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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 own 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 does skew towards those mountains with which I am most familiar. There are thousands of gorgeous trails in the Granite State, and there are many regions outside of the White Mountains worth exploring.
- Best Hikes in New Hampshire to Try This Year
- 1. Mount Willard: Best Fall Foliage Hike
- 2. Lonesome Lake Trail: Best Hike for Casual Rock Scrambling
- 4. Flume Gorge: Best Waterfall Hike
- 5. Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail: Best Hike with a View
- 6. Mount Washington and Tuckerman Ravine: Best Summit Hike
- 7. The Pemigewasset Loop: Best Multi-Day Hike in the White Mountains
- 8. The Basin: Best Winter Hike
- 9. Table Rock Trail: Best Trail Outside The White Mountains
- Hiking the White Mountains and Beyond: Tips and Tricks
- Hike Safe Card From New Hampshire Fish & Game
- Best Trails in New Hampshire By Distance, Elevation, Difficulty
|Best Hike for Families||Diana’s Baths|
|Best View||Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail|
|Most Scenic Hike||Flume Gorge|
|Best Challenging Hike||The Pemi Loop|
|Best Quick Hike||The Basin|
Best Hikes in New Hampshire to Try This Year
1. Mount Willard: Best Fall Foliage Hike
Trailhead: Route 302W, Bretton Woods, NH 03575
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.
See Related: Best Running Trails in the U.S.
2. Lonesome Lake Trail: Best Hike for Casual Rock Scrambling
Trailhead: I-93 Franconia Notch State Park, Lincoln, NH 03580
Distance (Round Trip): 3.0 mi
Trailhead: 3725 West Side Road, North Conway, NH 03860
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 Mountains, Updated Log Cabin Near Story Land, and Dianas Baths!
See Related: Best Hiking Apps for Your Next Adventure
4. Flume Gorge: Best Waterfall Hike
Trailhead: 852 Daniel Webster Hwy., Off I-93 Exit 34A, Lincoln, NH 03251
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. Additionally, please note that, unlike the other recommendations on this list, dogs are not allowed 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.
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.
5. Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail: Best Hike with a View
Trailhead: 2 Franconia Notch State Park, Franconia, NH 03580
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 a good part 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. In lieu 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 between 20-45 minutes away from here!
See Related: Best Bike Trails in the U.S.
6. Mount Washington and Tuckerman Ravine: Best Summit Hike
Trailhead: Tuckerman Ravine Trail, Jackson, NH 03846
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. Huntington Ravine, with its steep wall scramble, is a little too intense for me.
“Tucks” is my favorite way up. Not only will you get incredible views and a workout, but you can see Crystal Cascade on the way.
Considered the “most dangerous small mountain in the world,” Mount Washington is encouraged for experienced hikers exclusively. 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!
7. The Pemigewasset Loop: Best Multi-Day Hike in the White Mountains
Trailhead: Lincoln Woods Trailhead, Kancamagus Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251
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.
See Related: Best Hiking Trails in the United States
8. The Basin: Best Winter Hike
Trailhead: Basin Cascade Trail, Franconia, NH 03580
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, leisurely 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.
In fact, 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 Lincoln, Woodwards White Mountain Resort BW Signature Collection
9. Table Rock Trail: Best Trail Outside The White Mountains
Trailhead: Table Rock Trail Head, Stewartstown, NH 03576
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
While hiking in the White Mountains, don’t forget the Ten Essentials. Here are our recommendations:
- Navigation: AMC White Mountains Guide, Compass
- Pack: Gregory Juno 24 Hydration Pack
- Headlamp: Black Diamond Spot 400
- Extra Water: Hydroflask Water Bottle
- First-aid kit and Bug repellent
- Knife: Leatherman Sidekick multi-tool
- Firestarter: UCO Waterproof Matches
- Emergency Shelter: SOL Emergency Bivy
- Food: Clif Bars, Backpacking Meals
- Extra Clothes: Anything Merino!
- Sun Protection: Goodr National Park Sunglasses, SunBum Mineral Sunscreen,
Keep in mind that different trailheads at each park will lead to a multitude of trails with varying levels of difficulty. Stay true to routes at your level!
The weather in the White Mountains and New Hampshire in general 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 if you plan on trying for summits, you’ll want crampons.
See Related: Essential Tips for Hiking with Kids & Toddlers
Hike Safe Card From New Hampshire Fish & Game
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 own 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.
Best 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|
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- About the Author
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A bona fide expert in budget travel, Lana has been to 25 countries across four continents (although she hopes to round that up to seven soon!), as well as 29 U.S. states. She has a penchant for country hopping and proudly presents tips and tricks to help our readers do the same. Lana is currently based near Philadelphia, but spends a significant amount of time in Italy with family.
She’s fluent in three languages – English, Italian, and American Sign Language – and, through her studies, has been inducted into the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars and the Gamma Kappa Alpha Italian Language Society.