Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains

Sabaday Falls, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire-
Corey Butterworth | AMC Photo ContestSabaday Falls, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

The White Mountains compose a region of bare mountain summits; extensive views; deep, glacially scoured ravines; fascinating plants and animals; enchanted evergreen forests; and cold mountain streams tumbling over boulders in fantastic patterns. It’s no wonder that so many flock to the trails and summits of this Northeast region, and AMC is here to be your guide.

Out now, the 4th edition of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains brings 60 of the best trails in the White Mountains to life, with updated trail descriptions, maps, and historic and environmental information to accompany you along your journey. Here are just a few of our favorites:

SABBADAY FALLS | WATERVILLE VALLEY, N.H.

The short hike to Sabbaday Falls off the Kancamagus Highway has been a popular outing ever since tourists started to frequent the White Mountains. The wide, flat trail with minimal elevation change is an ideal walk for families with very young children. Start at the parking lot and follow Sabbaday Brook Trail along a lollipop loop by the waterfall—it’s easy to spend a long time watching the patterns of water rushing over granite ledges, through a narrow flume, and into deep, clear pools. The geological features that created this environment are described on interpretive signs.

Rating: Easy

Distance: 0.6 mile

Elevation Gain: 100 feet

view of Diana's Baths
alh1 | Flickr CommonsView of Diana’s Baths in Conway, NH

 DIANA’S BATHS | CONWAY, N.H.

Diana’s Baths is a popular family destination suitable for the youngest hikers. A short, level, accessible walk along 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. Leaving the parking area, the well-graded, crushed-stone path meanders through the forest, crossing bridges over several rivulets. In ten to fifteen minutes, you reach Lucy Brook. The mill site is immediately to the left, and Diana’s Baths is just a little ahead, also to the left. Moat Mountain Trail continues beyond the baths, but it becomes very steep and is not recommended for families with young children, nor is it accessible.

Rating: Easy

Distance: 1.2 miles

Elevation Gain: Minimal

view of Mt. Willard with Crawford Notch, and Mt. Wiley are in the midground
Paula ChampagneMt. Willard, Crawford Notch State Park, White Mountain National Forest–Crawford Notch, and Mt. Wiley are in the midground.

 MOUNT WILLARD | CARROLL, N.H.

AMC’s White Mountain Guide reflects: “Probably no other spot in the White Mountains affords so grand a view as Mount Willard for so little effort.” The hike up this 2,865-foot spur of the Willey Range is well graded but perhaps too steep for younger children. When you reach the incredible panorama of Crawford Notch, you may declare, as my young nephew did after grumbling the whole way up, “Oh this was really worth it!” Mount Willard Trail starts out with Avalon Trail across the railroad tracks of the old Maine Central line. (It is unsafe and illegal to walk along the track because it is used by the Conway Scenic Railroad.) In 0.1 mile at a display board, Mount Willard Trail heads left, while Avalon Trail continues straight ahead. Follow the yellow blazes uphill for a steady pace until you reach the summit at 1.6 miles—you’ll know you’re there as you emerge from the woods into a stunning vista overlooking Crawford Notch.

Rating: Moderate

Distance: 3.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 900 feet

 

AMC’s Highland Center is the perfect jumping off point for a hike to Mount Willard, whether you hike it on your own or go with an AMC guide.

 

Lonesome Lake, Franconia Notch State Park, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire-- Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln (Franconia Range) on Franconia Ridge are in the background
Emily Davenport Lonesome Lake, Franconia Notch State Park, White Mountain National Forest– Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln (Franconia Range) on Franconia Ridge are in the background.

LONESOME LAKE AND HUT | LINCOLN, N.H.

Lonesome Lake is a beautiful body of water reached by a short, somewhat steep climb. Swim in the lake while enjoying the spectacular view across Franconia Notch to Mount Lafayette and explore interesting aquatic plants and insects along the shoreline. AMC’s Lonesome Lake Hut, located on the southwestern side of the lake, offers overnight accommodations, food, snacks, water, and more. The Lonesome Lake Trail begins at the picnic area by Lafayette Place’s south parking lot—a large sign and yellow blazes will help guide you. Be sure to stick to Lonesome Lake Trail the whole time—at 1.2 miles, you will reach the lake at a junction with Cascade Brook Trail. From here you loop around the water on Around Lonesome Lake Trail, a route that incorporates sections of Cascade Brook, Fishin’ Jimmy, and Lonesome Lake trails.

Rating: Moderate

Distance: 3.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet

 

Make your hike an overnight and book a stay at AMC’s Lonesome Lake Hut!

 

MOUNT ISRAEL | SANDWICH, N.H.

This out-and-back hike follows the Wentworth Trail through deciduous woodlands to the summit of Mount Israel, with views of Sandwich Mountain, the Tripyramids, Chocura, and Squam Lake. Start at the Mead Base Conservation Center and follow the yellow blazes through the woods. At 0.5 mile, the trail crosses a stream and continues over switchbacks, with a lookout point at the 1.5 mile mark. You will reach the summit at 2.1 miles—enjoy the view before returning the way you came.

Rating: Moderate

Distance: 4.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet

The view from Glen Boulder Trail, White Mountain National Forest,. Pinkham Notch is in the midground.
Brittany Richard | AMC Photo Contest The view from Glen Boulder Trail, White Mountain National Forest. Pinkham Notch is in the midground.

 GLEN BOULDER | PINKHAM’S GRANT, N.H.

Glen Boulder Trail is a steep hike to a huge glacial erratic perched on a shoulder of Mount Washington. The rock is a landmark, visible as you drive on NH 16 through Pinkham Notch. Follow the yellow-blazed Glen Boulder Trail, taking note of the transition from lower elevation hardwoods to higher elevation boreal forests. By the time you pass the junction with Direttissima Trail (0.4 mile), which comes from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, you have already ascended about 350 feet. The trail turns sharply left at that junction and continues uphill and into the alpine zone. Awe-inspiring views are behind you and Glen Boulder looms ahead. After some scrambling you reach the impressive boulder, which is the end of this hike (1.6 miles). Enjoy the fantastic sights of Pinkham Notch, Wildcat Mountain, and shoulders of Mount Washington; you can even see Mount Chocorua on a clear day.

Rating: Strenuous

Distance: 3.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,750 feet

Mt. Chocorua (Sandwich Range), Mount Chocorua Scenic Area (Sandwich Range),White Mountain National Forest
Casey Breeds | AMC Photo Contest Mt. Chocorua (Sandwich Range), Mount Chocorua Scenic Area (Sandwich Range),White Mountain National Forest

 CHAMPNEY FALLS AND MOUNT CHOCURA | ALBANY, N.H.

This out-and-back hike takes you past waterfalls that are particularly impressive after a rainstorm and then leads to one of the White Mountains’ most iconic peaks. Mount Chocorua’s sharply pointed summit stands alone in the southeastern section of the White Mountains and is visible for many miles and from many other summits. For hikers with young children or limited time, the falls are a fine destination in themselves. Other hikers will want to climb the well-graded Champney Falls Trail to Mount Chocorua. A little scrambling is required near the top. Follow the yellow blazes along Champney Fall Trail to explore the features of the water fall before continuing on—at 3.2 miles you will reach the junction with the Piper Trail, also marked by yellow blazes. Continue on the Piper Trail for 0.6 mile to the summit of Mount Chocura and return the way you came.

Rating: Strenuous

Distance: 7.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,250 fee

About the Author…

Robert N. Buchsbaum

AMC Outdoors inspires people to engage in outdoor conservation and recreation through meaningful stories.

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