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9 Best Hikes in New Hampshire to Try This Year

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If you’ve been looking for an excuse to get out and about in the surrounding mountains, you’ve come to the right place. From the tallest peaks to the lowest lakes, we’ve assembled a collection of your eight favorite hikes to explore.

This is not a definitively ranked list because all the hikes you’ll find below are satisfying in their ways. Still, if you ask us, they’re the best hikes in New Hampshire. But we’ll leave that up to you to decide.

No matter what, you’re in for stunning views, beautiful fall foliage, and unforgettable hiking trails that will stay with you forever.

Editor’s Note: I spend a lot of time hiking in the White Mountains, and this list skew towards the mountains I am most familiar with. There are thousands of gorgeous trails in the Granite State, and there are many regions outside of the White Mountains worth exploring.

TL;DR

Category Hike
For Families Diana’s Baths
Best View Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail
Most Scenic Hike Flume Gorge
Most Challenging Hike The Pemi Loop
Quick Hike The Basin

Best Hikes in New Hampshire to Try This Year

1. Mount Willard: Best Fall Foliage

The view of Crawford Notch Road from Mount Willard, one of the best fall foliage hikes in New Hampshire
Craig Verbe / Adobe Stock

Trailhead: Route 302W, Bretton Woods, NH 03575

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance (Round Trip): 3.1 mi

Elevation Gain: 895 ft

First up is a low-risk, high-reward mountain. Located five minutes from Crawford Notch State Park and a half hour from Franconia Notch, you’ll have access to all the nearby trails you could want.

When you arrive at the Mount Willard trailhead, hop out at the conveniently located parking area at Crawford Depot. This trek is a 3.1-mile round-trip journey, which grants you an estimated hike time of approximately two hours.

Despite the marked feet of elevation, Mount Willard is a little steep; the path is moderate, and the payoff is worth the walk. The best time to hike it is between May and October—during the latter month, the beautiful fall foliage is at its loveliest… although it may be busy.

The top of the mountain overlooks gorgeous panoramic views of the White Mountains and Crawford Notch. Naturally, this is a particularly popular trail for hiking, birding, as well as snowshoeing.

Nearby accommodation: Omni Bretton Arms Inn at Mount Washington ResortOmni Mount Washington Resort

See Related: Best Running Trails in the U.S.

2. Lonesome Lake Trail: Best Hike for Casual Rock Scrambling

Lonesome Lake in Franconia Notch State Park
John / Adobe Stock

Trailhead: I-93 Franconia Notch State Park, Lincoln, NH 03580

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance (Round Trip): 3.0 mi

Lækjaborgir Guesthouse

Trailhead: 3725 West Side Road, North Conway, NH 03860

Difficulty: Easy

Distance (Round Trip): 1.3 mi

Elevation Gain: 118 ft

Diana’s Baths in North Conway stands out because of its appeal to the whole family. It’s one of our easy hikes, boasting beautiful views, stunning water features, and proximity to a variety of attractions.

Like what, you ask? First and foremost, Diana’s Baths is a quick half hour from Pinkham Notch mountain pass. It’s also one of the closest hikes to both Arethusa Falls and Albany, New Hampshire—you can get there in roughly 20 minutes. 

Nice, considering Diana’s Baths will only take about a half hour to complete. This is just as well, as the trails can sometimes be crowded.

We recommend this trail as a must-do when hiking the White Mountains with kids, and not only because of its proximity to other activities. It’s stroller and wheelchair-friendly, and the beautiful waterfall (about 75 feet high!) you’ll find on the trail is just one must-see addition to your bucket list.

Do keep in mind Diana’s Baths charges a fee to enter. Learn more on the official forest service website.

Nearby accommodation: Huttopia White MountainsUpdated Log Cabin Near Story Land, and Dianas Baths!

See Related: Hiking Apps for Your Next Adventure

4. Flume Gorge: Best Waterfall Hike

Flume Gorge and Bridge in New Hampshire
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

Trailhead: 852 Daniel Webster Hwy., Off I-93 Exit 34A, Lincoln, NH 03251

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance (Round Trip): 2.2 mi

Elevation Gain: 482 ft

Next up is Flume Gorge, a brook trail home to scenic waterfalls, a burbling river, widespread forest, and even a cave. These features make it one of the best waterfall hikes in New Hampshire.

Time-wise, hikers should set aside an hour to an hour and a half to complete this trail. Also, please note that, unlike the other recommendations on this list, dogs are prohibited here.

Still, you can explore plenty of other trails with pups, as this spot isn’t far from Franconia Notch—it’s only six minutes away! You can expect to run into several other visitors here.

By the way – this would be one of our top picks for winter hikes, but as you can see below, the gorge itself is partially closed in the winter.

