For many people, hiking is a three-season pursuit. If this is you, your time to shine is starting soon (time to get in shape). Many folks — some call themselves “peakbaggers” — will begin or continue working on their “lists.” Here in New Hampshire that more-than-likely means the 48 4000-footers as identified by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) (see updates). There are other lists, the New England 67, the 52 With a View, and several others, but it’s those forty-eight 4000-footers that receive the bulk of the attention. If that’s the list you’re working on, or about to begin working on, this article — this guide — is meant for you.
About The Mountains
What is a 4000-Footer?
Before we get started, let’s talk about what defines these peaks. There are more peaks in the White Mountains that exceed 4000, even 5000-feet, that do not qualify. This is because these peaks lack prominence, requiring a minimum of 200-feet. Or as the AMC puts it:
To qualify for the list, a peak must rise 200 feet above any ridge connecting it to a higher neighbor. As a result, several notable peaks (including Clay, Guyot, and the south peak of Moosilauke) are not included on the lists, despite their height. Determinations are made according to the most current USGS topographical maps and peaks have been added to or deleted from the lists as newer maps became available. […] —4000-Footer Committee
To their examples you can also add Boott Spur (it is recognized as a separate summit to some, such as the Trailwrights and their list, for example), Gulf (Slide) Peak, North Isolation, Sam Adams, John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams, Adams 5, Mt Hight, North Carter, Wildcat C and B, Lethe, Blue, Jim, South Tripyramid, Northwest Hancock, Franklin, Little Haystack, Truman, Southwest Twin, and others we’re probably forgetting.
The Mountains that Qualify
Here is a list of the mountains, shown from tallest to shortest, complete with a few briefing notes on each. Each mountain name in the list links to a specific page on the 4000-footers.com site (not AMC) with more detailed information. You’ll want to read each page thoroughly, and be sure to get a map (and know how to use it) before hiking any of them.
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The 4000-Footers of New Hampshire
- #1. Mt Washington: 6,288′
- As the tallest peak in the northeast, and being that it has both train and auto access, it is very popular and very busy in the height of the season. For that reason we recommend hiking this mountain in the fall, being very careful to pick the right day in terms of weather. A winter ascent is also a great way to go, but can be particularly dangerous so it’s best to be with someone who has done it in winter conditions before. Many people will save Mt Washington for last and it’s a fine choice for that. We really like the Boott Spur Trail (info), even though the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail is shorter and considerably easier albeit steep. There are other options, too, even technical routes so do your homework before you go. This peak would have 360° views but the buildings get in the way. It’s unfortunate, though historic, but it does allow mountain access to non-hikers.
- #2. Mt Adams: 5,797′
- The previously mentioned mountain is a city compared to the backcountry feel of Mt Adams. Its summit is seemingly remote and a highly exposed cone — the 360° views are amazing. We suggest fall for this one, too, because the summit of Adams is buggy much of the summer. Literally. Not biting insects, but they can be annoying. One of our favorite trails is Airline Trail since it offers great views. There are other exciting trails, but they might not be suitable for beginners due to their roughness or exposure.
- #3. Mt Jefferson: 5,713′
- Unlike the other northern Presidential peaks, Mt Jefferson, which also offers fine 360° views, is instantly more accessibile in the summer via Jefferson Notch Road (seasonal) thanks to the close reach and high 3009′ start of the Caps Ridge Trail. Bear in mind this trail is rugged and tricky in places, scrambles, but most of the tougher sections can be skirted. Save this one until after you have some experience on rock, but we strongly recommend this quickly gratifying and exhilarating trail. Not a bad finisher.
- #4. Mt Monroe: 5,369′
- This is another one of our favorites. So rugged and stout, the push to the summit — which like most of the Presidentials offers fine 360° views — is fairly easy. We suggest taking the steep Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail for this one and doing it anytime after the snow has melted and the water crossings should be easy to manage. If using the “Ammo” to access Mt Washington, #1 above, it’s very common to grab this one along the way.
- #5. Mt Madison: 5,363′
- Many head up Valley Way to grab this shorter northern Presidential peak, but our suggestion is to take this one via the Daniel Webster Scout Trail (doing this one anytime the Dolly Copp Campground is open, since that’s how you access the trailhead), and there are other good choices up from the east as well. Often folks will combine this peak with Adams, #2 above. It’s okay to get creative. Remember to spot a car, if need be.
