Maybe it was the deer we ran into on the trail. Or maybe it was the views from the summit ledges. Or just maybe it was the sections of trail that tunnel under Route 3 and Interstate 93, where everybody’s voices echoed off the walls. Honestly, it’s hard to say why my kiddos enjoyed hiking Mt. Pemigewasset (also known as Indian Head) in Franconia Notch so much. All I know is that they did.
We began our hike on the bike path near the northern end of the hikers’ parking lot near the Flume Visitor Center. From there, we followed the Mt. Pemigewasset Trail as it climbed gradually over 1.5 miles of mostly moderate terrain toward Pemi’s 2,557-foot summit. The hiking was quite pleasant and protected, moving through forested terrain until it popped out onto the open ledges just minutes before the summit proper. Breezy and cool, it was a refreshing change from the recent heatwave that’s enveloped the northeast.
We spent more than 20 minutes lounging on the ledges, having a snack, and soaking in the 180-degree view. With Kinsman Ridge looming to the west, Lincoln and Loon spilling out to the south, and the southern end of Franconia Ridge just visible in the east, it’s no wonder that the peak is one of New Hampshire’s 52 With A View. It certainly made the kiddos’ uphill effort worth it.
After a short walk to the summit proper, we turned around and retraced our steps across the ledges, then back down the trail. A little more than 2 hours after we started, we were back at our car, heading toward the evening’s campsite.
Although the trail is a little muddy—we found it quite wet for a dry summer day—and the open ledges near the summit have some exposure (easily avoided by hugging the trees), this kid-friendly trail is definitely one to put on your list. We encountered multiple families with children doing just what we were—sharing the fantastic summer ritual of hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
Words and photo by Doug Martland