Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Fresh snow and clear skies combined for a spectacular day on the beautiful Kinsmans. I enjoyed some of the best snowshoeing of the season up on the ridge, and views were clear enough to spot 4000-footers in four states.

I prefer the route up the Kinsmans from the west, via the Mount Kinsman Trail from the quiet Easton valley. In winter the trailhead parking area is not always plowed, so it's somewhat of a crap shoot to drive over there. This morning there was about 3" of new snow in the valley and 6"+ up on the ridge) from the previous day, but the lot was easily driveable and parkable. There was a group of three guys preparing to head out, and they partly broke out the track ahead of me.

This old sugar house is a landmark along the trail. The first 1.1 mile of Mount Kinsman Trail is on private land - thanks go to the landowners who provide the parking and access.

Lacy hardwoods, with Sunday's snow clinging.

Looking downstream at the first brook crossing.

A familiar old yellow birch beside the trail.

A nice open stretch on the traverse towards Bald Peak.

New signage at the Bald Peak spur. I didn't make the side trip today with a long climb ahead.

There are some pleasant easy stretches on the trail past the junction.

More nice woods on the well-blazed Mount Kinsman Trail (thanks, adopter Bruce Richards!) 

The upper mile of the trail climbs moderately with a few steeper pitches, and passes through open fir forest at times.

A blaze almost swallowed by a drift.

First views looking back as the trail nears the ridge.

The sign at the Kinsman Ridge Trail junction was almost buried.

I dropped a few yards down Kinsman Ridge Trail and out on firm snow to a fir wave for some winter-only views.

The first of many views of Franconia Ridge.

Heading up towards North Kinsman, a pretty stiff climb for the last 0.4 mile. The ridge trail had a beautiful softly-packed snowshoe track.

Looking back at northern views.

A vista of the full Franconia Range.

Giant snowballs along what is a steep ledgy pitch in summer.

The renowned eastern view ledge on North Kinsman was, surprisingly, untracked. Old Speck and other peaks in Maine could be seen beyond Cannon Mountain.

The Sandwich Range and the Osceolas.

Looking south along the view ledge. The steep path down to the lower ledge overlooking Kinsman Pond was buried in drifts and scrub, so I took a pass on that one.

There are fine southern views from Kinsman Ridge Trail about 0.1 mile south of the North Kinsman summit. Here there is an interesting vista of nearby South Kinsman and more distant Mount Moosilauke.

The Moose, displaying some knife-edged wooded ridges.

Mount Clough and the Benton Range, with the Killington Range on the horizon. Looking west from this spot I could clearly see Hough Peak and Macomb Mountain in the Adirondacks, through Lincoln Gap in the Green Mountains.

There are more views from an open area just beyond.

Partway up the mellow climb of South Kinsman, I found some neat views from a fir wave just to the east of the trail.

North Kinsman is especially impressive from this angle.

A lovely section of trail going up South Kinsman. Near here I had a nice chat with Denise Carignan, who had come all the way across Cannon and the Cannon Balls. Yikes!

A snowy tunnel through the trees.

Looking back at North Kinsman and Kinsman Pond.

The north knob of South Kinsman, just off the trail to the east. Two sets of measurements with my GPS altimeter, taken coming and going, showed this knob to be 3 to 7 feet higher than the south knob (at the cairn).

The more open south knob in sight ahead.

Moosilauke from the dip between the knobs.

Snow and scrub, a stunning wintry setting in the late afternoon, with no one else around.

The top of the south knob.

A wide view to the SE, with the great spur ridge of South Kinsman in the foreground. I know of two winter ascents up that long thick ridge by bushwhacking legends - one by Guy & Laura Waterman, the other by J.R. Stockwell.

Peering down into the town of Lincoln, 3500 feet below. South Kinsman's high, broad crest can be  seen from many points in town.

Drifts and a distant horizon.

A full profile of North Kinsman and its west ridge.

The ledges on the west ridge are an alluring bushwhack destination, but not easy to get to.

The vast western horizon. All of the Green Mountain chain could be seen from South Kinsman this day, as well as slide-scarred Dix Mountain in the Adirondacks.

Harrington Pond, tucked into a pocket on the south shoulder of South Kinsman, with Moosilauke beyond. To get this view you must descend 100 yards or so south on the Kinsman Ridge Trail.

Bog Pond and Mount Wolf.

A wider view taking in both ponds.

The trail on the south side of South Kinsman.

The cairn on the south knob.

Perfect snowshoeing conditions coming off South Kinsman.

Open fir woods beside the trail.

Late day light on the Franconia Range.

Zoom on Lonesome Lake, with a snowshoe track leading across the center of the frozen pond.

Beautiful views heading back up North Kinsman.

Mts. Adams, Jefferson and Garfield peek over the north shoulder of Mount Lafayette.

A crystal-clear view to the mountains of the North Country.

The views were truly vast today.

Heading down a nicely-packed snowshoe track on the Mount Kinsman Trail, which has ideal grades for 'shoeing. All in all, this may have been the finest hike I've enjoyed this winter.


  1. Darn it! I had meant to call you earlier to ask if you would do That pair yesterday with me as a winter summit (i couldn't get any takers and did not want to do it alone as it stresses the Mrs) . .:-( I had heard some hikers had to be here's down from North peak last week. Is that correct? XC skiid Bartlett area instead which was great! Glad I got to hike it virtually. ! How long was the round trip?

    1. Hi Jimmy, Total hiking time was about 7 hours, not counting stops for views and lunch. It was pretty slow going up with the partly tracked new snow. I must say it was one of the best winter treks I've done recently. They'll be there next winter for you!


  2. Steve Smith,
    I've enjoyed your photo essays for years, but this one may be my favorite! I especially liked the views of Harrington Pond from up high. Thanks for past and future work!

    Will Scott, Columbia MD (and way back, Camp Mowglis)

    1. Thanks for reading, Will - glad you enjoyed the virtual trek. It's always worth going a little extra distance to get that view down to Harrington Pond.

      I always enjoy seeing the old Mowglis wolf trail marker on the Cardigan area trails.


  3. Looks like a great snowshoe hike. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for reading, Matt. This route is great for snowshoeing when the conditions are good.


  4. What a great (and challenging!) hike and great pictures. Looks like you had a beautiful day to take advantage of the views that the Kinsmans offer. I've been up there several times, but I never seem to find all the interesting views that you do.

    1. Thanks, BC - this may have been the best of a dozen hikes I've taken to the Kinsmans over the years. The views were exceptional.

  5. Steve, those are among your most stunning photographs (and you have many!) ever. You could fill a book with photos from this trip alone!

    1. Thanks very much, Steve. It was a great day for photos with the crystal clear air and all the snow. All I had to do was point and shoot!