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A Road Trip to Mount Kearsarge

Mount Monadnock, well to the south of the Hanover region, is the most heavily visited peak in southern New Hampshire but 2,931-foot Mount Kearsarge ranks among the most accessible. Visible from many points in the Sunapee Lake region southeast of Lebanon, Kearsarge can be ascended most of the way by car along a paved carriage road. At two separate entrances, Winslow State Park (tel. 603/526-6168), off Route 11 in Wilmot (take exit 10 off I-89) and Rollins State Park (tel. 603/456-3808) on Route 103 in Warner (exit 8 off I-89), rangers collect tolls at the base ($3 per person, $1 for children ages 6 to 11) from late May through late October.

The parks are slightly different from one another, although, sadly, neither has a campground. From Rollins State Park, drivers snake their way 3 1/2 miles up past dramatic vistas to a gravel parking lot high on the mountain's shoulder. It's a simple half-mile hike more to the summit along a well-marked, rocky trail with remarkable views to the south and southwest along the way. Winslow State Park visitors have a shorter drive and a longer, tougher hike to the top, nearly a mile, but even without attempting this you can picnic to splendid views at the end of the paved car road.

If you do make it there, the rocky, knobby summit offers superb panoramas of south-central New Hampshire's lakes and hills, even if the views are cluttered slightly by the old fire tower and several small buildings bristling with antennae and other visual pollution. You can even just barely make out the faint skyline of Boston, more than a hundred miles to the south. It's a worthwhile trip. But remember that on crisp fall weekends during foliage season, Kearsarge up top has all the seclusion of Christmas week at a mall. You're better off avoiding it at that time and seeking out another peak far from the madding crowds if you crave silence. The leaves and vista here sure are beautiful, though.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.