We had two rental cars. Leaving one car at the Winslow State Park parking lot, we drove the other one to the Link Trail trailhead on Mountain Valley Road and commenced our point-to-point hike over the summit of Mount Kearsarge.
The Link Trail connects to the Lincoln Trail after about 0.5 miles (800 meters). The Lincoln Trail is a section of the much longer Sunapee-Ragged-Keasarge Greenway trail and makes for a pleasant ascent of Mount Kearsarge.
Mount Kearsarge Hiking via the Lincoln, Rollins and Barlow Trails
Mount Kearsarge is a so-called monadnock, a mountain that stands isolated from other mountains and mountain ranges. At 2,937 feet (895 meters), the summit of Mount Kearsarge may not be particularly high, but because of its isolated location, the mountain rises 2,100 feet (640 meters) above the valleys below.
The Lincoln Trail is 4.2 miles (6.8 kilometers) long and runs over the northwestern slope of Black Mountain. It is a well-maintained trail, although we didn’t see anyone else on the trail at all. The trail felt deserted, a feeling that I liked a lot.
After about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers), the trail passes a ‘scenic lookout’ sign. A 0.2-mile (0.3-kilometer) path leads to the Baker’s Ledge overlook, offering both a fine view and an excellent place for a break.
From the Baker’s Ledge overlook, it is another 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) to Rollins State Park. A very popular destination, the state park offers two routes to the summit of Mount Kearsarge, one of which is the Lincoln Trail. We, however, decided to continue on the Rollins Trail, a more gradual 0.5-mile (0.8-kilometer) hike on an old carriage road.
A fire tower tops the completely bare summit of Mount Kearsarge. Just like Mount Cardigan, Mount Kearsarge has a bald granite summit, the result of a devastating fire a couple of centuries ago. The combination of the bare summit and the isolated location results in magnificent 360-degree views.
After spending half an hour at the summit, we opted to head down the other side of the mountain on the Barlow Trail. The 1.7-mile (2.7-kilometer) Barlow Trail is dotted with beautiful views and descends gradually to the Winslow State Park parking lot and picnic area.
Our point-to-point hike ended up being 6.4 miles (10.3 kilometers) long and took us no more than a total of 3 hours and 40 minutes to complete, including 30 minutes at the summit—the perfect afternoon hike in New Hampshire!