New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest encompasses over 750,000 acres of quintessential New England wilderness overflowing with incredible opportunities for anyone and everyone to get outside and adventure! Within forest lines there are over 1,200 miles of trails, eight AMC huts, numerous campgrounds, stunning waterfalls, world-class whitewater rapids, challenging skiing - both resort and backcountry - and a whole lot of wildlife to spot. This a premiere destination for outdoor explorers of all ages and abilities. Some of the more well-known natural attractions in this region include a portion of the Appalachian Trail and the rugged Presidential Range, both of which offer up longer-distance treks with epic views of the surrounding mountains.
It's important to note that the White Mountains of New Hampshire are known for having “the worst weather in America,” so plan accordingly, and always be prepared for a variety of forecasts, no matter where or what you're setting out to explore. This goes double when adventuring on the New England classic, Mount Washington (summit it via the Lionhead Trail in both winter and summer!), which continues to hold the world record wind gust of 231 mph recorded in 1934!
Regardless of the season, you'll be hard-pressed to have a bad time in the White Mountains; from fiery fall foliage and summer wildflowers to untouched winter snowventures and seemingly endless hiking trails, this forest has it all. And the best part - there's something here for the entire family!
- Zealand Falls: Zealand Falls is a White Mountain adventure the whole family can enjoy. At 2.7 miles each way with generally easy terrain, you’ll enjoy scenic woods, mountain views at two ponds, and a waterfall, all without a lot of hard work.
- Kinsman Falls: This is one of many waterfalls found on Cascade Brook in Franconia Notch State Park. Unlike the other waterfalls on this brook, Kinsman falls vertically into a deep pool, providing a refreshing place to cool off when the current isn't moving too swiftly.
- Arethusa Falls: Arethusa Falls resides in Crawford Notch State Park and is the tallest waterfall in New Hampshire, estimated to be somewhere between 140 and 200 feet high. The Arethusa Falls Trail gains 827 feet in 1.4 miles at a generally easy to moderate grade, making it a good hike for families and beginners.
- The Basin: The Basin is one of the most popular stops in Franconia Notch State Park. You'll find several beautiful waterfalls, crystal clear water, walking trails, and plenty of places to stop for a snack.
- The Welch-Dickey Loop: This loop hike is a great option for all ages and provides hikers with views from both Welch Mountain and Dickey Mountain. At 4.5 miles round trip, the incredible views at the top are well worth the work.
- Mount Chocorua: This hike can be done as an out-and-back trip, or you can add the Brook Trail to make it a loop. Either way, you’re in for a spectacular view of the surrounding White Mountains and Lakes Region of New Hampshire.
- Mount Starr King and Mount Waumbek: Explore two summits along this moderate trail to the top of Mount Starr King and Mount Waumbek. The ascent is steady but never very steep, making this route an easier option to summit a 4,000-foot peak.
- Mount Willard: One of several hiking trails in the Crawford Notch area, Mount Willard offers a fantastic view from the open ledges on the summit. At 3.2 miles round trip, this hike is good for kids but can get quite crowded on summer and fall weekends.
- Boulder Loop Trail: This is a great, quick hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It offers views of the Sandwich Range, a covered bridge, and large boulders throughout the trail.
- Bald Mountain and Artist's Bluff: Artists Bluff is a moderate, beginner and family-friendly hike in Franconia Notch State Park that rewards hikers with a gorgeous view. There are a few options for hiking here, including an out-and-back hike to either Artists Bluff or to Bald Mountain, or a loop to do both.
- Doublehead Moutain: Located in Jackson, New Hampshire, this adventure features two peaks: North Doublehead (3,053 feet) and South Doublehead (2,939 feet). This is a great trail for skiing, snowboarding, hiking and snowshoeing, and it offers year-round fun for the whole family!
- Mount Tecumseh: At 4,003 feet, Mount Tecumseh just barely surpasses the mark to qualify as a New Hampshire 4,000-footer, but despite being ranked last in order of height on the NH48 list, this trail is still a treat!
- Mount Flume and Mount Liberty Loop: Mount Flume and Mount Liberty are located in Franconia State Park at the edge of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. This loop is far less crowded than neighbors Mount Lincoln and Lafayette, and it offers very good views and a pleasant 9.8 mile hike.
