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Alternative Hikes Around the White Mountains

There are thousands of trails in the White Mountain National Forest, yet there are a handful in each section of the White Mountains that tend to get a lot of foot traffic. As we navigate the tricky waters of social distancing, it is important to continue to give people space on the trails and if you see that a trailhead parking lot is full or close to being full, it is a great idea to have a Plan B or C to fall back on.

We have compiled a list of some of the more popular hikes that you may have seen or read about along with a few alternatives you may want to try instead. While this is certainly not a complete list, it is a nice overview to get you started.

Need some more resources? The White Mountain National Forest's website is a great place to start and you can also give them a call at 603-536-6100. https://www.fs.usda.gov/whitemountain

Franconia Notch

Trailhead Parking Full?

Bald Mtn. & Artist’s Bluff (round trip loop: 1.6 mi, easy) – these low, ledgy peaks are reached by Veteran’s Trail and Loop Trail and provide excellent views of Cannon Mountain, Echo Lake, and the Franconia Range.

Basin-Cascades Trail (round trip: 2.4 mi, easy) – this sometimes-rough trail follows Cascade Brook from the Basin area to Cascade Brook Trail. Kinsman Falls and Rocky Glenn Falls are beautiful and secluded.

Georgiana Falls (round trip: 1.6 mi, easy)
– Georgiana Falls Path is a scenic and relatively unknown hiking trail that includes many cascades as well as the 30-foot waterfall itself.

Lonesome Lake (round trip: 3.2 mi, easy)
– this very popular destination, nestled in the mountains 1,000 ft above the Notch floor, offers fine views of the Kinsmans and the Franconia Range. A lakeside trail leads to the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) hut at the far end of the lake and passes by an inactive beaver lodge.

Falling Waters Trail to Cloudland Falls (round trip: 2.6 mi, moderate) – the lower part of this trail leads past three waterfalls called Stairs Falls, Swiftwater Falls, and Cloudland Falls. The highest, Cloudland Falls (80 ft high), is a good turnaround point.

Franconia Ridge (round trip loop: 8.9 mi, strenuous) – the usual loop over Little Haystack (4,760 ft), Mt. Lincoln (5,089 ft) and Mt. Lafayette (5,260 ft) following Falling Waters Trail, Franconia Ridge Trail, Greenleaf Trail, and Old Bridle Path; this is a good trip in either direction, though many hikers prefer ascending the steep Falling Waters Trail.

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A less crowded alternative is an easy trip to a viewpoint overlooking the town of Littleton and many high peaks, called Kilburn Crags (1,350 ft) (round trip: 1.8 mi, easy).

An alternative to the Lonesome Lake Trail is to use the Basin Cascades Trail and Cascade Brook Trail to access Lonesome Lake (round trip: 4.6 mi, easy). Caution: no bridges cross the brook.

A less crowded alternative is to climb Mt. Lafayette via Skookumchuck and Garfield Ridge trails, including a traverse of the mountain’s open north ridge (round trip: 10.2 mi, strenuous)

Another alternative that still provides hikers with views from Franconia Ridge is to climb Mt. Liberty and Mt. Flume (round trip: 10.2 mi, strenuous)

Franconia/Benton/Easton

Trailhead Parking Full?

Beaver Brook Cascades (round trip: 0.8 mi, moderate) – Beaver Brook Trail can be followed for a short, moderate climb to the first cascade.

Black Mountain (round trip: 3.6 mi, moderate) – this summit (2,830 ft) in the Benton Range offers a fine viewpoint and is reached by the steep but attractive Chippewa Trail.

  • Alternatively, the summit of Black Mountain can be accessed by following the Black Mountain Trail which ascends from the north side (round trip: 4.8 mi, moderate) off Howe Hill Road.

Bridal Veil Falls (round trip: 5.0 mi, moderate) – this attractive waterfall can be reached via the Coppermine Trail. The trail follows along the north side of Coppermine Brook, eventually crossing to the south side of the brook, passing the WMNF Coppermine Shelter, and ending at the base of Bridal Veil Falls.

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Tunnel Brook Notch (round trip: 3.8 mi, easy)
– the north end of Tunnel Brook Trail from Tunnel Brook Road provides easy access to this scenic area of slides and beaver ponds.

Bald Peak (round trip: 4.6 mi, moderate) – rocky spur of Mt. Kinsman has open views from bare ledgy dome. Follow the Mt. Kinsman Trail to Bald Peak spur trail. View steep-walled Kinsman Flume by taking a short side path from main trail after crossing Kendall Brook.

Jericho Road Trail (round trip: 6.4 mi, moderate) – ascends to the site of the Cooley Hill fire tower from a gated gravel logging road off of NH116. Originally constructed as a horse trail, this trail mostly follows logging roads so is quite pleasant for walking. Partial views of the Kinsman and Franconia ranges can been seen from an unmarked spur path.

