Ask Me: What Are Your Favorite New England Hikes?
I am a college student at Franklin Pierce University, and I have a couple questions I’d like to ask you. I have been enjoying your articles and website and your book, Before They’re Gone, and really appreciate the work and writing that you create! I am also an enthusiastic adventurer and love doing much smaller excursions, but I am looking to tackle longer, more rigorous hikes. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for backpacking trips and dayhikes in New England.
I live in CT and stay at school in N.H. I’ve done the Presidential Range before and climbed Mount Washington countless times, once even barefoot. I’d like to tackle a couple daylong hikes to start getting into larger excursions. Eventually, I have the intentions of doing the whole Appalachian Trail, but I don’t have the time or money to do that at the moment! I was interested to see if you had any suggestions for long backpacking trips. Get back to me whenever you can and keep up the good work.
Thanks for writing and following The Big Outside, and especially for reading my book.
So what are my favorite hikes in New England? Well, you’ve done a couple of them, Mount Washington and the Presidential Range. Mount Adams, in the Northern Presidentials, is a great peak (especially in winter, if you have the clothing and gear for it) and not nearly as busy as Washington, even in summer.
On the west side of the Whites, Franconia Ridge is enduringly popular because of its long stretch of hiking along a narrow ridge crest, with stellar views in every direction. Most people just hike Mounts Lincoln and Lafayette, but don’t skip Liberty and Flume, which have rocky summits that you might have all to yourself. A few trails access Franconia Ridge, allowing for hikes of various distances.
If you want to try a longer one, I’ve dayhiked a loop of just over 17 miles that hit every peak on Franconia Ridge, starting up the Flume Slide Trail (very steep up, but fun if you like that), followed the ridge north to Lafayette, descended to Greenleaf Hut, then took the Greenleaf Trail (not many hikers and quite scenic) down to the notch. Then follow the Pemi Trail or the paved bike path back to your starting point.
The hike from Crawford Notch to Franconia Notch, which is mostly on the Appalachian Trail and which most people would spread over two days (described in my story about hiking in the Whites), is beautiful, especially the sections from Zealand Notch to South Twin Mountain (lead photo, above), and then Garfield Ridge all the way over Franconia Ridge into Franconia Notch.
In the Pemigewasset Wilderness, Bondcliff, Mount Bond, and West Bond are three remote summits with alpine zones that give you big views right in the heart of the Whites. I’ve dayhiked the 32-mile loop over the Bonds, South Twin, Garfield Ridge and Franconia Ridge—called the Pemi Loop—but it’s a reasonable two- or three-day backpacking trip, too.
The Carter Range, east of the Presidential Range, has several 4,000-foot summits with sweeping panoramas that are made all the better by the fact that you’re looking out at the Pressies. I’ve done the Carter-Moriah Trail traverse (including Wildcat Mountain) as a weekend backpacking trip and as a dayhike; they’re very different experiences in many ways, but either way, it’s a fantastic hike.
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Several of the solitary peaks in the Whites make for fun dayhikes of varying lengths, all highly recommendable: Chocorua, Tripyramid (fun scrambling up and down the North Slide and South Slide), Whiteface, Welch and Dickey, The Moats (near North Conway), Moosilauke, and the Baldies (east of the Carter Range).
Get over to Maine, too. The Mahoosuc Range and the 100-mile Wilderness stretch of the AT are two of the best backpacking trips in the East. The Bigelow Range and Saddleback Range are right behind them on my list. And Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park are in a league of their own. I’ll never forget the first time I hiked to Katahdin’s summit, one of the finest in the East, a rocky crown atop cliffs high above a glacial cirque enclosing tiny Chimney Pond far below. I’ve been to Baxter several times, and hiked Katahdin via just about every trail (Hunt Trail/AT, Abol Slide, Knife Edge, Cathedral Trail), all of them memorable. But try to make time for some of the other peaks in the park, like South Turner, Hamlin, North Brother, the Owl, Mount O-J-I, and Doubletop—all terrific, rugged hikes, with killer views once you’re up high.
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Acadia National Park is a gem. All of the peaks and seaside trails are worth exploring. But if you have one day there, a guidebook I authored for many years, New England Hiking, described a 13.5-mile, 4,700-vertical-foot traverse from Champlain Mountain on the east side of the park to Sargent Mountain on the west side of the park, tagging the park’s six major summits along the way. It’s very rugged and gorgeous just about every step of the way. Look at a trail map of the park and you can easily see the route.
I could go on and on about hikes in New England, but I’ll just point out a few more: certainly Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump in Vermont, and the Monroe Skyline section of the Long Trail. Mount Greylock in western Massachusetts. The 17-mile Riga Plateau section of the AT from Egremont, Mass., to Salisbury, Conn., including Bear Mountain and Lion’s Head in Connecticut.
That should give you a pretty good working list to start with. Have fun. Thanks again for writing.
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I am struck back by how much you know offhand just in New England! I look forward to getting a taste of each of these hikes.
Thanks again for writing back and sharing your knowledge. I look forward to reading more about your adventures.
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