It’s interesting to think that as I check mountains off the NH 4000 Footer list, there are going to be some super awesome experiences and some not so awesome experiences. I doubt they’ll have much to do with the mountains themselves, and more with weather, how awake I am, and how clumsy I am that day. With all that being said, I really should try North Kinsman again on a better day. I’m sure it’s a lovely mountain – especially when the skies are clear.
If you want to know more about the “blech” side of the day and what went wrong, you can read all about it here. Let’s just say it was a whole lot of lessons packed into one afternoon/evening.
But for now, let’s focus on the good stuff!
Getting There: For some reason I had always assumed that trailhead parking lots were difficult to find. So far, not a single of our hikes has had us doing crazy u-turns or weird parking jobs. Getting to North Kinsman’s trailhead was no different. Just throw Lafayette Place Campground in the GPS, and you won’t be able to miss it – unless you’re staring at Cannon Cliffs. Then it’s really easy to miss it.
Parking is a bit more difficult though. The Lafayette Place parking lot is the shared parking lot for many different hikes including Franconia Ridge (Lafayette and Lincoln), North Kinsman, South Kinsman, and even Cannon. On an overcast Saturday, the lot was already way more than half way full by 9:30am. Fortunately, parking on the road is allowed and there is some parking on the other side of the highway at Lafayette Place Campground.
The Trail: On a scale of easy to “What am I doing here?!”, North Kinsman occasionally struck me as a “What am I doing here?” but wasn’t impossible – at least not on the way up. Getting from the trailhead to Lonesome Lake is super easy, but after that you have to be committed. This is a hike full of slippery roots and rocks (I’d know – I wiped out twice), slabs so steep there’s far spaced steps bolted in, and lots of other crazy stuff. Fortunately, there’s just enough easy sections to keep you moving. I’d recommend doing Lonesome Lake Trail to Cascade Brook and then on to Fishin’ Jimmy. Then jump on Kinsman Ridge to the summit.
As for the trek back down – that’s where our adventure was. By some confusion or carelessness, we accidentally took Kinsman Ridge ALL the way back down to Lonesome Lake when we meant to take Kinsman Pond Trail. Kinsman Ridge Trail throws 3 more minor summits at you including Northeast Cannonball (one of the NE 100 highest peaks). It was certainly a beautiful trail, but if you aren’t expecting to do more summits it’s intense.
On a side note, be sure to check out the AMC Lonesome Lake Hut. I’d definitely love to stay there eventually! Visit the AMC’s website for more info on rates and accommodations.
- Starting Elevation: 1,450′ (Lafayette Campground)
- Elevation Gain: Depends on route
- Highest Point: 4,358′ (North Kinsman Summit)
- Distance: ~8.2-8.5 miles depending on route
- Time: 7-10 Hours depending on route
Is this trail kid friendly? Dog friendly?: We noticed a serious lack of dogs and kids on this hike, and it was for a good reason. It is a tough hike. I’d highly encourage taking kids up to Lonesome Lake on a nice clear day, but unless they’re great at scrambling and dealing with slippery surfaces, it’s hairy after the lake. As for dogs, Yuri and Kina are both big and capable pups, but even they struggled with sections of the hike that were simply to steep, tall, or dangerous for them. Both of them wear harnesses with rope leashes that allow us to hoist them up or down sketchy spots… and there was a lot of that.
Also, this route has a lot of rough rock which can be really difficult on dog’s paws. Be sure to check your dogs feet constantly and be prepared for minor injuries.
What should you bring?: You will need $3 for a day pass or a White Mountain National Forest parking pass. Since this is a high summit hike, it is super essential to be prepared for variable weather including high winds, precipitation, and more. While it might be sunny and nice at the base, it’s not unheard of to expect ice and high winds at the summit. For information on high summit weather, MWOBS is your absolute best resource.
This is also a longer hike, so be sure to bring a headlamp, plenty of water, and snacks. Given the fact that there are so many ways to get back down to I-93, this is definitely a hike I’d recommend carrying an AMC map on as well as a compass. We used ours very frequently and were relieved to have both.