Mount Pemigewasset summit ledges stand out high above the west side of the south end of Franconia Notch. The ledges form a profile of a giant stone face that gives the mountain its other name, Indian Head. Many think that the trees on top of the mountain are the Indian chief’s headdress. The hike to the top of the Indian Head’s summit ledges is a popular hike. The moderate hike is less than two miles in length to reach the wide open summit ledge to enjoy its grand vista.
I volunteered with the Trailwrights the previous day on the Mount Kinsman Trail and I managed to move enough rocks to tire myself out. I bowed out of joining my friends on a hike up Mount Garfield but I still wanted to get out. I was in the mood for a shorter less challenging hike. I suggested to Charlie that we hike Mount Pemigewasset and he could see the work we, the Trailwrights, did just a few weeks ago on the Mount Pemigewasset Trail. Since it was early we were able to park near beginning of the bike path in the Flume Visitor Center’s north parking lot. The hiking trail turns left off the paved recreational path in less than a tenth of a mile, a sign marks the trailhead. Charlie and I reminisced about the time we were going to run up Indian Head but we raced past the trailhead sign and continued all the way to the Liberty Springs Trail. Not too clever I admit but we changed our plans and ended up having a nice long hike up Mount Liberty that day. Not feeling that kind of zip we were in no danger of missing the trail this time.
We followed the blue blazed trail through a big box culvert under the north bound lanes of the Parkway, across a bridge and then walking what felt like longer than you’d think to reach the next box culvert underneath the southbound lanes. I pointed out the small brook where we washed our tools. The steel bars, rakes, Pick Mattocks and Pulaskis need to be put away clean at the end of the day. Trailwork is fun and the Trailwrights provide the tools and the instruction you just have to show up with work gloves and your lunch to volunteer. The Trailwrights have been making improvements on this trail for years. We built two stone staircases and re-graded some sections of trail during our last outing here.
When Charlie and I reached the first area were we worked I was happy to see that the new stone steps looked like they had been there forever. The second staircase looked terrific too. The stone work isn’t done to make the trail easier but to protect the trail from erosion. The trail winds its way up and never gets too steep. When we passed by the big boulder on the right side of the trail I knew we had half a mile to go to reach the top. Just past the boulder is the steepest section of the hike. Nearing the top, the Indian Head Trail enters on the right. This trail is less used route up the mountain and I recall it to be rougher and steeper. I’ve hiked a loop before up the Indian Head Trail and down the Mt. Pemigewasset Trail ending with a road walk back to the Indian Head Trail parking area that is about a quarter of a mile south of the Indian Head Resort.
When we popped out on the open ledges there were about a dozen people on top. People were sitting near the cliff’s edge and children were romping about closer to the trees. Great care should be taken to keep an eye on children and everyone should be extra careful when conditions are wet and slippery. Falling off the Indian Head would be very bad. Charlie and I continued to follow the blue blazes painted on the ledge to the true summit where there is a blue arrow painted to in a circular fashion pointing back from where we came. This is the end of the trail. From here there are peek-a-boo views of Mount Liberty and Flume. As we walked back we admired the view south over the interstate to the slopes of Loon Mountain and beyond. We picked a spot to sit on the west side of the cliff and have a snack. I pointed out where the AT Trail follows the Kinsman Ridge Trail over Mount Wolf and just to its left further away we could see Mount Moosilauke. We ate sweet peanut butter cookies and enjoyed the splendid mountain views.
We took our time walking, retracing our steps off the mountain. We passed by a dozen more people making their way up the trail. There is another much shorter and fun hike nearby and we decided to hike this short fun trail before heading home. On the opposite side, the south parking lot of the Flume Visitor Center parking, is the trailhead for the Roaring River Memorial Nature Trail. The trail loop is just 3/10ths of mile high above the bank of the Pemigewasset River which you can hear but not really see. It is a nice path in the woods and it goes past a gazebo built as a memorial in 1988 to Kirschner and Dowse and dedicated to all those who love and appreciate the White Mountains and the North Country. Summer is hitting the road and the days are getting shorter. Fall is the best time of year to hike. Have Fun.
Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.