Hiking In New Hampshire

As the fifth smallest state in America as well as one of its least populous states, what New Hampshire lacks in terms of urban settings and industries is made up by the fact that New Hampshire is home to various hiking trails in New England. 

Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, New Hampshire would be seen to mirror the geography of other New England states. Sporting vast mountain ranges, lush forests, and a small but diverse coastline, New Hampshire is a must-visit for fans of hiking, regardless of one’s experience level!

With literally hundreds of hiking trails to explore across New Hampshire, it can be difficult to narrow the various trails down to a single list. However, the following sixteen trails are some prime examples of the hikes and locations available to novice and experienced hikers alike!

1. Mount Monadnock Trails

Supposedly one of the most climbed mountains in the world, there are various trails one can explore on the way to the summit, which is known to give views as far as the city of Boston on a clear day!

Two popular trails include the White Cross Trail and the Pompelly Trail. The White Cross Trail begins at the entrance to the Monadnock State Park and involves an approximate four-hour round trip over moderate terrain.

The Pompelly Trail is slightly more challenging at an approximate six-hour roundtrip beginning in the neighboring woods and cumulating with excursions over rocky, mountainous terrain.

Regardless of the trial take, exposure up the mountain can lead to high winds, hot suns, and loose ground; therefore, make sure to come prepared for all weather conditions!

2. Champney Falls Trail

Beginning at the Kancamagus Highway around the Chocorua Lake and upward toward the summit of one of New England’s most famous mountains, Mount Chocorua; Champney Falls Trail offers one of the best ways to explore this well-known site.

This trail offers hikers the opportunity for a full round trip to the summit of Mount Chocorua. Alternatively, there are shorter side trails to either Champney Falls or Pitcher Falls, should a more leisurely stroll and swim be on the agenda.

Just make sure to visit the AMC White Mountains Guide in advance, so you do not accidentally take one of the extended trails that dot the area, as well as to get an idea of weather conditions, as colder, wetter conditions can prove dangerous to the uninitiated/unprepared hiker!

3. Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

This trail is recommended for experienced hikers looking to summit the Northeast’s highest peak, Mount Washington.

As one of the best hikes along the Presidential Range, this full-day trail will take hikers along the Ammonoosuc River, past Lake of the Clouds, a short-stop by the AMC hike before an ascent which includes waterfalls, cascade, and sweeping vistas of the surrounding ravines below.

Just be aware that the summit is known for high winds and Arctic temperatures, so make sure you are adequately equipped and aware of the conditions before braving this hike!

4. Mount Willard Trails

Situated in Crawford Notch, Mount Willard is one of the smaller mountains along the White Mountains but is known for providing some of the best views available below the timberline.

At just over three miles roundtrip, this hike is perfect for families looking for a stroll in the woods before experiencing some mild elevation as they summit Mount Willard.

Alternatively, there are shorter hikes to be found at the nearby Saco Lake. These trails include a trail around the lake and up to the Elephant Head rock formation, while the other splinters off to Beecher Falls.

5. Basin-Cascades Trail

This hike begins with on New Hampshire’s famous natural sites, that being the Basin, a giant hole that was carved from the rushing, icy waters of a glacial waterfall.

Just half a mile into the hike, a multitude of waterfalls and cascades will emerge. These include Kinsman Falls, Rock Glen falls after some slight elevation, and onward to a wooden bridge that leads you to Lonesome Lake.

6. Thoreau Falls and Zealand Falls

Beginning at the end of Zealand Road between Twin Mountain and Betton Woods off Route 302, the first two miles of this hike lead hikers through dense forest along the bed of a logging railroad along the edges of a lake.

Along the trail, you will find a junction. Right leads to a further 0.7 miles along Twinway trails toward Zealand Falls and an AMC hut which provides views of the Zealand Notch.

Going left will lead hikers along the Ethan Pond Trail and a further 2.1 miles onward toward the lesser-known Thoreau Falls. Along the way, you will various cascades, pulls, and channels that culminate into the 20-foot drop that makeup Thoreau Falls.

Despite the increased distance, it is recommended hikers push onward toward Thoreau Falls from Zealand Falls, as this lesser-known spot provides views that can only be accessed on foot.

7. Franconia Notch Ridge Trail

This eight-mile hike offers hikers multi-peak experiences, with various elevation changes and knife-edge trails, with mountainsides slopping rapidly on each side of the trail. Consequently, caution must be taken when braving this hike.

Although the hike is a roundtrip that can be completed in approximately eight hours, it is recommended that you stay over at the Greenleaf Hut along the trail.

This allows you to rest up and have enough stamina to take a slight deviation on your second day of hiking along the Falling Waterfalls Trails to stop and explore the three mountain peaks and waterfalls before beginning your descent.

This final descent from Cloudland Falls to Lafayette Campground is relatively easy and offers opportunities for shorter looping trails and climbs in and of itself, should you wish to experience the Franconia Notch without a strenuous, eight-mile hike.

8. Mount Kearsarge Trails

This 2 937 foot summit can be climbed from two state parks, Winslow State Park or Rollins State Park.

Winslow State Park offers hikers a moderate 1-mile hike, which can be extended by following the Barlow Trail. The Barlow Trail is a 1.7-mile hike just below the summit that loops back to the Winslow State parking lot.

