Mountains to Hike This Summer & What You’ll Need for a Safe, Enjoyable Outing
Jun 25, 2013 12:51AM ● Published by Erin Frisch
New Hampshire is home to the beautiful White Mountain National Forest, including a section of the Appalachian Trail. Thousands of miles of trails offer spectacular views for moderate effort. There are trails of every level, including many for beginning hikers and those just looking to try their hand (or feet!) at hiking. New Hampshire’s mountains also include forty-eight 4,000-footers for seasoned hikers looking to bag some peaks. Wondering what hikes might be right for you and your crew, and what you need to bring along? Read on.
What should you bring on a day hike? Stop at the visitor’s center near the base of the mountain you’ve chosen and pick up a trail map. It will show you the elevation changes of each trail, as well as the distances of the different sections of trails. Aside from a map, hydration is most important. Be sure to bring 8 ounces of water per hiker per mile—more if it will be an especially hot day. For fuel to keep you going, trail mix or trail mix bars are perfect. They pack in protein, carbs (in dried fruit and chocolate bits), and some salt to replace the salt you sweat out. Another good choice is a bagel with peanut butter. Pick up a small first-aid kit at your local pharmacy to throw in your pack in case of scrapes or blisters, and make sure to put on sunscreen and reapply it every couple of hours. A wide-brimmed hat will help protect your face from sun, plus you can spray insect repellent on it to help keep pesky bugs away. Add the bug spray to your pack and reapply as needed. Be sure to wear a sturdy pair of tried-and-true hiking boots. It’s also smart to throw an extra pair of socks in your pack, and a windbreaker or other light jacket if you plan to hike one of the taller peaks where the weather at the summit can be quite cool.
Now for some mountains and trails that are musts for every level of hiker!
The Lost Pond Trail from the Pinkham Notch Visitors’ Center is an easy one-mile hike up to a beautiful pond. This one’s a good choice if you’re hiking with little ones. In the Franconia Notch region, try the Arethusa Falls Trail. This is an easy 2.6-mile walk up to the largest waterfall in New Hampshire (only 200 feet but beautiful nonetheless). Hedgehog Mountain in the Crawford Notch area is great if you’re looking for a slightly longer hike. At 4.8 miles, this hike can be done in a half-day or as a leisurely full-day hike; there are great views toward Mt. Passaconaway. Begin at the Downes Brook Trail off the Kancamagus Highway and proceed onto the UNH trail.
If you’re ready to step your hiking up a notch, give Mt. Moosilauke in North Woodstock a try. The 8-mile Gorge Brook Trail from the Ravine Lodge Trailhead will take you up to the summit on moderate terrain, where you will see the foundation of an old hotel. From there, hike down to South Peak and down the Old Carriage Road back to the trailhead. Baldface Mountain in North Chatham has a 9.8-mile loop over two bald peaks that offer great views of the taller White Mountains. There are several, fun stream crossings and beautiful views along the ridge between the peaks. There’s also some scrambling where the trail gets steep in spots.
More advanced hikers might want to tackle Mt. Washington in North Conway—the tallest peak in the Northeast. Start out on the Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail from the Pinkham Notch Visitors’ Center and hike 2.4 miles up to the Hermit Lake Shelter where you can use restrooms and stop for a short break. After this, the real hiking begins. You can either stay on the same trail or head up the Lion’s Head Trail to the summit, with beautiful views of the surrounding area on a clear day. The round trip will run from 8 to 10 miles, depending on which trail you choose. The weather near the summit can surprise you, so be sure to check it before you head out and prepare accordingly. If you’re looking for a beautiful but challenging loop, consider the Franconia Ridge Trail, a 15.3-mile loop that takes you across Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, Little Haystack, Mt. Liberty, and Mt. Flume. The narrow ridge that traverses the peaks offers breathtaking 360° views and lets you bag four 4,000 footers in one day. Start at the Lafayette Trailhead in Franconia Notch State Park, and take the Old Bridle Path or the Falling Waters Trail to get started. There are numerous trails in this area, so it’s best to get a map and plan your exact route before you start.
What’s your favorite New Hampshire hike? Share it with us in the comments!