The trailhead is located in New Hampshire’s Winslow State Park in Wilmot, NH.  There is a fee to enter the park.

Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak (NH)

Special: New Hampshire Edition

Introductory Guide to Visiting the White Mountains

We did this 4.6 mile hike on an especially beautiful, misty summer morning.  It was a moderate climb with lots of interesting things to see along the way – from an old sugar house to the headwaters of a flume gorge, to the lovely viewpoint.

View the Full Album of Photos From This Hike

Beautiful Misty Sunshine on the Kinsman Trail
Beautiful misty sunshine on the Kinsman Trail. Below: Trailhead sign; Early parts of the trail.

Parking at Kinsman Trail Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak

Christine Says…

This was the last hike of our 2017 trip up north. By the end of two weeks that involved five different dayhikes and a three-day overnight backpacking trip, we were both sore, bruised, and covered with bug bites and scratches. We were both pretty tired, but the weather was nice and we felt we should squeeze one more quick hike in before the long 12-hour drive home.  The hike up the Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak was close to my parents’ house and didn’t look too grueling, so we decided it would be the perfect grace note on our wonderful summer vacation.

We parked in the lot for the Kinsman Trail on Route 116. We arrived early and there were plenty of open spots, however it was overflowing by the time we got back to the car around 11:00 a.m.  The trailhead is popular as it provides access to the 4,000 footer, Mount Kinsman. Bald Peak isn’t a true summit, it’s a rocky outcropping on the shoulder of a mountain. While it might not be the pinnacle, it provides nice views and is well worth doing.

The first half mile of the hike meanders along single-track trail through the forest. The terrain is rolling and there are abundant ferns and shady hemlocks along the way.  At .5 miles in, the trail will arrive a a junction with a wider, road-like trail.  Take a right onto the wide trail.  In a tenth of a mile, you’ll pass a neat, but overgrown, sugar house. It didn’t look like it had been used in many years.  Follow the road/trail for another half mile before coming to another junction. Bear to the right, continuing to follow the steepening blue-blazed Kinsman Trail. Keep an eye out for the blue blazes to keep yourself on track.

Sugar House
This rundown, old sugar house is right along the trail. Below: Scenes along the Kinsman Trail

Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak

About .35 miles later, you’ll make your first stream crossing – there are several on this hike, along with several lovely (albeit small) waterfalls. The waterfall pictured below was at the second stream crossing. Continue following the Kinsman Trail for .65 miles to your third stream. This is Flume Brook.  Once you cross the water, look for a small sign pointing to the right.  Follow a spur trail steeply downhill along the gorge.  The rock walls that make the flume are steep and deep, but you will hear water rushing in the gorge below.  Be careful looking down into the gorge – the terrain around it is extremely steep and slippery. A fall here would necessitate a dangerous rescue operation if you even survived the initial plunge.

After enjoying the flume, backtrack up to the main Kinsman Trail. Hike a couple more short tenths of a mile uphill, and you’ll reach the next junction.  Bearing to the left will take you up the Kinsmans, so stay to the right and head along the Bald Peak spur.  The trail is blazed yellow and follows a short series of ups and downs for about a quarter mile.  The spur was a beautiful mix of evergreens, moss, and granite.  At the end of the spur, you’ll come out onto a wide rocky ledge. From the viewpoint, you should be able to see Mount Kinsman, Mount Moosilauke, and a great peek into Vermont.  Once you’ve enjoyed the view, return to your car the same way you hiked up for a round trip of 4.6 miles.

Small Waterfall on the Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak
Small waterfall on the Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak. Below: Mist in the forest; Small cascades; A look into the gorge.

Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak Flume

Adam Says…

The Bald Peak hike had a lot of things that made us pick it – close by to where we were staying, waterfalls, plunging gorge, and view.  This hike doesn’t get a lot of traffic except by locals since people will opt for bigger, grander views, but this one has a nice sampling of things to see.

The trail always seemed more of a gradual uphill and never felt too tough for us.  In that first half mile, we came across the sugar house on the side of the trail.  I peaked through the spaces in between the boards and saw some of the old materials used to collect maple sap inside.

Mosses on the Kinsman Trail
Mosses on the Kinsman Trail. Below: The spur to Bald Peak; Hiking along the spur

Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak

We had picked a morning to hike this right after rain the previous day.  The morning mist rising up through the trees caught the morning sunlight and the beams of light cast a mystical picture across the forest.  The rain also made the hike slippery over some of the roots and rocks that you always have to step on in a hike in New Hampshire.

As Christine mentioned, when you pass over Flume Brook there is a small sign to view the gorge.  We both started down this side trail, but it was incredibly slick.  Christine stopped, but I decided I wanted to go further to see if I could actually be able to look down into the gorge.  Christine was freaking out a bit that I was pushing on, but I did want to see if I could get some pictures.  I went a bit further and actually slipped, sliding about 10 feet before I caught myself on the trail.  One false step here could mean your death. The gorge was located just a few feet away from the trail and all I could see was that it went down quite a bit.  There was never a good place to actually be able to see down into the gorge, so I would recommend skipping this feature – it’s too dangerous, anyway.

Bald Peak views
Bald Peak views. Below: More perspectives on the viewpoint.

Bald Peak views Bald Peak views Bald Peak views

When we reached the view at the top, I was impressed.  It was a fairly clear morning so we could see all around us and far off to Vermont.  We talked with a couple of women that loved to hike together that lived locally.  They had been working on the 48 peaks above 4000 feet and had a lot of advice on places to hike in the future.  We love picking the brains of local people for hiking suggestions.  Many people that you may come across use this trail to go all the way to Mt. Kinsman without taking this spur trail to Bald Peak for an extra view.  You will likely have solitude on this peak during most days.  This was a nice final spot to take in some views of New England before heading back to Virginia.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 4.6 miles
    (Check out the stats from Map My Hike)*
  • Elevation Change – 1400 ft.
  • Difficulty –  3. Moderate and well-graded.
  • Trail Conditions – 3.5.  The trail was nice, with some rocks and roots typical to the area.
  • Views – 4. Very nice, but not quite 360.
  • Waterfalls/streams – 4. The headwaters of the flume are pretty cool and there are several small waterfalls along the trail.
  • Wildlife – 3. Typical squirrels and birds.
  • Ease to Navigate –  4. The route was well-blazed/marked and easy to follow.
  • Solitude –  4. We only saw a handful of others along the way. This trail gets far less traffic than more popular hikes in the area.

Download a trail map (PDF)

Bald Peak Elevation

Directions to trailhead: Parking coordinates are: 44.165952, -71.766186.  There is parking for about 8 cars.

MapMyHike is not necessarily accurate, as the GPS signal fades in and out – but it still provides some fun and interesting information.