Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
3,258.00 ft (993.04 m)
Trail type
19.00 mi (30.58 km)
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The hike to Owl’s Head receives bad press for its long distance and limited views, but in reality, it is a fun and pleasant mostly flat hike with a short technical rock scramble and great views of Franconia ridge.

The hike begins at the Lincoln Woods parking lot in Lincoln, NH, where hikers immediately cross a bridge across Black Brook. The Lincoln Woods Trail is very flat, hard packed dirt along an old railroad bed for the first 3.0 miles. At the 3.0 mile junction hikers cross another bridge and bear left on the Franconia Brook Trail at a very slight gradual uphill. After 1.7 miles hikers bear left again on the Lincoln Brook Trail, soon reaching the first of several river crossings. After heavy rainfall or in spring months these river crossings may be difficult, but by summer they are generally rock-hoppable. The trail becomes more narrow and is slightly rocky and muddy. Just before the eight mile mark, there are two rock cairns on the right (eastern) side of the trail marking the out-and-back to Owl’s Head summit, 1.0 miles each way. There is no sign marking this junction, so keep an eye out for the cairns along the trail.

The climb up the Owl’s Head path is a very steep scramble up loose rock. The first quarter mile is an open slide offering breathtaking views of Franconia ridge. The trail then enters back into the trees climbing steeply before transitioning to a shallower winding dirt trail to the summit. There is a small clearing along the trail before the summit; this was believed to be the summit until 2005, when it was realized that the true summit is 0.2 miles farther along the trail! The summit is underwhelming, with little more than a small cairn and limited very obstructed views through the trees. Hikers then return the 9.0 miles back to Lincoln Woods via the same route as the ascent.

On the return trip, hikers can take a small detour 0.4 miles each way to Franconia Falls for a swim after the hike. The falls offer numerous swimming options, although they are popular in summer and may be crowded.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Mostly flat, easy terrain. Fewer crowds. Interesting slide.


Steep finish. Crowded parking lot.

Trailhead Elevation

1,145.00 ft (349.00 m)

Highest point

4,025.00 ft (1,226.82 m)


Near lake or river

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping


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