Lincoln, Grafton County, NH (White Mountain National Forest)
Car – Bus
Out & Back
Free (or $5)
Beautiful view – Moderate hike – Easy access from Franconia Notch
In the heart of the White Mountain National Forest in Franconia Notch State Park, there’s a small mountain for hikers of all skill levels. Mt Pemigewasset is one of the most popular small mountains in the area, and for good reason.
Without further ado, here’s our honest review of our experience with Mount Pemigewasset and the famous Indian Head Trail, and feel free to leave your experiences in the comments below!
Getting to Mount Pemigewasset
From the Kancamagus Highway or I-93, you will have easy access to this mountain. Just a few miles south of the Franconia exit and just north of Rt 112 (Kancamagus), take exit 34A off I-93 and arrive right at the parking lot.
If you’re coming from Boston, this drive is only 2 hours, with similar drive times from Burlington and Portland. From Manchester, it should only take you an hour and 15 minutes, barring any traffic.
Parking & Fees
The parking lot is well-marked and easily accessible from the entrance. Get there before 10 am and you shouldn’t have a problem finding available spaces at any point throughout the year.
Since this mountain is technically in Franconia Notch State Park (although it’s a different entrance), you may have to pay a $4 entrance fee per adult. However, this isn’t always the case.
At this parking lot, you will have immediate access to the trailhead for the famous Indian Head Trail.
The length of the trek is 3.7 miles with an elevation gain of 1,253 feet, and it takes the average hiker around 2.5 hours to complete. If you’re planning to take your time or if you’re a beginner, then plan for at least 3 hours.
Skill Level Required
A beginner in relatively good shape could do this hike, but they may find some challenges. There are some steep parts, but it’s relatively moderate compared to other hikes in the area.
On the descent, you shouldn’t find much trouble. You will likely see people running down this trail on their way back, and you may feel inclined to do the same!
Although, if you’re planning on hiking this mountain in the winter, we recommend having some experience first on a smaller mountain, along with packing the right gear.
What to Pack
Pack some light snacks and plenty of water. The hike shouldn’t take all day, so if you eat beforehand and hydrate ahead of time, you should be alright.
During the summer, it can get fairly hot and humid in the White Mountains, so remember to drink plenty of water throughout the hike and pack a sweatband just in case.
During the winter, pack spikes and snowshoes, as the terrain is rather unpredictable. After a notorious “winter heatwave” that New Englanders often experience in February or March, you can expect to need spikes at some point. However, in the early winter, you may only need your snowshoes.
The trail is a simple out & back with fairly clear markers, so taking a picture of the map at the trailhead should be all you need. However, we always recommend purchasing and packing an atlas of the White Mountains, especially since you’re bound to come back again.
We were pleasantly surprised by the view at the top. While it isn’t a 360 view, you still sit atop a large rock surface with excellent views of the valley where I-93 cuts through, as well as the surrounding mountains.
For such a short hike, the payoff is incredible, even on a fairly cloudy day.
Honestly, the best part about this trip is that, if you start early enough, you can beat the crowd, get out early, and still have the rest of the day to enjoy what the White Mountain Nation Forest has to offer.
Start before 8 am, end by 10, and you’ll have all day to drive on the Kancamagus Highway, visit Flume Gorge, go swimming (weather permitting), or hang out at your campsite!
As always, we camped the night before our hike and brought my partner’s younger brother along for the trip, who has no experience hiking. He had to take a few breaks, as he hadn’t yet gotten into shape for the season, but he managed to finish the hike in under the average time.
Since we finished so quickly, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We anticipated a longer hike, but there are worse problems to have in such a beautiful part of the country.
Well, if you’re dry camping, there isn’t too much to do during the day at your campsite.
For that reason, if hiking Mount Pemigewasset is your only planned activity of the day, then we suggest planning an additional activity or staying at a lodge or hotel with plenty of activities for you.
Enjoy the Views
Not just on the hike, but all around the area, you will find some of the most stunning views New England has to offer. Hiking in New Hampshire is always a memorable experience, and Pemigewasset is no exception
See the beauty for yourself, share your experiences in the comments below, and keep reading our blog for more reviews on your favorite New England destinations.
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