10 top-rated hiking trails in New Hampshire

Appalachian Trail, New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s White Mountains offer more than beautiful scenery and popular tourist attractions. They are among the nation’s best-loved places for hiking and climbing. On its way from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail crosses the state along the edges of the Presidential and Franconia ranges, over the top of Mt. Washington (the highest peak in the Northeast) and through a vast wilderness area. Within a day’s hike along the trail are cabins operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), where hikers can sleep and eat with fellow mountain enthusiasts. Before embarking on any of these mountain trails, download a copy of the latest AMC White Mountains guidebook, make sure you have plenty of water and warm clothing in your backpack, and check a weather report. Abrupt and violent weather changes are common above the tree line, and snow has fallen here in all months of the year.

A good base for hikers is AMC’s Highland Center , where you’ll find a hostel, gear, up-to-date trail information, and guided hikes for beginners and experts. A hiker’s shuttle allows you to take longer trails without returning to the same trailhead. Not all of New Hampshire’s mountains are in this northern range, and you’ll also find hiking and climbing in the southern part of the state. Along with trails that require serious preparation, this list includes shorter hikes to waterfalls and even mountain peaks that are suitable for families and those not interested in strenuous multi-day hikes.

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1 Mt. Monadnock

Mt.  Monadnock Sayamindu Dasgupta / photo modified
Mt. Monadnock Sayamindu Dasgupta / photo modified

Known as the most climbed mountain in the world, Monadnock stands alone in southwestern New Hampshire, where its rocky summit offers 360-degree views on a clear day as far as Boston. You have several choices of paths. The most popular is the White Cross Trail , a four-hour ride over moderate terrain. It starts at the entrance to Monadnock State Park off US 101 in Jaffrey. The longer Pumpelly Trail, more difficult but with more variety, climbs the other side of the mountain from the shores of Dublin Lake in Dublin, also off US 101. The Pumpelly Trail takes six or seven hours round trip, starting with a romp in the woods and ending in a scramble over rocks and boulders as the trail ascends and descends along an uneven ridge above the tree line. Because the mountain stands alone — it’s 1,000 feet taller than any mountain within 30 or so miles — it can be windy, even on a hot day, and the weather can change abruptly. No matter which trail you choose, the rocky summit can be treacherous when wet and fog can descend quickly to make the trail almost impossible to find. Remember, this is a very popular climb and easy to get to from Boston, so don’t expect to be alone at the top on a nice day.

Adres: 116 Poole Rd, Jaffrey

Official site: www.nhstateparks.org

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2 Mt. Washington: Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

Mt. Washington: Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
Mt. Washington: Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

One of the most rewarding routes in the Presidential Range, the ascent of the Northeast’s highest peak along the Ammonoosuc River reveals a series of waterfalls, waterfalls, and views that transcend any other route on the mountain. It’s about nine miles round trip to the summit from the trailhead, which is just below the Mt. Washington Cog Railway and a full day of hiking. Below the summit, you will pass Lakes of the Clouds and the AMC cabin. You can return to the trailhead by the Jewell Trail , a much easier descent and with beautiful scenery in its own right.

Whatever the weather at the base, remember it’s never hot at the top; Mt. Washington’s weather is so severe that Arctic equipment is tested here, and it’s where the world’s highest wind speed was recorded. The weather can change in the blink of an eye, and when the clouds come over the top, visibility drops to zero.

Adres: Base Road, Bretton Woods

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3 Mt. Chocorua: Champney Falls Trail

Mt.  Chocorua: Champney Falls Trail Kathleen Tyler Conklin / photo modified
Mt. Chocorua: Champney Falls Trail Kathleen Tyler Conklin / photo modified

New England’s most photographed mountain is a well-known image that stands almost alone with its distinctive peak reflected in the mirror of Chocorua Lake . The most commonly climbed trail – Piper Trail – leads from Route 16, not far north of the lake and famous overlook. But from the Kancamagus Highway (route 112), you can take the Champney Falls Trail , a longer route, but more varied and interesting. It also gives you the option to return via a different trail, making a loop that returns to within 100 yards of the original trailhead. Just over a mile into the climb, you’ll find a side trail to Champney Fallsand neighboring Pitcher Falls. This makes a nice shorter hike if you’re not in time for the round trip to the top and back, but if the weather is dry the falls can leave a lot to be desired.

