What makes hiking in this area so different than hiking in the Southwest, or further south on the Appalachian Trail, or in the great forests of California? Most might cite the geographic diversity, the way you’re able to venture from thick forestry to exposed rocky cliffs in a matter of minutes. Others will tell you it’s because many trails are so accessible to the public and don’t necessitate driving hours away from home. Some talk about the history often depicted alongside the trails.
No matter why you choose to hike in New England, you’ll find the experience to be unlike any other, and these ten hiking trails show you exactly why.
Whether you prefer packing light and hitting trails in the summer sun or enjoy soldering through crisp winter frosts, this list has something for you. Be warned – some of these spots might be a bit more challenging than others, so always check with local park officials regarding potential hazards and trail conditions, especially during winter months.
Presidential Traverse, Presidential Range – Gorham, NH
The first thing people will tell you about this trail is that it’s a rugged challenge. The second thing they’ll tell you is that it’s a beautiful challenge. Presidential Traverse is a 19.8-mile (or 21.7, if you count Mt. Jackson, which is actually named after a geologist, not the president) span above the tree line. Most will hike it start in the north and going south because the northern end is rockier.
Although it’s an all season trail, caution is highly recommended year-round. Many have died due to hazardous conditions, even during the summer.
White Dot Trail, Mt. Monadnock State Park – Jaffrey, NH
Leading to the top of Monadnock State Park’s namesake and a National Natural Landmark, Mount Monadnock’s White Dot Trail is a relatively short route to the summit at just 1.9-miles, but you’ll want to budget at least three hours for a round trip because it gets steep in the middle. You can extend this trail by breaking off of it onto White Cross Trail.
Tuckerman Trail, Mount Washington – Sargent’s Purchase, NH
A trail popular with tourists, Tuckerman Ravine Trail leads to the highest point in New England, and has a slew of attractions surrounding it. If you’re seeking serenity, you won’t find it here. But if you’re introducing your family to hiking, there are few places in the New England area which marry pedestrian hiking with addictive views and shuttle, in case you’re too beat once you make it to the top.
Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Bunker Meadows Trail – Topsfield, MA
Looking for an easy romp in Topsfield? Look no further than the Bunker Meadows Trail. Follow it to the end and you’ll be led to an observation tower that overlooks the Ipswich River. Because it’s close to the river, if you’re quiet and patient, you’ll be able to see the Ipswich’s otters frolicking along the banks.
Skyline Trail, Middlesex Fells Reservation – Stoneham, MA
South of Stoneham and between the town of Winchester and Spot Pond, you’ll find Middlesex Fells Reservation’s Skyline Trail, a single-track, 7.5-mile oasis within the suburbs of Boston. Its location makes it a great weekend getaway and the stern outcrops along the trail place it in the realm of moderate to easy.
Stay alert — it’s fairly easy to wander off the trail and onto one of the parallel trails if you don’t follow the white markings closely enough. It’s also common to stumble upon a few wild turkeys and deer.
Emerald Necklace – Boston, MA
A 32-mile loop just a 20-minute drive outside of Boston, Emerald Necklace is a great trail to take on piecemeal. You’ll find many of Boston’s residents escaping to here on the weekends; if you have time and want solitude, try coming here during the week to experience the trail with just its birds.
After finishing Emerald Necklace, be sure to take a stroll through Boston as well to compliment your hiking with a plethora of things to do in the city, whether you’re just looking to eat or you’re in the mood for shopping.
Marginal Way – Ogunquit, ME
Just south of Israels Head and along Maine’s coast, Marginal Way is a destination beloved by residents and visitors alike. It’s a simple one-mile path along the margin of the sea featuring wedding-perfect beaches. Travel far enough and you’ll hit the shops and restaurants of Perkins Cove, as well as the two-mile-long Ocean Path leading to Acadia National Park. Together, the two make a great day-hike for couples or solo travelers escaping crushing city crowds.
Ladder Trails, Acadia National Park – Bar Harbor, ME
Just one of Acadia’s many trails, you’ll find that the Ladder Trail loop — an advanced, 3.3-mile loop of dirt and forest floor — is a worthy challenge with great rewards for those that embark upon it. The trail’s ladders lead to the summit of Dorr Mountain, as well as brilliant views of Mount Desert and Bar Harbor’s islands.
Sunset Ridge Trail, Mount Mansfield – Underhill, VT
The Green Mountains’ Mount Mansfield as many trails leading to the peak, but the Sunset Ridge Trail’s view of the summit ridgeline is unlike any other. Peer closely and you’ll be able to make out a human profile and see the summit’s “nose” and “chin.” Sunset Ridge, a strenuous, full-day, 6-mile round-trip hike, isn’t for the faint of heart (or legs). As the trail breaks out of the trees and onto a rocky ridge, hikers are offered unobstructed views that are great for pictures, but not so great for those who are afraid of heights. It’s a good idea to pack a poncho too, as the greater portion of the trail is exposed
Weathersfield Trail, Mount Ascutney – Weathersfield, VT
The most trafficked trail in Ascutney State Park, Weathersfield Trail has a wealth of features to delight hikers, including picturesque views, colorful foliage, great picnic spots, vistas, fungi, and waterfalls. Don’t be fooled by the scenic nature though – this trail’s a tough 5.2 miles. The rocks near the waterfalls are slippery, and though it’s well marked and maintained, some parts of the trail are rather steep, with roots and rocks presenting as obstacles.
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