Everyone knows that autumn is a beautiful time to be in New Hampshire, but winter can be an amazing season in the Granite State too. Fresh snow and colder temperatures will send most people scurrying indoors to wait for spring, leaving most of the hiking trails all-but deserted. But for those of us who can't stand the idea of being cooped up all winter long, this is the perfect time to grab a warm jacket, put on some extra layers, and slip into a good pair of boots for a nice walk in the snow.
If you're wondering which trails you should explore this winter, here are our picks for the five absolute best winter hikes in New Hampshire.
Mount Moosilauke (Benton)
New Hampshire is home to 48 mountains taller than 4000-feet, and all of them are open throughout the winter. One of the absolute best is the 4803-foot Mount Moosilauke, which on a clear day offers great views of the surrounding countryside all the way to Vermont. Take the lesser-traveled Glenncliff Trail to the summit and you'll even climb up above the treeline along the way. Covering 7.8 miles, and with 3300-feet of elevation gain, this is a moderate to challenging hike in any season, so be sure to bring plenty of food and water to keep you supplied on the trail. If it isn't too windy, plan on spending some time at the summit as the view from the top just can't be beat.
Lincoln Woods Trail (Lincoln)
Stretching 2.7 miles in length, and running along a mostly flat route, the Lincoln Woods Trail is an ideal path for cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and winter trail runners. It also makes for a great hike for those who don't want to deal with a lot of change in elevation but still enjoy being outdoors during the winter months. The route follows along the banks of the meandering Pemigewasset River, which provides plenty of wonderful scenery to enjoy. The trail is a loop route that is well marked and easy to follow, and includes a fun suspension bridge to cross as well. The bridges along the trail can be a bit slick in the winter, so watch your step when coming and going.
Diana's Baths (North Conway)
Located inside White Mountain National Forest, Diana's Baths is a series of cascading waterfalls and pools 75-feet in height that are extremely popular with visitors during the summer months. But in the winter far fewer hikers venture out on the trail, leaving it relatively quiet and undisturbed. The trek to the Baths isn't especially long, covering a little more than a half-mile on mostly flat ground. This helps to make it a winter trek that almost anyone can enjoy, as it is extremely accessible in all but the worst of conditions. It may be an easy walk but it is also a rewarding one, as the colder temperatures cause the waterfalls to freeze over, dramatically altering the landscape for most of the winter. Locked in place, the frozen falls are a sight to behold, particularly when glimmering in the bright sunlight.
West Rattlesnake Mountain (Holderness)
Don't let the name fool you, West Rattlesnake Mountain isn't amongst the taller peaks in New Hampshire, which makes it a great option for a vigorous winter hike. In fact, this "mountain" is only about 1260 feet in height, and the trail to its summit runs roughly 2 miles in length with about 450 feet of vertical gain. But, from the top hikers will get a wonderful view of Squam Lake, which usually freezes over early in the winter and is covered in fresh snow throughout the entire season. This is generally an easy to moderate walk, although snow conditions can make it more challenging than it would first appear. Still, experienced hikers will generally have no issues along the way, making this an enjoyable winter outing.
Cannon Mountain (Franconia)
Another one of New Hampshire's 4000-foot peaks, Cannon Mountain is amongst the more accessible mountains during the winter months. Geared more for experienced hikers, Cannon features numerous trails that criss-cross its slopes, providing plenty of options for trekkers. One of the best is the Kinsman Ridge Trail, a 7.5-mile out-and-back hike which takes visitors up to the 4100-foot summit, offering breathtaking views along the way.
Be warned; this trek can be challenging and winter hikers will want to be well prepared with the proper gear. Dress warmly, bring additional layers in your pack, share your plans with someone else before setting out, and carry extra food and water. While not especially dangerous, it is always good to play it safe when hiking Cannon Mountain in the winter months.