Discover the best hikes in White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire! Explore stunning mountain trails in the heart of nature’s beauty.
Ever feel like swapping your office chair for a mountaintop view?
Want to sweat out that take-out dinner from last night?
Or maybe you’ve got a thing for trees, hiking trails, and the sweet call of the wild.
If you answered ‘hell yeah!’ to any of these, you’re in the right place. Because I’ll dive into the 15 best hikes in White Mountain National Forest.
Why White Mountain, you ask? Well, let me tell you…
With its rugged peaks, deep forests, and panoramic vistas, the White Mountain National Forest is like a giant playground for nature lovers. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker, a trail-running enthusiast, or someone just looking to soak up some serene scenes, this place has something for you. And guess what? I’ve hiked the myriad of trails to bring you the absolute best.
So, ready to dust off those hiking boots and hit the White Mountains of New Hampshire?
Let’s do this!
Note: For most of these hikes, I recommend using AllTrails to navigate yourself to them (and even on them!).
1. Mount Washington
Known as the tallest mountain in the northeast, this big boy towers at a whopping 6,288 feet.
And on a clear day, you can see up to 130 miles away. Now, isn’t that a sight for sore eyes?
Various trails lead to the summit, each with unique challenges and rewards. But don’t sweat it! Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just dipping your toes in, there’s a path for you here.
Here are the different trails to get to the top:
- Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail: A popular choice, this trail is about 8 miles long round-trip. You’ll pass through beautiful forested areas before reaching stunning open views. You’ll need your A-game for this one, buddy.
- Jewell Trail: A bit longer at around 9 miles round-trip, but it offers a more gradual ascent. Plus, you get to enjoy the sight of the Presidential Range. Not too shabby, eh?
- Lion Head Trail: This trail is the shortest route to the top (7.5 miles), but don’t let that fool you. It’s a steep climb, but the views you’ll get are worth every step. It starts at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.
Now, just a heads-up.
The weather at Mount Washington can be pretty unpredictable. It’s been home to some of the highest wind speeds ever recorded. So, don’t forget to pack your windproof jacket and check the weather forecast before you set off, okay?
Also, note that the summit can be reached via a scenic drive. But where’s the fun in that? Nothing beats getting to the top of Mount Washington on your own two feet, right?
So there you have it — Mount Washington (and one of the best White Mountains hikes) in all its glory.
2. Table Mountain Trail
This isn’t your grandma’s Sunday stroll; it’s a hearty 4-mile out-and-back that’ll get your heart pumping and your legs burning.
But trust me, it’s worth every bead of sweat.
Get this: the trail starts gentle, winding through lush forest and along tranquil streams that’ll make every nature lover’s heart skip a beat. But don’t let that fool you. Soon, you’ll be met with steep inclines and rocky outcroppings that’ll give your calf muscles a run for their money.
But you know what? The payoff is incredible. When you finally reach the summit, you’re greeted with panoramic views of the White Mountains that’ll make your jaw drop. Hell, you might just forget about the grueling hike up!
Pro tip: Make sure you’ve got your trusty hiking boots and plenty of water. You’ll need ’em!
Now, let’s talk about when to visit. The trail is accessible from May to October. Wanna catch some beautiful fall foliage? Try to plan your visit in late September or early October.
Remember to pack those layers — it can get slightly nippy up there.
3. Presidential Traverse
The Presidential Traverse covers about 20 miles (or more, depending on your chosen route) and climbs nearly 8,000 feet in elevation.
Now, that’s what I call a serious hike! It includes mountain summits of seven peaks named after U.S. Presidents: Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower, and Pierce.
And you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, and hey, a bit more presidential with every peak you conquer.
What you need to know:
- Difficulty: High. This hike is not for the faint-hearted.
- Duration: Most hikers complete it in 14-18 hours, but some can take longer. Just remember, this isn’t a race. It’s about the journey, not just the destination, right?
- Best time to go: Mid-June through October. Weather conditions can be unpredictable, so always check the forecast.
But the Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire’s White Mountains isn’t just a physical challenge; it’s also a feast for the senses.
Expect to be wowed by spectacular alpine meadows, mesmerizing waterfalls, and panoramic views that’ll leave you speechless.
And the wildlife? Don’t get me started. You might spot moose, black bears, or even a bald eagle soaring overhead if you’re lucky.
4. Mount Willard
Now, let’s talk about the Mount Willard hike, one of the finest views in the White Mountains.
It’s not the tallest, and sure, it isn’t the most imposing. But boy, does it pack a punch in the views department.