- #6. Mt Lafayette: 5,242′
- This is the crowning gem of Franconia Ridge and the tallest peak on that side of the White Mountains. With its 360° views it is a very popular destination so expect lots of people up there. Inasmuch, this may be a good mountain to try for in the off hours, starting before sun up, for example. Thus, wait until you have some experience. We really like the Skookumchuck Trail since fewer travel that way and many moose live in the vicinity. That said, if like most, you’ll do this one as part of a loop with the next peak on the list.
- #7. Mt Lincoln: 5,080′
- This is another gem on the Franconia Ridge also boasting 360° views. This peak is generally hiked as a loop using Falling Waters Trail to Little Haystack, then Lincoln, Truman or North Lincoln, then Lafayette, #6 above. Either direction works. Not a good choice for high water days, though. Like Mt Lafayette, expect lots of people so choose your day and time wisely to beat the rush if you want solitude.
- #8. South Twin Mtn: 4,899′
- This mountain may feel more remote that anything covered on this list so far, and that’s because it is. Its northern twin is miles from a fire road that stands between it and civilization. Some, in fact, will hike the Twins together using the North Twin Trail and North Twin Spur while getting North Twin Mountain, #12 below. Others will do this one with Galehead Mtn, #44 below. In any case, expect a full day choosing one with clear skies and good weather because of the 360° views. And be sure water levels are low as you will have crossings to deal with. We think this is another fine one to finish on. As is the case with North Twin, access to the trailhead, via Haystack Road, is seasonal (in the off season most use Little River Road then bushwhack).
- #9. Carter Dome: 4,840′
- Carter Dome has a nice western viewpoint, but it’s its nearest neighbor Mt Height we really like best for views and recommend seeing it while you’re there. Most people will start on 19-mile Brook Trail to get to Carter Dome but we might suggest to a friend to take the Wildcat River Trail to Carter Notch then summit via the Carter-Moriah Trail. It’s steep so save it for a cooler, dryer late summer or fall day. Some folks combine it with the Wildcats or Carters, while others do it all, both ranges in one shot.
- #10. Mt Moosilauke: 4,800′
- Due to proximity and its fine reputation for its amazing 360° views, many start with this peak. We’re not opposed to that, it’s a fine choice. Due to the vast exposed summit, though, pick your days wisely. As far as trails, we think Gorge Brook is a good choice for first timers making it a loop via the Carriage Road and Snapper Trails. Do be sure to explore the South Peak via its 0.1 mile spur when passing by the Glencliff Trail junction.
- #11. Mt Eisenhower: 4,763′
- This exposed dome of rock with 360° views is a great late spring destination. Some will make a loop with Monroe, #4 above, and/or Pierce, #26 below, but if looking to take the direct approach, and a fine one at that, we suggest Edmand’s Path from Mt Clinton Road. Please note, that you do not need to climb the summit cairn to make it count. In fact, you’re encouraged not to do that on any mountain with exception to South Kinsman, #22 below, whose cairn is a throne you may sit on, and on Mt Hale, #38 below, which offers an iron-containing heap of rock.
- #12. North Twin Mtn: 4,759′
- Most folks will get this on their way to South Twin, #8 above, unless they are hitting that via their Galehead Mtn hike, #44 below. In any case, most will access or use the North Twin Trail to “bag” this peak. The views from the two viewpoints, while not complete, are pretty stunning. Do beware the crossing(s) on the North Twin Trail so do this one during the height of summer. Please note that access to the trailhead, via Haystack Road, is seasonal (in the off season most use Little River Road then bushwhack).
- #13. Mt Bond: 4,696′
- This is one of the most remote peaks and because of this, it is also one of the later peaks to be finished. Often, that is accomplished after snagging West Bond, #16 below, and on the way to Bondcliff, #30 below, which is an extremely popular finisher. By New Hampshire standards this peak is out there so build yourself up to it, it is a long day (or overnight). Do, however, brace yourself for stunning 360° views. To get there, at some point you’ll be on Bondcliff Trail. In any case, a north to south traverse is the easiest way, but this means that access is via the seasonal Zealand Road. Car-spot needed.
- #14. Mt Carrigain: 4,680′
- This is probably one of the more popular finishers courtesy of its stunning 360° views thanks to a two story observation deck. There are some really long, challenging ways to get to this isolated peak, but the most common approach and the one we’ll recommend is via the Signal Ridge Trail. The trail’s namesake ridge is a destination unto itself with its jaw-dropping vistas. Like many of the 48, Sawyer River Road used to access the trailhead is seasonal.
