Best Hikes in New Hampshire: Top Trails in the Granite State

Looking for the best hikes in The Granite State? You're in the right place! Our guide has something for everyone, from easy-breezy low-level walks to more challenging all-day adventures.

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Written by: | Reviewed by: Kieran James Cunningham
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Boasting high mountain summits, stunning views, and exceptional opportunities for adventure, there are few better things in life than hiking in New Hampshire.

With hundreds of hikes to choose from, narrowing down your adventure options in the Granite State is no easy feat. To help you out, we’ve put together this list of the best hikes in New Hampshire to make your trip planning process a breeze.

Coming up, we’ll introduce you to 12 of The Granite State’s best hiking trails for you to check out on your next visit.

The 12 Top New Hampshire Hikes

1. Arethusa Falls, Crawford Notch State Park

Arethusa Falls2
Photo by Amy Meredith / CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 2.9 miles (868ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Arethusa Falls Road at Crawford Notch State Park near Hart’s Location

Short but sweet, the walk to Arethusa Falls is a fantastic activity for the whole family. Starting right off of Route 302, this path to one of the finest waterfalls Crawford Notch State Park is wide and easy to follow.

The trek involves a pretty steady amount of uphill, so be prepared for a bit of huffing and puffing. But, when you finally reach the top of your climb, you can enjoy a babbling brook and a roaring waterfall as a reward for your efforts.

Plus, if you’re feeling up for more walking, the path to Bemis Brook is a nice side trip. It only adds about 0.5 miles to your journey but offers a chance to see both Coliseum Falls and the Fawn pool during your outing.

RELATED READING: For more outdoor fun in New Hampshire, check out the best campgrounds in NH.

2. Mount Pemigewasset, Franconia Notch State Park

Mount Pemigewasset, Franconia Notch State Park
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 3.4 miles (1,219ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Flume Visitor Center Parking Lot at Franconia Notch State Park near Lincoln

Although it’s not quite a 4000 Footer, Mount Pemigewasset is the perfect outing if you’re looking for excellent views of New Hampshire. This rewarding trek starts right at the parking lot of the Flume Visitor Center along the Franconia Notch State Park Recreational Trail. 

Eventually, you’ll cross a footbridge and find yourself on the Indian Head Trail, which climbs steadily to the summit. Here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the truly stunning White Mountains

You can also turn this into a short thru-hike by continuing down the back side of Mount Pemigewasset along the Indian Head Trail. Doing so means you’ll end up 1 mile south of the Flume Visitor Center on Route 3. But, it gives you a chance to check out some other waterfalls along the way.

In addition to being a great summer adventure, Mount Pemigewasset is one of the best winter hikes in NH. However, you’ll want to bring microspikes during the colder months of the year as ice is common along the path.

3. Lincoln Woods Trail, Pemigewasset Wilderness

Lincoln Woods Trail, Pemigewasset Wilderness
Photo by Tim Sackton / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 6 miles (283ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Access: Lincoln Woods Trailhead on the Kancamagus Highway near Lincoln

One of the most popular outings in the White Mountain National Forest, the Lincoln Woods Trail is the gateway to New Hampshire’s Pemigewasset Wilderness. Departing from the Lincoln Woods Trailhead off the Kancamagus Highway (a.k.a. the Kanc), the trail starts out with a superb crossing of the Pemigewasset River on a 160’ suspension bridge.

It then follows along the river, offering great views of Mount Bond along the way. Toward the end of the hike, you’ll come across the beautiful Franconia Falls. Here, you can sit back and enjoy the falls before turning back to the trailhead. 

Or, you can extend your trek along the Wilderness Trail. This side trip offers impeccable access to the most remote parts of the White Mountain National Forest.

4. Champney Falls, Mount Chocorua

Champney Falls, Mount Chocorua
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 6 miles (1,854ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
  • Access: Champney Falls Trailhead on the Kancamagus Highway near Conway

The perfect day trip if you’re in the southeastern White Mountains, the trek to Champney Falls is a fun-filled adventure. After departing the trailhead off the Kanc, this path first crosses Twin Brook and then follows an old logging road.

Eventually, you’ll reach a set of fairly steep switchbacks, which is where the climbing really starts. Toward the end of your climb, you’ll reach a roaring waterfall that happens to be a popular wintertime ice-climbing destination.

For added excitement, it’s worth continuing beyond the falls on the Piper Trail. This path leads to the summit of Mount Chocorua, which offers nice views of the region as a reward for your climb.

If you want to make this a loop, you can also link up to the Bee Line from the summit of Mount Chocorua. This path will link you to the summit of Mount Paugus for even more excellent vistas.

