New Hampshire is home to some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the country, and you don’t have to travel all the way to the White Mountains to experience it. There are several hiking trails not too far from the Merrimack Valley to fulfill seekers of the great outdoors — from summits on the “52 With a View” list, frequently referred to as “52WAV,” to walks along waterscapes. Here is a list of 10 trails in southern New Hampshire to hike this spring and summer.
Mount Cardigan via West Ridge Trail in Orange
This resilient southwest peak survived glacial plucking and a fire in 1855 that destroyed all of the plants in the area — making this mountain’s rugged, exposed summit feel above the tree line. The easiest and most popular route is West Ridge Trail, which starts at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Cardigan Lodge. Watch the forest shift from beech and maple trees to smaller and tougher spruce and balsam firs as you make your way to the summit, where Camel’s Hump and the mountains of Wapack Range can be seen. Click for more >
Difficulty: moderate; Length: 2.7 miles round trip; Elevation:
3,155 feet; Elevation gain: 1,194 feet.
White Cliff Overlook via Summit Trail in Newbury
Bring your family on an excursion to the beautiful Lake Solitude by Mount Sunapee. On a summer day, the forest comes alive with the sparkling lake and trees shining in the sun. This easy but engaging climb will bring you and your family over White Ledges and down to the edge of the lake, which sits in the crater of a historic volcano. Eat lunch on the ledges as you overlook the lake before stopping at Lake Sunapee State Beach on your way home. Click for more >
Difficulty: easy; Length: 6.4 miles out and back; Elevation gain:
Crotched Mountain via Shannon’s Trail in Greenfield
Ascend this family-friendly mountain and enjoy the multiple outlooks from observation decks along the way. Experience different angles of Monadnock in the distance, all while passing peaceful meadows, boulders, and hemlock and spruce trees. There is a bit of rock scrambling near the summit that is well worth the views of lakes and the vibrant sunset in the west. Click for more >
Difficulty: easy; Length: 3.4 miles out and back; Elevation: 2,066 feet; Elevation gain: 833 feet.
South Mountain via Mountain Trail to Tower Trail in Nottingham
Immerse yourself in the dense landscape of Pawtuckaway State Park by ascending South Mountain. The “ring dike” that forms the Pawtuckaway Mountains was sculpted by volcanic activity many millions of years ago. Within the forest, you’ll pass both Beaver Pond and Mountain Pond, meadows, and a diverse array of tree species — from hemlock to maple to oak. Observe Pawtuckway Lake in the distance, mountains such as the Uncanoonucs, and Boston — all from the fire tower on the summit. Click for more >
Difficulty: easy; Length: 5 miles out and back; Elevation: 908 feet; Elevation gain: 803 feet; this park charges fees.
Wildcat Falls Conservation Area via Wildcat Falls Trail in Merrimack
Venture on a short but worthwhile getaway to the wonderful Wildcat Falls and go for a swim. Catch glimpses of the Souhegan River before reaching this spot in Wildcat Falls Conservation Area. If you’re lucky, you’ll observe American kestrels and find wild blueberries in to pick. Be sure to treat yourself to some lobster at The Lobster Boat restaurant on your way home. Click for more >
Difficulty: easy; Length: 2.2-mile loop; Elevation gain: 95 feet; parking is limited.
Mount Monadnock via White Dot and White Cross Trails in Jaffrey
Millions of years ago, one of the most popular mountains to hike in the world was formed by metamorphic rock, which rose above the sea to form this isolated, yet strong peak. Monadnock offers breathtaking 360-degree views of all six New England states; Boston and Mount Washington can be spotted on a clear day. Experience a landscape that has inspired writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and local hikers alike. Click for more >
Difficulty: moderate; Length: 3.8-mile loop; Elevation: 3,165 feet; Elevation gain: 1,774 feet; this peak requires reservations and charges fees.
Little Boar’s Head Seaside Trail in North Hampton
Venture to the coast to experience both luxury and natural beauty all in one. This short stroll is perfect for the beach bum who also craves a bit of adventure. Watch gentle waves crash against the shore as you walk past magnificent homes. Be sure to stop at Secret Spot for an acai bowl or wrap to refuel — it’s open May through October. Click for more >
Difficulty: easy; Length: 3.1 miles out and back; Elevation gain:
68 feet; this beach has parking fees.
Mount Kearsarge via Winslow Trail in North Sutton
Immerse yourself in the forest of this southwest peak, where wood was collected to build the USS Kearsarge during the Civil War. Less than a century earlier, a forest fire exposed the summit — providing 360-degree views of surrounding peaks, such as Mount Cardigan and the Green Mountains in Vermont. During the warmer months, you may spot beautiful pink rhodora flowers near the top. Click for more >
Difficulty: hard; Length: 1.9-mile loop; Elevation: 2,937 feet; Elevation gain: 1,066 feet.
Cow Lane to Eastman Meadow Trail in Hollis
Take in the simple beauty of nature as you walk past gentle streams, over boardwalks to bridges, and alongside a pond, where beavers may be spotted. You’ll be surrounded by American beech as you step through the forest. Prepare for this peaceful trek by stopping at Parker’s Maple Barn — whether you are craving maple coffee, comforting pancakes, or a unique gift from the shop! Click for more >
Difficulty: easy; Length: 1.9-mile loop; Elevation gain: 150 feet.
Mount Pitcher Trail in Stoddard
Go on a journey to this quiet hidden gem, which features raspberries and blueberries near the summit in July, and Saint-John’s-wort wildflowers in August. Be guided by a wide dirt path that eventually turns into an open field. From the top, you may see the Green Mountains, Wapack Range, or Mount Lafayette on a clear day. Click for more >
Difficulty: easy to moderate; Length: 0.6 miles out and back; Elevation: 2,153 feet; Elevation gain: 242 feet.