Saturday’s Winter Hiking Series hike was trip out to the Kinsmans. I’ve been to the Kinsmans a few times before, but this time we were going via the Mt. Kinsman Trail, which was a new trail for me. The other two times I’d been to these peaks, I’d come up via Fishin Jimmy or across the Cannonballs on the Kinsman Ridge Trail.
The Mt. Kinsman trailhead is located on Rt. 116 and is not too hard to find. Take exit 38, off the I-93 and take a left at the bottom of the ramp (if you’re exiting northbound). Stay on this road, continuing through the intersection with the red light, and drive out of Franconia. About 4.4 miles from the light, there will be a tennis camp, with courts on both sides of the road. Slow down when you see the tennis courts and look carefully to the left, there is a small wooden sign indicating the entrance to the trailhead parking. This trailhead does not have even the small brown hiker sign that Haystack Rd. for the North Twin Trail has, which makes finding the Mt. Kinsman trailhead a little harder.
From what I understand, the lower portion of the trail has been relocated due to the new parking area – parking was along side the road, and in winter, this was obviously more difficult. The trail itself was nicely graded and soon we found ourselves traveling along old logging roads, and then back to narrower trail. The trail crosses three streams, some of which cascaded prettily over rocks.
A little side trip after the crossing Flume Brook (the third stream crossing) was down a path to see the Kinsman Flume, a narrow, deep gorge through which the water ran. It looks like a miniature Flume Gorge, but is still impressive due to the depth of it.
Although we did not start the hike by immediately seeing snow or ice, as we gained altitude the snow finally appeared. What began as a dusting on the trees, eventually built up and was joined by enough ice to make us add some traction in the form of microspikes. Once we arrived at the junction with the Kinsman Ridge Trail, we were high enough to start to enjoy some of the views across Franconia Notch to the peak of the Franconia Range.
Moving towards the summits via the Kinsman Ridge Trail was a careful exercise in foot placement and creativity in going up some of the steeper ledges. These ledge scrambles can be fun in the summer, but a challenge if icy as they were on this particular day. Microspikes were definitely the traction aid of choice, as we saw several other groups all wearing them, too. After a quick stop at the North Kinsman summit, we were off the to the South Kinsmans summit, where we enjoyed a longer break and the fact that the wind speeds were not over 20 mph. Everything had either a dusting of snow or a coating of rime ice. The rime ice ranged from frosty feathers to build up all around the spruce which resembled dead, bleached coral.
Soon enough, it was time for the descent. The icy ledges, of course, took more time to descend then ascend, but soon we were all safely at the trail junction and ready to head down the Mt. Kinsman Trail to the cars. Due to daylight savings time, it got dark before we finished and had to hike the last mile or so by headlamp. That wasn’t surprising, and was made easier by the fact that the last portion of the trail wasn’t excessively rocky or rooty.
Overall, we had a great day – the weather was very moderate, and although the Kinsman Ridge Trail was icy, the ascent via Mt. Kinsman Trail certainly was a great alternative to the potentially difficult ice on the Fishin Jimmy Trail.