The auto road up Mt. Kearsarge in Rollins State Park in Warner, New Hampshire, is gated shut and will probably stay that way until the weekend of May 18. See the Rollins page on the New Hampshire State Parks web site for updated information. That doesn’t block pedestrians and bicyclists, though. If you’re ready for a four-mile uphill walk on pavement, followed by a half-mile on a ledgy trail (total elevation gain roughly 1700′), this is the place. Yesterday, armed with plenty of sunscreen, I took the walk and reaped the views.
Pack bug repellent. I didn’t. A week ago, that would have made sense.
Conditions: auto road is clear of all obstructions, possibly to benefit the fire warden who is staffing the peak’s fire tower. Very buggy at the lower end of the road and in the shade. Pit toilets available. Full sun yesterday made me glad I had sunscreen; for a plodder like me, the route took nearly two hours each way. That doesn’t count the time at the summit, which is broad bare ledge. $4 per person admission fee will be charged once the gate is open.
While there were eight other cars parked outside the gate when I arrived, I encountered other people on the road only occasionally. I was passed by an ambitious bicyclist twice (!). At one of the pullouts about halfway up the road, I stopped to watch some turkey vultures gliding aloft – quite beautiful when in flight, however homely they are in closeup – and savored the quiet. No sound except for a breeze through the trees and a rustle of leaves from some nearby critter. I haven’t been anyplace so peaceful since my last trip to Second Connecticut Lake.
Note: This Mt. Kearsarge is not to be confused with another one farther north in New Hampshire, which is far more remote. Also, the state’s web site says the auto road is three and a half miles long. My GPS device indicated four.
Getting to Rollins: Take I-89 to exit 8; follow signs to NH 103 toward Warner. In town, turn onto Kearsarge Mountain Road; look for brown signs pointing to Rollins State Park. After several miles, the town road ends at the Rollins gate.