The White Mountains of New Hampshire, nestled in the northeastern United States, are one of the most beautiful places in the world for hiking. They have a rich natural history and breathtaking beauty, which has been appreciated by hikers, naturalists, writers, and artists for centuries.
Carved by ancient glaciers, these majestic peaks offer a diverse landscape full of rugged terrain, dense forests, cascading waterfalls, and crystal-clear streams. When you hike these beautiful hills, you’ll traverse verdant valleys and pristine alpine meadows, and maybe even be lucky enough to see some of the incredible local wildlife. Additionally, the Appalachian Trail traverses through this region, adding to its appeal for long-distance hikers.
But what are the best hikes in the White Mountains? After all, most of us aren’t lucky enough to live in New Hampshire– and even those of us who do live in the Granite State can hike our whole lives and not cover every trail. Today, I’ll be sharing the best hikes in the White Mountains for hikers of every skill level.
Best Hikes in the White Mountains Map
Why The White Mountains?
Of all the great hiking destinations, the White Mountains are a range that’s really familiar to me. I actually grew up in New Hampshire, and spent more than twenty years exploring these ancient hills. I’ve completed all 48 of the NH 4000-footers, and I was a hiking guide in the area for many years. I truly love the White Mountains, and want you to be captivated by their rugged beauty, too. The White Mountains have a hike for everyone, whether you’re an absolute beginner or an expert.
Best Beginner Hikes in the White Mountains
It’s not hard for new hikers to find some of the best hikes for beginners in the White Mountains. There are plenty of short, easy trails that take you past some of the most beautiful scenery in the Northeast, including beautiful fall vistas and stunning waterfalls. At the bottom of this article, we also have more beginner friendly hikes that we considered the best for families.
Mount Willard is a short, well-marked trail that’s easily accessible and manageable for hikers of all skill levels. It’s a gradual ascent with well-maintained paths, and while there are some rocky sections, the terrain isn’t excessively steep or too technical. There’s an amazing view at the summit, and the whole trail is beautiful, especially in the fall. It’s a wonderful day hike that is perfect for hikers who are just getting started– there’s a great payoff without being overwhelmingly strenuous. This is also a good trail for learning how to hike in winter, due to the gradual gradient.
- Length: 3.2 miles
- Elevation Gain: 908 feet
- Duration: 1-2 hours
- Highlights: Fall foliage, spectacular cliff view of Crawford Notch
If you love waterfalls, this family friendly and shorter hike is for you. In addition, this hike can be extended and turned into a loop for a double waterfall trip combined with Ripley falls. Located in Crawford Notch, hikers can enjoy a beautiful drive, and great swimming holes along the road.
- Length: 2.6 miles (4.1km)
- Elevation Gain: 1,000 Feet (304.8 m
- Duration: 2-3 hours
- Highlights: Waterfall views
The Champney Falls trail provides easy access to a stunning waterfall. The dramatic view provides a taste of the beauty that the best hikes in the White Mountains can provide; it’s inspiring enough to encourage chasing even more waterfalls and can easily be completed in an afternoon. If you’re a more experienced hiker and want more of a challenge, the Champney Falls trail connects directly to the Mt. Chocorua trail.
- Length: 2.8 miles
- Elevation Gain: 700 feet
- Duration: 2-3 hours
- Highlights: Waterfall views
Best Intermediate Hikes in the White Mountains
If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, but not extremely hard, these are the best White Mountain hikes for you. You can complete these hikes in an afternoon or split into a couple of short days, and while they might have some steep sections, none of the terrain is too technical.
Mount Crawford’s Davis Path offers a more demanding but still manageable hike for those looking to progress beyond beginner trails. The path winds through a diverse forest landscape with occasional rocky terrain, providing an opportunity for hikers to navigate variable terrain while ascending the mountain. Once you get to the summit, you are rewarded with views of Mt. Washington, Stairs Mountain, and the rest of Crawford Notch. The beginning of the hike has hikers cross a stunning suspension bridge.
