Approximately 4 miles round trip — The Winslow Trail is 1.1 miles each way, and in the winter, the access road isn’t plowed, adding “approximately” another mile each way. Tack on another .7 for a loop with the Barlow Trail.
Mt. Kearsarge elevation: 2,937 feet
2-4 hours (pending children)
Difficulty: Family Hike
Equipment needed: snowshoes or microspikes; trekking poles with winter baskets
Mt. Kearsarge via the Winslow Trail is the perfect beginner trek for those new to winter hiking. Whether young or young at heart, it’s the right combination of short and sweet with a few strenuous steep sections mixed in to test those snow legs and acclimate to winter traction. The open summit offers outstanding views with the opportunity to experience harsh winter winds without prolonged exposure. For experienced winter hikers, Mt. Kearsarge offers a quick getaway and a good early season hike.
The Winslow State Park access road isn’t plowed in the winter, adding a mile(ish) of extra walking fun to reach the summer trailhead. This part of the hike climbs gradually and steady past the toll gate (no winter fee) to the summer parking lot. There’s limited parking available at the entry gate for 4-5 vehicles before having to park roadside. Keep in mind the park is a popular recreational destination, so the spaces fill fast.
The Winslow State Park access road gets plenty of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling usage, making it likely that you’ll encounter well-packed footing.
Above the summer picnic areas, playground, and parking lot is the official trailhead with signage for both the Winslow Trail and the Barlow Trail.
The Winslow Trail begins climbing immediately. In the summer, this stretch can be a rude entry with lots of rocks to climb over. Snow cures all things rocky; however, those unaccustomed to winter hiking may find the climb sweat inducing.
Fear not, newcomers, the Winslow Trail levels off for a bit of relaxed snowshoeing. Just bear in mind that to get to the top, there must be up.
The Winslow Trail is the rare hike that informs hikers when they’ve reached the halfway point. The good news: this marker is for the summer route, so in the winter it’s more like three-quarters. Depending on your point of view, the bad news: the trail gets steep and rugged from this point on. It’s worth noting that with more snow and ice, the marker may not always be visible in winter. There’s a sharp bend in the trail that can also tip you off to this location.
Not everyone on our expedition agreed with the good-news sentiment…
An opportunity for a little “ice” climbing quickly flipped the frown. Here’s why you’ll want to have traction, whether it be micro spikes or snowshoes with built-in crampons.
About three-quarters of the way from the summer trailhead is a large split rock that presents the hike’s first scenic views.
The summit approach brings the Winslow Trail into the open, where it connects with the Barlow Trail, dips below treeline in a ravine, and then climbs to the bald top. Keep in mind that above treeline conditions can be harsh, even on small mountains such as Kearsarge, so it’s important to have proper head and face gear.
On a clear day, views to the north include Mt. Lafayette, South Twin and other peaks of the Pemi Loop, and the Presidential Range with Mt. Washington. If you squint just right, you can see the white tips of these mountains in this photo.
Mt. Kearsarge is most recognized for its fire and communication towers. With the ice and wind, we skipped the tower experience.
One last look at the frosted trees before we dipped back below treeline.
Take Interstate 89 to exit 10 and follow the signs to Winslow State Park. It’s roughly a ten-minute drive from the exit. The previous link provides information on the park’s summer fees and operating hours.