North Kinsman via Mount Kinsman Trail

Mountain:  North Kinsman (4293')
Trails:  Mount Kinsman Trail, Kinsman Ridge Trail, Appalachian Trail
Region:  NH - Central West  
White Mountain National Forest, Cannon-Kinsman Region
Location:  Easton, NH
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summit, views, 4000-footer
Distance:  8.2 miles  
Elevation Gain:  3350 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 5:45  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 6:30   Typical: 8:00  
Season:  Winter
Hike Date:  01/10/2009 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  07/09/2009  
Weather:  Negative 12 degrees
Author:  Diane King
Companion:  SDHer Mark

View of Kinsman Ridge and Cannon Mountain with the snow-covered Presidentials on the horizon (photo by Mark Malnati)

Route Summary   

This is an out-and-back hike up to North Kinsman. From the summit outlook are fabulous 180-degree views encompassing Cannon Mountain, Franconia Ridge, and Loon Mountain. There are also options to take short detours to Kinsman Flume and Bald Peak.

In the summer of 2009, the first half-mile of Mount Kinsman Trail was relocated. The Driving Directions and this Route Summary refer to the new trailhead and trail but the narrative in the Trail Guide section refers to the old route. The distance is the same for both routes.

  • Start at the new Mount Kinsman Trailhead located off of Route 116 in Easton. All but the last 0.4 mile of the hike up will be via Mount Kinsman Trail.
  • The first 0.5 mile of the trail has been newly relocated and follows a narrow trail uphill, then downhill, and then uphill again, passing through pretty woods with ferns and hemlocks. The path is easy to follow and is occasionaly marked with survey ribbon. Near the end of this section, another narrow trail crosses Mount Kinsman Trail; keep going straight until reaching a signed T-junction with a wide trail.
  • Snow-covered trees (photo by Mark Malnati)
  • This wide trail is the original route of Mount Kinsman Trail. To the left, blocked off with logs across the trail, is the old route that is no longer in use. Turn right and after just 0.1 mile, you will pass by an old sugar house on the left. The remainder of Mount Kinsman Trail is blazed in blue.
  • Continue on easy grades for 0.5 mile which will bring you to a junction.
  • A woods road will continue straight/left while Mount Kinsman Trail veers right and enters the White Mountain National Forest at a double blue blaze and at a yellow sign marking the WMNF boundary. Bear right to stay on Mount Kinsman Trail, then 30 yards later turn left, still following the blue blazes for Mount Kinsman Trail.
  • Climb for 0.4 mile then cross a brook (the first stream crossing). If you wish to make a trailless detour, turn left and follow the brook upstream for less than 0.1 mile. You will find a pretty waterfall dropping over a bouldery cliff.
  • Continue on Mount Kinsman Trail for another 0.6 mile and cross Flume Brook, which is the third stream crossing since entering the White Mountain National Forest.
  • If you wish to take a detour, turn right on a side path (small sign) immediately after the brook crossing and follow the rough, narrow, spur almost 0.1 mile to where it ends at the very edge of Kinsman flume. Looking down you can view the very narrow flume. It's a fascinating formation and worth the detour yet it's a bit frustrating to try to get a good view without falling in since you are looking at it from above.
  • On the main trail, continue climbing for less than 0.1 mile where you will have another opportunity for a little side trip. The Mount Kinsman Trail curves to the left while Bald Peak Spur turns right. Following the yellow-blazed gently undulating spur trail for 0.2 mile will bring you to the open Bald Peak, a knob on Kinsman Mountain. There are excellent views in just about all directions except the east which is blocked by the bulk of Kinsman. Retrace your steps for 0.2 mile back to the junction when you are done enjoying the vistas.
  • Trail (photo by Mark Malnati)
  • From the junction of Mount Kinsman Trail and Bald Peak Spur you would go straight/right to continue the climb from the Bald Peak detour; or if you skipped the spur trail you would turn left to continue the climb from the main trail. From this point on, the climb that was previously moderate now becomes steep for the rest of the ascent.
  • After hiking for 1.6 miles from the Bald Peak Spur junction, you will arrive at a T-intersection with Kinsman Ridge Trail where Mount Kinsman Trail comes to an end.
  • From this point and continuing south, Kinsman Ridge Trail is part of the Appalachian Trail so it will be blazed in white. Turn right onto Kinsman Ridge Trail/Appalachian Trail and follow it for 0.4 mile to the summit of North Kinsman.
  • At the summit, at the height of land, there is an unsigned spur path on the left that drops down a large boulder and then leads to a couple outlooks. (If you start going downhill on Kinsman Ridge Trail/Appalachian Trail, then you have missed the spur.) Following the spur for 25 yards will bring you to a ledge with outstanding views of Franconia Ridge. Continue on the spur to the left of the ledge, dropping down over another boulder, and walk through thick conifers for another 70 yards to reach an outlook with a birds eye view of Kinsman Pond.
  • Return to your vehicle by retracing your footsteps. When descending from North Kinsman, be sure to follow Kinsman Ridge Trail/Appalachian Trail in a northerly direction (this trail also continues south). Then after 0.4 mile, turn left onto Mount Kinsman Trail and follow that for 3.7 miles all the way back to the parking lot.