- #15. Middle Carter Mtn: 4,624′
- It is more than likely you’ll take this mountain on the same day as you take South Carter, #19 below, in which case we suggest taking them via the north leg of the Imp Trail to the North Carter Trail before making the ridge. This mountain, honestly, doesn’t have a lot going on for itself, though it is a nice hike. If water levels are low, we suggest checking this one once early on in your pursuit.
- #16. West Bond Mtn: 4,518′
- Refer to Mt Bond, #13 above, then add this: many people will tent/shelter at the Guyot (Gēē-ōh, with a hard G) Camspite and enjoy a sunset dinner on this mountain with its 360° views, bagging the other Bonds the following morning. It’s a fine plan that we can certainly support. We suggest you try it. Access is via the West Bond Spur.
- #17. Mt Garfield: 4,501′
- Here’s another mountain offering some jaw-dropping 360° views, and you can take them in from the comfort and safety of a concrete “playpen” (an old tower foundation). Garfield is another peak that should be done when it’s a bit dryer, but it’s not super difficult and can be done fairly early on in your pursuit. The recommended route to this mountain, at least the first time, is via the Garfield Trail (note: the trailhead’s access road, Gale River Road, is seasonal).
- #18. Mt Liberty: 4,457′
- Many will summit this one twice as they go out and back from Mt Flume, #23 below, bagging both peaks via the Liberty Spring Trail. That said, if it’s a dry day and you’re not afraid of some scrambles, going up via the Flume Slide Trail is more fun, then go down Liberty Spring Trail to form a loop. Mt Liberty is a good early- to middle-of-the-effort peak (depending on how to go) and like so many, also offers 360° views.
- #19. South Carter Mtn: 4,445′
- Like Middle Carter, #15 above, this peak doesn’t offer a lot. We suggest getting this one done sooner rather than later. See #15 for our suggested route beginning on the Imp Trail (expect fine views on Imp Face, by the way, as well as corridor views on the ridge).
- #20. Wildcat Mountain (A Peak): 4,399′
- Lots of people will hike this mountain via the Polecat Ski Trail. Unless you’re really quite shaky and unsure on your feet, we suggest otherwise, please. We recommend taking this peak along with the D Peak, #39 below, in one go via the Wildcat Ridge Trail. Start at the Glen Ellis Falls lot during a dry period in the summer so you can cross the Ellis River safely. Enjoy exposed scrambles and fine views on the way up. On A Peak itself, or right next to it rather, you will enjoy stunning views to the east peering into Carter Notch and Carter Dome, #9 above. Descend to the 19-Mile Brook or Wildcat River Trails (car-spot needed).
- #21. Mt Hancock (North Peak): 4,398′
- We suggest taking this peak with its one south-facing viewpoint just before you bag its southern brother, #31 below, and we suggest doing so, thanks to numerous crossings on Hancock Notch and Cedar Brook Trails, during a dry spell about early to midway though your effort. Use these trails to access the Hancock Loop Trail, which we suggest you hike in a clockwise manner (our standard route). Note that both legs on the loop itself are very steep.
- #22. South Kinsman Mtn: 4,356′
- While this mountain lacks that remote feel, or we think so, anyway, it does offer some fine 360° views, though most of your attention will likely be eastward, looking toward Franconia Ridge. We like doing this one with North Kinsman, #28 below, and we think that starting on the Mt Kinsman Trail from the west is a good choice. That said, there’s nothing wrong with the eastern approaches either, though you might note more traffic noise from I-93. There are two equal summits maybe 100 yards apart. You don’t have to get them both, but we suggest you do it anyway. You went that far, you may as well do the rest.
- #23. Mt Flume: 4,329′
- Getting this cool summit of grand west views via the Flume Slide Trail is a lot of fun in the right conditions (dry), if you like some scrambles. When doing so, we suggest getting Mt Liberty, #18 above, too, then descending via the Liberty Spring Trail. Otherwise, many will get it from the other direction as an out-and-back.
- #24. Mt Osceola: 4,328′
- The summit is the site of two old structures and offers plenty of rock slab to relax on as well as sweeping views to the east and a limited north-facing portal at the actual summit. Many grab this along with East Osceola, #33 below, but grabbing this one from Tripoli Road (seasonal) via the Mt Osceola Trail is our choice if you wish to avoid a small, exposed chimney climb. There is a bypass to this, but it, too, is exposed. This is actually a decent starter mountain if not grabbing both summits. Otherwise, wait a bit to gain scrambling skills and confidence.