- North Twin, South Twin, and Galehead Mountain: North Twin, South Twin and Galehead mountains make up the northern portion of the Pemigewasset Wilderness along with Mount Garfield. Combining both Twins and Galehead in a day hike is punishing on the thighs with nearly 5,400 feet of total elevation gain, but it rewards hikers with great views from the ridge between the Twins, a visit to Galehead Hut, and three more Northeast 4,000 footers.
- Lonesome Lake Trail: This is a fantastic moderately difficult hike beginning at the Lafayette Place Campground and ending at Lonesome Lake. It offers incredible views of Mount Lafayette from the lakeshore. The trail is only 1.6 miles each way, but it ascends steeply over a trail filled with boulders. Multiple trails intersect at the lake, allowing visitors to lengthen their excursion or create a loop.
- Zealands Falls AMC Hut: Perched alongside a waterfall overlooking the scenic Zealand Valley, the Zealand Falls Hut offers year-round views and rustic off-grid luxury for backpackers and hikers. With a relatively easy 2.8-mile hike in from the Zealand Trailhead, the Zealand Falls Hut is a popular destination for families and beginning backpackers.
- Lonesome Lake AMC Hut: Located at the top of one of the most popular trails in the White Mountains, the Lonesome Lake AMC Hut is one of the most cherished lodges in the Appalachian Mountain Club Hut system. At times, it's hard to believe the parking area is only 1.75 miles down the trail.
- Presidential Traverse: The Presidential Traverse is one of the most classic treks on the East Coast, and it draws in a large crowd yearly. The typical traverse covers approximately 26 miles, but hikers can choose from a variety of trails to complete this hike. Enjoy the sweeping vistas and incredible views along the way, and be prepared for erratic weather and crowds at Mount Washington.
- Pemmigewasset Loop: Known locally as the Pemi Loop, this is a classic White Mountains backpacking trip. Most registers record the route as 31.5 miles and around 18,000 feet of elevation change, and hikers of the full loop will knock out eight of New Hampshire's 48 4,000-foot peaks along the way.
- Mount Moosilauke: At 4,802 feet, Mount Moosilauke is the 10th highest summit of New Hampshire. It is well worth a visit, no matter the time of the year, as the summit is completely treeless for a long stretch and offers fantastic views in all directions. Mount Moosilauke can be approached by four directions, but this outing scales the mountain by the south.
- The Wildcats: The Wildcat Mountains are located at the southern end of the Carter Range and are most notably home to the Wildcat Mountain Ski Area. This hike brings up and over five mountains in an 8.4 mile there-and-back boasting incredible views of the Presidentials.
- The Carters: The Carter Range lies in northeastern New Hampshire. It’s not as popular as nearby Mount Washington, but it does make for a challenging 14.4-mile hike that offers a unique viewpoint of the Presidential Range.
- Sawyer River: For 4 miles, the Sawyer River tumbles over boulders and down granite slides, dropping at an average rate of 190 feet per mile. It's a Class V paddler's paradise: continuous read-and-run boulder gardens, blind corners, beautiful scenery, and one or two standout rapids that add an extra touch of difficulty.
- Upper Pemi: The Upper Pemi is one of the most iconic steep creeks in New England. Featuring roughly 3 miles of non-stop action, this Class V run has crystal-clear water, significant drops, and continuous boulder gardens, all with the magnificent White Mountains providing a spectacular backdrop.
Other great destinations:
- Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge: This National Natural Landmark is home to 6,405 acres of wetland and forest that provide habitat for diverse species of wildlife. Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge offers something for the whole family, and it is great for beginners and bird watchers. Venture out on the trails for a chance to see deer, moose, bear, beavers, snowshoe hares, turtles, and over 200 species of birds!
- Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center: Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center provides endless opportunities for outdoor fun for all ages. There are approximately 28 miles of trails ranging from carriage roads to singletrack and doubletrack biking trails. Keep an eye out for wildlife and take in the views of Mount Washington and the surrounding area. The Great Glen Trails are also open during the winter, offering snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, fatbiking, and snow tubing.
Looking for more New Hampshire adventures? Visit NH is a great resource to learn about this beautiful state and how to best explore all that it has to offer!