Ice crystals (photo by Mark Malnati)

Diane on the trail (photo by Mark Malnati)


Ice crystals (photo by Mark Malnati) Ice crystals (photo by Mark Malnati)

Place         Split
Mount Kinsman Trailhead on Route 116 (1030') 0.0 0.0
Bald Peak Spur (2400') 2.1 2.1
Jct. Mount Kinsman Trail/Kinsman Ridge Trail (AT) (3900') 1.6 3.7
North Kinsman (4293') 0.4 4.1
Jct. Mount Kinsman Trail/Kinsman Ridge Trail (AT) (3900') 0.4 4.5
Bald Peak Spur (2400') 1.6 6.1
Mount Kinsman Trailhead on Route 116 (1030') 2.1 8.2


Trail map of hike route to North Kinsman via Mount Kinsman Trail and Kinsman Ridge Trail (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

This was a strenuous winter hike to North Kinsman via Mount Kinsman Trail to Kinsman Ridge Trail and returning by the same route. It is 8.2 miles round-trip with 3300 feet elevation gain and should take about 6 hours of actual hiking time.

This is a really pretty hike with just a little exposure on the ridge trail and nice views along the ridge. The first mile is wide and relatively gentle and gradually narrows and steepens as it climbs through hardwoods. There are several small stream crossings.

Trail (photo by Mark Malnati)

To hike this in the winter you will definitely need traction and should bring a pair of snowshoes to manage in snow that should range from one to two feet as you gain elevation along with something like stabilicers/microspikes or crampons for the steeper sections. Poles will help. A headlamp is recommended in case any delays are encountered.

On January 10th, two hikers met in single digit temperatures at the Concord carpool. As we progressed north on the highway, temps dropped. At the trailhead it was negative 12 which we considered to be "good" as there was no wind so -12 only felt like -12. Yeah, I know: you're thinking "glad you couldn't make this one". I had been monitoring temps/wind factors in the preceding days and would have cancelled the hike had much wind speed been forecast.

Ice-coated tree (photo by Mark Malnati)

We had to insert our chemical hand packs before we even got going. We checked out the trail and saw that someone had been on it in the last couple days packing it down. We barefooted the first mile or more until the weight of the shoes on our backs became more noticeable.

With the snowshoes on our feet we climbed. Some of the steeper sections and bouldery places were tricky but we easily managed to get to the peak without using our crampons.

The sky was blue and there were white fluffy clouds. While hiking along I saw Mark with his glove on a rock and his camera out. I asked if he was taking a picture of his glove to which he replied "yes". My jaw dropped... he explained he needed to snap the "white snow-feathered branch amidst the backdrop of black". I think he took five shots of it; he says he only got three as he felt "rushed". Evidently, when you are an artist, temperature is not an issue.
Snow-covered treetop (photo by Mark Malnati)

Ice crystals with a black glove used as the background (photo by Mark Malnati)

Franconia Ridge (photo by Mark Malnati)

  The ridge was awesome. The tall trees were dressed in a thick coating of glowing snow and there was no wind to wrinkle their garments. At the peak another hiker appeared and quickly set up a camera to snap pictures of peaks on the other side of Franconia ridge. (Must be a trend as this artist didn't seem to notice the cold either.) We saw three other hikers on the ridge trail but none on Mount Kinsman Trail.

We headed back down making great time on the steeper sections. I took off my snowshoes shortly after the junction with Bald Knob. We made it out around 3:30 p.m. and headed down to Dunk's for a hot cup of coffee.

Trail signs (photo by Mark Malnati) Trail (photo by Mark Malnati)


NH - Central West

  Driving Directions   

The Mount Kinsman Trailhead parking lot is located on the east side of Route 116 in Easton, New Hampshire. The lower part of the trail has been relocated and there is now off-road parking 0.2 mile east of the Franconia/Easton town line instead of roadside parking at the town line.

From I-93:
  • Take Exit 38 off of I-93. The exit is signed "18, 116, 117, 142, Franconia, Sugar Hill".
  • Turn west which will be towards Routes 18, 116, and 117.
  • After barely 0.1 mile you will reach a flashing traffic light in downtown Franconia which is the junction of Routes 18 and 116.
  • Go straight through the intersection onto Rt. 116 and follow that road for 4.4 miles, then turn left into a signed (the sign is small) parking area which is next to and across from a tennis camp. The turn is 0.2 mile after the Franconia/Easton town line. You will see tennis courts on both sides of the street and a very small pond on the left – turn left immediately after the pond.

From the Jct. of Routes 112 and 116:
  • From the junction of Routes 112 and 116 in Easton, head north on Rt. 116.
  • Travel for 1.7 miles beyond the town hall in Easton center which will be on the left.
  • Turn right into a signed (the sign is small) parking area which is next to and across from a tennis camp. The turn is across the road from a tennis court, just before a very small pond and another tennis court.

Trailhead and parking:
  • There is ample parking in the parking lot.
  • The trailhead is at the far end of the parking area, opposite the entrance. There is a sign at the trailhead.

More Kinsman / Bald Peak Trail Reports   



Cannon (photo by Mark Malnati) Franconia Ridge (photo by Mark Malnati)


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