Top Ten Day Hikes in New England - Page 2

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Fall leaves and clouds in New Hampshire's White Mountains National Forest
Fall leaves in New Hampshire's White Mountains National Forest  (Tony Sweet/Digital Vision/Getty)

5. Race Brook Trail
8-mile circuit on the Appalachian Trail, MA
Summit two of Massachusetts's highest mountains and take a spectacular ridge walk on the Appalachian Trail, where the entire southern Berkshire Valley lies beneath your feet. Start your walk along Race Brook, which starts gradually but soon becomes an uphill test. Cross Race Brook Falls on a bridge made from tree trunks and, at the two-mile mark, continue on the Appalachian Trail. You'll be clambering up the steep, rocky ledges that lead to the peak of 2,624-foot Mount Everett. Exquisite views of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts open up as you reach the lookout tower. This is the perfect place to have lunch and re-energize before climbing down the rocks and attempting your second ascent of the day to the summit of 2,365-foot Mount Race. Once on top, head south on the AT toward Bear Rock Falls for an exhilarating ridge walk, which reconnects with the Race Brook Trail for the descent.

4. Mount Jefferson
6.5-mile circuit in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, NH
The climb to the third-largest mountain in New England, 5,715-foot Mount Jefferson, awaits on one of the most exhilarating loops in the White Mountains' Presidential Range. Almost half of the 6.5-mile hike is above tree line, offering stunning vistas of that large glacial cirque, the Great Gulf, and the backside of mighty Mount Washington. You start in Jefferson Notch on the Caps Ridge Trail, a complex series of ledges and scrambles that take you straight up some 2,700 feet. Leave the evergreens behind as you ascend the second jagged ledge, where you feel like you're touching the sky. Practically speaking, you're completely exposed to the elements from here on in, too, so be damn sure there's no sign of rain or high winds. If there is, turn back. Descend from the second cap and you'll soon pass the Cornice Trail, ascending three more crests before you actually summit. Atop the peak, pat yourself on the back for your Jeffersonian accomplishment and look around you at the Great Gulf sloping toward Mount Washington, Mount Adams, and Mount Madison to the northeast. To head down, turn north on the Castle Trail and follow the cairns along a series of ledges. You descend steeply over the rock slabs before turning left on the Link Trail. Now below tree line, walk through the evergreen forest back to Jefferson Notch.
Check out our profile of Mount Jefferson—and add to it—in our Trail Finder Wiki

3. Champlain Mountain
2.2-mile circuit in Acadia National Park, ME
The Bear Brook Trail to the summit of Champlain Mountain is one of those amazing climbs where you are always spinning around to see the view behind you. In this case, the view comprises expansive Frenchman Bay, which surrounds Acadia National Park. With every step upward, there seems to be yet another green island to ponder among the archipelago of islets below. The climb to the relatively low 1,058-foot peak is not effortless, however, with a rock-littered trail keeping you honest on the ascent. At the 1.1-mile mark, you can see the lighthouse on Egg Rock, the town of Bar Harbor, and a tiny pond to your left known as The Tarn. You may discover that the Precipice Trail (the more commonly used route to the summit) is closed due to nesting peregrine falcons. Don't fret. It's easier to see these incredible birds from the Precipice Trail parking lot on the Park Loop, less than a mile from where your car is parked, either before or after you conquer the summit.
Check out our profile of Champlain Mountain—and add to it—in our Trail Finder Wiki

2. Basin-Cascades Trail
3.6-mile circuit in White Mountain National Forest, NH
One of the most meditative spots in New England sits atop the Basin-Cascades Trail, a short hike, yet worlds away from the nearby parking lot. Start by walking along the rolling brook for a mile, and then join the crowds at the basin down at the bottom. Called a pothole by geologists, the basin is a granite pool measuring 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep, formed by a melting ice sheet 15,000 years ago. When Henry David Thoreau saw this spot in 1839, he said that "this pothole is perhaps the most remarkable curiosity of its kind in New England." Stroll uphill and you'll find the large sign for the Basin-Cascades Trail. A web of extended roots jutting out from hemlock, maple, beech, and yellow birch trees combines with the ubiquitous White Mountains rock to make maneuvering tricky at times. The trail meanders along the brook, passing Kinsman Falls, before crossing the rocks to reach the far side. Soon you'll reach Rocky Glen Falls and a chasm of rock that forms a chute up to the top of the trail. Here, the stress of modernity is flushed away with the drumbeat of the falling waters.

1. The Presidentials' Southern Peaks
8.5-mile one-way in White Mountain National Forest, NH
If you have an extra car to spare, this 8.5-mile one-way route is one of the finest day hikes in the Whites. You'll be bagging four of the southern Presidentials—Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower, and Pierce—while straying above tree line for almost half of the trek. Take the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail through a forest of spruce and fir as it snakes along a river of the same name. About an hour in, you'll see a waterfall and cross a stream. As the evergreens get smaller, the trail becomes more strenuous, with views of Mount Washington appearing to your left. Three miles in, you reach the Appalachian Mountain Club's Lakes of the Clouds Hut, a good place to check the weather before heading south on the Crawford Path. If the report looks good, continue on the white blazes that make up the Appalachian Trail. As you approach Mount Monroe, turn right onto the Mount Monroe Loop to reach the 5,372-foot summit for wonderful views back down at the Lakes of the Clouds. Then continue on the Mount Monroe Loop to rejoin the Crawford Path heading south. Next up: 5,001-foot Mount Franklin and Mount Eisenhower's round dome. The Eisenhower Loop Trail brings you to the summit. If bad weather starts to rear its ugly face, take the Edmands Path back down to Mount Clinton Road. Like the Mount Monroe Loop, the Eisenhower Loop catches up with the Crawford Path as it heads south for one more mile before reaching 4,312-foot Mount Pierce. Turn left on the Webster Cliff Trail and you'll the reach the level summit shortly. Then it's back to the Crawford Path for a gradual 3.1-mile descent through the spruce and hardwoods.

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