With steep, rocky trails and epic mountain scenery, the White Mountains of New Hampshire is the perfect place to explore on foot. Since this is our home state, we’ve explored the White Mountains extensively at all times of the year. There are so many excellent trails to choose from, ranging from family-friendly wanders to grueling traverses. Read below to see what we consider the best hikes in the White Mountains.
It’s important to note that many of these hikes are challenging. If you are looking for the best easy hikes in New Hampshire, check out this article: 11 Easy Hikes in the White Mountains.
Quick Look at the 11 Best Hikes in New Hampshire
Things to Know About Hiking the White Mountains
Compared to other hikes around the United States, the hiking trails in the White Mountains are rocky, steep and overall challenging. Don’t expect smooth trails and lots of switchbacks when you’re hiking the White Mountains. Trail conditions are often muddy year-round. Just because you aren’t hiking a 14,000 footer, don’t underestimate some of these hikes in NH.
You can also expect a range of weather throughout the year and even on a given day. The White Mountain’s weather ranges from hot summers to freezing winters. Summers are typically hot and humid with possible thunderstorms in the afternoon. Even in the summer, pack a warm layer for the summit. Fall weather is drier and gorgeous but also expect snow starting in October. The fall is an excellent time to hike in New England. The leaves in the White Mountains typically hit their peak in early October.
We love winter hiking in the White Mountains, but weather can quickly drop well below freezing. Mount Washington is said to have the worst weather in the world. Spring is my least favorite time to hike in the White Mountains as you will have snow at high elevations, muddy trail conditions, black flies and mosquitos. By June trail conditions typically improve.
There are collections of hikes in the White Mountains. If you’re looking for more hiking ideas, check out:
We also love to use All Trails for directions and maps once we’ve selected our hiking trail, and you should also read the recent comments for general trail conditions and closures.
Map of the Best Hikes in the White Mountains
Best Hikes in the White Mountains
Mount Washington via Tuckerman’s Ravine
Distance: 7.4 miles (about 5 hours) Difficulty: Challenging Elevation Gain: 4,250 feet
Why not start with the tallest mountain in NH! We’ve hiked Mount Washington several times on different trails, and this is a beautiful and challenging hike up the classic Tuckerman’s Ravine. This is a popular hike, but is also considered one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, mostly due to unpredictable weather. The hike starts with a gradual trail up to Tuckerman’s Ravine. From here, the trail ascends steeply up through the ravine with excellent views.
One of the most surprising parts of this hike is getting to the top and finding all the people who’ve driven up or taken the railroad. From the top, you can return the way you came, or a better option is to take the Lion’s Head Trail down.
Distance: 2.8 miles Difficulty: easy/moderate Elevation Gain: 780 ft
The hike to Arethusa Fall on the Bemis and Arethusa Fall Trails is a relatively easy hike in the White Mountains that is perfect for families. The trail is a typically rocky NH trail that partially follows a stream. The trail has a steady incline and ends at a gorgeous waterfall. There are no viewpoints on the trail, but since this is one of the best waterfall hikes in New Hampshire, it’s still worth the walk!
See more about hiking to Arethusa Falls.
Mount Chocorua (via loop trail, Piper Trail)
Distance: 10 miles (7 hours) Difficulty: challenging Elevation Gain: 3,000 ft.
Located in the Southern part of the White Mountains, this recognizable mountain is an excellent NH hike. There are several trail options to get to the top (including the loop trail). The best part of the hike is how exposed the top section of the mountain is, meaning you have a long time with excellent views.
If you aren’t up for the loop trail, the last time we did Chocorua, we hiked up the Liberty Trail and Brook Trail loop which has significantly less distance and elevation.
Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop
Distance: 9.3 miles Difficulty: Challenging Elevation Gain: 3,800 ft
Another New Hampshire classic, the hike to Mount Lafayette on the Franconia Ridge Trail is an amazing exposed ridge walk. This is a hard hike with a long ridge walk. You should keep an eye on the weather as it’s no fun to get stuck on the ridge with a storm coming in! It can also be much cooler on the ridge so pack a layer. A truly outstanding hike!
Distance: 4.4 miles Difficulty: Moderate + Elevation Gain: 1780 ft
A great, moderate hike that is a good option for a family hike in the White Mountains if you want to get in a summit. From the summit, you have 360-degree views over Waterville Valley. The trail starts with a gradual climb with a few steep sections. You will reach Welch Mountain first and Dickey second. From the top of Dickey, the trail has a gradual decline as it circles back to the parking lot.
See more about hiking the Welch-Dickey Loop Trail.
Distance: 3.1 miles Difficulty: moderate Elevation Gain: 900 ft
Mount Willard is one of the relatively easy day hikes in the White Mountains that includes a waterfall and overlook. You will likely have seen photos taken from this mountain and it’s a popular hike, especially in the fall. Even though it is a short hike it is a bit steep. We did this hike in about 1 hour and 45 minutes. This is an excellent hike to do in the fall when the leaves change colors.
See more about hiking Mount Willard.
Distance: 3.7 miles Difficulty: moderate Elevation Gain: 1250 ft
The hike to Mount Pemigewasset leaves from the same parking area as the NH Flume (which is an excellent, easy hike in New Hampshire). The trail steadily gains elevation through the forest and ends with a walk across a tree-covered short ridge to the summit. From here you have excellent views of Franconia Notch.
Distance: 1.5 mile loop trail Difficulty: moderate Elevation Gain: 500
Short and sweet, this trail leaves from right near Cannon Ski Mountain and ascends a short distance up to a tremendous view South across Franconia Notch. A popular spot for photographers (especially during peak foliage) this is a great hike if you want a quick reward for your effort. You can make the hike even shorter if you do it as an out and back instead of a loop.
See more about hiking Artist Bluff and Bald Mountain.
Mount Moosilauke and South Peak Loop
Distance: 8.2 miles Difficulty: moderate Elevation Gain: 2,500 ft
This hike is a great winter hike in the White Mountains and is a wonderful year-round hike. In the winter you will see skiers here, and in the summer, this is a popular hiking trail. The trail does gain 2,500 ft, but at no point does it feel too steep. This is an excellent choice for a beginner hiker who is looking for a longer hike with views.
See more about hiking to Mount Moosilauke.
Distance: 5.2 miles Difficulty: moderate/challenging Elevation Gain: 2,300 ft
Mount Tecumseh is the smallest 4,000 footer in NH and even though it is a short trail, it is pretty steep. You will reach your first viewpoint at about 1.2 miles and then continue a steep climb up to the summit. You are essentially hiking up a ski trail. There are beautiful views but you don’t get a complete 360-degree view from the top.
See more about how to hike Tecumseh.
Distance: 5.9 miles Difficulty: moderate Elevation Gain: 2,400 ft
This hike has a relatively steep and steady grade to a beautiful summit view that looks out towards Mount Washington. The hike also follows a river for most of the distance and if you are looking for a slightly longer hike, you can add on Mount Eisenhower. This is a great first 4,000 footer if you are getting started hiking all 48!
I know I missed a lot of the other best hikes in the White Mountains! What are your favorites? Leave a comment and let me know!
BONUS HIKE: Mount Hedgehog
Distance: 4.8 miles Elevation: 1400 feet Difficulty: moderate
Hedgehog Mountain is a great hike in the Whites just south of the Kancamagus Highway. The trail offers several rocky ledges with views of the surrounding mountains. This is a great hike during the fall to see the colors!
Looking for more about hiking in the White Mountains? Check out:
- 15 Best Winter Hikes in the White Mountains Region
- 11 Easy Hikes in the White Mountains
- 9 Best White Mountain Fall Foliage Hikes in New Hampshire