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Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains

February 10, 2016

The following day hikes come from AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains. For more information, check out the book.

1. DIANA’S BATHS

Diana's Baths

Diana’s Baths is a popular family destination suitable for the youngest hikers. A short, level, universally-accessible walk along the Moat Mountain Trail brings you to a former mill site where you can wade in one of the many pools among numerous cascades or explore the ruins of the old mill.

  • Location: Conway, NH
  • Rating: Easy
  • Distance: 1.2 mile round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal
  • Estimated Time: 0.5–1.0 hour
  • Features: Fee, family-friendly, dogs allowed, universally-accessible, snow-shoeing
  • Maps: AMC White Mountain National Forest Map & Guide, I10, AMC White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. Map 3 Crawford Notch—Sandwich Range, I10 USGS Topo: North Conway West

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains)
Diana’s Baths is a pleasant spot to relax and hang out on a summer afternoon. You won’t be alone, but the shady forest and the cool water make this an ideal family visit. Diana’s Baths is reached by Moat Mountain Trail.

Numerous cascades will immediately catch your attention when you arrive at Diana’s Baths. Even with the crowds, you will be able to find a flat rock and an interesting stretch of water that you can claim for several hours. Kids will enjoy meandering up the granite terraces to see the wonderful assortment of waterfalls, pools, and rocks upstream. You’ll find numerous small, round potholes carved into the flat granite. These were formed by the scouring action of small stones and sand carried around by spring floodwater. Potholes that are perched high above the current level of the water were probably formed during the melting of the last glacier, when water levels were much higher than they are now.
Some gears, pipes, and stone walls from the old mill are still present. This was a gristmill that used the waterpower of Lucy Brook to ground flour.

Diana’s Baths is named for the Roman goddess of the hunt, who was often pictured in woodland settings surrounded by animals. Enjoy your swim, and watch out for the water sprites that legend has it used to inhabit the area.

 

2. MOUNT PEMIGEWASSET TRAIL

Mount Pemigewasset

Mount Pemigewasset Trail climbs to the summit of Mount Pemigewasset, a 2,500-foot peak at the southern end of Franconia Notch and the location of the famed Indian Head profile. The climb is a good one for children because it’s never very steep. The views from the top are excellent, and the combination of stream crossings and rocks in the forest makes for an interesting walk.

  • Location: Lincoln, NH
  • Rating: Moderate
  • Distance: 3.6 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet
  • Estimated Time: 4.0 hours
  • Features: Family-friendly, dogs allowed, snow-shoeing
  • MAPS: AMC White Mountain National Forest Map & Guide, H4, AMC White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. Map 2 Franconia— Pemigewasset, H4, USGS Topo: Lincoln

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains)
Great views of surrounding mountains can be had from the broad, flat rocks of the summit. Mount Moosilauke is to the west, South Kinsman to the northwest, and Mounts Flume and Liberty to the east. The villages of Lincoln and North Woodstock are to the south. Some of the ledges at the summit end rather abruptly with steep dropoffs. Parents will want to keep a close watch on young children.

The small, scattered trees that grow around the summit have been sculpted by the wind to form “flag” trees. Look for chimney swifts, very fast and agile birds that zoom about the summit chasing their insect prey. The left and right wings of this streamlined, dusky-colored bird sometimes look as if they move independently. You’ll find some lowbush blueberries at the summit, but you will have lots of competition from both human and nonhuman frugivores at this popular destination.

3. TUCKERMAN RAVINE AND MOUNT WASHINGTON

Tuckerman Ravine and Mount Washington

This rugged hike takes you up to Tuckerman Ravine, one of the most dramatic landscapes in New England, and then on to the summit of the region’s tallest mountain.

  • Location: Pinkham’s Grant, NH to Sargent’s Purchase, NH
  • Rating: Strenuous
  • Distance: 8.4 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 4,250 feet
  • Estimated Time: 8.0 hours
  • Features: Public Transportation
  • Maps: AMC White Mountain National Forest Map & Guide, F9, AMC White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. Map 1 Presidential Range, F9, USGS Topo: Mount Washington, NH

Short Trail Description (for a complete description, see AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains)
This is the most popular route up New England’s highest mountain and is often crowded with hikers, but it is arguably the most “nature rich” way of ascending Mount Washington. You must have the proper gear, have enough time, and be prepared for rough weather, particularly if your goal is to hike beyond Hermit Lake. Make sure everyone has sturdy shoes and extra clothes. This trail is not appropriate for anyone who is uncomfortable hiking on rocks.

Tuckerman Ravine is a textbook example of a cirque, a geological term used for a bowl-shaped, glacially carved valley on the side of a mountain. The ravine was carved by a small mountain glacier sometime before the area was completely covered by the last continental ice sheet 50,000 years ago. As the climate cooled, glaciers first formed in the mountains. Water freezing and expanding in cracks in the bedrock plucked rocks from the sides of mountains, leaving the bowl-shaped ravines (cirques) for which the Presidential Range is noted: Tuckerman, Huntington, King, and Great Gulf. Eventually the continental ice sheet covered the whole area, including the summit of Mount Washington.

Continuing up the summit cone, Lion Head Trail comes in at 3.8 miles. At 4.2 miles, you cross the Mount Washington Auto Road, pass by a parking area, cross over the cog railway tracks, and reach the summit house. Hopefully, it will be a crystal-clear day and the view in all directions will be spectacular. You’ve earned it.

 

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