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.
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.
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.
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.
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.