First things first — the trail. The Mount Willard Trail is 3.2 miles of pure, unadulterated, leg-pumping fun. It’s one of those hikes perfect for a good ol’ day in the woods. The trail isn’t overly strenuous, but don’t let that fool you — it’s uphill all the way!
The path winds through lush forests, over little babbling brooks, and up, up, up to the summit.
And that’s where the magic happens. The view from the top? Unbelievable. You think you’re looking at a painting. Until you realize you’re in the painting!
The beautiful views of Crawford Notch State Park await you.
Here’s what to expect:
- Trail length: A manageable 3.2 miles round trip.
- Elevation gain: A thigh-burning 900 feet.
- Difficulty: Easy to moderate – great for beginners and seasoned hikers alike.
- View: An eye-popping, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping panorama of Crawford Notch State Park.
So, what are you waiting for? Lace up those hiking boots, fill up that water bottle, and conquer Mount Willard!
5. Mount Kearsarge
Mount Kearsarge is a beast.
It’s got two trails that lead you to the top, offering different levels of challenge and scenery. The Winslow Trail is a 1.1-mile trail that’s steep and direct. If you’re looking for a bit of a challenge and a workout, this trail should be your pick. It’s a real calf-burner, let me tell ya.
On the other hand, if you’re a fan of taking it easy and enjoying the journey, the Barlow Trail might be more your speed.
It’s a bit longer, at 1.7 miles, but less steep. You’ll be able to take your time and enjoy the natural beauty surrounding you.
And if you want a big challenge, take Mount Kearsarge North, which is just over 6 miles with over 2,500 feet of elevation gain! It’s an out-and-back, which makes it pretty easy to follow.
And the view at the top? You get a 360-degree view that includes Lake Sunapee, Mount Monadnock, and the Green, White, and Adirondack mountains.
It’s a sight you won’t easily forget.
So, Mount Kearsarge is waiting for you. And remember, there’s no such thing as a bad day on the trail.
6. Gorge Brook Trail
The view at the top of this mountain makes this one of the best hikes in the White Mountains.
This trail is a total stunner. It’s 7 miles, and you’ll return the way you came. So, it’s pretty easy to navigate.
But this is the kind of hike that’ll make you feel like you’ve earned that trail mix.
The trail starts easy as it winds through the forest, but don’t let that fool ya. It gradually gets steeper, so those calf muscles get a good workout.
You’ll be thanking me when you’re rocking those shorts come summertime.
But I’m not just throwing you to the wolves here — let’s talk highlights.
First off, you’ll cross a picturesque bridge just after the trailhead. Perfect for a quick selfie or a “look at me, I’m outdoorsy” snap to send to your pals. Then, you’re going to hit the Gorge Brook itself. And it’s beautiful — sparkling water tumbling over rocks, surrounded by lush greenery.
- Trail length: 7 miles
- Difficulty level: Moderate
- Eye candy: Gorge Brook, mountain vistas
- Best for: Those looking for a bit of a challenge and a whole lot of beauty
Now, it’s not just about the journey, right? It’s also about the destination.
And boy, what a destination this is. Remember that sense of accomplishment I mentioned earlier? You’ll feel it in spades when you reach the summit of Mount Moosilauke. It’s got panoramic views that’ll knock your hiking socks right off.
7. Franconia Ridge Trail Loop
The Franconia Ridge Loop — a hike that’ll make you feel like you’ve conquered the world, or at least a decent chunk of New Hampshire.
Beginning in Franconia Notch State Park, this one will leave you tripping over stones as you take in the views.
First, this is a 9-mile loop that’s going to test your mettle. The elevation? A thigh-burning 3,900 feet. No pain, no panoramic views, right?
Speaking of views, they’re the sort that’ll make you stop in your tracks and say, “Wow! Am I really seeing this?” You get to enjoy the majestic Franconia Ridge and the awe-inducing peaks of Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette. And you’ll even pass over others like Little Haystack Mountain.
What about the terrain, you ask? Well, prepare for a bit of everything – rocky patches, forest trails, and even some smooth, flat sections where you can catch your breath. The trail is well-marked, but remember, it isn’t a walk in the park. Persistence and a good pair of hiking boots are essential.
- Distance: 9 miles
- Trail type: Loop trail
- Elevation: 3,900 feet
- Difficulty: Hard
- Terrain: Diverse (rocks, forest trails, and flat sections)
Before planning your hiking trip, though, here’s a heads up — the weather up there can be a bit temperamental. Always check the forecast before you hit the trail, and pack accordingly. A sunny day can turn into a misty mystery quickly.
