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Indian Head – Mt Pemigewasset

Indian Head Interpretation Sign

If you’re peakbagging the New Hampshire 52 with a View, don’t leave Mt Pemigewasset for last.  It’s not an inspiring peak to climb, even in the snow. The views of Franconia Notch are obscured and you have to cross under Interstate 93 in four places, which just spoils the mood.  You can’t even see the famous Indian head profile from the trail.

Mt Pemigewasset
Mt Pemigewasset

I hiked Indian head last Friday, ascending on the Mt Pemigewasset Trail and descending by the Indian Head Trail, a distance of 3.3 miles. These two trails do not make a loop, so I hitchhiked back up the Flume Visitor Center Lot after I came out of the woods onto Rt 3, in the midst of the old resort section of Lincoln, NH.

I’ve never been a fan of the tourist mania that overcomes visitors when they come to the Whites, and I’d have never seen the Indian Head profile if I wasn’t peakbagging this list. But, although the hike was a bust, the trip still had merit.

Hikes are Not Journeys

I guess what I mean is that there are two sides to every hike: there’s the hike and then there’s the journey.

For example, I recently exchanged some email with a sectionhiker reader who hiked The Long Trail in Vermont for 35 days straight, without once leaving the trail for a town resupply. They didn’t find the experience very enjoyable, what with the torrential rain and the green tunnel of Vermont, but I think part of what was missing for them, were the interactions with people off the trail. That’s a large part of the journey: the luck, the kindness that people show you, trail magic, the great hitches, and interesting things that you see in town.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is the same way. The journey includes the trail and the towns along the trail.  It’s not just a 200 day hiking and camping trip.

Back to Indian Head. The best parts of this trip were when I bushwhacked around the summit following the tracks of a large rabbit, and when I hitchhiked back to my car. I always find it amusing when I see their  tracks on summits. I guess the animals like the views, too!

Rabbit Tracks in the Snow
Rabbit Tracks in the Snow

Hitching on this section of Rt 3 during a week day in winter is a doubtful undertaking: half of the motels at this end of Franconia Notch are closed for the season and there is no one around. But I scored a ride from the first vehicle to pass me, after waiting for 5 minutes.

The driver was a local in a truck who’d done his share of winter peakbagging and could identify with a lone hiker walking up the road in plastic mountaineering boots. We had a nice chat and he drove me back to my car. It wasn’t very far, but I really didn’t want to road walk in those boots.

Mt Pemigewasset Summit Ledge
Mt Pemigewasset Summit Ledge

All in, not a bad warm up hike in preparation for my Mt Washington Ascent the following day, but not really a very challenging one. Nice ledges at the summit though, if you want a picnic over the Indian’s forehead.

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10 comments

  1. Nice peak indeed. My wife and I had a great time up there and relaxing in the waning daylight during a trip in September a few years back. The hike may be short, but the view is a hidden gem.

  2. I hiked Mt Pemigewasset two weekends ago. Completely worthwhile hike when you don't have time for a big peak.

  3. Warning to those finding snow at summit:

    I did this trail yesterday and after seeing pic from above must tell anyone finding snow/ice up there to stay well away from edge. Straight drop down from ledge.

    May seem like common sense, but be careful.

    That being said, I enjoyed the trail. It was good exercise (easy to somewhat easy) for the 3.2 miles R/T.No vistas until summit, but a nice walk in the woods. Enjoy.

  4. I'm thinking of hitting this one and stealth camping near the top for one night. Some materials say you can camp on the west side where it's just outside the state forest.

    Any thoughts on stealth camping and/or how the views are?

    -Stephen

  5. It was pretty dense up near the top and the views weren't really that great in my opinion, even though it was winter. If I were camping up that way, I'd stay away from Mt Pemigewasset because of the crowds and because it's close to a lot of roads and motels. If you want views and some privacy, I'd try the Mt Liberty campsite. I doubt it will be very crowded during the week and you'd have an awesome view of the Pemigewasset wilderness and Franconia Notch at dawn. Stealth camping in that area just isn't that great because of the slope gradients and forest density. My 2 cents.

  6. I ought be wrong but those look like snowshoe hare tracks not moose tracks.

  7. Per your description I was not looking forward to the hike but afterwards I thought what is this guy talking about. I did Indian Head trail up, which follows a nice brook most of the way. At the top there IS sweeping views that surpasses many of the 4000 Footers. I took the Pemigewasset Trail down with an easy, downhill, very scenic road walk.

    Sorry you did not like your hike but the negative review of this hike is non deserving. It more than deserves to be on the 52 With A View list.

  8. Well I guess it must have been cloudy the day you went then. From what I could tell I had views of Moosilauke, Liberty, Flume Lincoln, Lafayette, Haystack, the Kinsman’s, Tecumseh, Oseceola, from the top. Yes I also saw the highway but roads are visible from many summits.
    It’s a great hike for someone without a lot of time and a decent one on the 52 list.

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