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17 of the Best Hiking Trails in New Hampshire for a Breathtaking Adventure

By | Last Updated : 4th August 2021

New Hampshire features more than 4000 hiking trails that offer breathtaking scenic vistas. Ranging from easy hikes with dazzling fall foliage to moderate and difficult ones around the White Mountains, all the trails will reward you with a different experience and incredible views. In addition, the trails meandering around the White Mountains feature several huts handled by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). If you feel weary and want to call it a day, you can stay here overnight. These huts also provide piping hot meals and snacks for you to refill your energy on your way to the mountains or while returning.

Hiking Trails in New Hampshire

Best Hikes in Northern New Hampshire

1. Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail in Northern New Hampshire

This trail to the summit of Mount Washington requires a challenging hike up the rocky paths and ascending steep stairs in some sections. You can complete the whole hike within 6 to 7 hours. Apart from the ravine, waterfall, and cascades, you’ll also come across Lakes of the Clouds and AMC Hut. You can choose to stay here at the Hut or have a steaming meal. The views get even better once you reach the mountain summit. While returning, you can either choose the same path or hike down the comparatively less strenuous Jewell Trail. Remember to wear waterproof hiking shoes to avoid wet feet and hiking poles to help you climb the steep sections.

Length: About 8 miles out and back

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: May to October

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2. Presidential Traverse Trail 

Presidential Traverse Trail in Northern New Hampshire

This trail is a long and strenuous one leading to some of the state’s highest peaks in the White Mountains. A backpacking trip is ideal for the journey, as you will need more than a day to complete it. If starting your hike from north to the south, you’ll have to hike Madison Peak first. The trail then leads to Adams Peak, Jefferson Peak, Washington Peak, Monroe Peak, Eisenhower Peak, Pierce Peak, and at last Jackson Peak. All along the way, you’ll find AMC huts to stop by for a meal or to spend overnight. Each of the peaks offers fantastic views and a different experience. If you are in good shape and looking for a challenging hike, this trail is undoubtedly for you.

Length: Approximately 20.5 miles

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: May to September

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3. Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Tuckerman Ravine Trail in Northern New Hampshire

Starting from Pinkham Notch, this trail leads you to the top of Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the White Mountains. On your way to the summit, you can treat your eyes to scenic vistas, including a ravine and a waterfall. You’ll also come across Hermit Lake Shelters at the base of Tuckerman Ravine that provides staying places to hikers who wish to spend some time here. Since the trail has steep with an elevation gain of more than 4000 ft., only hikers having experience need to access the trail. The views from the top, though, are totally worth the arduous work. You can hike down the Lion’s Head also, which is a preferred route among many hikers. Also, do keep in mind to download a trail map before starting your hike to avoid getting lost. Wearing waterproof hiking boots and carrying water with you would be beneficial. You can complete the whole hike within 6 to 7 hours.

Length: Approximately 7.5 miles out and back

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: June to October

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4. Lincoln Woods Trailhead

Lincoln Woods Trailhead in Northern New Hampshire

This flat trail is actually an old railroad track in the White Mountain National Forest that will lead you to Pemigewasset Wilderness. Along the trail, you’ll be able to enjoy the breathtaking scenic views of Pemigewasset River, Mt. Bond, and Franconia Falls. Lincoln Woods Trail ends across the bridge over the falls. From here, Wilderness Trail begins to continue traversing within the Pemigewasset Wilderness. It’s a wide trail, and kids and dogs can also hike it easily. This trail is also popular in winters for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Length: About 10 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: March to October

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Best Hikes in Southern New Hampshire

1. Metacomet-Monadnock Trail

Metacomet-Monadnock Trail in Southern New Hampshire

This long trail traverses from Massachusetts and extends to New Hampshire. In this part of the state, it is an 18 miles trail starting near the two states’ border at an elevation of 3166 feet high at Mt. Monadnock. It then continues over Little Monadnock and then to the north peak of Gap Mountain. Since there are no staying places along the trail in the North Hampshire side, you can consider spending an overnight in the lodges at Troy after hiking Little Monadnock.

Though it is a rocky trail, you won’t be disappointed with the views each of the summits has to offer.

Length: 18 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

Best time to visit: All-year-round

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2. Pawtuckaway Boulder Trail

Pawtuckaway Boulder Trail in Southern New Hampshire

Situated within Pawtuckaway State Park in Nottingham, hikers of all skill levels can access this trail. All along the way, you’ll be treated with impressive views of massive boulders towering alongside. In addition, the scenic landscape and the sight of Neal’s Cove are also appealing. The entire hike takes about one and a half-hour. Using a side trail, you can also see a pair of caves called Devils Den on the North Mountain Bypass. It is an excellent place to explore, and you can also spend time rock climbing here.

