We finally got to go hiking this year! Jill and I packed up the kids and headed to Mount Kearsarge over in Wilmot, NH. We chose Kearsarge so Lylah could visit her fifth active fire tower summit to earn her NH Fire Tower Quest patch! There are two state parks that have trails that lead to the summit of this mountain. Winslow State Park has a great loop trail that comes in from the north and Rollins State Park has a quick 0.6 mile trail that heads up from the south. (PDF Map)
Image of map from: https://www.nhstateparks.org/uploads/pdf/KearsargeHikingMap_Web.pdf
Due to the fact that we have a four year old and a one year old, we opted for the shorter distance and hiked from Rollins State Park. Also, Jill and I hiked from Winslow State Park back in 2010 and we’re always looking to try new trails. There is a loop you can make to the summit of Kearsarge from the Rollins State Park side, but requires you to take a much less traveled trail called the Lincoln Trail. We kept this option open and decided to make the call when we got there.
Frank West Rollins Memorial Rock
View from Picnic Area
Arriving at Rollins State Park, like most, there’s a ranger hut where we paid $4 per adult and our kids were young enough that they got in free. We then drove 3.5 miles on an auto road which takes you most of the way up the mountain. At the top of the auto road there is a pretty large parking lot and some nice views out to the south. There’s also a picnic area and restrooms there.
After we got our boots on and packed up my son in the backpack carrier, we headed up to the trailhead which is located at the north side of the parking lot. It quickly leads you to a large picnic area with some memorial rocks and benches. On the far side of the parking lot, there’s a foot path that leads to the Lincoln Trail. I took a quick look and it seemed pretty rough and grown up. Given my daughter needed to hike this one on her own, we opted to do an out and back via the Rollins Trail which was much more traveled and defined.
Lower portion of the Rollins Trail
Hmmm...I've been watching Survivorman Bigfoot...Sasquatch Activity maybe!!!!
The trail was pretty rocky but had only a gentle incline. It climbed to the northeast for a bit and quickly opened up to some open ledges to the south. It was a great place to sit and take in the views. From that view point, you could see the parking area and gauge how much elevation you’ve gained. Just past the parking area, you could see what I think was Black Mountain in the distance.
Parking area with Black Mountain in the background (I think)
Another view, Black Mountain on the right
View to the south, I think Little Mountain on the left
Support cable hold on the first view point ledge
The Rollins Trail continues to the northwest and had some restricted views to the south as you hiked. After a short distance, the Lincoln Trail enters from the left and it’s not clear to me if the rest of the trail to the summit is now considered the Lincoln Trail or the Rollins Trail.
Blueberry flower I think
Vernal pool just past the viewpoint to the right of the trail
On a peak bagging mission
The last leg brings you over some steeper, bare ledges to the summit. The summit of Kearsarge is great. It’s bald, very large and usually pretty windy. It contains an active fire tower but does not have a platform for viewing. It also has a large radio tower and even some picnic tables. We took a few pictures at the top but because of the wind, headed below the summit to eat lunch. The hike down was pretty quick and as enjoyable as the hike up.
Mount Cardigan to the north from the summit
Active Fire Tower on summit of Mount Kearsarge
Radio Tower on summit of Mount Kearsarge
View to the northeast
View of the northwest
This was a really fun hike for a family outing. It was my son’s first hike and summit. It was my daughter’s fifth active fire tower visit which has earned her the NH Fire Tower Quest patch. Also, it was a test to see how my daughter would do hiking on her own without me being able to carry her (as I had her brother on my back). She did incredible! I was so impressed how well she did hiking since last year! I was very proud. I can’t wait to get the whole family back out on the trail again sometime soon!!!