Reel Brook Trail (round trip: 5.8 mi, moderate)
– lightly used trail that ascends to Kinsman Ridge Trail in the col between Mt. Wolf and South Kinsman. The trail follows old logging roads, crosses Reel Brook twice, and can be muddy at times due to maintenance access to the power lines.

Twin Mountain/Bretton Woods/Crawford Notch

Trailhead Parking Full?

Arethusa Falls (round trip: 3.0 mi, easy) – Arethusa Falls, nearly 200 ft tall, is the highest waterfall in NH and can be accessed by following Arethusa Falls Trail.

Elephant Head (round trip: 0.6 mi, easy)
– follow the Webster-Jackson Trail for 0.1 mi to the Elephant Head Spur. This interesting mass of gray rock is striped with veins of white quartz and looks like an elephant’s head and trunk. The spur trail ascends to the summit of the knob and open ledges that provide views of Crawford Notch.

Mt. Willard Trail (round trip: 3.2 miles, easy)
– this low peak has long been celebrated for the view of Crawford Notch from the brink of its impressive cliffs; the ledges near Mt. Willard summit are easily reached by Mt. Willard Trail.

Ripley Falls (round trip: 1.0 mi, easy) – this 100-foot waterfall can be accessed by following the Ethan Pond Trial to the Ripley Falls Trail.

Try These Instead!

Around-the-Lake-Trail including Red Bench viewpoint (round trip: 3.6 mi, easy) – easy scenic loop hike around Ammonoosuc Lake, a small, secluded pond located near the AMC’s Highland Center Lodge. A spur trail leads to Red Bench, a pleasant viewpoint with a restricted view of Mt. Washington.

Ethan Pond (round trip: 5.4 mi, moderate) – a moderate climb up Ethan Pond Trail passes through semi-open bogs and spruce forest, leading to a scenic backcountry pond with a view of the Twin Range.

Middle and North Sugarloaf Mountains (round trip: 3.4 mi, moderate) – two open summits near Twin Mountain offer excellent views for modest effort via the Sugarloaf Trail.

Garfield Trail (round trip: 10.0 mi, strenuous) – the bare summit ledges of Mt. Garfield (4,500 ft) are perched high above the Pemigewasset Wilderness and offer one of the best views of the White Mountains. Garfield Trail, though long, has generally good footing and moderate grades. The last 0.2 mi to the summit, via Garfield Ridge Trail, is fairly steep and rough with some easy scrambling.

Zeacliff (round trip: 7.8 mi, strenuous) – this hike includes brooks, marshes, ponds, waterfalls, the AMC Zealand Falls Hut, and spectacular wilderness views.

Pinkham Notch/Jackson

Trailhead Parking Full?

Carter Dome-Pinkham Notch (10.8-mile loop, difficult)

There are several steep sections and brook crossings making this a somewhat challenging hike. Excellent views along the way and at the summit.

Iron Mountain-Jackson (2.8-mile out and back, moderate)

Limited views from the summit but there are several outlooks as well as a large field that offer stunning views of the Presidential Range.

Crystal Cascades-Pinkham Notch (0.8 mile, out and back, easy)

This is an easy and short hike to the beautiful Crystal Cascades waterfall. Starting at the Tuckerman Ravine trail, with great viewing areas to photograph the falls.

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Glen Boulder (5.4 mile out and back, difficult)

There are several steep, rocky sections and excellent views of the Presidential Range and Wildcat are worth it, as is the giant Glen Boulder.

Tin Mountain-Jackson (2.8-mile loop, moderate)

This is a great trail for nature viewing and is also said to be the site of the discovery of the first iron ore in the United States. You can still see the old mines and a cave but are not accessible as they are filled with water.

Thompson Falls-Pinkham Notch (Easy)

Looking to find a beautiful waterfall with not a lot of effort, Thompson Fall is a great spot. The trail is easy and is only a little over a mile, out and back. Swimming is allowed and a picnic lunch is a must. The trail can be accessed from the Wildcat Ski Resort parking lot.

Kancamagus Highway

Trailhead Parking Full?

Lovequist Loop Trail (round trip: 0.7 mi, easy) – a short walk around Falls Pond from the Rocky Gorge Picnic Area.

Sawyer Pond (round trip: 3.0 mi, easy) – popular mountain pond located at the base of Mt. Tremont and is easily reached by Sawyer Pond Trail from Sawyer River Road.

Greeley Ponds (round trip: 4.4 mi, moderate) – relatively easy access to two remote ponds in Mad River Notch via the Greeley Ponds Trail.

Try These Instead!

Rail N’ River Trail (round trip: 0.5 mi, easy) – fairly flat, fully accessible trail that can easily be accessed from the Russell Colbath Historic House.

