Mount Pemigewasset: Up One Way & Down The Other – April 15, 2023

The weather here in the hinterlands has been nothing short of fantastic these past few days. I can’t remember it being quite this warm this early. Thursday almost reached 80°, and Friday was also forecast to be sunny and warm. Needing a walk, I decided to give Mt. Pemigewasset down in Franconia Notch a go.

There are two trails up to the 2500 foot summit, the Indian Head and Mt. Pemigewasset trails. I decided to make a loop of the two, going up Indian Head and down the other. Realizing that it’s been warm for a few days, but also knowing just how long snow and ice can hang around in the woods, I brought along everything- snowshoes, microspikes and a variety of clothing. I’d figure it out when I got to the trail.

I pulled into the empty parking lot at the AMC trailhead around 11AM. The Jeep displayed an outside temp of 70°. There was absolutely zero snow to be seen, and the trail was actually much drier than I thought it would be. I decided the snowshoes would be unnecessary, and while the dampness of the trail changed considerably going up, that was the right decision. I tossed the microspikes and gaiters into the pack and set out.

After a short walk, the trail gains the northern bank of a decently sized creek, and passes under both US Route 3 and the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 93. The first tunnel was very quiet, but going under the Interstate was noisy, and some vibration could be detected when the big rigs went by overhead.

Once clear of the roadways, the incline of the Indian Head Trail increased. It quickly gained elevation from the creek while staying close to its bank. The sounds of the water tumbling down the creek filled the woods.

The trail was still really dry, and these conditions continued until the trail turned away from the creek to the north, perhaps a mile or a little more from the start. Here the trail became a feeder stream, guiding the runoff from above towards the creek.

These wet conditions continued on for perhaps ¾ of a mile, and while sloppy, navigating the trail wasn’t hard. There were plenty of rocks to hop, and dry-ish patches here and there providing the way forward without having to walk in the stream itself. There was still no snow or ice. I noticed the trail markings need attention on Indian Head, as the yellow blazes seemed few and far between, and were faded to boot. When in doubt, I followed the flowing water.

The trail then leveled out a bit, and started to hook around the summit precipice for an approach from the northern side. With the trees still bare, the granite crag was visible over my right shoulder.

This final short section of the trail became very steep. It’s here that the remnants on the ice and snow appeared, but there were still plenty of bare spots to make it up over the boulders. I thought about putting on the microspikes, but didn’t. The Indian Head meets up with the Mt. Pemigewasset Trail as you near the summit.

The trail flattens out coming onto the bare granite precipice with fantastic southerly views from 1500 feet above the floor of Franconia Notch.

The sun was strong, and it had become increasingly warm as the day wore on. While I did wear a lightweight shirt I really wished I had opted for shorts. The long pants were hot! 

I spent about a half hour topside, enjoying the views and a sandwich. Much better vistas this day than last week on Mt. Willard. Here are a few other photos from the top of Mt. Pemigewasset.

The plan heading down was taking the Mt. Pemigewasset Trail, and then walking back along Route 3 to the AMC parking lot. Before heading down I put on the microspikes, as the Mt. Pemi Trail is on the north and east sides of the elevation, and I figured there’d be more snow and ice. I was right.

The trail down was shorter than Indian Head, and I made good time over the snow, slush and ice. About halfway down the spikes came off as the trail went to dirt and mud. There were many water crossings as I worked down to another larger creek channeling the runoff towards the Flume Gorge. In fact, the Mt. Pemi Trail terminates at the Flume Gorge, but once you pass under the Interstate time can be saved by bushwhacking directly over to Route 3. This is what I did, and then proceeded south along that road.

The walk back along the highway was longer than I thought it would be, and it was hot. But, it was downhill and level, allowing a nice cool-down from the ups and downs of the trail. As I approached the Indian Head Resort, I came upon this marker erected by the State of New Hampshire commemorating a famous abduction. 😆

The loop hike covered just over 5 ½ miles with an elevation gain of 1550 feet. From start to finish it took me four hours. It felt like a mid-July hike, with one important exception- no bugs!

They’ll be along soon enough. Thanks for dropping by!

4 thoughts on “Mount Pemigewasset: Up One Way & Down The Other – April 15, 2023

  1. Pingback: Pondside Wakes Up & Moose! & More– April 19, 2023 | PONDSIDE

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