Generally, in hiking blogs you see beautiful pictures of majestic scenery. All the hikers in the photos have smiling faces and recount the glorious time they had reaching the summit of their favorite mountain. What you don’t normally hear about is the other side of hiking. The hikes that are more like death-marches than hikes hardly ever get mentioned. If you hike regularly, then you are bound to have your stories of the not-so-perfect hikes. So instead of highlighting the best hike in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, I thought I’d review a not so good hike. In fact, it is the worst mountain of the list of 48 four thousand foot mountains in New Hampshire…Owl’s Head.
Drawing a Line in the Sand
If you have climbed all 48 four thousand foot mountains in New Hampshire, I’m sure you have an opinion about Owl’s Head. I know not everyone hates Owl’s Head. In fact there even some lunatics (kidding …mostly) that would list Owl’s Head as their favorite mountain. As much as you Owl’s Head lovers may want to defend it, I have to draw a line in the sand. Here is your challenge. Open a web browser and type “Best 4000 foot mountain to hike in New Hampshire”. Guarantee you will not be finding Owl’s Head in the search results, unless you created a website called Owl’s Head is the Best Mountain. If that is the case, then I stand by my earlier lunatic comment.
Making My Case
There are a lot of factors that puts Owl’s Head on the bottom of my list. The first and most important, no view from the summit. Yes, I know you Owl’s Head lovers, there are other mountains on the list of 48 in New Hampshire that don’t provide a view. With Owl’s Head, you get the least bang for your buck. It is a long hike ending with a lack luster summit in the middle of the woods. I have never been on a summit and heard so many fellow hikers exclaim, “Is that really it?”. The top of Owl’s Head is a jumble of confusing little herd paths and bushwhacks. All of these I am sure were made by irritated hikers convinced that there has to be more of a summit somewhere.
Can’t Get There From Here
Let’s face it, Owl’s Head is not hiker friendly. There are no easy approaches to Owl’s Head. It is either a long day or part of an overnight backpack. The approach is tedious from any way you come. Unlike a lot of other peaks in the White Mountains, Owl’s Head isn’t one that can be easily combined with another peak. Owl’s Head also boasts more tricky water crossings than most of the White Mountains. Having a trail crisscross repeatedly over the same stream gets old quick. Adding to that, Owl’s Head water crossings have been known to be dangerous (especially after heavy rains). Even the rock slide approaching the summit is a nuisance, with sliding back 2 feet for every 1 step forward. It is almost as if the mountain is trying to push you away.
Lincoln Woods Is An Evil Place
Anyone who has climbed Owl’s Head from the trail head beginning in Lincoln Woods knows it is an evil, evil place. It is evil because it hides its true essence behind green landscapes along a sparkling river. Once a former railroad track, Lincoln Woods seems easy. It is flat, pretty, and not challenging. This all changes on the way back. After a challenging hike with no views, you just want it to end. You come to Lincoln Woods section of the hike and you think, “I’m in the home stretch”. Soon you begin to realize that this trail seems really long. Next, you realize that whatever sadist that build this railroad must have searched long and hard for the perfect rocks that would cause the most pain to your feet no matter what footwear you have on. Like the famed Chinese water torture, the rocks discomfort increases with every step. Shortly after that, you begin thinking you are in that scene from the Blair Witch Project where the kids have been walking for hours and they seem to be going nowhere. By the time you finally reach the parking lot, you have called that easy, flat trail everything in the book and even have made up a few new curses to fully describe the amount of suckage that Lincoln Woods provided.
So Why Hike Owl’s Head
- Well if you are like me, then you hiked Owl’s Head because it was on the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) 48 4000 ft. mountain list. This hike is generally one of the last mountains people do on the list…nuff said.
- Minus the typical amazing views of other mountains in the Whites, Owl’s Head does offer features that are nice like the rock slide. But…if you like rock slides like I do, then do the Tripyramids in the White Mountains. See even when trying to give reasons to hike it, I can’t.
- New Hampshire offers so many challenging and diverse mountains to climb, that you’ll want to climb it because it is there.
Not All Bad
All kidding aside, I love the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I feel very fortunate to live so close to its natural beauty. Owl’s Head will never be on the same popularity level as other hiker favorites like Lincoln or Lafayette or the Bonds, but any place in the Whites is a guaranteed adventure. Speaking from personal experience, I would never have been able to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, one of the 7 Summits of the World, without the training I did there. My second to last hike before Mt. Kilimanjaro was…you guessed it Owl’s Head. I guess it isn’t all bad 😉
Have you hiked Owl’s Head? Do you agree that it is the worst hike in New Hampshire?
Want to check out some other hikes?
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