Owl's Head Path (West Slide)

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 44.13782°N / 71.61436°W
Additional Information Route Type: scramble w/ long approach
Additional Information Time Required: A long day
Additional Information Difficulty: scramble
Sign the Climber's Log

Standard Approach

The usual approach begins at Lincoln Woods Trailhead on Route 112 (Kancamagus Highway), east of the town of Lincoln. Parking is more than ample.

Using this approach, the hike totals over 18 miles. 
The Lincoln Woods trailhead is near the east end of Lincoln,  a total of 5.2 miles east along route 112 from interstate 93.  After passing the Loon Mountain ski resort and its condos, you'll see Hancock campground and then, within 0.2 miles, the huge parking lot for Lincoln Woods trailhead.  On road maps, look for the bridge where route 112 crosses the ("East Branch") Pemigewasset river, near where the Hancock branch diverges.   Hancock campground is just west of this bridge, and the Lincoln Woods trailhead is spitting distance from the east end of the bridge.    On trail maps, look for the south end of the Lincoln Woods Trail.    Online map
From the parking lot, cross a wooden suspension bridge (over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River) and head north along the Lincoln Woods Trail (a.k.a. the southern end of the Wilderness Trail). You can't miss the signs and the trail is over ten feet wide. After 2.9 miles, just after another suspension bridge (over Franconia Brook), turn left onto the Franconia Brook Trail. Follow it north for another 1.7 miles. At the sign, turn left (west) onto the Lincoln Brook Trail. In a further 0.5 miles, wade across Franconia Branch. 0.4 miles after that, wade across Lincoln Brook. The trail remains on the left side of Lincoln Brook until about half a mile before the Owl's Head slide, and the remaining stream crossings are much easier. 1.8 miles after the Lincoln Brook crossing, the trail swings northward and crosses an un-named stream while remaining to the left (west) of Lincoln Brook. 0.6 miles after that, the trail crosses Liberty Brook, passes a small clearing (formerly Camp 11 - look for the No Camping icon nailed to a tree), and crosses to the right (east) side of Lincoln Brook within 0.2 miles. 0.4 miles after that (3.4 miles from the Franconia Brook Trail), in a stand of evergreens, the Owl's Head Path diverges to the right. The junction MAY be marked by a cairn; hikers (re)build it and rangers sometimes remove it. You may also find traces of painted or scratched blazes that have been largely removed.  As of fall 2018, there is reportedly a sign at this spot, warning hikers not to leave their packs unattended here, due to a bear that has made a habit of ripping up packs in search of food. You can't see the rockslide from Lincoln Brook trail, though once your attention is drawn along the Owl's Head Path you may see a few small cairns marking the route.
If you miss the turn, you'll come to a spot where the trail appears to plunge into the river at a spot where erosion has cut a semi-circle out of the bank. The trail detours around the edge of this cut-out, then after several paces starts climbing thirty or forty feet up the east side of the suddenly narrow valley before continuing north. Go back to the south side of the cut-out, proceed south down the trail for ten or fifteen paces, and look for bootprints to your left.
Lincoln Brook crossing. Water...

Lincoln Brook crossing

Water Level info

Though it's not really nearby, this flow gauge will give a general idea of whether the water crossings are likely to be deeper than usual. If you do this hike, please comment on the depth of water you encountered.

Bushwhack Approaches

You can avoid the two difficult stream crossings if you're willing to bushwhack. Option 1: At the bridge over Franconia Brook, stay on the west bank and bushwhack northwards. (For the first 0.3 miles, until Franconia Falls, there is a trail.) Where Lincoln Brook joins Franconia Brook, stay left (west) and continue bushwhacking along the bank. Join the Lincoln Brook Trail after it crosses Lincoln Brook.  
Owl s Head from Black Pond

Black Pond

Option 2: Take the Black Pond Trail north from the Lincoln Woods Trail (2.6 mi from the trailhead). Follow it to the end (0.8 mi), then bushwhack north from Black Pond. Follow the south/west bank of Lincoln Brook until you join the Lincoln Brook Trail. For more information and some interesting history see the Owl's Head Routes page on HikeNH.

Northern Approaches

If you're willing to cross over Garfield Ridge, (an extra 2500 feet of elevation gain plus an equal descent [each way]), you can take the Garfield Trail or the Gale River Trail from trailheads near Route 3. (For directions to the trailheads, see the pages for Mt Garfield and Galehead Mountain.) Once on Garfield Ridge, descend to 13 Falls via Franconia Brook Trail or Twin Brook Trail, then follow Lincoln Brook Trail west and south to the slide. These approaches are longer and much more strenuous, and the northern end of Lincoln Brook trail is a bit hard to follow, being unblazed, narrow, muddy, and not frequently maintained. Their only advantages are that they pass by the 13 Falls tentsite (and also near either Garfield Campsite or Galehead Hut), and that they avoid the water crossings of the standard approach.

Route Description

Once found, Owl's Head Path leads you directly eastward to the rockslide. The slide climbs about 1500 feet in under a mile, and consists largely of loose (and often wet) coarse gravel, but is not especially difficult.  
Owl s Head Path

lower slide

Climbing is generally easier to climber's right, but don't miss the left turn into a wet, loose gully (more so than the rest of the slide). This occurs at a broad shelf where there's usually a cairn and, if you look closely, an incompletely-erased white painted arrow.  
Nonconforming Structures

keep left after here

At the top of the slide, follow the obvious treadway (most blazes have been removed) which swings gradually northward as it approaches the crest of the ridge. Once the ridge flattens out you'll pass a couple of clearings; after the summit the trail fades out and the ridge trends clearly downhill.  
Nonconforming Structure

rare survivor

Essential Gear

Usual New England weather gear. Good navigational skills. Poles and water shoes for the stream crossings. Waders or wetsuits for cold-weather water crossings. Snowshoes, crampons and climbing axe(s) for winter climbs.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.



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