- #25. Mt Field: 4,325′
- The views aren’t sweeping from this peak, but the outlook offers fine rewards. We suggest getting this mountain along with Mt Willey (not Wiley like the coyote), #27 below, first, via the Willey Range Trail (starting on the Kedron Flume Trail). Many will also grab Mt Tom, #41 below, while doing this, and looking at the map you’ll see how this makes sense. This is a good one for earlier in the season thanks to tiny crossings, if ready for this hike’s length. Car-spot needed if hiking a traverse.
- #26. Mt Pierce: 4,313′
- This has always been a starter peak recommendation for several reasons which we will cover in more detail later in this guide. The summit is exposed to the north and offers fine views of the other southern Presidentials as well as Mt Washington. The typical way to go is via Crawford Path (the oldest continually used hiking path in the United States). This is a good one to get done very early in the season, though understand that there may be ice and snow well into the spring and that traction like Microspikes, and even snowshoes, may be needed.
- #27. Mt Willey: 4,299′
- If following our recommended routing for Mt Field, #25 above, you’ll grab this peak at the start of your traverse of the range on the Willey Range Trail (starting on the Kedron Flume Trail). That said, there are a variety of ways to get this one done, some going out-and-back from Mt Field via Avalon Trail to avoid the need for a car-spot.
- #28. North Kinsman Mtn: 4,274′
- We essentially covered this one when we introduced South Kinsman, #22 above, suggesting the Mt Kinsman Trail as the start of the route, but we will add that there are east-facing views from an adjacent outlook. The south peak, however, is the more popular. Plan on doing both and it’s good to get them done sooner rather than later.
- #29. Mt Zealand: 4,264′
- The summit of this peak is a densely-wooded bump in the woods with a creative, hand-routed sign. It’s quite cozy and pretty, almost secretive, until a group of twelve come in to join you. Some folks will hike up Zealand Trail and take the beautiful Twinway Trail to take this peak (make sure you stop at the Zealcliff outlook), then return direction. It’s likely, however, that an even greater number visit the Zealand summit on their way to the Bonds (see above). Do note that Zealand Road, used for access from that direction, is seasonal.
- #30. Bondcliff Mtn: 4,263′
- This is the number one finisher some years. Understandably since it is an amazing destination with killer 360° views. It, too, like the other Bonds, seems remote and by New Hampshire standards, it really is. Please refer to Mt Bond and West Bond, #13 and #16 above, respectively, for info about routing (Bondcliff Trail) and access.
- #31. South Hancock Mtn: 4257′
- Refer to Mt Hancock (North Peak), #21 above, for details, likewise starting on the Hancock Notch Trail on a dry day. And we’ll also add that there are limited but stunning views to the north and east revealing Vose Spur and Mt Lowell as just two from a nearby outlook as well as a slot view over the steeply dropping trail to the west.
- #32. Mt Cabot: 4,161′
- First there’s a cabin, then an obvious high point with western and eastern views, but that’s not the summit. The summit is another 0.4 miles or so and there are no views. That’s okay. With the way we suggest, you will miss neither the views nor the summit. We suggest going up via the south leg of the Unknown Pond Trail where you’ll be primed to visit both The Horn and The Bulge off of the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. Want that remote, “moosey” feeling? It’s here. If you go this way there is only one tiny crossing off of Bunnell Notch Trail — your exit to make a near loop — but it can be pretty gnarly during high water. Otherwise, this one is a good early- to mid-season choice.
- #33. East Osceola Mtn: 4,161′
- Most will approach this summit from the Kancamaugus Highway using the Greeley Ponds Trail to the Mt Osceola Trail. From here many will go the extra mile and grab Mt Osceola, #24 above, as well, then reverse direction. Others will do it the other way. In any case, there is a tricky chimney so if doing both, be comfortable with scrambling and some exposure. Doing both would probably not be a good starter pair.
