The up-and-down 16.9-mile-long Kinsman Ridge Trail is one of the longest, toughest, but most rewarding hikes in the White Mountains, taking you up to open ridgeline ledges, through thick forests, along streams, and past waterfalls and cascades. It also passes by three very pretty mountain ponds, including Kinsman Pond, with its icy waters and fine views of Mts. Flume and Liberty and 5,000-footers Lincoln and Lafayette.
But what makes Kinsman Ridge especially appealing for weekend hikers is the number of interconnections available. You can bite off as much of the trail as you choose.
We opted to forgo the steep climb out of Franconia Notch to Cannon Mountain and the rough-and-tumble Cannon Balls on the north end of the trail. Instead, we linked with Kinsman Ridge Trail via the kinder Cascade Brook Trail and the short but strenuous Fishin’ Jimmy Trail-1,300 vertical feet of granite slabs, boulders, and tree roots in 2 miles.
On its way south, the trail aggressively climbs and descends North Kinsman Peak (4,293 feet), South Kinsman Peak (4,358 feet), and Mt. Wolf (3,478 feet), with several outlooks on open ledges. The Kinsman Ridge Trail and the Appalachian Trail are one and the same from Kinsman Pond to Kinsman Notch. At the Eliza Brook Shelter, we were entertained by stories from AT thru-hikers.
If you follow the Kinsman Ridge Trail to its conclusion, you’ll descend rapidly to Kinsman Notch and the Lost River Reservation. We took the longer but gentler Gordon Pond Trail, walking the easy grade along Gordon Pond Brook and past Gordon Falls. We met our ride with wet feet and sore thighs, but not at all eager to leave.