Boulder Loop Trail (round trip: 3.1 mi, easy) – excellent views of Mt. Chocorua and Swift River Valley can be enjoyed from the spur trail to ledges.

Forest Discovery Trail (round trip: 1.4 mi, easy) – this trail includes interpretive panels featuring both natural and managed forest ecology.

Champney and Pitcher Falls (round trip: 3.4 mi, easy-moderate) –
two waterfalls located right beside one another on two converging brooks flowing from the side of Mt. Chocorua.

Church Pond (round trip: 2.2 mi, moderate)
– Church Pond Trail passes through pine and spruce swaps and bogs and ends on a knoll covered in red pines overlooking the pond.

Mt. Hedgehog (round trip: 5 mi, moderate) – spectacular views of the Swift River Valley via the UNH Trail.

North Conway

Trailhead Parking Full?

Kearsarge North-North Conway (6.5-mile out and back, difficult)

A fire tower greets you at the summit of this heavily trafficked trail. Summit views of the Presidential and Carter Ranges.

Cathedral Ledge-North Conway (2.8-mile out and back, moderate)

This hike is on the shorter side but with a steady incline. This area is popular with hikers and rock climbers alike. Views of the Mount Washington Valley from the summit.

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Mount Stanton-North Conway (2.6- mile out and back, moderate to difficult)

There are several steep sections in the middle but there are great views from the summit of Attitash Mountain, Bear Peak, and the Mount Washington Valley.

Boulder Loop Trail-North Conway (2.6-mikle loop, easy to moderate)

This 2.6-mile loop trail offers a self-guided tour of boulder fields and varied forest types. There are 15 stops along the way with interesting facts about the history and biology of the region.

Whitaker Woods-North Conway (Easy)

Owned by the town of Conway, this trail system is great for those looking for an easy walk or jog in the woods. There are several easy trails including the Powerline, Whitaker Lane, and Vista Trail which is a 2.9-mile loop featuring wildflowers and is great for all skill levels. Another option is the Stonehurst Manor Trail which is a 3-mile loop and is also great for all levels.

Gorham

Trailhead Parking Full?

Appalachia Waterfalls (round trip: 2.6 mi, easy) – this hike takes you to four small waterfalls (Gordon, Salroc, Tama, and Coldbrook Falls) around the bottom of the trail network on the northern Presidentials.

Moose Brook State Park (variety of easy trails available) – Perkins Path and Perimeter Path Loop is an easy 2.3 mi (round trip) trail in a forest setting along the brook within the boundaries of Moose Brook State Park. There is an admission fee to access these trails.

King Ravine (round trip: 6.2 mi, moderate) – a wild ravine with rugged scenery, boulders, and boulder caves.

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Lost Pond (round trip: 1.2 mi, easy) – follow Lost Pond Trail, which is part of the AT, for excellent views across to the east face of Mt. Washington.

Mascot Pond (round trip: 1.4 mi, easy) – this pond lies just below Leadmine Ledge, the cliffs seen prominently from Gorham and can be accessed by following the Mahoosuc Trail.

Triple Falls (round trip: 0.4 mi, easy) – a collective name for three small cascades named Proteus Falls, Erebus Falls, and Evans Falls along Town Line Brook off Pinkham B Road.

Mt. Hayes (round trip: 5.0 mi, moderate)
– the westernmost peak in the Mahoosuc Range featuring several knobs and ledges overlooking Gorham and the northern side of Pinkham Notch.

  • Alternatively, use Centennial Trail and a short section of Mahoosuc Trail to reach the open ledges at the southwest end of the flat summit (round trip: 7.2 mi, moderate).

Pine Mountain (round trip: 4.2 mi, moderate) – a small ledgy peak at the northeast end of the Presidential Range offering great views from the pinnacle, called Chapel Rock, for the effort required.

  • Alternatively, Pine Mountain can be access by parking on Pinkham B Road in Gorham located at the base of Randolph Hill (round trip: 3.5 mi, moderate).

Mt. Moriah (round trip: 9.0 mi, strenuous) – the summit is bare, ledgy rock above tree line and offers amazing 360 degree views of the Presidential Range and Carter-Moriah Range.

Alternatively, the summit of Mt. Moriah can be accessed via the Stony Brook Trail (round trip: 7.2 mi, strenuous) and provides the best access to the beautiful south ledges.

Sandwich/Tamworth Region

Trailhead Parking Full?

Mount Chocorua-(6-mile Round-Trip Loop, Moderate to Difficult) While there are several trails to access the summit of Chocorua, each trail is approximately rhe same distance and difficulty rating.

West Rattlesnake Mountain-Holderness/Sandwich (3.1 mile out and back, moderate)

This trail offers views of Squam Lake. Parking is not allowed on the main road.

