Hiking in the White Mountains is an experience without parallel. Waterfalls, rocky peaks, wildlife, and misty forests are just some of what you can expect, in addition to the tranquility and satisfaction that comes with great hiking. New Hampshire has hundreds of hikable mountains, and some stand taller than the rest. The 4,000 footers are a list of the tallest mountains in New Hampshire. Hiking the list is a great goal for hikers of all experience levels, and a great way to experience the range of beautiful trails and mountains that the Whites offer.
In total, there are 48 peaks on the 4,000 footer list. In order to officially count a peak as “summited”, you must ascend on foot from an official trailhead and descend on foot back to an official trailhead. The hikes range in length from just a few miles, to over 20. The hikes will take you across rivers and bogs, over log bridges and boulders, through thick forests and rocky ridges. There is an official 4,000 Footer club which you can apply for membership in after completing the list, which has an annual meeting and inducts new members.
The 4,000 footers range greatly in difficulty – there are a few which are considered moderate, but most pose a challenge, especially for those new to hiking. Your first few hikes will always be tough, but tackling a few shorter journeys will boost your confidence, give you a chance to try out your gear, and get you in great condition for the list. For a very easy introduction with great payoff, check out Sabbaday Falls or Champney Falls. Next, Boulder Loop is a 3.2 mile trail that has a nice ledge to rest on at the top. From there, move up to Mt. Hedgehog, a roughly 5-mile loop with great views and amazing ledges. You’re now ready for South Moat, a slightly longer and steeper trail with incredible 360 degree views of the valley below. Finally, summit Mt. Chocorua, one of the finest peaks in the Valley, and one which comes in JUST UNDER 4,000 feet in elevation. If you can climb Chocorua, you’re more than ready to start in on the 4,000 footers.
Starting The List
Once you’re in good shape and familiar with your gear, it’s time to kick off The List! For a great first hike in the Presidential Range (the range that includes Mt. Washington), try Mt. Jackson. It sits on the southern end of the range and can be hiked from the parking area near the AMC’s Highland Center. The hike takes a few hours and offers fantastic views along the way. Round it off with lunch at the Highland Center! Mt. Pierce is another great first Presidential. For a nice warm-up off the Kancamagus, try Mt. Tecumseh. This hike doesn’t have an unobstructed view, but it does offer a glimpse from the top in one direction, and is a nice, moderate climb. Osceola is another nearby option.
Everyone has their personal favorite peak, but there are a few standouts that are high on everyone’s list. The hike across Franconia Ridge, which connects Mt. Lafayette and Mt. Lincoln, is a stunning experience, especially on a clear day. The Presidentials are also standouts; Mt. Washington is unique in that it has a very developed summit, including an observatory, and the surrounding rocky peaks are starkly beautiful. The Wildcats and Tripyramids are known for their steep and rocky sections, and some summits are more infamous than enjoyed, such as Owl’s Head, which is a long, flat hike with no view. Each hike and peak is a unique experience well worth your time, and completing the list is a major accomplishment!
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