Have you been hunting for some perfect half-day hikes in the White Mountains? These five summer hikes under 5 miles will get you out on the trail with plenty of time to spare for a great late lunch or a visit to a nearby attraction.
Even though these trails are on the shorter side, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that our Hiking Tips still apply. Read up on the 10 Essentials (and pack them!) and look into purchasing a Hike Safe card prior to your adventures.
Also? Make alternative plans in case parking lots are full; hiking is a very popular activity on summer weekends.
LONESOME LAKE TRAIL (Franconia Notch State Park, NH)
We’ll start with an iconic under 5-miler: Lonesome Lake, located in a small bowl just south of Cannon Mountain. This hike culminates in a one-in-a-million view with Lonesome Lake in the foreground and the epic expanse of the Franconia Ridgeline just beyond. To get to your perfect picture taking spot though, you’ll have to put in some work!
Don’t let the low figure of 3 miles out-and-back fool you: along the way, you will be ascending a series of sharply angled switchbacks. Happily, peaceful forest views will help you pass the time until you reach the shores of Lonesome Lake. Take the lollipop loop trail around the lake in a clockwise direction if you have a hankering for a restorative cup of coffee – an Appalachian Mountain Club hut waits at the far end!
Post-coffee, continue along the loop for some wooden boardwalk wandering through a pretty, marshy spot. Then? It’s back to your car, and the rest of the wonders found in Franconia Notch State Park.
A hiker shuttle is available if the parking lot is full. Pay attention to signs if you are northbound on I-93 for more information, or head to the Cannon Mountain website. The shuttle is $5 round trip per hiker (cash only).
Recommended Nearby Attractions: Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, Flume Gorge, Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves, Hobo Railroad, Loon Mountain Resort, Clark’s Bears, Whale’s Tale Waterpark, Alpine Adventures
COPPERMINE TRAIL (White Mountain National Forest, NH)
A gentle incline and the sounds of the gently burbling Coppermine Brook are two hallmarks of this awesome hike (located on the west side of the Kinsman Range, approximately a 10-minute drive from Franconia, NH). Ringing in at 4.2-miles out-and-back, the Coppermine Trail is an excellent option for families with hikers of varying abilities and enthusiasm.
This hike has minimal elevation gain, so don’t expect spectacular mountain vistas; instead, you can recline in awe as you take in the sights of Bridal Veil Falls, a scenic 35-foot plunge waiting at the end of the trail (just past the Coppermine Shelter).
If you would like to hike all the way to the falls, keep in mind you will have a small water crossing. Trailhead parking is located just before a residential area, and spaces are limited.
Want to get a good idea of the hike ahead? Check our Bridal Veil Falls Reel.
Photo Credit: Caitlin P. Farrar
NORTH & MIDDLE SUGARLOAF TRAIL (Twin Mountain, NH)
Tackle two peaks in one hike! The 3.3-mile out-and-back trail leads to the summits of both North and Middle Sugarloaf, and you can expect a great view and notable landmarks like large glacial erratic boulders along the way. Enjoy the flatter expanses while you can – steeper sections are in store near the summit.
To get to Middle Sugarloaf, bear left at the trail junction. A long wooden ladder is all that stands between you and the wide-open summit with views of North Sugarloaf and other nearby peaks. After you’ve had your fill of the scenery, double back down the path and follow signs to ascend your second Sugarloaf of the day.
Parking for the North & Middle Sugarloaf trailheads is located just off Zealand Road (which is closed during the off season).
MOUNT WILLARD TRAIL (Crawford Notch State Park, NH)
This 3.2-mile out-and-back trail starts just off Route 302 east, behind the picturesque Crawford Depot train station. Rated as moderate, the Mount Willard Trail will still put hikers through their paces as they ascend through woodsy terrain. At the end, you will emerge triumphant at a rocky ledge looking out over the U-shaped scoop of Crawford Notch.
Might we suggest a pre- and post-hike photo in front of the railroad station? You’ll love seeing how your smile is extra wide after this excellent hike.
BOULDER LOOP TRAIL (Albany, NH)
Do you like your hiking with a side of geology? The 3.1-mile Boulder Loop Trail is resplendent in glacial erratics and boulders worth extolling.
To get to this fun trail, head to Passaconaway Road (located on the northern side of the Swift River, just off the Kancamagus Highway). Bring cash for the small trailhead fee, and also bring your spirit of adventure – if you hike clockwise, you’ll encounter a steep upwards scramble in short order. After that though, hikers can expect moderately easy hiking with several southerly viewpoints along the way!
Which hike is first on your list? Use #yeswhitemountains when you post to your socials – we would love to share your pictures on @whitemountains!