Seven of the Best Day Hikes in New Hampshire
Not up for a full on backpacking trip this weekend? No worries! Here are some of the most iconic, butt-kicking, best day hikes in New Hampshire that can be done in one day. Some of these will look familiar, and some steer clear from the NH48. It’s never a a bad thing to stray from the most popular trails and explore lesser known peaks, right? Some trailhead parking requires a day use fee, and hikers have the option of purchasing a White Mountain National Forest recreation pass.
Happy hiking, and stay safe out there!
Best Day Hikes in New Hampshire
1. North and South Baldface
Distance: 9.5 miles
Type: Loop via Baldface Trail
The Baldface loop is one of New Hampshire’s lesser-known hidden gems. It’s somewhat off the beaten path compared to the rest of the populated trails in the Whites, and isn’t for the faint of heart or for anyone with a fear of heights. This ten-mile loop stretches across two bald, wide open summits with incredible views in every direction. If you’re looking to escape the crowds for a day trip, climb up some steep rock, and wander through the thick forest, this loop is for you! Another added bonus: the Emerald Pool, a gorgeous swimming hole about 0.7 miles from the trailhead. The Emerald Pool gets its name from being the most beautiful shade of emerald green, with cold, clear, refreshing pools of water and a roaring waterfall. It’s the perfect place to cool off and relax your muscles after a hike.
2. Franconia Ridge
Distance: 8 miles
Type: Loop via Old Bridle Path and Falling Waters Trail
The famous Franconia Ridge is one of New Hampshire’s most beloved hikes. It’s popular for many reasons, one being the accessibility of the trailhead. On weekends, there will more than likely be a parade of cars lined up along I-93. This can be done as a loop hike, either ascending the Falling Waters Trail or Old Bridle Path, and descending the alternate. Once you get up and above treeline, you will travel across an exposed and rocky ridge. Another reason for this trail’s popularity are the outstanding views that last miles upon miles. Both Falling Waters Trail and Old Bridle Path are somewhat strenuous, but doable for those up for a challenge. The entire loop is only eight miles round trip, hitting three peaks above 4,000 feet in elevation. This is what I’d call a bang-for-your-buck kind of hike. Be sure to check out AMC’s Greenleaf Hut, located roughly one mile below the summit of Mount Lafayette. Depending upon the season, this is an awesome place to stop in, grab a bite to eat, and relax before hitting the trail again.
3. North, South, and Middle Moat Mountain
Distance: 9.7 miles
Type: Out and back via Moat Mountain Trail
The Moats may not be as well known and popular as many of the other NH 4,000 footers, but the views are just as spectacular. This loop will bring you up and over three spacious summits, and offers several different approaches to get there. The round trip mileage for all three peaks is just shy of ten miles, and involves mostly moderate terrain. It is the perfect day hike for just about anyone. On a clear, sunny day you will have views for miles. It is also a great spot to catch a sunrise or sunset if you’re feeling ambitious and up for the challenge.
4. Mount Osceola and East Osceola
Distance: 12.3 miles
Type: Out and back via Mount Osceola Trail
If you’re looking to cross off two of the NH 4,000 foot peaks in one day, Osceola and East Osceola are the perfect duo. The trail allows you to explore two separate peaks without costing too much extra time or effort. The trail is on the easy side of moderate, but if you choose to hike both Mount Osceola and East Osceola, the section of trail connecting the two is a bit more difficult, with a rather steep rock scramble. Take note of this section and proceed with caution. The views from each summit are excellent and perfect for taking pictures. The summit of Osceola is large and flat, making it a great scenic spot to take a long lunch break.
5. Mount Chocorua
Distance: 6.6 miles
Type: Out and back via Champney Brook Trail
Mount Chocorua is an extremely popular peak no matter the season. There are multiple ways to tackle this beast, and you can make it as easy or difficult as you want. The Champney Brook Trail is a favorite for most, and is rated to be on the easier side compared to the alternates. A whopping 6.6 mile round trip, this trail involves a few steep but short stretches. The trail is beautiful itself, and has a long, cascading waterfall winding alongside with many other small pools to cool off in on hotter days. The views from the summit are breathtaking… literally. Chocorua will always remain a personal favorite of mine.
6. Mount Crawford
Distance: 4.3 miles
Type: Out and back via Davis Path Trail
Mount Crawford is another lesser known New Hampshire gem. The trailhead is located off Route 302 in Bartlett, NH, and the hike begins on the Davis Path Trail. This trail gets less traffic than many of the other trails in the Whites, making it a peaceful experience. The trail starts out relatively flat and then slowly gains elevation as you get higher. You break free from treeline fairly quickly, and the steeper parts come into play. It’s a short hike, somewhat strenuous in places, and has a huge payoff. The views are some of the best ones I’ve seen in the Whites, and the summit is usually free from people! This is a great hike for a beginner or intermediate hiker who wants big views for less effort.
7. Mount Willard
Distance: 3.2 miles
Type: Out and back via Mount Willard Trail
Mount Willard is an all-time favorite of mine for many reasons. It’s quick, short, and easy for some of the best views around. It is a very popular hike, so you likely won’t be alone on the trail. From the summit, you can see into the valley and watch as the cars pass by on the highway. This is the perfect hike when you’re short on time, but still want amazing views. It is also a great hike for a beginner or for families. When I recommend my favorite short mileage, easier hikes to someone, I always tell them about this gem.
What do you think are the best day hikes in New Hampshire?
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