Short and Sweet: Hiking 3,000-foot Summits

Short and Sweet
Jerry and Marcy MonkmanThe view from White Cap.

The New Hampshire 4,000-footers list—and other checklists of high peaks—motivate hikers to climb lesser-known mountains. But what about the many great 3,000-foot summits? Here are eight highly recommended hikes that even peakbaggers might want to seek out.

Mount Coe and South Brother  |  Baxter State Park, Maine

Though just shy of the 4,000-foot mark, Mount Coe (3,795 feet) and South Brother (3,970 feet) still make the list of New England’s 100 Highest Peaks. Take the Marston Trail, beginning at the Park Tote Road, to the Mount Coe Trail, which climbs Mount Coe, descends, and begins to ascend South Brother. A side trail reaches the summit of South Brother. This route has great views and makes several brook crossings early on. Return the way you came or, for another peak, continue along the Mount Coe Trail until it rejoins the Marston Trail, which ascends to the summit of North Brother (4,151 feet). Make a return loop by hiking back the length of Marston Trail.

Distance: 9.2 miles round-trip (or 11.0 miles round-trip including North Brother)
Info: Maine Mountain Guide, 10th ed. (AMC Books)

White Cap Mountain  |  Bowdoin College Grant East Township, Maine

White Cap Mountain (3,654 feet) is the highest peak on the Appalachian Trail (AT) between Maine’s Bigelow Mountain and Katahdin, in Baxter State Park. Register and pay a gate fee at the historic site of Katahdin Iron Works to enter Ki-Jo Mary Multiple Use Forest. Get a map and directions at the gate—to reach the trailhead you must follow a series of dirt roads, some of which may require four-wheel drive. Ascending the mountain’s southern slope, the trail crosses White Brook and passes the remains of an old fire warden’s cabin. The trail ends at the AT, which you will follow for the last mile to the open summit, tracing a high ridge with impressive views of the surrounding mountains.

Distance: 6.0 miles out-and-back
Info: Maine Mountain Guide, 10th ed. (AMC Books)

Mount Webster  |  White Mountain National Forest, N.H.

To summit the southernmost peak of the Presidential Range, take the Webster-Jackson Trail off US Route 302 in Crawford Notch. It’s worth taking a little detour on Elephant Head Spur to a ledge on a giant mass of rock that from a distance resembles the head of an elephant. Back on the main trail, take the Mount Webster Branch on the right, which descends to Silver Cascade Brook, passing a beautiful cascade and pool. The trail joins Webster Cliff Trail, part of the AT, for a challenging rocky climb to the summit (3,910 feet). Enjoy the views from several open ledges.

Distance: 6.6 miles out-and-back
Info: White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. (AMC Books)

Sandwich Mountain  |  Carroll and Grafton Counties, N.H.

Sandwich Mountain Trail crosses the narrow ridge of Noon Peak, descends a sag, traces around the summit of Jennings Peak (which can be reached by a spur path), and summits Sandwich Mountain (3,940 feet). The trail, mostly within the Sandwich Range Wilderness, begins at a parking area off NH Route 49. Rewarding overlooks along the way make for an interesting hike. From the open summit of Sandwich Mountain, retrace your path to the trail junction near Jennings Peak and loop back to the parking lot via Drakes Brook Trail, which descends a steep ravine then follows easy logging roads.

Distance: 8.3 miles round-trip
Info: White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. (AMC Books)

Jay Peak   |  Westfield, Vt.

The hike to the summit of Jay Peak (3,858 feet) is short but steep—and culminates with one of Vermont’s best views. Take the Long Trail where it crosses VT Route 242, 6.5 miles west of the intersection with VT Route 101. Rocky ledge scrambles pass through moss-carpeted forest and then higher-altitude spruce and fir krummholz. From the top, you can see the Adirondack High Peaks, White Mountains, Green Mountains, and the Sutton Mountains of Quebec. Return the way you came.

Distance: 3.4 miles round-trip
Info: Best Day Hikes in Vermont (AMC Books)

Pico Peak | Mendon and Killington, Vt.

You don’t always have to climb a mountain for its summit. The lovely trails around the summit of Pico Peak (2,957 feet) meander though beautiful open hardwood forest with abundant wildflowers. Begin at the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail off US Route 4, passing Mendon Lookout. A glade of white paper birches abruptly changes to boreal forest as elevation increases. At Jungle Junction, loop back via the Shelburne Pass Trail. The developed summit does not boast the hike’s best views, but there is a short spur trail for summit-baggers off Shelburne Pass Trail.

Distance: 7.6 miles round-trip

Info: Best Day Hikes in Vermont (AMC Books)

Ampersand Mountain   |   Franklin County, N.Y.

The 46 Adirondack High Peaks were originally meant to be the region’s 4,000-footers, though later surveys found four on the list fell below that mark. Hikers intent on bagging the 46 might overlook Ampersand Mountain (3,352 feet), a challenging day hike with beautiful terrain and panoramic views. The trail begins off NY 3 and passes through old-growth forest of sugar maple, yellow birch, hemlock, and white pine. (Some of these trees are 300 to 400 years old.) After Ampersand’s first summit, the second summit is reached by a strenuous climb of 1,300 feet in just 1.2 miles.

Distance: 5.5 miles round-trip
Info: Discover the Adirondacks (AMC Books)

Peekamoose Mountain   |   Denning, N.Y.

Peekamoose Mountain (3,843 feet), in the Catskills’ Slide Mountain Wilderness, provides a big payoff for a relatively easy hike. Follow the Peekamoose-Table Trail/Long Path from the Peekamoose Road trailhead. The trail climbs for 3.5 miles to the summit. The mountaintop is wooded, but several views can be found off the trail on the way up. In particular, a ledge 2.4 miles into the hike provides a view to Big Indian, Doubletop, and Balsam Lake Mountain—you might even be able to glimpse High Point in neighboring New Jersey. Return the way you came or, to extend the hike, continue 0.8 miles to the summit of nearby Table Mountain (3,847 feet).

Distance: 7.0 miles round-trip
Info: Catskill Mountain Guide, 3rd ed. (AMC Books)

* The description of White Cap has been updated from its original form for clarity.


Read more about great 3,000-footer hikes here.

CONTRIBUTORS: Mike Dickerman, Peter W. Kick, Carey Kish, Jennifer Lamphere Roberts, Sue Rose, Steven D. Smith, Christine Woodside

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