In 2003, New Hampshire’s most recognizable symbol, the Old Man of the Mountain, collapsed after years and years of intense weathering. Residents were devastated. The Old Man was their state’s mascot. He adorned license plates! State highway markers! He was even on the state coin! Who could ever replace the Old Man?
But in the nearby town of Lincoln, a different stone face had been attracting visitors for years. Yes, while not nearly as famous or renowned as his big brother, the southern-facing side of Mt. Pemigewasset had, for years, boasted its own geological oddity. Ever heard of Indian Head?
Long ago, Chief Pemigewasset of the Abenaki tribe would use the top of this mountain to keep a lookout and bask in the absolute beauty of the White Mountain range that the Abenaki famously inhabited. Though the Abenaki would lose control of the region during the French and Indian War, Abenaki terminology and names are abundant throughout the Great North Woods. The aptly titled Pemigewasset River snakes right through the Franconia Notch and by Mt. Pemigewasset to this day.
This brings us back to Indian Head itself. In the early 1900s, a forest fire on Mt. Pemigewasset would severely burn the south side of the mountain, exposing the hard granite beneath the lush forest. In a wild twist of fate, the exposed rock bore a striking resemblance to the Chief who had loved the mountain so dearly decades prior. In Lincoln, Mt. Pemigewasset’s unique geological portraiture was dubbed “Indian Head.” (It helped that the remaining tree line created a sort of Mohawk for the “face.”)
Due to Indian Head’s prominence from US Route 3, it wouldn’t be long before locals would try and get the chance to cash in on their fun little mountain. The Indian Head Resort, which lies right across the street from Mt. Pemigewasset, offers the best views of the profile from its custom-built fire tower. A staple of White Mountains culture, the motel’s striking landscape, and cheesy knick-knack gift shop give visitors the chance to just have some good old-fashioned fun in the White Mountains.
Know Before You Go
Hiking Mt. Pemigewasset will not give you the perspective to actually see the Indian Head. Instead, you’ll have to go to the Indian Head resort. Going on the fire tower is optional, as it can be viewed fine from the parking lot.