- Length: 5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 2,106 feet
- Duration: 2-4 hours
- Highlights: Unique views, suspension bridge
Cannon Mountain offers two of the shortest-distance hikes that let you conquer one of the NH 4000-footers. Both the Hi-Cannon trail and the Kinsman Ridge trail will let you get to the summit and back in less than 6 miles. We’re highlighting the Hi-Cannon trail here, which is the longer of the two (5.6 miles as opposed to 4 miles). This trail offers stunning views and is mostly smooth going, with some rocky patches and a fun scramble up a wooden ladder.
Cannon is also great because it has a lift that can take hikers only a couple hundred feet away from the summit. This can be a great option for those that want some incredible views without needing to work much for it!
- Length: 5.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: 2,263 feet
- Duration: 3-5 hours
- Highlights: Ladder section, cliffs with lake views, beautiful winter hiking
Hiking Mount Eisenhower is one of the fastest ways to get above the treeline in the Presidential range. The Edmands Path trail is a good choice for intermediate hikers because it lets you focus on Eisenhower without worrying about other peaks. The first half of the trail is easier than the second half; in the last 1.5 miles, you gain 1750 feet of elevation. The trail also intersects with the Appalachian Trail, which is known as the Crawford Path in this area. It’s a cool hike with some interesting rocky sections and great views at the top.
- Length: 6.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: 2,750 feet
- Duration: 3-6 hours
- Highlights: Fun dome summit, connections to the Presidential Traverse and AT
This mountain is gorgeous at every level. Driving to it with views from the distance, foliage in the forest, and insane views at the top. It has tons of routes up it, and is simply one of the best intermediate hikes in the state. It continues to gain popularity because it has it all, and sits on the southern half of the White Mountains.
- Length: 7.8 Miles (12.55 km)
- Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet
- Duration: 4-6 hours
- Highlights: Incredible views on the top, blueberries, Chocorua Lake
Best Expert Hikes in the White Mountains
These hikes are longer and more challenging than the other hikes we’ve featured, but the rewards are absolutely worth the effort. These hikes are longer and may require multiple days– meaning you’ve got more time for fun and adventure.
The Pemi Loop is a great way to experience some of the highest peaks in the White Mountains. It allows you to traverse the rugged, beautiful Pemigewasset Wilderness, and there’s lots of ways to customize the experience if you want to extend the number of summits. You’ll start at the Lincoln Woods trailhead and choose to do the loop in either direction– either way is fine!
The Pemi Loop has two Appalachian Mountain Club huts you can stay at, and lots of campsites. However, this loop does get kind of crowded during the late spring and summer busy season, so you may need to do some backcountry camping. Be prepared, and be ready to spend a lot of time planning what you want to do with the Pemi Loop. You’ll be gaining at least 10,000 feet of elevation, so if you don’t bring enough warm layers, even in summer, you’ll be in for a very unpleasant surprise.
The length of the Pemi Loop means that water management is vital. There’s two places to refill, the Greenleaf Hut and the Galehead Hut– but there’s also areas of natural water along the trail, so it’s a smart idea to bring filtration.
- Length: 31+ miles
- Elevation Gain: 10,000 feet (or more, depending on how you do the trail)
- Duration: 1-3 days
- Highlights: 8 of the NH 48, breathtaking views, a cool section where you hike along an old logging railroad, plenty of customization
The White Mountains of New Hampshire feature a challenging 19-mile stretch known as the Presidential Traverse, encompassing seven prominent peaks: Mount Madison, Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Mount Monroe, Mount Eisenhower, and Mount Pierce. Renowned for being the highest elevation ridge in the state, this route is a formidable hiking adventure that’s one-of-a-kind. Some hikers consider a longer variation, often dubbed the “full” Presidential Traverse, which extends to 23 miles and includes an extra four peaks: Mount Webster, Mount Jackson, Mount Clay, and Mount Franklin.
The Presidential traverse can be done in a day, but it’s a fun backcountry camping experience and you’ll likely have more fun if you take at least two days to do it. There are 3 AMC huts along the way, and lots of places to pitch a tent, provided you’re willing to duck down into the valleys. This isn’t a hike to be taken without planning– there’s chances of extreme weather and temperatures, and it’s a very strenuous hike. There is a shuttle service that will take you from one end of the hike to the other, so you don’t have to worry about taking two cars. However, if you do want to take two cars, park one at the Appalachia Trailhead and the other at the AMC Highland Center.