- #34. North Tripyramid Mtn: 4160′
- Depending on how you go, this mountain may involve trails with water crossings. Many in some cases, so dry weather will be your friend. All are fine options, but we’d suggest going in from the south on Livermore Trail, then hitting the Mt Tripyramid Trail up the “South Slide” bagging South Tripyramid first, then across to Middle Tripyramid, #35 below, before actually tagging this summit (north). The exit would be via the Scaur Ridge Trail (do not descend the “North Slide” on the Mt Tripyramid Trail). The truly adventurous may decide to do this in the other direction ascending the North Slide instead of Scaur Ridge, then going down the South Slide (both slides are on the Terrifying 25 list, but the South one is pretty easy and doable for most people.
- #35. Middle Tripyramid Mtn: 4,135′
- This peak, offering one limited eastern and a better western outlook, is accessed via the Mt Tripyramid Trail and is almost always combined with North Tripyramid Mtn, #34 above. For more details, please refer to that text.
- #36. Cannon Mtn: 4,083′
- We like accessing this mountain from the south using Lonesome Lake and the steep Hi-Cannon Trails, but there are other options. All offer some hefty challenges. Relentless steepness from the north on the Kinsman Ridge Trail (which offers some views), and a jumbled, rugged hike along the Kinsman Ridge from the southwest. The summit itself offers a tower with walk-around 360° views. There is also a graded tourist path encircling part of the summit that’s worth the time. This is a good early- to mid-season peak despite its toughness. Some folks finish on this one for reasons we’ll explain later in this guide.
- #37. Mt Passaconaway: 4,079′
- There are vistas west and east, and another you climb down to, but the Passaconway summit itself is in the woods, viewless. It’s a pretty mountain, though, with varied approaches. Taking it alone via Olivarian Brook Trail to the Passaconaway Cutoff is wild. That said, most will go via Rollins Trail coming from Mt Whiteface, #45 below, which does make that hike a lot safer. Also safer because there are fewer crossings, more people, and you’ll be less likely to miss the Whiteface summit… read on for more about that.
- #38. Mt Hale: 4,067′
- It’s about the hike, not the destination. The summit features very limited views for tall people who will stand on the jumbled pile of rocks on their tip-toes. The trip up, though, can be amazing if you take the Fire Warden’s Trail — which is no longer an actual trail. Otherwise, the Lend-A-Hand Trail (and out Zealand) is beautiful, especially for a descent (car spot needed). Most will simply take Hale Brook Trail, if just getting it done is your priority. Do your homework on this one… the Fire Warden’s non-trail is easy to follow as it winds through birch glades so it shouldn’t be intimidating. Due to the summit’s lack of appeal, it’s a good one to get out of the way early on — but not too early on thanks to seasonal road closures limiting access from any direction.
- #39. Wildcat Mtn (D Peak): 4,060′
- Some will tackle this peak alone using the Polecat Ski Trail, while others will do an out-and-back via “A Peak,” but as noted under Wildcat Mtn (A Peak), #20 above, we say wait until it’s dry in the mid- to late-season and you’re ready for it, and climb it via the Wildcat Ridge Trail. Plan a car spot at the end of 19-Mile Brook Trail for your exit, or even Wildcat River Trail. The views to the west from “D Peak,” thanks to a raised observation deck close to the ski area, are great (a scene like that shown in the photo above). Like Cannon, #36 above, some folks finish on this one for reasons we’ll explain later in this guide.
- #40. Mt Jackson: 4,052′
- This is a good one to get done early on. It’s steep and will work you, but it’s short and pretty rewarding. The typical approach is via the Jackson Branch of the Webster-Jackson Trail. The rocky summit provides walk around 360° views and, like Pierce, #26 above, it offers a glimpse of bigger things to come showing off the southern Presidentials and Mt Washington.
- #41. Mt Tom: 4,048′
- As was mentioned under Mt Field, #23 above, this peak is often done as part of a larger effort. That said, it is a decent early peak to test yourself on if you do it alone. To do so you’d probably head up the Avalon and A-Z Trails until you reach the Mt Tom Spur. The summit isn’t known for the views some others boast, but the west-facing vista is pretty sweet.
- #42. Mt Moriah: 4,047′
- At the end of the Carter-Moriah Range, this exposed peak offers some fine views, mostly notably into the Wild River valley and its vast Wilderness area. Some hike it with the Carters, #15 and #19 above, but even more tag it on its own. If getting it that way, we suggest approaching the ridge from the Stoney Brook Trail. Doing so sets the stage for an incredible edge-of-the-alpine approach followed by a fun scramble at the very end. One smaller crossing precludes doing this while it’s really wet, otherwise, attack when ready.
