Ease Into Winter: 7 Simple Summit Snowshoe Hikes
You need not be an experienced mountaineer to enjoy the winter landscape from a mountain summit. Dramatic views from the tops of relatively easy-to-access peaks can be found throughout the Northeast. Just bundle up, pack your winter essentials, and strap on your snowshoes for these seven great hikes.
Saint Sauveur Mountain | Acadia National Park, Maine
From the Acadia Mountain trailhead on Route 102, connect to the Saint Sauveur Mountain Trail. The summit is a gradual 1.1-mile climb. You won’t see the view from there, so begin to descend the far side of the summit to reach cliffs overlooking picturesque Somes Sound. Return the way you came or, to create a much more challenging 3.7-mile loop, continue down the Valley Peak Trail and then hike up and over Acadia Mountain. The Acadia Mountain Trail returns to your original trailhead.
Distance: 2.4 miles out-and-back
Info: Maine Mountain Guide, 10th ed. (AMC Books); Discover Acadia National Park, 3rd ed. (AMC Books)
Mounts Starr King and Waumbek | Jefferson, N.H.
The distance of this hike may pose a challenge to beginning snowshoers, but the terrain is some of the easiest of any ascent to a 4,000-footer. From Route 2 in Jefferson, N.H., follow the Mount Starr King Trail, which climbs for 2.6 miles to the first summit (3,907 ft.). You can either turn around there or continue over a col to Mount Waumbek (4,006 ft.). The trail is mostly forested, and the snow before Waumbek might be the deepest you experience on this hike, but you can view the Presidential Range just beyond Waumbek’s summit.
Distance: 5.2 or 7.2 miles out-and-back
Info: White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. (AMC Books);
West Rattlesnake Mountain | Holderness, N.H.
West Rattlesnake Mountain is one of the most popular hikes near Squam Lake. Several trails lead to the top (1,260 ft.), but the easiest route is the Old Bridle Path from the Route 113 trailhead. The 0.9-mile climb leads to the summit’s cliffs and views across Squam Lake to the east. This hike can be extended by continuing over to the East Rattlesnake summit (1,289 ft.) via the 0.8-mile Ridge Trail.
Distance: 1.8 miles out-and-back
Info: White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. (AMC Books)
Mount Sunapee | Newbury, N.H.
From the trailhead on Mountain Road, follow the Andrew Brook Trail up this gentle ascent of Sunapee’s southeastern flank, to Lake Solitude. From there, take the Solitude Trail to the summit. This is not a remote, wild summit—you will emerge on the slopes of a ski resort and can step into the ski lodge to enjoy the panoramic views while sipping a steaming mug of cocoa.
Distance: 6.4 miles round-trip
Info: New Hampshire State Parks
Eagle Mountain | Milton, Vt.
In spring, Eagle Mountain is covered by wildflowers, but in winter it’s an easy snowshoe hike with views over Lake Champlain. Follow Blue Trail for 0.3 mile, then go right on Yellow Trail to the summit (578 ft.). While this land was once farmed, it’s now left to a variety of wildlife. The views aren’t from the top, so return to Blue Trail and follow it toward the lake. A short (0.3 mile) climb will bring you to Hoyt Lookout and a view over Champlain.
Distance: 6.5 miles out-and-back
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont (AMC Books); Lake Champlain Land Trust
Putney Mountain | Putney, Vt.
This ridgeline hike, which features views to the Green Mountains and into New Hampshire, begins off Putney Mountain Road. Take the West Cliff Trail to the left beyond the trailhead kiosk and follow the yellow blazes and cairns across a hemlock-covered hillside. Turn onto the blue-blazed Summit Trail at 0.7 mile and climb to the open summit (1,660 ft.). Mount Monadnock is visible to the southeast and the Green Mountains to the west. To descend, cross to the eastern edge of the summit and pick up the Ridgeline Trail. Keep an eye out for the Elephant Tree, an enormous 200-year-old white ash. Follow the white blazes along the ridge to the junction of the West Cliff Trail, which returns to the parking lot.
Distance: 1.2 miles round-trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont (AMC Books); Putney Mountain Association
Schunemunk Mountain | Cornwall, N.Y.
Located about 50 miles north of Manhattan, in the Hudson Highlands, Schunemunk Mountain stands 1,664 feet above the Hudson Valley. This summit snowshoe features many open ridges with long drops, rewarding visitors with spectacular views of the area, including Bear Mountain and the Shawangunk Ridge. This easy-to-moderate hike climbs up to the ridge and passes through dwarf pine stands and around megaliths. The Jessup Trail traverses this state park and provides a simple out-and-back route. Pick up the trail from the Taylor Road parking area and follow the yellow blazes. Use caution where the trail crosses the active Metro North railroad tracks.
Distance: 8 miles out-and-back
Info: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Contributors: Jennifer Lamphere Roberts, Jerry and Marcy Monkman, Teresa Pagliuca, Susan Rose, Steve Smith