If you’re planning to visit it in the cold season, do not forget to wear your spikes to hike the ice-covered paths. Moreover, the state park’s entry fee will cost you $5 per adult and $2 per kid on all days except in winters (December to March).

Length: About 3 miles out and back

Difficulty: Easy

Best time to visit: April to October

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Best Hikes in Eastern New Hampshire

1. Champney Falls Trail

Champney Falls Trail in Eastern New Hampshire

This trail traverses through lush forests with some steep and rocky sections along the way. You will find the trailhead at the parking lot near the information board while it ends with the views of multiple gorgeous cascades named Champney Falls. Visiting the falls after heavy rainfall will let you witness them in full glory. Pack your swimsuits if you want to enjoy a dip into one of the many pools here, though the waters are icy. Completing the whole hike will take about two and a half hours.

You can also go a mile further to see Pitcher Falls. For an extended hike, you can continue towards the south. Here, the trail merges with the Piper Trail to lead to the top of Mount Chocorua.

 You will have to pay $5 as the parking fee.

Length: About 3 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: March to October

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2. Mount Willard Trail

Mount Willard Trail in Eastern New Hampshire

This trail in the White Mountains begins from the parking area near AMC Highland Center. It then traverses through forests where you can enjoy the views of lush greenery, a little waterfall, and a pool. Though a bit rocky, the trail will take you to the summit of Mount Willard, from where you’ll get breathtaking panoramic views of Crawford Notch and the neighboring mountains.

After the hike, you can enjoy a meal in The Notchland Inn, located at the foothills of Crawford Notch. It also provides accommodation facilities if you are seeking to spend an overnight. For exploring the area further, you can choose any one of the trails near Saco Lake, like the one that leads to Beecher Falls and the other to Elephant Head.

Length: About 3 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: May to October

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3. Arethusa Falls Trail

Arethusa Falls Trail in Eastern New Hampshire

Located in the White Mountains, you can access Arethusa Falls via Bemis Brook Trail. Though it requires a steep and strenuous hike, the scenic views of brooks and cascades, including the gorgeous Bemis Falls, are rewarding and well worth it. Arethusa Falls is near it and is equally spectacular. You can head down the Arethusa Falls Trail from here. It is a lot easier and less steep than the former trail.

Length: About 3 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: All-year-round

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4. Mount Carrigain via Signal Ridge Trail

Mount Carrigain via Signal Ridge Trail in Eastern New Hampshire

This trail to the top of Mount Carrigain is a strenuous one with a steady incline in some parts. The trail traverses on a flat surface along the ridge in the first 2.5 miles. It then gets steeper, and just before you reach the summit, you will have to scramble over rocks in some sections for a few miles. An observation tower on the top will reward you with a unique 360-degree view of the surroundings. The entire hike takes about 5 to 6 hours to complete.

Length: Approximately 10 miles out and back

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: May to October

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5. Mount Chocorua Loop Trail

Mount Chocorua Loop Trail in Eastern New Hampshire

This trail in the White Mountains is for advanced hikers reaching the summit of Mount Chocorua. Parking is available at Piper Trailhead off Route 16, from where you can start your hike. You can continue by following the Nickerson Ledge Trail to Carter Ledge Trail. Finally, taking the Middle Sister Trail, you will hike along many ridges across several summits to reach the top of Mount Chocorua. From here, you’ll have spectacular views of White Mountain National Forest, including Mount Washington. Though the hike requires ascending steep paths and scrambling over rocks, many picturesque vistas all along the way will remove all your weariness. While returning, you can take the Liberty Trail to complete the loop.

Length: About 10 miles loop

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: April to October

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Best Hikes in Western New Hampshire

1. Franconia Notch Ridge Trail

Franconia Notch Ridge Trail in Western New Hampshire

Within Franconia Notch State Park, you’ll find this trail beginning from Lafayette Campground. It will take you up along three peaks, one of them being Presidential Range’s highest, Mount Lafayette. The first that you’ll ascend is Haystack Mountain by taking the Falling Waters Trail as the trailhead. The next one is Mount Lincoln, and finally, you’ll come to Mount Lafayette. Come on a clear day to witness the incredible views of the White Mountains and the surroundings as you ascend each peak and cross the ridges. At Mount Lafayette’s summit, you might also be able to see all of the mountains of the Presidential Range.

