Hiking in the White Mountains National Forest
Spanning over 800,000 acres across New Hampshire and Maine, the White Mountains National Forest has something for everyone.
While there are summer and winter activities for visitors of all ages, hiking remains one of the most popular things to do in the national forest. Both low valleys and high peaks are available for you to take on.
In fact, the White Mountains have some of the highest peaks in New England.
Have you always wanted to hike but not sure where to begin? Below we’ve compiled this guide to help you plan for a hike in the White Mountains. We’ll cover your trail options, what to pack before you go, and most importantly how to stay safe on your adventure.
Why Visit the White Mountains National Forest?
Depending on which season you visit and where you go, this national forest has a vast range of landscapes from hardwood forests to alpine peaks.
Over 150 national forests were established across the United States to conserve valuable resources like water, timber, and wildlife.
The White Mountains National Forest has over 1,200 miles of hiking trails, 67 lakes, alpine skiing areas, and is a habitat for moose and other large game.
Visitors to the national forest often go camping, fishing, mountain biking, or take scenic drives to see the fall foliage. In the winter months, the forest is even open for people to cut down their own Christmas tree with a permit.
Winter sports like snowboarding, sledding, and snowshoeing are also very popular besides traditional hiking.
What’s the most popular feature of the White Mountains? It’s home to 48 peaks over 4,000 feet of elevation. Hiking enthusiasts call it “the grid” and have made it their mission to hike every single one.
The hikes are often done in conditions that are cold and harsh, yet they remain one thing most visitors want to try at least once. The White Mountains really has something for everyone.
Selecting the Right Hike for Your Experience Level
While hiking is a fun way to connect with nature, it can also be dangerous if a hiker isn’t prepared for the trail they choose. The first thing you should do before planning any hiking trip is to be honest with yourself. What can you realistically handle?
Assess your own hiking experience, personal fitness, and mental toughness. The good news is the White Mountains offers trails for all experience levels.
Hiking experts recommend starting on the northern side of the Lincoln Brook Trail to avoid the crowds. On that side, you’ll enjoy calm streams and have more quiet time to yourself.
Anyone seeking a moderate challenge can try out the 1,000 foot Coppermine Trail. It’s described as a pleasant, isolated hike that ends at Bridal Veil Falls.
For beginner hikers or those with small children, look at the easy options like the Mountain Pond Loop Trail. There is no elevation change on this 2.7-mile trail. You’ll get wonderful views of the Doublehead Mountains and maybe see some wildlife on the way.
Stock up on Essential Hiking Supplies
Having the right supplies can make all of the difference when you’re hiking. Being stocked up is even more essential if you plan on tackling one of the 4,000 footers.
What items are needed if you hike in the White Mountains? Here are must-have hiking supplies according to the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department:
- Map and compass
- Long pants, jacket, and hat
- Extra food and water
- First aid kit
- Rain gear
- Pocket knife
They also recommend bug spray, sunglasses, and sunscreen for summer hikes. Over the winter you’ll want insulated coats, gloves, and boots. Overnight camping trips will require tents, sleeping bags, toothbrushes, water purification tablets, and other camping gear.
Much of what you need will depend on what time of year you go hiking and what trail you select.
Expert hikers who plan to go above the tree line will need crampons, ice axes, goggles, snow shovels, and more. If you’re having a hard time deciding what you need, reach out to a park ranger for some advice.
Safety Tips: Know the Weather & Use a Trail Map
Once you’ve decided where you’re going to hike in the White Mountains National Forest, and you’ve collected all of your supplies, the last step is to do your research and make a plan.
Study the weather and know the extended forecast. You can expect it to be cold and snowy at 4,000 feet but the last thing you want to encounter is an unexpected storm. Speak to a ranger or hiking expert about the best time to visit the national forest.
Make a hiking plan and leave it with someone who isn’t with you in case you don’t come back. It should include your selected trail, when you left, and what time you are expected back. Avoid hiking alone if you can help it and bring a fully charged cellphone in case of an emergency.
Purchase and use a trail map to ensure you don’t get lost. Topographic maps can show you the number of miles between points of interest like visitor centers, campgrounds, or lookout towers. Keep in mind that GPS devices often malfunction in the wilderness, so carry a trail map and trusty compass.
These printed maps are available for most protected lands and natural attractions.
Ready To Hit the Grid?
You should be ready to hike the White Mountains National Forest after reading this article. Remember to choose a trail that you can handle, stock up with the right supplies, and make a comprehensive hiking plan.
Having a forest map will keep you on track during your expedition. Map-N-Hike offers a wide selection of folding, wall, and travel maps. Our National Geographic Trail Maps cover the most popular forests and parks, and our city destination maps will be handy on your next vacation.
Start browsing our national park maps today!