If getting your family outside and active is a goal for 2018, here is a list of 18 hikes across NH that will provide unforgettable family experiences. The easiest hikes are at the top of the list and get harder as you read. As always hiking poses certain risks and it is important to be prepared. Visit http://www.hikesafe.com for details on how to prepare for hikes and consider purchasing a NH Hike Safe Card to help support NH Fish and Game who are the primary responders when hikers need help.
#1 Pitcher Mountain
Pitcher Mountain is an easy hike in Southwest NH. This mountain is often the first mountain kids hike up on their own. The White Blaze trail that follows the access road is only 0.6 miles uphill, I have seen kids as young as 2 years old hike most of this trail on their own! At the summit, there is a large 25 foot Fire Observation Tower and in late summer there is an endless supply of blueberries. The summit is open and is great for picnics and offers up some amazing views. The fire tower can be climbed (with caution) and if the warden is there he will often invite you into his lookout cabin at the top.
#2 Andres Institute of Art
Andres Institute of Art in Brookline NH is a hidden gem. A large network of trails zigzags across the property and sculptures from artists from all over the world have come to build magnificent pieces of art, making it a large outdoor art museum where its OK to touch, run and be silly! For more information and to download a trail map visit http://andresinstitute.org/ The property is free to explore but consider leaving them a donation to help maintain the property.
#3 Crotched Mountain Accessible Trails
The trails at Crotched Mountain are accessible to everyone, specifically built for handicap access but are open for anyone to enjoy. This is a great spot for those who enjoy strollers over carriers. There are two trail options; The Gregg Trail which is a 0.8-mile hike uphill to a large observation deck that overlooks the Monadnock Region and the Dutton Brook Trail that is a 2-mile loop around a beaver pond and features boardwalks and observation decks. For more information on the trails visit https://crotchedmountain.org/programs-and-services/accessible-recreation/accessible-trails/
#4 West Rattlesnake
West Rattlesnake Mountain is an easy hike located in the Lakes Region of NH. The trail to the summit is just under 1 mile in length making this hike obtainable to almost any new hiker. At the summit, you will be greeted with grand views of Squam Lake below. There is plenty of area for picnics and relaxing at the top. Note of Caution- There are large drop-offs at the top but can easily be avoided.
For a more challenging hike, check out Morgan and Percival across the street, which features ladders and caves to make the 5-mile loop over two peaks.
#5 Mount Kearsarge
Mount Kearsarge is sandwiched between two NH State Parks, Rollins State Park in Warner and Winslow State Park in Wilmont these two state parks offer different approaches to the summit of Kearsarge. Rollins State Park is often referred to as the “easy” or “short” side, as it features an auto road up most of the mountain and then it is a short half mile hike the rest of the way. The hike is rocky and features some small scrambles in sections.
Winslow State Park is also known as the “long side” since the hike up is one mile. There are a couple trail options that leave Winslow State Park. There is also a small playground at the parking area, which is great for families with young children that will ride in carriers during the hike, to allow them time to run around before and after the hike.
At the summit, there is a large fire tower and a few picnic tables, the rest of the area is rocky but still plenty of space for picnics and exploring.
#6 Chesterfield Gorge
Located just outside of Keene NH, Chesterfield Gorge is a small wayside park maintained by the NH State Parks. It features a short less than one-mile loop trail around a deep gorge. The trail features fencing along most of the trail to ensure hiker safety, but there are still some areas without a fence so use caution with young children. At the bottom of the gorge, there is a small area for a break and creek play if so desired. At the parking area, there is a larger picnic area with tables. A small souvenir store is open seasonally.
#7 Rhododendron State Park
Home to the largest Rhododendron grove in New England this small state park is a hidden gem. The trail here is wide and easy to follow through the grove. The bushes create tunnels over the path which is very unique and fun to hike through. There is a picnic area near the parking lot. Wheels (strollers, wheelchairs, and bikes) are not allowed on the trails to protect the root systems. If you seek a more challenging hike, check out Little Monadnock which is accessed via a spur trail from the park. This peak is a moderate hike with limited views.
#8 High Five Reservation
The High Five Reservation is owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. This small property features a short uphill hike to a viewpoint with open directional views and plenty of area to set up a picnic and play around.
#9 Lonesome Lake
This moderate hike leaves from Layfatte Campground and heads out to Lonesome Lake a secluded mountain lake. This hike is 3 miles round trip with 1,000 feet of elevation change along the way. There is an AMC hut located on the shores of this lake. Overnight accommodations in the bunkhouse can be reserved in advance (kids can often stay free during certain times of the year!). The hut is open year round and during the summer months, breakfast and dinner are included in your stay. This can be a great intro to backcountry camping, without carrying so much gear. Swimming is permitted at the lake as well, but no lifeguards are on duty.
# 10 Pack Monadnock
This moderate hike at Miller State Park has three trail options to reach the top, my personal favorite is the 1.3 mile Marion Davis Trail. This trail is on the easier side of moderate and features many switchbacks which help make the climb feel less steep. There are a few small sections of increased difficulty on the way up. At the top, there is a large picnic area, with tables, outhouses and a 3 sided lunch shelter. A fire tower, weather station and communication towers also share the summit area. Miller State Park also features an Auto Road to the top for those who want the easiest way to the top.
