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Owl's Head via Lincoln Brook Trail

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

This hiking area truly offers something for ALL abilities, from a 3.7 mile accessible trail to a 17.5 mile (out and back) hike up a 4,025 footer. It's also soul fillingly sublime here. Of course it is, we're talking about the White Mountains.

My friend Jaime has been hiking away at the 67 4,000 foot mountains in New England for a couple of years now. I join her when I can and last week, she invited me to hike Owl's Head in the Pemigewasset Wilderness near Lincoln, NH. If I happen to be free on a date when someone invites me to hike, YES comes flying out of my mouth so fast, I rarely pause to find out what I'm actually getting myself into. I later learned from my mail-carrier-turned-friend, Traczie, that the hike to Owl's Head is 17.5 MILES with NO real views. After a discovery like this, most folks would give an "oh hell nah"to this pilgrimage, but I had already committed (fool me twice) and was in need of some quiet hours in the woods.

In the end, the entire day was glorious and this hike was surprisingly spectacular. Mostly because we had perfect weather and the trail followed a mountain stream with waterfalls a good part of the way. There is nothing more soul soothing than listening to the sound of a babbling brook while watching crystal clear water flowing over rock. I recently learned that this sound stimulates the vagus nerve, which is responsible for decreasing stress and creating a calming effect in the body. Just sit next to a mountain stream and you'll feel the truth of this. And it's 100% free - with no side effects whatsoever.

Since Jaime and I got off track and bushwhacked multiple times during this hike, I will not attempt to give directions or guidance on how to summit this mountain. Instead, I will direct you to All Trails for maps and detailed instructions:

I did learn, after doing this hike, that is is one of the only NH 48 4,000 footers without a maintained trail to the summit. This would explain why we saw no blazes, no signs, and were easily lost. Luckily, Jaime was using the gps on her phone, which really saved us from sleeping in the woods.

If you are interested in the accessible part of this hike, you will take the Lincoln Woods Trail, which we started out on before taking a left onto the Black Pond Trail to summit Owl's Head.

The Lincoln Woods Trail, listed on Accessible Nature, is wheelchair friendly with designated accessible parking spaces and bathrooms at the trailhead. It is listed as a 9.4 mile out and back hike on All Trails, but listed as a 2.9 mile (one way) trail on the Forest Service's site. Either way, it's a wide, mostly flat trail that follows the river. It's gorgeous. For details on grade and current conditions, refer to the All Trails link here. For a trail description and the history of this trail, link here. There was a short bridge closed 1.7 miles out when we were here. Hopefully this will be fixed by the come you come, but do check All Trails for updates.

For both the Owl's Head hike and the Lincoln Woods Trail, you will park at the large lot off of the Kancamagus Highway near Lincoln, NH. The beginning of this trail will lead you across a 160-foot suspension bridge. What a way to start a hike!

At the end of this bridge, you'll take a right and follow the long, flat trail for several miles...leading to whichever type of hike you choose. If you are doing the larger, Owl's Head hike, there are several stream crossings and the water can reach your knees in some places. We packed water shoes to switch into for these crossings...crocks would work too. You can certainly make do in bare feet, but water shoes will help reduce your chances of slipping. It is the most refreshing of all feelings, walking hot sweaty feet through the ice cold water. You'll enjoy it.

Although this hike doesn't offer the sweeping summit views I've grown to love and expect from larger hikes, we did get a peek of the mountain tops during the section of rock slide, just before reaching the summit. Not too shabby.

From start to finish, this hike took us 9.5 hours. We did lose our way a couple of times and also stopped for several snacks and shoe changes. We started the hike around 8:40am and made it home before the sun set, somewhere around 8:45pm. Jaime planned this hike for the summer solstice, so we'd have as much daylight as possible - which worked out great! We did pack headlamps, just in case we didn't make it out in time. ALWAYS pack a headlamp.

I love that this hiking area offers something for just about everyone. I hope you make it here whether you plan to jump in the swimming holes, summit Owl's Head, or stroll along the Lincoln Woods Trail.

What I learned from this experience is that the mountains will always surprise and delight, it just may not be in the way we're expecting. Stay open, keep exploring and when a friend invites you to hike, say YES without pause.


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