Flume Gorge trail closed in the winter, New Hampshire
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

This area is also protected, requiring reservations and an admission fee during the high season (May-October). For more information on the park’s requirements, visit the Flume Gorge page on the official website for New Hampshire State Parks.

Nearby accommodation: Parker’s MotelIndian Head Resort

5. Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail

The Franconia Ridge before Mount Lafayette
Alexis Pilles Miner / Contributor Photo

Trailhead: 2 Franconia Notch State Park, Franconia, NH 03580

Difficulty: Difficult

Distance (Round Trip): 8.6 mi

Elevation Gain: 3,825 ft

One of the best day hikes in the region is the Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge trail loop. A part of Franconia Notch State Park, this path is famous for a reason. It boasts incredible views, as well as proximity to the stunning Echo Lake and Artists Bluff and the family-friendly Lafayette Place Campground.

While popular, this trail can be challenging. You’ll be above the treeline for most of it, and the steep trail is exhausting. It’s anticipated that depending on your pace, your journey will take anywhere between six to eight hours.

Lafayette Place Campground is open seasonally and closes in October. Still, it makes for a great pre-winter visit if you can endure the crowds!

If you’ve hiked your heart out and you’re looking for something different, there are options. Instead of hitting the trails, the Boulder Caves at Lost River Gorge (not to be confused with the Boulder Loop trail), the Kancamagus Highway, and the Waterville Valley Ski Resort are all 20-45 minutes away!

Nearby accommodation: Rustic EscapeWoodland Whimsy

See Related: Best Bike Trails in the U.S.

6. Mount Washington and Tuckerman Ravine

Tuckerman Ravine from just above Hermit Lake Shelter
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

Trailhead: Tuckerman Ravine Trail, Jackson, NH 03846

Difficulty: Strenuous

Distance (Round Trip): 8.0 mi

Elevation Gain: 4,242 ft

Next up is Mount Washington, which boasts a height of 6,288 feet. It’s New England’s tallest peak and a must-see for adventurers looking for a trip to remember.

Hikers like yourself will probably spend eight hours at minimum trekking along one of these trails. As you can see, this hike is more strenuous than others.

If you’re new to hiking the Whites, your best bet is to take the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail up, and the Jewel trail down. With its steep wall scramble, Huntington Ravine is a little too intense for me.

“Tucks” is my favorite way up. You will get incredible views and a workout, and you can see Crystal Cascade on the way.

Crystal Cascade on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail on Mount Washington in New Hampshire
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

Considered the “most dangerous small mountain in the world,” Mount Washington is encouraged only for experienced hikers. It’s not the elevation gain, steepness, or tricky footing that’ll get you on Washington – it’s the weather.

The summit of Mount Washington (and really anything above the treeline) is incredibly volatile. The weather observatory at the top has recorded the highest winds on Earth. The highest temperature every recorded at the summit was 72 degrees Fahrenheit – it’s cold up there!

Finding a weather window to hike Washington can be difficult. You’ll want to check the Higher Summits Forecast and be ready to turn around if anything starts to whip up in the air.

Alternately, you can take the Cog Railway up and down, or drive to the summit. The road up and back isn’t for the faint of heart!

Nearby accommodation: The Glen HouseThe Ski Haus

7. The Pemigewasset Loop

Sign for the Pemi Loop trail in New Hampshire, in winter
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

Trailhead: Lincoln Woods Trailhead, Kancamagus Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251

Difficulty: Strenuous

Distance (Round Trip): 31.2 mi

Elevation Gain: 9,724 ft

Approximately 31 miles round trip, the Pemigewasset Loop (or, colloquially, the Pemi Loop) is a popular hike famed for its difficulty. The hike covers ground in the Franconia Notch area of the White Mountains.

Open year-round, the Pemi Loop is a beautiful, thought-provoking place filled with backpacking, hiking, rock scrambling, waterfalls, and wild flora and fauna.  You’re bound to entrench yourself in it, as hiking the full loop entails a journey time of two to four days.

If you were to have one takeaway, we’d recommend you note that it’s highly strenuous, and campsites fill up quickly. The Guyot campground is at mile 11, Garfield Ridge is around 17 miles, and Liberty Springs is just six miles from the end of the loop.

Nearby accommodation: Lincoln Condo with Balcony near Loon MtnThe Mountain Escape

See Related: Best Hiking Trails in the United States

8. The Basin

The Basin in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, during winter
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

Trailhead: Basin Cascade Trail, Franconia, NH 03580

Difficulty: Easy

Distance (Round Trip): 2.6 mi

Elevation Gain: 626 ft

An exciting, family-friendly choice takes the last spot on this list. Welcome to the Basin, otherwise known as the deepest pothole in the White Mountains, and a relaxing, stroll.

