Hiking and nature walks top many camper’s vacation “to do” lists, and some folks have an annual hike they do every year – a family ritual. If you’re looking for a new hike, or if you are new to a region, you will be pleasantly surprised by your options throughout New Hampshire.
For each region of New Hampshire, we have identified a full-day hike and options for interesting but shorter hikes and trail walks. Please use this list as a starting point – you will definitely want local maps and detailed trail information before setting out!
Monadnock Region: Mount Monadnock, Gap Mountain
In southwest New Hampshire, Mount Monadnock is impossible to ignore. It’s the tallest peak for miles around (that’s essentially the definition of the word “monadnock”) and one of the most climbed mountains in the world. But be aware, it is a real mountain, make sure you get on the trail before noon, prepare your supplies as if you were hiking in the White Mountains, and remember that you can always return for another attempt at the mountain if today is not the right day to reach the summit.
Gap Mountain provides a “less traveled” trail option in this region. Described as a strenuous hike due to rugged footing, this mountain features two round trip options of 2.4 and 2.6 miles. The terrain is primarily hardwood forests that are reclaiming land that was farmed from the Colonial era through the end of the 19th century and it boasts stunning views of neighboring Mount Monadnock.
Seacoast: Patuckaway, Blue Job
The New Hampshire seacoast is not known for high peaks; but you may be pleasantly surprised to find some enjoyable and challenging hikes within minutes of the coast.
Patuckaway State Park has numerous trails with the possibility of loops up to 10 miles long.
Blue Job Mountain, in Farmington, is a short but steep climb in the middle of a state forest. Views from the ocean to Mt. Washington, plus the opportunity to get in a quality hike just over half an hour from the beach make this a popular hiking destination.
Merrimack Valley: Uncanoomuc, Bear Brook State Park
In Goffstown, just west of Manchester and I-93 lie the Uncanoomuc Mountains, North and South. While South Uncanoomuc is developed with communication towers and does have driving access to the summit, both peaks are popular with locals who appreciate the mountains in their own backyards.
10,000-acre Bear Brook State Park offers trails for walking, hiking and trail running. You may occasionally find yourself sharing the trail with mountain bikers and horseback riders, but with more than 40 miles of trails there is plenty to go around. With numerous entrances and trail heads, it’s worth taking a look at the map before deciding where to hike.
Lakes Region: Mount Major, Red Hill
Mount Major is a small mountain with a major view. With easy access via a parking lot off Rt. 11 in Alton, this mountain generally provides a sociable hiking experience. Mount Major is on the southeastern end of Lake Winnipesaukee.
Red Hill, located on the northwestern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee also offers fine views to Squam Lake. More rigorous that Mount Major, Red Hill is also conveniently located for campers on the I-93 side of the Lakes Region.
Dartmouth Lake Sunapee: Kearsarge, Cardigan, and Greenway
Mount Kearsarge boasts access from two state parks. Winslow State Park, in Wilmot, offers two challenging routes which combine for a 2.9 mile round trip loop; and Rollins State Park (Warner) features an auto road that brings visitors to within half a mile of the summit – but it bears noting that this final half mile is rocky granite that demands sturdy footwear.
A moderate trail experience in the Dartmouth Lake Sunapee Region is the in-town Goodwin Park Exercise Trail in Lebanon. Starting at the Storrs Hill Ski Area, this 3-mile path includes exercise stations (optional!).
White Mountains: Mount Washington, Black Cap and Kearsarge North
Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeastern US and hiking goal for many. It is not to be undertaken lightly or casually; the climate and terrain of Mount Washington are exponentially more challenging than anything else you will find in the Northeast. If you are out for a fun hike, consider trails that give you a great view of Mt Washington!
Crawford Notch and the AMC Highland Center offer a network of trails that are easy to access from both the Mt. Washington Valley as well as the Western White Mountain towns of Lincoln, North Woodstock and Littleton. A popular hike is Mt. Avalon but it is just one of many that start and finish at the height of land in Crawford Notch.
Black Cap & Kearsarge North are two popular hiking destinations for campers in the Mt. Washington Valley. Trailheads for both are on Hurricane Mountain Road. Kearsarge North is a challenging 6+ mile round trip hike; the Black Cap trail starts at the peak of Hurricane Mountain Road (closed in winter) with a total distance of just under 2.5 miles.
Great North Woods:
Table Rock is the signature climb in Dixville Notch State Park. A quick ascent brings the hiker to a small (elevator-sized) rock pinnacle more with a 700-foot drop on three sides. A short, steep route is accessed from a trailhead at on the Colebrook side of Dixville Notch (approx. 10 miles from Colebrook); a more gradual, slightly longer route starts closer to the (currently closed) Balsams Wilderness Ski Area.