Trail: Mount Kinsman Trail > Kinsman Ridge Trail
Hours: 5:75 hiking, 7:00 total
July 13, 2019
North Kinsman Mt. (4,293’) and South Kinsman Mt. (4,358’) are two beautiful mountains typically hiked together. South Kinsman is the sixth most prominent mountain in the White Mountains because it is the highest point between Kinsman Notch and Franconia Notch.
NOTE: This hike gains about 3,400 feet of elevation most coming from the second half of the hike. The trail runs near many streams, so it can be very wet. This can create tricky footing especially on the rock slabs, but it also creates a beautiful trail with moss everywhere!
On a beautiful July day, I took Cathi on her FIRST 4,000-footer hike! She was well aware that this was going to be a tough hike especially with the mileage, but she was up for it!! Usually, North Kinsman and South Kinsman are hiked from Franconia Notch, but this is the time of year where it gets CRAZY over there, so I decided to hike these from another point.
We began our hike on Mount Kinsman Trail at 9:15 AM. This trailhead is usually used to hike to Bald Peak, but we were going to hike the extra miles to North Kinsman and South Kinsman. I heard this trail was much more secluded than the normal routes to these mountains, so I was excited to have a peaceful hike!
The first two miles of the hike were B-E-A-Utiful! As I stated above, this trail runs near many streams, so it was very wet. But with streams and wetness comes moss, and it was everywhere! When we started hiking, the sun was hitting the moss and trees just right, and dang… it was simply beautiful. Which is funny because I heard people talking smack about this trail saying it was ugly. I guess to each his own, right?
The hike to Bald Peak had very gradual inclines, which was a nice warm-up for the long hike. There were a lot of roots on the trail, so we had to pay attention to our footing. After two miles, we arrived at the Bald Peak spur which we decided to take since we were here, and it was only 0.2 miles. The view was facing away from the White Mountains but was beautiful! We arrived at Bald Peak around 10:15 AM and had a quick snack before heading towards North Kinsman.
Almost immediately after continuing on Mount Kinsman Trail to North Kinsman, the trail began to gain elevation more steeply. Nothing too crazy! But we knew we were going to be gaining it for a while since there was minimal gain in the first half of the trail. The trail passed over a few streams but none that were complicated. However, the trail became more wet as we hiked which created tricky situations for our footing. It created a tricky situation for our descent, too, but I’ll touch on that later. This portion of the trail seemed to go on forever, especially because it was becoming warmer and muggier as the day went on.
Soon the rocks slabs were coming out to play, which I love, and Cathi was doing SO well on them. I was super impressed! Not too many people can hike up rock slabs with confidence, but she did! We were going slower at this point because the rocks were very slippery. We were hanging on to anything and everything we could to climb up them!
After 1.6 miles, we arrived at the Kinsman Ridge Trail junction. I knew from looking at maps previously that we needed to continue right, but if I hadn’t known that, the junction signs would not have helped. I was honestly surprised neither North Kinsman or South Kinsman were listed on the signs, but I won’t rant on it lol! The last 0.4 miles to North Kinsman Mt. were quick and painless with some rock scrambling. Soon we broke free to the summit and were rewarded with a small clearing and beautiful views! We passed about five people on the hike up, but there were over 15 at the overlook. It showed how many people hike up from Franconia Notch!
We arrived at North Kinsman’s summit around noon and decided to relax a bit, have a bite to eat, and take in the views. This was Cathi’s first summit view, so she was in awe. We also chatted with a few fellow hikers who were talking about a man who was doing the grid EVERY MONTH FOR ONE YEAR. For those of you who don’t know what the grid is, it entails hiking all 48 4,000-footers in every month of the year. Most people do complete this over time, but this guy was completing it in one year. So if you didn’t follow me, that means he is hiking all the 4,000 footers every month in a row for a year. I’M GOOD. No thanks haha. But it is super impressive!
After a half-hour of chatting and eating, we began our hike to South Kinsman. The trail dips down a bit before climbing up to the summit. We were on our butts going down most of the wet rock slabs because it was too sketchy not to. The rock scrambles up to the summit were just as wet, so we hiked slower, but reached South Kinsman Mt. at 1:15 PM along with a million other people lol.
The views on South Kinsman more beautiful than North Kinsman, in my opinion, even though there wasn’t a full clearing. The view was of all the mountains near Franconia Notch. SO PRETTY! I love summit views and always will because they make me feel so small.
After a half-hour break, we began our descent! I’m not sure why today was the day my legs picked to be very heavy and tired, but it did NOT help with our descent. The hike back to North Kinsman was a bit easier since we were going up most of the rock scrambling, but it was still sketchy lol. Once we reached the Kinsman Ridge Trail junction, we were feeling good and ready to head back to our car. HOWEVER… this trail had different plans for us. It literally felt like we were hiking down this trail for a week. AND because of the slippery trail and shaky legs, we kept slipping. Don’t worry, we are not hurt! Cathi may have a big bruise on her butt, but that was the worst of it!
At one point during our descent, I thought about how I hoped we missed the Bald Peak spur, so we were almost at the car, but oh no! We were not there yet which meant we still 2 miles to go once we reached it. We didn’t even take any breaks on the way down because all we wanted to do was get to the car and relax. I can’t even tell you how most of the descent was because it was all a blur lol. I was so focused on not slipping and finishing the hike that I don’t remember the descent well.
We knew we were getting close to the end of the trail when we started to hear music blasting. The trailhead is next to a tennis camp which apparently was having a party that day! We were going delirious at this point because of the heat, but we still jammed out all the way to the car. It helped pass the time!
Overall, this was a great hike! I think we would have felt better on a day that wasn’t so hot and humid, but it was still great!