5. Welch-Dickey Loop, Waterville Valley

Welch-Dickey Loop, Waterville Valley
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Length: 4.2 miles (1,709ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Welch-Dicky Trailhead on Orris Road near Waterville Valley and Thornton

This 4.2-mile loop is one of the premier hikes in New Hampshire outside of the White Mountains. Starting near the towns of Waterville Valley and Thornton, this trek climbs steadily through a magnificent forest to the ridge of Welch Mountain.

After reaching the ridge, the path continues its ascent to the summit. Welch Mountain’s summit offers some great rocky ledges for sitting, where you can catch your breath before heading up to neighboring Dickey Mountain.

Once you complete your second summit for the day, you’ll start down a drainage to the parking lot. Oh, and along the way, keep an eye out for stands of rugged Jack Pine, which is one of the rarest tree species in the entire state.

6. White Dot Trail, Mount Monadnock, Monadnock State Park

White Dot Trail, Mount Monadnock, Monadnock State Park
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 4 miles (1,755ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Access: Mount Monadnock State Park Headquarters near Jaffrey

One of the top hikes in New Hampshire’s southern region, the trek to the summit of Mount Monadnock is a must-do. Although you have a number of hiking options, the White Dot Trail is by far the most popular.

To start your journey, you’ll depart from the parking lot at the Mount Monadnock State Park Headquarters and head up a wide, steep path. After about a mile or so of climbing, you’ll poke your head up above the tree line for some nice views of the surrounding region.

Keep climbing even higher, however, and you’ll be treated to 360º vistas of the southern part of the Granite State from the summit. In fact, if you get a clear weather day, you can even see the Boston skyline from Mount Monadnock as an added bonus.

That being said, Mount Monadnock is among the most popular day hikes in the entire state. So, we recommend starting your journey early in the day to avoid crowds during the summer months. For a slightly longer and slightly easier hike, you could also try the White Cross Trail, which starts and ends at the same trailhead.

7. Ammonoosuc Ravine to Mount Washington

Ammonoosuc Ravine to Mount Washington
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 9 miles (3,812ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Access: Cog Railway Parking Lot near Bretton Woods

Locally known as “The Ammi,” the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail is the best way to access the picturesque Lake of the Clouds Hut on your way to the summit of Mount Washington. The trek begins at the Cog Railway Parking Lot, so expect lots of car traffic during the summer months.

Although the first few miles of this hike are relatively flat, you’ll start steeply gaining elevation at the base of Ammonoosuc Ravine. From here, you’ll make a very steep ascent with plenty of rock scrambling to keep you on your toes.

After a few river crossings, you’ll eventually pop out above the tree line. Continue walking to reach the truly amazing Lake of the Clouds Hut, where you can book a stay during the summer. 

If you’d like to summit Mount Washington, you’ve only got 0.3 miles left to the top. Or, for an extra bonus, you can also link up the summit of Mount Monroe to bag another 4000 Footer.

All that said, we should note that the weather can be heinous on Mount Washington at any time of year. Winds in excess of 100 mph are not uncommon, even in the summer. So, check the weather, come prepared, and be willing to turn back if the weather turns sour.

8. Mount Lafayette Loop, Franconia Ridge Trail, White Mountains

Mount Lafayette Loop, Franconia Ridge Trail, White Mountains
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Length: 8.3 miles (3,566ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Access: Old Bridle Path/Falling Waters Trailhead near Lincoln

One of the most exciting 4000 Footers in the western White Mountains, Mount Lafayette is a must-climb for experienced adventurers. This 8.3-mile loop offers a chance to crest some of the tallest peaks outside the Presidential Range with some stunning views along the way.

You’ll start our hike at the Old Bridle Path/Falling Waters Trailhead near Lincoln, where you’ll start climbing. However, you can choose to take either the Bridle Path or the Falling Waters Trail to the summit of Mount Lafayette.

Although Falling Waters is the more difficult of the 2 trails, it does offer some extra bonuses along the way.

In fact, if you choose the Falling Waters route, you’ll be treated to a number of sizable waterfalls on your way. Eventually, you’ll crest the top of Franconia Ridge and see Mount Lafayette in the background.

However, your first stopping point will be the summit of Little Haystack, which offers exceptional views. From there, you’ll tag Mounts Lincoln and Truman before bagging Lafayette. This section of the hike is actually along the Appalachian Trail, so you may well see some thru-hikers during the summer months.

After topping out on Mount Lafayette, you can descend down the Old Bridle Path to Greenleaf Hut. Eventually, the path will bring you back to the trailhead, where you can rest after a day well spent.

9. Mount Willard

Mount Willard
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 3.2 miles (908ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Access: AMC Highland Center in Crawford Notch near Bretton Woods

A relatively casual path that makes for one of the best day hikes in New Hampshire, Mount Willard is a must-do for any adventurer.

Setting out from the AMC Highland Center, this trail casually gains elevation over the course of 1.6 miles. Although the path is relatively moderate, however, we do recommend microspikes for the inevitable ice during the winter months.