So there you have it. The Franconia Ridge Loop – the trail that’s more than just a walk in the woods. It’s a challenge, a journey, and an adventure all rolled into one. But is it worth it? Oh, absolutely! It’s an experience you wouldn’t want to miss for the world.
8. Mount Pemigewasset
It rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Don’t let the fancy name fool you. This is one of those trails just right for a sunny afternoon stroll or a quick morning trek before breakfast.
Now, why should you consider this hike?
First, the views. From the lookout point, you get a panoramic view of the surrounding areas that’s worth every sweat drop. Secondly, Pemigewasset’s trail isn’t as intimidating as others in the area. It’s just a little over three and a half miles round trip — a breezy walk in the park, right?
- Trail Length: 3.6 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 1,253 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
Sure, there are steeper hikes in the White Mountains, but who’s keeping score? The whole point is to enjoy it, and I promise you that Pemigewasset delivers on this front. There’s this one spot where you realize you’ve reached the top and the trees sort of part like a curtain unveiling the stage.
For those who appreciate a good flora and fauna show, Mount Pemigewasset doesn’t disappoint.
You may even spot a moose if you hit the trail early in the morning. Just remember, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them. Probably. Maybe. So I’ve been told…
9. Champney Falls Trail
This 3.1-mile round-trip trail highlights the beautiful Champney Falls, making it an ideal hike for those who appreciate natural cascades.
As you go to the falls, you’ll traverse picturesque bridges and observe lush ferns lining the path. And the well-marked trail offers a smooth and steady ascent, making it suitable for hikers of various skill levels.
As you explore these scenic trails in the White Mountain National Forest, remember to bring appropriate hiking gear, take plenty of water, and enjoy the stunning landscapes each trail offers.
10. Franconia Falls Trail
If you’re looking for a relatively easy hike or one of the best day hikes in New Hampshire, this is it.
It’s an easy 7.6-mile round trip, and by “easy,” I mean it’s more of a stroll in the woods. This trail is wide and flat the majority of the way. I even saw people pushing their children in strollers, so it’s perfect for families. Pets are welcome also, as long as they’re leashed.
The trail meanders beside Lincoln Brook, leading to the beautiful Franconia Falls. They’re not your typical towering, thunderous falls. But they do have an understated charm that sneaks up on you; with a long, flat bedrock slide with several cascades and pools, it’s a sight for sore eyes.
And who doesn’t love a good picnic spot? This trail offers plenty of them.
Imagine munching on your packed lunch, the sounds of nature playing a symphony around you. Does it get any better?
11. Arethusa Falls
Arethusa Falls is a quick hike. It’s a 2.8-mile round-trip jaunt through the picturesque beauty of White Mountain National Forest.
And let me tell you — the sights on this trail? They’re pretty awesome. Now, you might ask yourself, “Why is this hike so special?”
Here are a few reasons:
- The waterfall: This hike culminates at the majestic Arethusa Falls, which, by the way, is the tallest waterfall in all of New Hampshire. Standing at a whopping 160 feet tall, it’s an awe-inspiring sight you won’t want to miss. It’s like the cherry on top of this hiking sundae.
- The scenery: The trail is more than just a path to the falls. It’s a visual feast of lush greenery, wildflowers, and towering trees. Seriously, take a moment to look around as you hike. It’s Mother Nature’s art gallery, and admission is free!
- The challenge: Arethusa Falls trail isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a steady uphill climb with some rocky terrain. But the reward is well worth the effort.
Remember, though, that this is not a hike to rush. Take your time. Savor the journey (and the views).
12. Artist Bluff
You definitely won’t want to miss this hike when you’re in White Mountain National Forest.
It’s an easy-moderate trek that offers some pretty fantastic rewards at the end.
Artist Bluff is a 1.5-mile loop trail that takes you up to Artist Bluff and, if you choose, Bald Mountain. It’s known for its stunning panoramic view (And it is breathtaking!). But don’t just take my word for it. Do it yourself!
Here are the specifics:
- Difficulty Level: Easy-Moderate.
- Trail Length: 1.5 miles. It’s short, sweet, and packs a punch with its amazing views.
- Elevation Gain: 390 feet. It’s a bit of a climb, but it’s worth it when you reach the top.
- Best Time to Visit: April to November.
Along the way, you’ll find a mix of forest, wildflowers in the spring and summer, and fiery foliage in the fall.