The summit of Mt. Chocorua is a rocky ledge and this trail joins the Piper Trail to cross to the top. If you choose the longer route back, follow the signs to the Bee Line and Bolles trails, but be aware that this is a round trip of nearly 6 miles and includes another climb through a pass few people know about. Make sure you have a trail map and the latest edition of the AMC White Mountains Guide before taking this route. Watch the weather closely, as Chocorua’s rocky peak is treacherous when wet, icy or cloudy.

Address: Route 112, Albany

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4 Appalachian Trail across the presidential range

Appalachian Trail on the presidential range
Appalachian Trail on the presidential range

One of the most beautiful parts of the entire Appalachian Trail is the crossing of the Presidential Range, over the top of Mt. Washington , the highest peak in the Northeast. AMC cabins map out the route with lockers and meals, and a hiker’s shuttle makes it possible to hike from cabin to cabin without returning. A multi-day hike will take you from US 2 in Randolph to US 302 in Crawford Notch, and depending on how many side trails you choose to follow, this route covers between 13.5 miles and 18 miles and involves moderate to difficult walking. It is mostly above the timberline, so weather is an important consideration. Don’t even think of doing it unless you are fit, well rested and have the latest AMC White Mountains Guide.

Taken from north to south, the route includes the climb from Randolph to Madison Springs Hut (the Valley Way Trail is the easiest and most sheltered route), where you join the Appalachian Trail. The view from this point is considered one of the best in the White Mountains. The Appalachian Trail follows the ridgeline with sidings to the peaks of Adams , Jefferson , Clay , and Mt. Washington itself. The highlights of this route are between Madison Springs and Lakes of the Clouds cabins.

Official site: www.appalachiantrail.org

5 Mt. Willard

Mt. Willard
Mt. Willard

This small mountain that blocks the gateway to Crawford Notch rewards climbers with one of the best views of the White Mountains below the timberline. Just over three miles round trip, the trail climbs through cool forests until it emerges at the cliffs at the top. Here you’ll be treated to a panorama of Crawford Notch spreading out below you (and up to wild blueberries in mid-summer). There’s no better place to appreciate how the glaciers carved and cleared New Hampshire’s indentations as they retreated. If you are hiking with children – and this is a good family climb – be aware that the cliffs are high and the drop is sudden. From the car park across from small Saco Lake there are two more shorter walks, one around the lake and up toElephant Head rock formation, and the other at Beecher Falls .

Adres: US 302, Crawford Notch, Bretton Woods

6 Franconia Notch Ridge Trail

Franconia Notch Ridge Trail
Franconia Notch Ridge Trail

Slightly shorter than the hike above the Presidential Range, the eight-mile hike along the top of the Franconia Ridge offers a similar multi-peak experience, this time adding the thrill of a knife-edge trail with mountains jagged on each side. to fall down. You can hike this circle walk in one day – it’s about eight hours of walking, or you can break the journey up with an overnight stay at the Greenleaf Hut . Additional bonuses, along with the beautiful views down into Franconia Notch, are three mountain peaks and a series of waterfalls along the descent along Falling Waters Trail . This last part of the Cloudland Falls loopto Lafayette Campground, where the entire loop begins and ends, makes a good shorter climb suitable for families. On a hot day, bring swimwear for a cool dip in one or more of the pools.

