4000 Footer Club

Owl's Head
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Elevation:    4,025 Feet
Summited:   August 14-15(summit), 2014
Distance:     22.3 Miles
Difficulty:     Easy/Strenuous
Views:          Few, Good
Route:          Lincoln Woods Trail → Franconia Brook Trail → 13 Falls Tentsite → Lincoln Brook Trail →
                      Owl's Head Path → Franconia Brook Trail → Lincoln Woods Trail

  The Lincoln Woods Trail runs for 2.9 miles along the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River, from the Kancamagus Highway. The trail follows the bed of a logging railroad that last operated over 65 yeasrs ago. You begin by crossing the porch of the information center, down a stairway, left past a kiosk and cross the East Branch on the suspension bridge. You then turn right and follow the railroad bed, climbing ever so slightly. At 1.5 miles, the trail comes close to the river's edge, and your first viewpoint shows Mt. Bond upstream. Just before you get to Franconia Brook, side trails lead north up to Black Pond and Franconia Falls. Hikers wishing to visit Franconia Falls must fight the urge unless you're about to turn around. We didn't see anything extraordinary from what we saw through the rest of the hike and the trail ends like you've just come upon a brick wall.

Just pass the Franconia Brook footbridge at 2.9 miles, the Franconia Brook Trail begins and climbs the bank on the left as you enter the Pemigewasset Wilderness boundary. You climb up a steep bank to an old railroad grade and cross Camp 9 Brook a few times. You then turn right off the railroad grade to bypass a section flooded by a beaver pond. The trail soon approaches the junction with the Lincoln Brook Trail, which goes to the left at 1.7 miles. The trail continues to the left of more small beaver ponds and open swamps, with viewpoints of Mt. Bond to the right. It continues to ascend gradually on the old railroad grade, crossing Hellgate Brook at 2.6 miles, Redrock Brook at 3.6 miles, and Twin Brook at 4.7 miles. At 5.2 miles, you reach 13 Falls, a series of waterfalls and cascades. You'll turn right, leaving the railroad grade. 100 yards from there the Lincoln Brook Trail reenters from the left... and just ahead, 13 Falls Campsite. The climb up to the campsite was the hardest hike of the day. And get use to it, I walked to and from the campsite, what seemed like, a dozen times.

We set up camp, had dinner and sat around the campfire telling stories. By 9pm everyone had gone to bed. After a night of tossing and turning, barely getting sleep, I was awaken by the grunt of a black bear. I could hear him sniffing and grunting outside my tent. I I slowly and quitely unzipped both sides of my tent. It's notable that I couldn't see anything, due to the raincoat on my tent. I attentively remained in a four point stance for what seemed like 5 minutes until I heard a snap that was not near my tent. I then quickly began dressing myself and looking for my phone to alert others. While looking for my phone, I heard my fellow hikers start yelling at the bear. I then put my shoes on in preparation to go outside. As I went to exit, my other companion yelled at me to stay inside my tent, as the bear was right next to it. We all then began yelling at it until it eventually walked away.

On my way to the outhouse, I alerted the caretaker and she quickly grabbed her hatchet and headed to our site. Once I got back, we decided to just pack up and get started on the day. NOTE: It's not a good idea to have coffee or muffins in your tent. You may also not want to throw apple cores around your campsite, as I think it attracts bears. On to the hike, it took us about three hours to get to the base of Owl's Head from 13 Falls Campsite. A moderate up and down traverse to the base of the slide. We dropped our packs and had a bite to eat before we started the hardest part of our day. The trail climbed quickly, reaching the slide within minutes, good views of the Lincoln Brook valley and the Franconia Range were there, if I had only turned around. I wasn't feeling up to looking behind me while one false step could start a rock slide. The trail is marked by cairns of vary¬ing size but don't depend on them. The right side of the trail was a lot dryer on this day. An open ledge about halfway up the slide had the best views and a convenient spot for a rest. The path climbs rather steeply up to the ridge, then swings left and runs near the summit with minor ups and downs until it finally levels off and reaches a tiny clearing, which I called the summit. While resting, I took a little walk down the path a ways, but I didn't seem to be much higher, so I headed back to the clearing and started drying my shirt and vest. We rested for 15 mins or so after everyone reached the summit and then headed down.

During the an anxious hike back down the slide, we came upon a couple snakes sunning themselves on the rockslide. The rest of the way was slow and took some concentration. Back at the base, we ate again and rested for the long walk back to the parking lot. From here the Lincoln Brook trail stays righ alongside the water, crossing it five times before reaching the Franconia Brook Trail. The trail is a slight downhill with many rock hopping opportunities. On this day, on the second to last river crossing, I met my match. Others had made the jump, but my boots were wet and I had a pair of sneakers I've been waiting to put on. So I stepped right into the drink. No need to risk it. It was a blessing is disguise, as my feet felt a whole lot better after soaking them in the river. For 20 minutes or so, I squished everytime I took a step. It was refreshing. When we reached the Franconia Brook trail, I took a rest, and dried off my feet and changed footwear. It felt good hiking the last two and a half hours in dry shoes and socks. And as we left the parkinglot, by surprise, the Patriots game was just about to start... all right, all right, all right.

NOTE: Do not hike up Owl's head with a multi-day pack. The trail requires four point climbing up and down above the slide, and could be dangerous in wet weather. The trail becomes somewhat overgrown towards the summit. Summit has no views.

NOTE: There are two nonofficial campsites on Lincol Brook Trail, one of them is about one mile up the south junction trailhead and another just over two miles up the trail. Both can easily hold four small tents. The second site is pictured in the image gallery.