- #43. Mt Galehead: 4,029′
- Aside from the potentially tricky crossings and road access via Gale River Road being seasonal, this is a fairly easy one to get done earlier if doing it on its own via the Gale River Trail. Not a finisher by any means, and besides an east view mid-way up the wooded cone, Galehead doesn’t offer a lot. Some combine it with their capture of the Twins, #8 and #12 above, but that does involve a steep ascent.
- #44. Owls Head Mtn: 4,029′
- If you ask a lot of hikers what 4000-footers they liked least, many will answer with this one. It’s a long ways out with a somewhat boring approach, offers limited albeit stunning and unique views, and it can be tricky. Not an early season peak what with the significant crossings, two of which are avoidable by taking the Black Pond Trail then bushwhacking to Lincoln Brook Trail. Owls Head Path will gain you the ridge, then worn out human-made “herd paths” lead to the summit from there. Some folks put it off until last, putting it off over and over again — and it does have some fine qualities some appreciate — but we recommend getting this one out of the way mid-season when you’re strong and ready, and it’s been really dry for a long spell. Still, bring wading shoes like Crocs.
- #45. Mt Whiteface: 4,018′
- Arguably the best way to get to Whiteface is via the Blueberry Ledge Trail. It starts out a little slow but gets nicer as you climb until you finally get to the ledges. These can be intimidating scrambles for some and this trail is on the Terrifying 25 list, but wow it’s nice. Work your way up to it. Do be sure to continue past the large outlook ledge — what looks like the summit, complete with surveyor’s benchmarks — and initially head down Rollins Trail for 0.3 miles as that is where the actual Whiteface summit is… in the woods, marked by a trailside cairn. Many keep going to hit Passaconaway, #42 above, which offers a safer descent.
- #46. Mt Waumbek: 4,011′
- The only sensible way for a new peakbagger to reach this reach is by hiking Starr King Mtn via the Starr King Trail, then continuing on to the next mountain: Waumbek. The approach is easy, there are some views on Starr King at the summit, the woods between peaks is delightful, and there is another viewpoint to the south and east not far past the wooded, viewless Waumbek summit. This is accessed by starting down the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. This is a starter peak for some, and we certainly suggest getting it out of the way early on. It’s not a tough hike.
- #47. Mt Isolation: 4,004′
- This is another folks put off because it’s out there a bit, but it’s a great mountain, though, with amazing 360° views, most notably of the southern Presidentials, Mt Washington, and others that way. Fortunately, it’s finisher material, to be sure. The best way to get there, we think, is up the Glen Boulder Trail, to a over 5000′ then drop down Davis Path. The typical exit is via the Rocky Branch Trail so have a car spotted. Do this during a dry spell as there are numerous crossings that can be tricky. There is the “Engine Hill Bushwhack” that some take to avoid several of them, but that’s mostly in the winter. Save this one for later in the season or later in your effort. Or last.
- #48. Mt Tecumseh: 3995′ (See Updates)
- Lots of people start with this mountain because of its smaller stature and closeness to points south. It’s understandable. Someone illegally cut trees at the summit so there’s currently even an arcing eastern view where there was little to none before. Most people take the Mt Tecumseh Trail from Waterville Valley. We suggest, however, doing it from the Tripoli Road end, noting that that road is seasonal. That way in is longer, but it is much nicer and has better character, which leads to a better experience. We suggest getting this mountain done sooner rather than later, and doing it first isn’t a bad option.
Note: Not all trails and spurs necessary to form complete hikes/loops are listed in the text above. Please refer to a map before setting out.
Note: Click here for a printable list (Updated 10/2022).
First, Last, and the Rest
Please know, first of all, that it is possible to hike all 48 in one continuous hike called a Direttissima (the most direct way). Others will tell you all it takes is thirteen hikes. Most, however, will do one or two at a time, or more depending on how strong they are, driven, or pressed for time — the latter not a good quality to have as a peakbagger. Some will take years to accomplish this.
1. To Start
If you’ve never hiked, we suggest a smaller mountain or two before hiking a 4000-footer. That said, we suggest starting small and recommend Mt Pierce whenever we’re asked. It’s easy to follow, not a terribly difficult trail, Crawford Path is a popular route with lots of helpful people on it, there are no river crossings, and at the summit there are amazing views that will stoke the fire and feed an addiction helping with the motivation needed to grab number two. Besides Mt Pierce, we’d also consider: Moosilauke (from the south only in good weather), Tecumseh, Tom, Waumbek, Hale, and others noted in the list.