And, of course, let’s not forget those panoramic views of Echo Lake and Cannon Mountain. It’s like something out of a painting!
So don’t forget to pack your camera. You’ll want to capture the moment when you reach the summit.
13. Ripley Falls
This isn’t just a walk in the park. Technically, it’s a walk in a National Forest, but you get what I’m saying, right?
The Ripley Falls trail is a 1.2-mile round trip with an elevation gain of about 400 feet. Short enough not to wear you out but strenuous enough to feel like you’ve earned your campfire s’mores.
And trust me, the payoff is worth every huff and puff. What’s the payoff, you ask?
How about a 100-foot waterfall cascading down a steep, angled slab of rock? Yeah, that’s right. A waterfall that looks like it’s ripped straight from a fantasy novel — like something a unicorn might bathe in.
On your way to the waterfall, you’ll be treated to a scenic trek through a lush, green forest. I mean, the trees in this place are so tall, you’d think they’re trying to reach the moon. And the sounds… don’t get me started on the sounds. The chirping of the birds, the rustling of leaves, the distant roar of the waterfall—it’s like nature’s orchestra, just playing for you.
And then, suddenly, there it is. Ripley Falls.
It’ll take your breath away; I guarantee it. A 100-foot waterfall in the middle of the forest, just waiting for you to discover it.
14. Welch Mountain
Welch Mountain is a hike that’s sure to get your heart pumping.
This moderate trail is a real gem in the White Mountain National Forest, offering an unforgettable experience to every hiker willing to take it on.
The trail to Welch Mountain is known as the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail, a 4.5-mile loop that rewards hikers with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and passes over the Welch and Dickey Mountains.
Pro tip: This hike can be a bit challenging at times, especially during the rocky ascents. So remember, safety first! Make sure you’ve got your sturdy hiking boots laced up tight.
Let’s talk highlights.
Here are a few things that make Welch Mountain a bucket list-worthy hike:
- The stunning panoramic views at the top of Dickey Mountain — it’s like standing on top of the world!
- The beautiful, winding forest trails dotted with wildflowers in the summer.
- The challenging yet rewarding rock scrambles. Talk about a workout!
- The peaceful quiet of the woods is broken only by the occasional bird song.
The effort to climb Welch Mountain is worth every drop of sweat.
And remember, the best views come after the most challenging climb.
Here’s what to expect:
- Difficulty: Moderate. It’s a bit of a challenge, but it’s doable.
- Length: 4.5 miles round trip. Just the right amount for a good day’s hike.
- Elevation Gain: Approximately 1,800 feet. Yep, you’ll be climbing!
- Time: Allow around 3 to 4 hours. No need to rush; take your time to soak in the sights.
So there you have it – Welch Mountain – a must-visit for any hiker hitting the trails in the White Mountain National Forest.
15. Emerald Pool
This hidden gem in the heart of White Mountain National Forest is not just any ordinary hike — it’s a journey to remember.
The Emerald Pool trail is a moderate 2.5-mile loop that offers a bit of everything.
Beautiful woodland scenery? Check. Picture-perfect waterfalls? You bet. A stunning emerald green pool that looks too good not to jump into? Absolutely!
But wait, there’s more. Not only does this trail boast some pretty spectacular views, it’s also well-maintained and dog-friendly. So, you can bring your four-legged friend along for the hike.
How cool is that?
What should you expect on this hike? Here’s a quick rundown:
- Trail Length: 2.5 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Scenery: Forests, waterfalls, and an emerald green pool
- Good for: Hiking, nature trips, bird watching, and trail running
- Dog-friendly: Yes, but keep them on a leash
The Emerald Pool trail is a fantastic option for a day hike in the White Mountain National Forest. It’s got the perfect blend of natural beauty and fun, making it a top pick among hikers.
Which hikes in White Mountain National Forest will you do?
Well, there you have it.
The best hiking the White Mountain National Forest has to offer. Are you itching to lace up those hiking boots yet?
Just imagine – breathing in the crisp, fresh air, listening to the crunch of leaves underneath your feet, and marveling at the majestic views only Mother Nature can provide.
And let’s not forget, burning some serious calories while you’re at it!
Every single hike on this list offers something unique. From the sweeping panoramic views atop Mount Washington to the quiet solitude of the Emerald Pool, there’s a little something for everyone.
So, what’s next? Grab your gear, slather on some sunscreen, and get ready to conquer these trails. No matter which you choose, you’re in for an unforgettable adventure.
And, if you haven’t had enough hiking, check out some other top hikes I’ve covered!