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Fire Tower Hike to North Kearsarge Mountain

The Fire Tower on North Keararge Mountain is open to the public and had fine 360 views including the Presidential Range
The Fire Tower on North Keararge Mountain is open to the public and had fine 360 views including the Presidential Range

The hike up to the fire tower on North Kearsarge Mountain is a surprisingly steep climb, gaining 2600 feet of elevation in a mere 3.1 miles. But the climb is well worth it, with jaw-dropping 360 views of the White Mountains, including views of the Presidential Range and Carter Notch, Evans Notch and the Baldfaces, Mount Carrigan and The Bonds, and even Mount Moosilauke, far to the west.

My new friend Scooter, who I met on the trail, surveys the view north
My new friend Scooter surveys the view north in the Montalban Range and Carter Notch

While the fire tower at the summit of North Kearsarge Mountain is no longer used to for fire detection, it’s immediately apparent why one would want to put a fire lookout here. Originally built in 1909, the existing fire tower lookout was re-built by the the US Forest Service in 1951 and continued in operation until 1968, when the increased use of airplanes for fire detection replaced the need for lookouts.

Mount Washington, Carter Notch, and the Doubleheads in the foreground
Mount Washington, Carter Notch, and the Doubleheads in the foreground

Despite being non-operational, the fire tower is open to visitors and a warm place to shelter in winter. It’s also possible to camp inside overnight and the views of the starry ski must be simply amazing on a clear night.

The fire tower is open to visitors and can be used by overnight visitors to camp
The fire tower is open to visitors and can be used by overnight visitors to camp

Located a few minutes outside North Conway. North Kearsarge Mountain is a stones throw away from the Cranmore Ski Resort and easy to reach if you’re on the eastern side of the White Mountains. While quite steep, the hike up runs through a pretty pine forest before looping around and climbing to the mountain’s bald summit. Sledding is also quite popular on the hiking trail judging by the number of hikers with sleds that I saw when I was hiking down.

Mount Kearsarge North Trail
Mount Kearsarge North Trail

This is a fine hike, well worth repeating on a nice day with friends in tow.

Total round trip distance: 6.2 miles with 2600 feet of elevation gain.

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8 comments

  1. Love this hike. Very rewarding at the end. I also learned some lessons about layers, gloves, and keeping damp things warm/dry for the descent.

  2. Ah, now I see where you took Wednesday’s photo of the Mayhem 35. At first I thought “What a view Philip Werner has from his living room!”

    • I wish. The view from the fire tower is grand. I had a map out and planned a few bushwhacks because I could see the less vegetated areas on the surrounding peaks. Awesome view up there!

  3. Is camping allowed there in summer or only in winter?

    • Probably. Check the WM Backcountry rules. The problem in summer is that the peak will be more “visited” and probably full of junk/trash from an increase in day time visitors.

      • I kind of thought that would be the case. What I’ve never figured out is if people can haul heavier full water bottles and packages of food a few miles into the backcountry, why can’t they carry their lightweight empties out?

  4. I’m really surprised there are still windows left in it. Going to add North Kearsage to the list.

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