Rollins State Park has a similar trail on the other side of the mountain, which is approximately a 1-mile hike to the fire tower at the summit of Mount Kearsarge. For a slightly more challenging hike out of Rollins State Park, you can opt to take the Lincoln Trail to the summit.

At approximately 3 000 feet, the view from the summit and the accompanying fire tower includes 360-degree views of surrounding lakes, the White Mountains, and the state of Vermont.

9. Pawtuckaway Boulder Trail

Located in Pawtuckaway State Park, the Pawtuckaway Boulder Trail is home to numerous “glacial erratics”, those being massive boulders found throughout the state of New Hampshire as a result; of glacier movements during a previous Ice Age! 

Situated near Massachusetts between Concord and Portsmouth, the forested Pawtuckaway State Park is home to a collection of glacial erratics to find and explore throughout its various hiking trails.

At a two-mile loop, the Pawtuckaway Boulder Trail will guide you through a series of glacial erratics throughout the woods while offering a small detour to explore Devil’s Den for those hikers looking to explore some rugged caves!

10. Appalachian Trail

Considered to be one of the best hiking spots along the 14 state long Appalachian Trail, the crossing of the Presidential Range over the summit of Mount Washington is a multi-day hiking and camping expedition.

Starting at the US 2 in Randolph and ending at the US 302 in Crawford Notch, this hike is anywhere between 13.5 and 18 miles, depending on how many side trails and locations you wish to visit and explore along the way.

The route involves the ascent from Randolph to Madison Springs Hut, where you will begin the Appalachian Trail. From here, your journey will follow the ridgeline to the summits of Adams, Jefferson, Clay, and Mount Washington.

With multiple changes in elevation, uneven terrain, and unpredictable weather patterns, given that the trail is above the timberline in its entirety, this trail is recommended for experienced and well-equipped hikers/campers.

11. Holt Trail Loop

As one of the many trails that lead to the summit of Mount Cardigan, the Holt Trail Loop is a surprisingly challenging hike, despite its short length of 5 miles relative to the other trails in and around the mountain.

While the initial hike may be fairly flat and manageable, the final half-mile includes a very steep elevation toward the summit of Mount Cardigan. Consequently, this rocky, uneven climb should be avoided following snow or rain.

12. Welch-Dickey Trail

Located in the Waterville Valley on the southern edge of the White Mountains, this untamed wilderness is best known for the Mad River, which cuts through the nearby White Mountain National Forest.

The Welch-Dickey Trail is approximately 4.5 miles long with minimal elevation and flat traversals between the Welsh and Dickey Mountains. This moderate loop is perfect for novice hikers and children that want views and mountain hikes without too much difficulty.

Just make sure not to attempt this trail after heavy rains, as the granite ledges along the hike can become slippery and treacherous when wet!

13. The Carters Trail

Located in northeast New Hampshire, the Carter Range provides numerous challenging hikes while being home to three peaks in excess of 4 000 feet each!

Beginning at the NH-16 at the Nineteen Mile Brook Trailhead, the trail begins with following brooks and water crossings for the first part of the ascent. The first intersection at approximately 2000 feet includes Carter Lakes and Carter Dome Trails.

Regardless of the trail taken, you will want to follow the guide toward Zeta Pass to the north. From Zeta Pass, you should make your way toward the Carter-Moriah Trail, which leads to the South Carter Mountain at 4 420 feet and Middle Carter Mountain at 4 600 feet.

Following the above, you can make the return trip back through Zeta Pass, the Carter Dome Trail, and the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail for a total of approximately 14 miles.

14. Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge Trails

Situated in Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge, this reserve is a National Natural Landmark and home to over 6 000 acres of wetlands and forests.

This is the perfect place for beginner hikers and family, as the majority of the trails are well-maintained and flat, allowing you to take in all the sights and sounds of the wilderness at your leisure.

Furthermore, certain trails, such as the Mud Pond Trails and wheelchair friendly, making this a welcoming space for people of all abilities and ages. 

15. Liberty Trail

Situated at Mount Chocorua and flanked by Chocorua Lake, this eight-mile hike is one of the easier summits given the moderate elevation of 2 500 feet. However, there are sections where open rocks will require grip strength for balance and traversal.

Along the way, make sure to visit or spend a night at the Jim Liberty Cabin. Built-in 1934, this wood cabin has nine bunk beds, allowing for a stopover for hiking parties, just below the summit of Mount Chocorua.

16. Red Hill And Cabin Trails 

Located by Red Hill Mountain, this trail begins with a 0.3-mile walk through the forest before coming to an intersection at Cabin Trail.

Regardless of whether you decide to stay on the Red Hill Trail or opt to the summit via Cabin Trail, the elevation and distance remain fairly even, as either direction allows for a loop via the other for a total of 3.4 miles.

While the summit itself is wooded, the inclusion of a fire tower means that you can access views above the timberline for both lake (Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake) and mountain views (Mount Major, Mount Cardigan, and Mount Chocorua.)

Conclusion

As can be seen above, New Hampshire is an excellent hiking location for anyone willing to take the time to explore some of the multiple opportunities this diverse New England state has to offer!