When you visit the Basin, you’ll spend approximately an hour and twenty minutes perusing its sights. Its fantastic views, easy, moderate climb, few open ledges, and partially paved paths make it ideal for explorative children. 

The Basin’s leveling makes it a great choice for families year-round. It’s also accessible to strollers, wheelchairs, and dogs, which makes it a bit crowded but lively.

We recommend you visit this trailhead anytime between May and November, as the Basin prides itself on being a lovely winter hike with safer, sturdier surfaces than others. Still, look out for ice!

Nearby accommodation: Days Inn by Wyndham LincolnWoodwards White Mountain Resort BW Signature Collection

9. Table Rock Trail

Dixville Notch State Park and the view from Table Rock in the fall
Craig Verbe / Adobe Stock

Trailhead: Table Rock Trail Head, Stewartstown, NH 03576

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance (Round Trip): 1.5 mi

Elevation Gain: 770 ft

A week or two before Mount Willard and the Kancamangus Highway are overrun with leaf-peepers, Dixville Notch reaches peak fall foliage, and the Table Rock Trail earns its spot on the list.

Far from the White Mountains, far from Boston, and far from pretty much everything – Dixville Notch stays under the radar. Lake Gloriette shimmers in the distance as hikers in the know make their way up to the viewpoint.

The hike is rocky and often muddy, but the trail is pretty well maintained. It’s moderately steep, but it’s only 1.5 miles out and back, so if you take your time, it’s fairly easy. Plan to take an hour or two to complete this hike.

Nearby accommodation: Mohawk Cottages

Hiking the White Mountains and Beyond: Tips and Tricks

The White Mountains Travel Guide, one of the resources Kim Magaraci uses to plan travel
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

While hiking in the White Mountains, don’t forget the Ten Essentials. Here are our recommendations:

Remember that different trailheads at each park will lead to many trails with varying levels of difficulty. Stay true to routes at your level!

Microspikes on Alta weatherproof boots for winter hiking
Kim Magaraci / ViaTravelers

The weather in the White Mountains and New Hampshire is quick to change. It shouldn’t be underestimated. Bring layers – even in the summer, you should have a change and clothes and some warm clothing with you. More people die from hypothermia in the summer months than in the winter.

Hiking New Hampshire in the winter is recommended for experienced winter hikers only. Microspikes are more than enough for casual hikes, but you’ll want crampons if you plan on trying for summits.

See Related: Essential Tips for Hiking with Kids & Toddlers

Hike Safe Card From New Hampshire Fish & Game

Bald Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire
jonbilous / Adobe Stock

If you plan on hiking in New Hampshire, it’s a good idea to purchase a HikeSafe card. This optional card is offered by New Hampshire Fish and Game. The card helps fund the search and rescue operations of F&G and also absolves you of the costs associated with your mountain rescue, should you ever need it.

The HikeSafe card is an indispensable part of any New Hampshire hiker’s safety kit. It’s valid for a calendar year and one of the best investments you can make.

Trails in New Hampshire By Distance, Elevation, Difficulty

Trail Name Difficulty Distance Elevation Gain Dogs Allowed? Trailhead Location Standout Perks
Mount Willard Moderate 3.1 mi 895 ft Yes Route 302W, Bretton Woods, NH 03575 Provides brilliant views of fall foliage
Lonesome Lake Trail Moderate 3.0 mi 1,030 ft Yes I-93 Franconia Notch State Park, Lincoln, NH 03580 Overlooks the stunning Lonesome Lake
Diana’s Baths Easy 1.3 mi 118 ft Yes 3725 West Side Road, Bartlett, NH 03812 Incredible family-friendly water features
Flume Gorge Moderate 2.2 mi 482 ft No 852 Daniel Webster Hwy., Off I-93 Exit 34A, Lincoln, NH 03251 Beautiful waterfalls
Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Hard 8.6 mi 3,825 ft Yes 2 Franconia Notch State Park, Franconia, NH 03580 Boasts proximity to well-known, wonderful Lafayette Place Campground
Mount Washington and Tuckerman Ravine Hard 8.0 mi 4,242 ft Yes Tuckerman Ravine Trail, Jackson, NH 03846 The peak of Mt. Washington is the tallest in New England, which makes for a great view!
The Pemigewasset Loop Hard 31.2 mi 9,724 ft Yes Lincoln Woods Trailhead, Kancamagus Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251 Renowned New Hampshire hike
The Basin Moderate 2.6 mi 626 ft Yes Basin Cascade Trail, Franconia, NH 03580 Fantastic for kids and winter hikes
Table Rock Easy 1.5 mi 770 ft Yes Table Rock, Stewartstown, NH 03576 Hidden gem in Northern New Hampshire

Table Data: www.alltrails.com and www.visitwhitemountains.com.

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