Mount Morgan and Percival Loop-Center Sandwich (5.5-mile loop, moderate)

This loop trail is heavily trafficked, and parking is not allowed on the main road. There are several spots requiring a rocky scramble and a ladder that has been set up assists on a particularly challenging section.

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Sandwich Mountain-North Sandwich (6.9-mile out and back, difficult)

This trail offers beautiful views at the summit.

Doublehead Trail-Center Sandwich (4.4-mile out and back, moderate to difficult)

Wonderful views from the summit of both Squam and Winnisquam Lakes.

Hemenway State Forest-Tamworth (easy)

This 2,100-acre forest offers 14 miles of trails and natural areas for all levels. Enjoy the Big Pine Natural Area and the Great Hill Fire Tower.

Plymouth Area

Trailhead Parking Full?

Mount Cardigan-Canaan (3-mile loop, moderate)

Located in Cardigan Mountain State Forest, this heavily trafficked loop trail is considered moderate and its summit is exposed rock with stunning views.

Rattlesnake Mountain Trail-Rumney (2.3-mile loop, moderate to difficult)

Quick but steep, this trail offers views of the Baker River Valley.

Stinson Mountain-Rumney (3.4-mile out and back, moderate)

The gradual climb to the summit is considered moderate but is adequate for all levels. Nice views at the summit of the Plymouth area.

Try These Instead!

Mount Cube-Orford (6.8-mile, out and back, moderate)

With 2,162’ of elevation gain., the quartzite ledges of the north park summit offers views of Mt. Moosilauke.

Peaked Hill Pond-Thornton (3.2-mile, out and back, easy to moderate)

Part of the White Mountain National Forest and leads to Peaked Pond. Great for all levels.

Walter-Newton Natural Area-Plymouth (1.6-mile loop, easy)

This is a great hike for all levels which features a waterfall called Rainbow Falls. The parking area can accommodate fewer than 10 cars so keep that in mind when venturing out.

Waterville Valley

Trailhead Parking Full?

Osceola-Waterville Valley (6.1- mile out and back, difficult)

There are several ways up to the summit of Osceola, but the trailhead parking on the Waterville side is Tripoli Road. One of NH’s 48-4,000 footers, this hike offers sweeping views of the White Mountains and Waterville Valley.

Welch Dickey Loop-Thornton (4-mile loop, moderate)

While rated as moderate, there are a few steep sections to be aware of throughout the hike. There are several rocky ledges and overlooks offering stunning views.

Smarts Brook-Thornton (Easy to Moderate)

There are several trails to explore for either a short walk or a longer day hike. Depending on the trail, this trail system is rated easy to moderate. There is a waterfall along with a babbling brook to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch.

Try These Instead! (All of these trails start in Waterville Valley)

The Scaur (4.2-mile out and back, moderate)

This trail leads to the top of a rocky hill that offers views of Waterville Valley Ski Resort, the Valley, and the Sandwich Range.

Waterville Flume (5.4-mile round trip, moderate)

This natural gorge with 60+ foot rock walls, was created by the Flume Brook which runs through it.

Mad River Path (2-miles out and back, easy)

Access to this trail begins at the Town Square in Waterville Valley and parallels the Mad River.

Lakes Region

Trailhead Parking Full?

Red Hill-Center Harbor (2.3-mile loop, moderate)

This peak also features a fire tower at its summit, with views of the Lake Winnipesaukee and is part of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust network of trails.

Belknap Mountain-Gilford (4.7-mile loop, moderate)

Views of Lake Winnipesaukee from the summit fire tower. At a little over 2,300 feet, it is the highest point in Belknap Country and one of the fifty most prominent peaks in New England.

Mount Major-Alton (1.6-mile out and back, easy to moderate)

Due to its family-friendly nature, this is a popular trail in the Lakes Region. There are two trails, the Mt. Major trail, which is 1.5 miles to the summit, and the Boulder Loop trail, which is 1.6 miles. Mt. Major is part of the Belknap Mountain range and offers views of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Try These Instead!

Turtleback Mountain (Bald Knob)-Moultonborough (7.2-mile, moderate)

Located in the Ossipee Mountain Range and offers a steady incline with very few steep sections. The trail goes through a beautiful forest and the summit offers views into the White Mountains.

Big Sugar Loaf-Alexandria (2.9-mile loop, moderate)

Located in Wellington State Park, this trail which offers lovely views of Newfound Lake. An optional detour along the trail is to Goose Pond.

Waukewan Highlands-Meredith (Easy to Moderate)

This community park is an interpretive trail, perfect for families and the trail system is deemed easy to moderate. Learn about the natural and historical aspects of the region as you enjoy nearly 2 miles of trails.