New Hampshire’s White Mountains cover about a quarter of the state, as well as a small western part of the neighboring state of Maine.
They are part of the northern Appalachian mountain range and unquestionably the most rugged in New England.
The northeast’s largest and arguably most famous peak, the 1,917 meter high Mount Washington, is located in the White Mountains, too.
Most of the area is public land, including the 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest.
The White Mountains are extremely popular with hikers, and with good reason.
Let’s be honest, there are not that many places in the heavily urbanized northeast where you can experience a bonafide wilderness, and the thrill of experiencing part of the country much as the first European settlers will have found it can’t be underestimated either.
There’s also the jaw-dropping natural beauty of the place! And it’s all within striking distance of major population centers like Boston, Toronto, and New York.
Join us as we run through some of the best hikes in the White Mountains. You’ll be reaching for the hiking boots in no time!
The Presidential Traverse
- Difficulty- Difficult
- Length- 19.5 miles
- Type- Linear Hike
- Elevation gain- 8,300 feet
Where else could we start but with the Presidential Traverse?
The Prezi Traverse as it is affectionately known, is undoubtedly the star attraction of the White Mountains and a must on any American hiker’s to-do list.
This hike is nearly 20 miles long and quickly takes you out of the treeline and up onto the ridge line of the Presidential Range, so named because the tallest peaks are principally named after US presidents.
You’ll pass meadows and alpine lakes between the eight 4,000ft+ peaks you’ll have to scramble up and over, and you’ll get to skirt past Mount Washington, the tallest mountain in the northeast.
The views are absolutely breathtaking until the last few miles as you descend back towards civilization.
As this is a weekend hike, you’ll have to spend the night at one of the campsites just below the ridge line. They’re first come first serve, though, so don’t gaze in awe at the scenery for too long!
The Mahoosuc Range
- Difficulty- Difficult
- Length- 26.9 miles
- Type- Linear Hike
- Elevation gain- 10,000 feet
If you’re a serious hiker trying to get away from the crowds around the Presidential Traverse, the Mahoosuc Range could be the perfect location for your next hike in the White Mountains.
Don’t get us wrong, the 27-mile Mahoosuc traverse is a tough hike and not for the faint-hearted, but that’s what’s so great about it!
You’ll be away from the throngs that crowd the region’s more popular spots, and the only people you’ll be likely to meet are the thru-hikers, committed to doing the entire Appalachian Trail.
There’s the added bonus that the wilderness of the Mahoosucs is absolutely stunning, with climbs and descents punctuated by majestic views, picturesque ponds, and remote mountain saddles that make for excellent campsites.
The trail reaches its conclusion with the fire tower on Old Speck Mountain.
- Arethusa Falls
- Difficulty- Easy
- Length- 2.7 miles
- Type- There and Back
- Elevation gain- 820 feet
There’s something magical about waterfalls, and we think that any hike is all the better for finding a way to squeeze a waterfall or two in.
This hike is a relatively simple uphill climb characterized by moderate and steady elevation increase for about 1.4 miles up to Arethusa Falls, which is generally thought of as the best waterfall in New Hampshire.
With a total length of 2.7 miles, you don’t have to be much of a hiker at all to enjoy this hike, as long as you’re in relatively good physical condition.
You could even bring the kids- the falls are a great place to cool down after an uphill hike on a hot summer’s day.
The Welch-Dickey Loop Trail
- Difficulty- moderate
- Length- 4.5 miles
- Type- Loop
- Elevation gain- 1778 feet
The Welch-Dickey loop is one of the most popular hikes in the White Mountain National Forest, and you’ll soon see why when you try it for yourself.
Although challenging, with its fair share of rock scrambling and ledges, the views over the Waterville and Mad River Valleys are jaw-dropping.
Although the loop can be completed in either direction, the vast majority of hikers tend to tackle the hike’s 4.5 miles in a counterclockwise direction, tackling Welch Mountain before continuing on northward to Dickey mountain.
The trail’s reputation as somewhat challenging keeps the worst of the crowds away, but it can get somewhat busy in prime hiking weather. The hike is family friendly, too, provided the kids have a bit of hiking experience.
Mount Moosilauke And South Peak Loop
- Difficulty- moderately challenging
- Length- 8.2 miles
- Type- Loop
- Elevation gain- 2507 feet
This eight-mile loop takes hikers up the Gorge Brook Trail to the summit of the highly impressive Mount Moosilauke, starting from the Ravine Lodge Trailhead.
The summit of the 4,802 ft high Mount Moosilauke was once the home of the iconic Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, the ruins of which can still be seen today.
Of all New Hampshire’s 4,000ft+ peaks, Moosilauke is undoubtedly one of the best, ranking 9th on the New England Fifty Finest Peaks list. The views from the summit are absolutely stunning in all directions.
You can look east into the heart of the White Mountains, and to the west, you can see Vermont’s Green Mountains. On a good day you can even see beyond the Green Mountains to New York’s Adirondacks.
When To Hike In The White Mountains
Although winter can be a lot of fun in the White Mountains for those who know what they are doing, this guide assumes you’ll be hiking outside of winter.
Nearly all of these routes, even the simplest ones, are completely different ball games in the winter months, between mid-November and mid-April, and will require specialist equipment and experience of winter hiking.
Anytime between late April and early November is a great time to visit the White Mountains, but if you can be flexible, aim for fall.
The world-famous New England fall foliage peaks around the beginning of October, and the whole area bursts into beautiful shades of red, orange, and brown.
Other helpful guides:
Best day hikes in New Hampshire