This is a guest blog by Bruce (not Dickens). I didn't take Dickens on my hike to North Kinsman NH (4293') from the west, because the trail is steep and strenuous and I did not think there would be any places for him to drink, bathe and cool off on the upper part of the trail. (Which was true; he probably would have gotten overheated and dehydrated on this trail).
On the hike, however, I did meet a large black dog named Bales and a Brittany spaniel named Echo. I would say that the trail is doable for dogs if they and their masters are fast hikers and if the dogs are not easily overheated by lots of steep climbing. The western approach also has the advantage of being uncrowded.
Even though there is more of a vertical climb from the west side, I liked this approach better than the eastern one, which I've done, because the trail from the east has a very substantial and long downhill section in the middle of it, which is kind of annoying and discouraging. They had to do it that way because of the lay of the land.
Slow as I am, it took me from 8:44 AM to 1:00 PM to reach the summit. Up here, there are great views of Lafayette and Lincoln, two 5000 foot mountains on the Franconia Ridge. There is also an interesting view down to Kinsman Pond. I spent an hour up here enjoying the views and eating lunch. On the way down, I took the side trail to Bald Peak and found this to be a wonderful place to rest up and take a short nap before the final stretch of trail to the parking area.
Two of my trail guides, vintage 2001 and 2003, report a rock ledge with ladders on the upper stretch of trail. As of 2010, neither rock ledge nor ladders were in sight. My 2003 guide says the trail is ax blazed when actually it has blue blazes. The same 2003 guide says the upper part of the trail crosses several small brooks. Actually these appeared to me to be very minimal and marginal intermittent watercourses and all of them would probably be bone dry if we ever had a dry stretch of weather.
The weathermen predicted partially cloudy but actually it was mostly cloudy. It had rained the preceding Thursday night, making the trail damp in shady areas and giving life to a series of minimal water sources on the top part of the trail. There are a lot of muddy areas to walk around and unless your dog is trained to avoid mud you can expect that he'll need a bath afterwards. As nice as the views on this trail were, they were even better the first time I climbed North Kinsman because the weather was sunnier.