Location: 1066 Kearsarge Mountain Rd. (Off Route 103,) Warner, NH
Activities: Hiking, picnicking
Amenities: Picnic tables, scenic auto road, fire tower
Acreage: Over 5,000 acres including state forest.
Number of Campsites: None.
More Information: Day-Use
Located in the town of Warner, Rollins State Park is situated on the south slope of Mt. Kearsarge. A 3 1/2 mile long scenic auto road rises from the park entrance through woodlands to the parking and picnic areas just below the summit.
The picnic area, located in a natural wooded glen beneath granite ledges, is historically referred to as the "Garden". It affords views that stretch from Mt. Monadnock to the hills of New Hampshire's coastal plain. The summits of Pack Monadnock, Crotched and Uncanoonuc mountains, the hills of central Massachusetts and the Boston skyline are visible on the horizon, while the Mink Hills and Merrimack River Valley can be seen nearby. Two trails to the summit of Mt. Kearsarge are offered, one moderate and one for more advanced hikers. (Patrons with handicaps may also wish to consider Miller State Park offering an auto road to the absolute summit.)
In 1866 the New Hampshire legislature granted local businessmen a charter to build a toll road from Warner Village to the summit of Mt. Kearsarge. The Warner & Kearsarge Road Company was created and construction of the road began in 1873, with the support of the townspeople. The road traversed Mission Ridge to the Garden and continued to within "eight rods" of the summit. The road was poorly maintained and was impassable by the early 1900s. The Troy Hill Women's Club raised funds to repair the road in the 1920s. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established a camp in Warner in 1935 to finish rebuilding the road to the Garden, and from there, the trail to the summit.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) purchased land on the mountain including the Garden in 1918. The 521-acre reservation was called Rollins Memorial Park in honor of Governor Frank W. Rollins, a founder of SPNHF. A small log shelter built near the Garden helped make the area popular with hikers. The property was transferred to the state for the establishment of a state park in 1950.
Located in Warner and Wilmot, New Hampshire, 2,937-foot Mt. Kearsarge, one of the oldest mountains in the state, is the home of both Winslow and Rollins state parks. Because of its easy accessibility from the parks and outstanding summit vistas, Mt. Kearsarge is a popular family hiking destination. Views include nearby Sunapee, Ragged and Cardigan mountains and more distant Mt. Monadnock and Ascutney. On very clear days views extend to the White Mountains, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Atlantic Ocean and Boston.
The exposed granite summit is a good place to see evidence of past glacial activity. During the glacial period more than 25,000 years ago, a great ice sheet more than a mile thick moved over Kearsarge and much of New Hampshire. Glacial striations, grooves cut in rock by the movement of glacial ice, can be seen on the summit, as well as on ledge outcroppings in the Winslow picnic area. In addition, large boulders called glacial erratics, can be seen from the trails. The mass of ice was powerful enough to move the boulders which were left behind when the ice sheet retreated. The bare summit is the result of a 1796 forest fire which burned the vegetation and exposed the soil to wind and water erosion.
Governor Endicott of the Massachussetts Bay Colony made an exploration of the New Hampshire wilderness to find the source of the Merrimack River in 1652. Members of the expedition are believed to be the first Europeans to see Mt. Kearsarge. It is shown as "Carasarga" on the map they produced, believed to be a name derived from a Native American word meaning "notch-pointed-mountain of pines. The evolution of the mountain's name has included "Kyasarge" in the 1749 charter for Perrystown (now Sutton), "Chi a Sarge" in a 1755 Perrytown's proprietors meeting, and "Kyar Sarga" on a 1774 map. "Kearsarge" appeared on an 1816 map of Merrimack County.