2. To Continue
For the middle peaks, well, refer to our loose suggestions in the list. Really it’s up to you. If there has been rain or recent snow melt, trails with crossings should be avoided. Simple. Try to use your head. Refer to the resources we’ve already outlined. That information will help guide you. Also note that many peaks may be done in a single hike without a superhuman effort. The Tripyrmids, for example, or Washington and Monroe, all three Bonds, Whiteface and Passaconaway, Liberty and Flume, Lincoln and Lafayette, Willey and Field, and maybe even Tom. Study those maps, read that guidebook.
3. To Finish
We offered a few suggestions and told you popular peaks that people choose to finish on. Among them: Washington, Carrigain, Isolation, Bondcliff, South Twin, Lafayette, Cannon, and Wildcat D. The last two, Cannon and Wildcat D-Peak, as well as Mt Washington, offer something in the summer months that the other peaks do not: access. Specifically access via road, rail, or tram/gondola, depending on the mountain. This means that if you would like your non-hiking friends and family to join you for your grand finish, they can. Assuming that they remember who you are and still like you.
Other Important Stuff
How to Prepare
Above else, try to use that common sense of yours.
Be in the know, before you go. Before each hike go to sites like New England Trail Conditions, the Mt Washington Obsevatory for weather, and the Trails NH for seasonal road status during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall.
Also learn other things like Leave No Trace (LNT) so that you don’t make too much of an impact, and learn to Hike Safe (and get a Hike Safe Card), and seek other resources such as those linked to from our Resources Page.
Additionally, study the maps and official White Mountain Guide Book for detailed information. By the same authors, The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains is a great read. Also read blogs (some on our Resources Page), even refer to some of the other articles right here on our site, like these: Starting Out in the Whites, Hiking the Whites, Mt Washington FAQ, Mt Washington Weather, and what can go wrong.
Oh, one last important thing to consider: having others. It’s generally wiser to not hike solo, not to say hiking solo is a bad thing, it isn’t, especially in good weather, but if something were to go awry… well, this is but one of the many decisions you may be required to make along the way. Above else, try to use that common sense of yours.
What to Wear/Bring
In essence, wear hiking clothing and footwear appropriate to the season — in the mountains! Visit your local hiking or outdoor outlet. Ask them if they have cotton hiking shirts. If they don’t attempt to tell you cotton hiking shirts are no good and why (holds water, doesn’t insulate while wet, will kill you), shop elsewhere. Find people who know.
Learn about the “ten essentials,” then check out our 13 Essentials. We ask that you adopt that as your guide. In any season.
Making it Count
You may thank us later for this advice.
We mean to say, do this your way, hike your own hike, but try to enjoy it. And don’t cheat. Some mountains are notorious for messing people up. Whiteface, Cabot, Waumbek, Owl’s Head, all can lead you to believe you’ve summited when indeed you hadn’t. Be fair to those who have and to yourself. If you missed it, you missed it. Go back. Do it right. You can only say you stood on the summit of the mounatain if you, indeed, actually stood there.
We also mean to say explore, see side trails and spurs, and write it all down. Try to be thorough. Pretend you are doing all of the various lists, the New England Hundred Highest, Redlining, the Grid, the NH Winter 48, and others. We say this because for many of you, you actually are working on these lists, you just don’t realize it yet. You may thank us later for this advice.
It’s not unheard of to join a hiking group, find all-knowing hiking friends, take classes, even hire a guide. If you want to be good, real good, this is how it’s done. To avoid insult, injury, or worse… much worse. It’s your responsibility (PDF) to be prepared and do this right. Rescue, with or without a card, can take hours. In the mountains you really can die while waiting. Not to scare, purely to inform, we ask you to take the time to read two works of fiction, and ask that they stay fictional.
Oh, and good luck. Try to stop and enjoy the views, smell the flowers, so to speak. And please remember, that even though the mountains are calling, they will also be there another day.
- February, 2019
- Remeasure note 1: Mt Tecumseh removed from list? Guyot added?
- October, 2022
- Remeasure note 2: The list remains intact, even with Tecumseh dropping below 4000-feet. On this site, however, we have made all of the updates we found in the AMC’s 31st Edition. Values in this post reflect the current map elevations. (More details.)