You can hike the Presidential Traverse north to south or south to north, but north to south is what most people prefer, due to the early elevation gains making the second half of the traverse a little easier. Doing it north to south, you’ll gain around 3,500 feet in 3.8 miles!
- Length: 19 or 23 miles
- Elevation Gain: 9,000 feet
- Duration: 15+ hours
- Highlights: Seven or eleven summits, three really cool AMC huts along the way, beautiful alpine meadows, fun rocky sections
Mount Washington- Huntington Ravine Trail
Mount Washington is the highest peak in New Hampshire, and simultaneously one of the most rewarding and the most challenging, especially via this route. There are several ways up to the summit, including a famous cog railway, but I think the best way up is to hike it. You’ll see stunning alpine views no matter which way you take up the mountain. The Huntington Ravine Trail is one of the most popular for its stunning views. It’s 3.8 miles from start to summit, and has some fun, but challenging, scrambling sections. If you’re not comfortable with steep rocks, don’t worry– there’s lots of other hiking opportunities on this amazing mountain for advanced hikers.
- Length: 7.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: 4,186 feet
- Duration: 5-10 hours depending on pace
- Highlights: Fun scrambling, great views
Best Family Friendly Hikes in the White Mountains
Hiking in the White Mountains can be a fun family affair. There are plenty of short hikes with spectacular views that are sure to inspire a love of nature in the whole family. All of these hikes can be completed in an afternoon. Be sure to pack plenty of snacks, and have the camera ready to capture the great views.
Mount Washington– Crystal Cascade
New Hampshire’s tallest mountain has a number of family-friendly trails, and this short trail is one of the most rewarding. The Crystal Cascade is a beautiful waterfall that has over a 90-foot drop; the upper falls alone drop more than 70 feet. It’s a stunning sight! This trail is quite short, but isn’t too easy– there are some rocky sections. Kids will be fine, but a stroller might be tricky.
- Length: 0.7 miles
- Elevation Gain: 160 feet (49 meters)
- Duration: Less than 1 hour
- Highlights: A beautiful waterfall and a real sense of accomplishment for the littles– how many kids can say they’ve climbed a mountain to see a nine-story waterfall?
Arethusa Falls and Ripley Falls- Crawford Notch
What’s better than one waterfall? Two waterfalls! Arethusa Falls and Ripley Falls are very close to each other, and you can hike one or both in an afternoon. Hiking the loop takes longer, so it might not be ideal if you have really little kids, but older children will likely be able to keep up.
You can also hike to one, go back to car, and drive a few minutes down the road to the next trailhead. This is the quickest option to experience both!
- Length: Arethusa Falls: 2.6 miles; Ripley Falls: 1.2 miles; Arethusa & Ripley Falls Loop: 6.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: Arethusa Falls: 1000 feet; Ripley Falls: 348 feet
- Duration: Each trail will probably take a family 1 hour; the full loop will probably take 4ish hours going at kid paces.
- Highlights: Waterfall views (both waterfalls are over 100 feet tall), easy hiking trails, a fun section of old railroad tracks kids will enjoy
Another great family hike, the Artist Bluff trail is a 1.5 mile loop that offers some spectacular views. It’s a great spot for fall foliage, and Echo Lake is gorgeous all year round. This trail has some slightly steep sections, which can be challenging with a stroller– but the steep sections aren’t too tough for little legs, and there’s many beautiful spots to stop for a picnic.
This is one of the busiest trails in the White Mountains, so if you want to avoid the crowds, consider a weekday trip, or picking another hike. That being said, it is a great family friendly hike with incredible views.
- Length: 1.5 miles (2.41 km)
- Elevation Gain: 387 feet (118 meters)
- Duration: 1-2 hours
- Highlights: River views, easy path to a summit, cool cairn at the summit
There are hundreds of different hikes in the White Mountains, and all of them are beautiful. What’s your favorite White Mountain hike? If you’re trying to find the best White Mountains hike, you should check out our Hike Picker. All you have to do is put in what you want out of a hike and it will give you some amazing options tailored to your needs. We also have some great guides for hiking New Hampshire, and we can even help you with guided hiking! Experience the beauty of the White Mountains for yourself with one of these amazing hikes.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about