Whether your goal is to hike one a year or all 48 in a season, summiting the 48 4,000-foot mountains in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) has become a bucket list item for hikers of all ages. Created in 1957, this list encourages hikers to explore some of the less known and more remote places in the WMNF. Once you hike all 48, you can apply to join AMC’s 4,000-Footer Club. If you plan to hike one or all of the New Hampshire 48, it’s important to first make a plan and remember that this achievement takes time and patience, and is absolutely worth the reward.
AMC’s White Mountain Guide, and the accompanying maps, are a must-have item to achieve your 4,000-footer goal. With detailed descriptions of every trail in the White Mountain National Forest, this guide (updated every five years) will help you prepare for everything you might encounter, from terrain, trail and road closures, detours, and of course, must-see viewpoints. This guide also highlights mileage, elevation gain, estimated hike times, and other important information to make sure you know what to expect. Still have questions? Stop by one of AMC’s front country lodges to learn more about trail conditions, weather, suggested routes, and more, or join one of AMC’s guided hikes to attempt your first 4,000-footer.
Some peaks you can summit in a day, while others might require an overnight. Whenever planning a new 4,000-footer hike, you’ll need to factor in the pace and expectations of your group, determine how many miles (and peaks) you plan to cover, and decide if it’s worth spending the night in the mountains. AMC’s High Mountain Huts, as well as backcountry campsites, are near trails leading to some of the most remote peaks on the 4,000-footer list and are a safe and cozy overnight option. Just consult your map and guide for more information on which huts and campsites are near which trails.
Where to Start
If you’re just starting out, it’s worth attempting a peak that doesn’t have too many miles or elevation gain and has an added bonus of one of your favorite trail features. A good recommendation is to try the Jackson-Webster loop. At 6.5 miles and 2,550 feet elevation gain, you start and end at the Webster-Jackson trailhead, just south of AMC’s Highland Center on Route 302, and intersect with a portion of the Appalachian Trail. The hike takes you up and over the 4,052-foot Mount Jackson, with views of the southern Presidentials and Mount Washington, then loops over to the cliff summit of Mount Webster, just short of 4,000 feet, overlooking Crawford Notch, and back to your starting point. Be sure to stop at Silver Cascade to snap a few photos of the spectacular waterfall on your way down too.
Other suggested peaks for hikers beginning their 4,000-footer journey:
Mount Pierce via Crawford Path
Moosilauke via Gorge Brook Trail, Moosilauke Carriage Road, and Snapper Trail
Waumbeck via Starr King Trail
Where to End
This might be the most important decision for anyone working on their list. You want something with good views, or a way for friends and family to meet up with you. A popular hike to finish on is Cannon Mountain, which at only 4.4 miles round trip via Kinsman Ridge Trail, will give you enough time to enjoy the panoramic views of Franconia Notch from the fire tower at the summit. The tramway, open in summer and fall, allows for an accessible route for those who prefer to skip the hike but still want to celebrate your achievement at the summit.
Other popular peaks to end on include:
Isolation via Glen Boulder Trail
Mount Washington via multiple routes
Owl’s Head (Note: While the summit is wooded, this remote peak allows you to show off all the skills you’ve developed on your journey, including river crossings, rock scrambling, way finding, and more.)