Once you take in the views, hike down the Greenleaf Trail to Greenleaf Hut and Eagle Lake. You can take a break and have a meal at Greenleaf Hut, which also offers accommodation facilities. From here, continue your hike by following the Old Bridal Path to reach the Lafayette Place East parking lot.

It’s a strenuous trail, so don’t forget to carry water and some snacks. Wear proper footwear to cross creeks and take a hiking pole to ascend the steep sections.

Length: Approximately 8.5 miles loop

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: April to October

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2. Basin-Cascades Trail

Basin-Cascades Trail in Western New Hampshire

This family-friendly trail consists of several waterfalls and pools in which you can enjoy wading or swimming. It starts from the parking lot and takes you to the Basin along a paved path. Along the way, you’ll see many beautiful cascades and other water features. The key attraction is the Basin, a massive pool into which a curved waterfall pours from a rock ledge. To see more such awe-inspiring scenic beauties, you will have to walk past the paved trail and ascend steep sections. Kinsmen Falls and Rocky Glen Falls are a few other notable cascades that you surely wouldn’t want to miss while hiking the trail. You can also have a picnic on a flat rock ledge beside these scenic features.

Length: About 2.5 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: March to November

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3. Thoreau Falls Trail 

Thoreau Falls Trail in Western New Hampshire

Thoreau Falls Trail requires a moderate hike where you will have to cross the river and ascend and descend steep hills. Trees along the path provide shade to the hikers. In the end, you’ll see a 20 feet waterfall dropping into the pool below. You can also get to its base to get a better view.

With AMC huts installed in some parts of the trail, you can take a break.

Length: About 18.5 miles out and back

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: March to November

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4. Welch-Dickey Trail

Welch-Dickey Trail in Western New Hampshire

Welch-Dickey Trail begins from the parking lot off Orris Road. To avoid the slippery paths, you can hike the counter-clockwise route. Carry a hiking pole to get through the steep sections. You will have to hike up and scramble to reach Welch Mountain first. Follow the trail towards the northward direction to reach Dickey Mountain. Though a physically demanding hike, you will get stunning views of Waterville Valley and the encompassing areas once you reach the top of the mountains. There are many staying places in the Waterville Valley area like Snowy Owl Inn. Here, you can stay overnight with your family and enjoy splashing water in the indoor pool.

Length: About 4.5 miles loop

Difficulty: Hard

Best time to visit: May to October

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5. Lonesome Lake Trail

Lonesome Lake Trail in Western New Hampshire

This trail to Lonesome Lake is a rocky one requiring a steady steep hike up the Cannon Mountain. It is primarily shady, though, and provides beautiful scenic views, especially of the Franconia Ridge. However, the key attraction is the lake itself, in which you can enjoy soaking your feet or taking a refreshing dip after the weary hike. You’ll also find Lonesome Lake Hut alongside, where you can have a snack or a hot meal. If you want to extend your stay here, there are many rooms available to spend overnight.

Length: About 3 miles loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Best time to visit: May to October

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Best Hikes in Central New Hampshire

1. Mt. Kearsarge Rollins Trail

Mt. Kearsarge Rollins Trail in Western New Hampshire

From the parking lot located at the end of the auto road in Rollins State Park, you can take the Lincoln Trail. Though there are some steep parts and muddy spots, you can reach the fire tower at the summit of Mt. Kearsarge without much effort. After reaching the top, climb up the tower to get the gorgeous panoramic views of the neighboring mountain ranges and surrounding area. You can descend the Rollins Trail, which is comparatively less steep than Lincoln Trail.

You will have to spend $4 per adult and $2 per child as an admission fee.

Length: About 1 mile loop

Difficulty: Easy

Best time to visit: All-year-round

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TOP PICKS

Best Mountain Hikes: Presidential Traverse Trail, Mount Chocorua Loop Trail, Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Best Waterfall Hikes: Basin-Cascades Trail, Champney Falls Trail, Thoreau Falls Trail 

Best Dog Friendly Hikes: Mt. Kearsarge Rollins Trail, Lincoln Wood Trail, Mount Willard Trail

Best Day Hikes: Lonesome Lake Trail, Franconia Notch Ridge Trail, Arethusa Falls Trail

Best Winter Hikes: Lonesome Lake Trail, Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, Mount Willard Trail

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