#11 Kidder Mountain
This small mountain is located along the Wapack Trail which runs 21 miles from North Pack Monadnock to Mount Watatic. To reach Kidder Mountain a blue blazed side trail leads you up to the peak in just under 2 miles. The trail is fairly flat and only has a few steep places. The summit is a wide open area, with directional views. There are blueberry bushes and stone walls. A great place to spend time and explore. It should be noted that there is an area that is often confused at the peak. When you reach the large white planters (in the photo above) this is NOT the top, but you are close, the trail continues to the right of the second planter.
#12 Willard Mountain
This little mountain offers up some of the best views in the state. This 1.5-mile hike leaves from the Crawford Depot/AMC Highland Center and climbs up 1,000 feet of elevation to an impressive lookout. A neat bonus is if you can spot (or hear) a trail coming up the notch. Note of Caution- there are extremely steep cliffs at the top of this hike. Safety is imperative here. There are safe places to break for lunch.
#13 Mount Major
For major views, check out Mount Major! This moderate climb is great for families up for a challenge. The blue-blazed trail is 1.5 miles long and will take hikers just over 1000 feet of elevation gain. There are some extremely steep sections and scrambling (use of hands) will be required during this hike. At the top, you will find the remnants of an old cabin and awesome views of Lake Winnepesauke.
#14 Monte Rosa (Monadnock State Park)
If your family is not quite ready to hike to the top of Mount Monadnock, Monte Rosa is a great alternative. Leaving the Old Toll Road trailhead and taking either the road walk or the trail up to the halfway house site and then carefully pay attention for the “Monte Rosa Trail” hidden off to the left after the White Arrow trail junction. There are a few small scrambles to reach this subpeak. A large weathervane marks the peak. There are areas to sit and eat before venturing back. On the way down, take the Fairy Springs trail which will lead you passed a mythical looking brook and children can hunt for fairies. The Fairy Springs trail ends at the White Arrow trail, just above the Monte Rosa Trail junction.
#15 Mount Pemigewasset (Indian Head)
Mount Pemi is an easy to moderate hike in Franconia Notch. It gets its nickname from the profile when viewed from a distance. The trailhead is found in the Flume Gorge visitor center parking lot near the back where busses and RVs park (there’s regular car parking here too). The trail then heads up the Franconia Recreational Trail a short distance before it turns left to get onto the Mount Pemi Trail. The trail then goes under a series of three tunnels under the highway (great for yelling in!). The trail then heads uphill passing streams and large boulders as it zigzags up. A Note of Caution- There are large cliffs at the summit. However, there are plenty of areas for safe picnicking and viewing. Round trip is just under 3.5 miles. If an easier hike is desired check out the Flume Gorge.
#16 Bald Mountain and Artist Bluff Loop
This short little hike, I have pushed towards the end of this list because it can be challenging in areas. I have seen many adults struggle on the Bald Mountain section of the trail. It actually is a fairly easy hike, with great views. This hike starts off near Echo Lake and is just under 2 miles for the entire loop. The hike heads up Bald Mountain first, and to make it to the peak you need to take a short spur trail. Just before the peak, there is a very steep section of rock that requires you to scramble and climb up. This is where I have encountered many perplexed hikers who let their minds get the best of them. Once climbing, it’s not nearly as scary as it looks from the start. However, if scrambling isn’t your thing, skip the Bald Mountain section. Once you reach the top of Bald Mountain you will need to butt slide yourself back down and start the hike over to Artist Bluff. The hike over is easy and passes some nice viewpoints and large boulders. At Artist bluff there are cliffs so use caution with young children, but plenty of area to take a break. The hike down from Artist Bluff is short and steep and then there is either a trail through the woods back to the parking area or a short road walk.
#17 Welch and Dickey Loop
This 4.5-mile loop trail is a fun and slightly challenging hike in the White Mountian National Forest. The two main challenges with this hike for families will be the overall distance and the steep smooth slabs. There is little scrambling (use of hands to climb), but many steep pitches. These slabs can be extremely slick when wet, so if it has recently rained it would be best to skip until conditions dry out. Most of this hike is above the treeline so it offers up unlimited views in every direction. There are many areas where you can stop and take breaks as needed and enjoy views. Please stay on the designated trail, as there are fragile plants along the way.
#18 Mount Monadnock
Last but not least, for families ready for a true challenge Mount Monadnock is there to conquer. There are many trail options up to the peak, most common are the White Dot, White Arrow, and White Cross. Plan for a FULL day of hiking and bring plenty of water and snacks. This hike can be extremely challenging for those with young children in carriers as the rock scrambles can be difficult to navigate when wearing a child and your center of balance will be shifted and can lead to slipping and falls. Only those who are experienced in hiking when child wearing should attempt this with a carrier. This is best for children who have experience on other mountains and are receptive to challenges.
And there you have it! 18 hikes to explore this year. Which one(s) are on your list already?