At the summit, you get spectacular views over the rest of the White Mountains, including the impressive Crawford Notch. That said, this hike is very, very popular. So, be sure to arrive early if you want to grab a parking spot, especially if visiting during the peak fall foliage period.

10. Basin-Cascades Trail

Basin-Cascades Trail waterfall
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 2.2 miles (550ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Access: The Basin Trailhead near Lincoln

One of Franconia Notch State Park’s most iconic hikes, the Basin-Cascade Trail is a popular family trek.

Your walk starts at The Basin, which is a major hub for summertime outdoor recreation. After leaving the parking lot, you’ll steadily gain elevation after crossing a number of major bridges. The path eventually leads to a massive waterfall, where it’s worth stopping for a photo.

Then, the hike takes you down to the river before continuing on toward Kinsman Falls. Beyond Kinsman, you can even see Rocky Glen Falls from a comfy viewpoint. For further adventure, consider continuing on to Lonesome Lake, which is a great swimming hole on a hot summer’s day.

11. Thoreau Falls and Zealand Falls

Thoreau Falls and Zealand Falls
Photo by alans1948 / CC BY 2.0
  • Trail type: Out-and-back
  • Length: 16 miles (1,600ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard
  • Access: Zealand Falls Trailhead near Jefferson

One of the best long day hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the trek to Thoreau and Zealand Falls is a solid choice for anyone with reasonable fitness levels.

Departing from the Zealand Falls Trailhead, this trail takes you deep into the White Mountains. You’ll travel first along the Zealand Trail, which offers great access to the Zealand Falls Hut. After making a quick side trip to the hut, you can continue down your path, which then becomes the Appalachian Trail.

Along the AT, you’ll have nice views of Mount Bond and Guyot to the west. However, you’ll eventually depart the AT for the Ethan Pond and the Thoreau Falls trails. This casual last stretch takes you to see the stunning Thoreau Falls. Here, you can hang out, relax, and enjoy the roaring falls before making the return trip home.

Or, you can turn your trek into an epic point-to-point backpacking trip by continuing southward from Thoreau Falls and eventually ending up at the Lincoln Woods Trailhead.

12. Pemi Loop, Pemigewasset Wilderness

Pemi Loop 3
Photo by Donna Graham-Finan AKA Tallulah / All Rights Reserved © (Used w/Permission)
  • Trail type: Loop
  • Length: 31 miles (7,442ft ascent)
  • Difficulty: Very hard
  • Access: Lincoln Woods Trailhead near Lincoln

Arguably one of the best hikes in New Hampshire and the White Mountains, the Pemi Loop is one for your bucket list.

Taking off from the ever-popular Lincoln Woods Trailhead, this 31-mile loop is best done in a clockwise direction. You’ll start with a steep ascent up to Mounts Flume and Liberty, where the excellent views begin.

After Flume and Liberty, you can camp at some tent pads for the night or continue on for the day. Your next stop is Little Haystack, Liberty, and the magnificent Mount Lafayette. At Lafayette, you’ll get some of the best mountain views in all of New Hampshire.

From here, continue northward to the summit of Mount Garfield. Beyond Garfield, you can camp at the Galehead Hut or the relatively new Garfield Ridge lean-to. Regardless of where you camp, your first task of the morning is a summit trek on Galehead Mountain.

Past Galehead, the going gets a little easier until you top out on South Twin, Mount Guyot, and Mount Bond. The last order of business is a steep descent down to the valley floor and a return to the parking lot to round out your trek on this classic trail.

Hike New Hampshire: A Lifetime of Adventure Awaits!

If you’re in search of a true New England adventure, it’s hard to top a trip to the great Granite State. 

We hope that our list of the best NH hiking trails helped you find your next White Mountain escapade. If so, let us know which of these NH trails is your favorite in the comments below—we’d love to hear about your hikes.

Also, don’t forget to share this article with your friends so you can start planning your next trip!

Last update on 2024-06-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Gaby Avatar

Gaby is a professional polar guide, wilderness medicine instructor, and freelance writer with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She splits her time between the northern and southern hemispheres, chasing the midnight sun and helping others get outside to experience some of the world’s most beautiful places.

As an outdoor educator, Gaby is passionate about making the outdoors as accessible as possible for anyone looking to get into the mountains or out on the water. She is a certified Polar Guide, an AMGA Climbing Wall Instructor Course Provider, a NOLS instructor, and an accomplished climbing guide with a penchant for telemark skiing.

When she’s not hanging out with penguins in Antarctica or scouting for polar bears in the Arctic, you can find Gaby backpacking in Wyoming’s Wind River Range or drinking debatably excessive amounts of espresso and reading French existentialism in a quirky café.

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