Adres: Lafayette Campground, US I-93/3, Franconia Notch

Official site: https://www.franconianotch.org

7 Basin-Cascades Trail

Basin-Cascades Trail
Basin-Cascades Trail

Rarely does a trail start with two great kid-friendly rides before you’ve even started climbing. The Basin is a giant pot hole carved and scoured by a glacial waterfall. Signage next to the trail describes its formation, and it’s worth stopping even if you’re not on the trail that starts there. Just yards away is one of the most appealing and approachable waterfalls in the state, a tall gentle cascade over a series of ledges that invite climbing or sitting to enjoy the view. Follow the trail next to the falls and find a slew of waterfalls and cascades over level ledges that appear to be designed for picnicking.

About half a mile above the first falls is Kinsman Falls , then the trail steepens to Rocky Glen Falls . You can go over the top here, cross a wooden bridge and climb up to Lonesome Lake , but the trail gets a little rough for little legs. To get there, park at the exit toward The Basin and walk through the tunnel under the highway.

Adres: Franconia Notch Parkway (US I-93/3), Franconia Notch

Official site: https://www.franconianotch.org

8 Pawtuckaway Boulder Trail

Pawtuckaway Boulder Trail Christian Hapgood / photo modified
Pawtuckaway Boulder Trail Christian Hapgood / photo modified

The glaciers were crowded during the last Ice Age, and they left New Hampshire an abundant supply of natural attractions. While most of these are in the northern part of the state, giant boulders called “glacial erratica” can be found in New Hampshire. Few places have such a fine collection of these as Pawtuckaway State Park, not far from the Massachusetts border between Concord and Portsmouth. Deep in the forest, granite boulders the size of small houses look as if they were thrown here by a giant hand; in fact, they were dropped here as the glaciers melted, having scraped off mountain peaks and cliffs exposed by the receding ice sheet. Boulder Trail is about a two-mile loop as you follow the siding to see the Devils Den , a pair of caves at the base of a tall stone outcrop. Elsewhere in the park are two low mountains that you can climb, along with a lake and a campground. Park maps are available online or at the park.

Adres: Pawtuckaway State Park, Nottingham

Official site: https://www.nhstateparks.org

9 Welch-Dickey Trail, Waterville Valley

Welch-Dickey Trail, Waterville Valley
Welch-Dickey Trail, Waterville Valley

On the southern edge of the White Mountains, Waterville Valley is best known for the ski and summer resort of the same name. But there’s more to this valley cut by the Mad River, reaching far back into a vast wilderness area that makes up the southern portion of the White Mountain National Forest. A trail about 4.5 miles long climbs to a series of flat and gently sloping ridges connecting Welch and Dickey mountains. The path forms a loop, so you don’t have to double back. Although the mountains are not very tall compared to those further north, they are spaced apart, so their peaks reveal startling vistas. This is a good trail for kids, but it’s not a good trail for walking right after a rain shower, because the smooth granite ledges can be very slippery when wet. Pick up a copy of Walking Trails of Waterville Valley here at the Jugtown Store in the resort’s main plaza and some other good short walks in the valley. To reach the Route 49 trailhead, follow Upper Mad River Road to Orris Road.

Adres: Orris Road, Waterville Valley

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10 Mt. Kearsarge Rollins Trail

Mt.  Kearsarge Rollins Trail wood fin / photo modified
Mt. Kearsarge Rollins Trail wood fin / photo modified

While you Mt. can climb. Kearsarge from the Winslow State Park side, a moderate hike of about two miles round trip, you get the same view with a much shorter climb from Rollins State Park . On this side, the access road to the park continues to the side of the mountain. It’s only about a mile from the end of the road to the fire tower at the top. In the summer and fall, when the tower is occupied, the rangers usually receive visitors. Although Mt. Kearsarge is only about 3,000 feet high, it stands alone, so the 360-degree view reaches as far as the White Mountains and into Vermont, as well as multiple lakes. If you prefer a more challenging yet short climb to the top, you can do the Lincoln Trailfrom the same parking lot. Note: Do not confuse this mountain with the other Mt. Kearsarge near North Conway.

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Adres: Rollins State Park, Warner

Official site: https://www.nhstateparks.org

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