Rollins State Park – July 1, 2011
At Rollins State Park, a 3- ½ mile auto road sets you up for a quick, but steep half-mile hike to the top of Mount Kearsarge. The tree-less summit features huge granite ledges, picnic tables, and a lookout tower that make for great views and an exciting alpine environment to explore. For more ambitious hikers, trails from the summit of Mount Kearsarge offer an extended 3-mile loop down to Winslow State Park and back up to the summit.
Starting in a lush green forest and driving slowly up the paved auto road I began to get a tease of the views that were to come. Midway up the road I couldn’t help but pull over at a roadside picnic area to fully appreciate the view of the Merrimack River Valley and the surrounding mountains. With partly cloudy skies the sun moved in and out of the clouds reflecting off all the different ponds, lakes, and rivers below.
After climbing the last steep section of road, I pulled into the parking lot just 400 ft below the summit of Mount Kearsarge. Perched on the side of the mountain, the view from the parking lot and the adjacent picnic area are wide-open.
From the parking area I started up the Rollins Trail, which traverses to the east side of the mountain before scrambling straight to the top of the peak. The Rollins Trail leaves the tree cover behind fairly quickly and I enjoyed having a bit of exposure and a great view for the majority of the hike. Making my way to the top, I left the trees behind completely, and followed the cairns to the summit.
With a large and expansive peak, even on a busy day, it was easy to spread out, explore, and find a place of my own to relax and refuel. I took my time stretching out and catching the afternoon sun on the granite ledges of the summit before heading back down the Lincoln Trail.
The Lincoln Trail is a more direct route to the parking area, but offers up some steep rocky sections that may not be suited for kids or smaller hikers. Just above the parking area the trail flattens, and empties out in to field of tall green ferns. The whole field seemed to dance when the breeze would pick up and shake each fern from side to side.
This mellower section of trail was a nice ending as I popped back out in to the picnic area. Grabbing a seat at one of the benches, I took the view in once more before heading back down the auto-road.