Guide to Hiking in the White Mountains

With roots in Franconia, New Hampshire and an appreciation for all things beautiful, naturally, the Garnet Hill team has plenty to say when it comes to hiking in and around the White Mountains. Here are some of our favorites, grouped by difficulty.

Easy

Artist Bluff, Bald Mountain

Artist Bluff, Bald Mountain Photo by Jason Tors

A great hike for kids! – Photo by Jason Tors

This is a very short hike with two big pay offs at Artist Bluff and then on top of Bald Mountain. The distance is short but the hiking is very steep and rocky. Kids love this hike. Park across from Cannon Base Lodge, follow spur trail around to the ascent to Artist Bluff. After Artist Bluff continue up the trail over to Bald Mountain.

Bridal Veil Falls

This out and back hike is longer with a more gradual incline. There are plenty of nice stopping spots along the stream. The falls are stunning year round but they are really incredible in winter.

Mt. Willard

An easy hike for all ages (and dogs too). Proximity to the AMC Highland Center makes this doubly great for beginner hiking families. The view at the top looking down at Crawford Notch State Park is amazing!

Zealand Falls
A longer hike with a slight incline that goes through some amazing woodland. Visit the hut for a cookie and continue on for great views of the Bondcliffs.

Moderate

A great hike for kids and dogs! Photo by Jason Tors

Bald Peak is a fun out and back trail that is good for all ages — for those in fairly decent shape with good footwear. It’s an offshoot of the Mt. Kinsman Trail, which is located in the White Mountain National Forest. The round-trip hike of 4.6 miles takes approximately 3 hours. The trailhead is located on the left side of Route 116 in Easton, NH — 4.6 miles from downtown Franconia, just passed Tamarack Tennis Camp. The first section of narrow trail goes up and down through a pretty conifer forest and joins a wider old logging/maple-sugaring road in a mixed-hardwood forest. After you pass the old sugar shack, the trail gets rockier and steeper. The grade remains consistently steep. You’ll cross three streams on the ascent. After .1 miles there will be a sign for Bald Peak spur trail heading off to the right. Follow the spur trail for .2 miles of high elevation woodlands. It will eventually open up to Bald Peak with views of the western slopes of Mt. Kinsman, the Easton Valley, Sugar Hill, and Vermont’s Green Mountains.

Mt. Pemigewasset aka Indian Head

Starting in Franconia Notch State Park, you’ll climb up through some gorgeous forest that weaves back and forth until you reach a small ridge and emerge onto large flat rocks perfect for picnics. Spectacular views looking into the wilderness west and south. You can walk around and find other great vistas looking back east to Mt. Lafayette and the rest of the Franconia range.

Lonesome Lake

Lonesome Lake Photo by Bill Cobb

Photo by Bill Cobb

Lonesome Lake is one of the most popular hikes in Franconia Notch. The hike up is steep with a few switchbacks then gradually levels off before approaching Lonesome Lake. Follow the trail to loop around the lake and take in the views of the back side of Cannon Mountain. At the far end of the lake be sure to visit the hut for a quick hot chocolate or chat with the caretaker.

Middle Sugarloaf

Views of Mt. Washington Photo by Jason Tors

Amazing views of Mt. Washington – Photo by Jason Tors

This hike is similar to Mt. Pemigewasset. This hike features many large glacial erratics on the bottom third of the hike, the trail becomes steeper as you get closer to the top. At the ridge you can go left or right or both! Going left to Middle Sugarloaf has the best view and wide flat rocks for lunch or a snack and amazing views into raw NH wilderness.

Welch and Dickey Loop
For any Bostonians looking for a day-trip getaway, we suggest the Welch and Dickey Trail Loop. It’s a 4.5-mile moderate level hike, just 2 hours away from the city. With wildflowers, streams, and a dog-friendly path, you’ll be glad you ventured out for some fresh air.

Hard

Mt. Lafayette, Lincoln, Little Haystack Loop

View of Mt. Lincoln from Little Haystack Photo by Bill Cobb

The view of Mt. Lincoln from Little Haystack – Photo by Bill Cobb

Give yourself the whole day for this hike, plan ahead for good weather and bring plenty of food and water. Start out by going up the old bridal path which will quickly ascend to a narrow ridge line with views across the notch of cannon, as you gain elevation you will be able to look down on Lonesome Lake. Before reaching the summit of Lafayette take a break at Greenleaf Hut. Here on out you are hiking above the treeline. Amazing views of the Franconia Ridge into the Pemi wilderness and all around. Bag three peaks along the ridge trail and begin descent via Falling Waters Trail. This trail is steep so take it slow. Finishes back where you started.

Mt. Jefferson via Caps Ridge Trail

Looking South to Mt. Washington Photo by Jason Tors

Looking south to Mt. Washington – Photo by Jason Tors

Located on the northern end of the Presidential Range, Mt. Jefferson offers unique vantage points looking south to Mt. Washington then 360° views all around for the duration of the climb. Do not be deceived by the short distance of this hike. It’s all very steep with many rock scrambles along the way. The start of the hike begins at relatively high altitude so within a mile you are hiking above the treeline. Be sure to attempt this hike on a clear day with plenty of food and water.

Photo by Jason Tors

The Beaver Brook trailhead is located on Route 112, 6 miles west of North Woodstock, NH. If you start going down hill or pass Beaver Pond you’ve gone too far. Mount Moosilauke, one of the 4000 footers, is accessible along the Beaver Brook Trail. It’s an enjoyable hike that runs along the stunning cascades of the Beaver Brook. A true local favorite, it’s a great hike any time of year.

Photo by Jason Tors

The ascent is steep and gains elevation quickly. Many locations will require scrambling, and steps should be taken with care because it can get slippery. After 1.5 miles of steep climbing you reach a junction. Follow the signs to Mt. Moosilauke. This will take you through about 2 miles of high-elevation woodlands. The trail goes up and down, eventually lead to the alpine meadows at the summit of Moosilauke. It has has incredible 360-degree views of Franconia Notch, Camels Hump in Vermont, and even a glimpse of the Adirondacks on clear days. Give yourself a full day to complete this round-trip hike. It will take approximately 6.5 hours.


Of course, there are countless other options and breathtaking views to explore in the White Mountain Range — including Mount Washington, tallest peak in the Northeast at 6,288 feet and site of “The world’s worst weather.” If you’re ever in the area, be sure to pop into our outlet store in Franconia!

What are your favorite trails to hike in the White Mountains?

**Please note that while beautiful to behold, New Hampshire’s mountain landscapes can also be dangerous to hike due to steep ascents, rapid weather changes, and a variety of other risk factors. It’s important to know your ability, and to consult with local authorities and experts such as the AMC before beginning a hike.