This blog post is part of “The Guide to Spring Activities In The White Mountains” blog series
Spring hiking in NH is spectacular. The trails are uncrowded, the wildflowers and trees are starting to bloom after a long winter, and the wildlife is just waking up and searching for food. While some people prefer to avoid New England during the Spring months due to a little thing we call “mud season,” it’s one of the best times of year for hiking.
Of course, Springtime in the White Mountains can also be unpredictable. It may be 60 and sunny in town, but at over 4,000 feet on top of a mountain summit, it could be below freezing and snowing. Not all mountains and spring hikes in and around the White Mountains require mountaineering gear to ascend. In fact, many hikes are completely clear of snow and ice by the end of April if not sooner for some of the lower elevation trails. All you need is a good pair of hiking boots, multiple layers, and a big smile on your face.
Low Elevation Hikes
Lincoln Woods Trail
Located within the White Mountain National Forest, the Lincoln Woods Trail is one of the most heavily used trails in the National Forest. The trailhead is easily located off the Kancamagus Highway about five miles east of I-93 Exit 32. Starting at 1,157 feet, this 2.7-mile trail follows along the banks of the Pemigewasset River reaching a maximum elevation of 1,450 feet. Built on the old Lincoln Railroad bed, the trail is relatively flat and wide making it perfect for young children or new hikers. Several other trails intersect with the Lincoln Woods Trail so you can easily make your hike longer.
Georgiana and Harvard Falls
The Lincoln area is home to several awesome waterfalls that can be reached by foot almost any time of the year. Springtime is one of the best time to chase some waterfalls in the area as the snow melt will intensify the water flow. Georgiana and Harvard Falls is an easy to moderate 2.4-mile out and back trail with a total elevation gain of 750 feet. Georgiana Falls, the lower of the two falls, has a 30-foot drop. The upper falls, Harvard Falls, has a 60-foot drop. The trail to Harvard Falls is not well marked, but it’s there. The trailhead can be a little tricky to find on Hansom Farm Road, so just ask a local, and they can give you directions.
Welch & Dickey Loop Trail
Located south of Lincoln in the town of Thornton, the Welch & Dickey Loop Trail is a popular scenic hike. Rated as moderate, the 3.8-mile loop trail gains about 1,755 feet over the course of the trail. During the Spring months, you’ll see an abundance of beautiful wildflowers starting to bloom. The upper parts of the trail have lots of great granite slabs and ledges offering incredible views of the White Mountains. Since you’ll max out around 2,000 feet at the summit, the Welch & Dickey Loop Trail may require microspikes in the early Spring months, but once the sun is out in full force, the last bits of snow and ice melt quickly.
Artists Bluff Trail
Situated in Franconia Notch near Cannon Mountain, Artists Bluff Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the region. With an elevation gain of 387 feet, this 1.4-mile loop trail offers incredible views at its summit of 2,296 feet. Known for its scenic views, artists have been hiking to the summit for decades to paint or photograph the views of Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch. Sunset is one of the best times to visit the summit. The trailhead is located at the parking area across from Route 18.
Mount Pemigewasset, formerly known as Indian Head, is a 3.2-mile out-and-back trail close to Lincoln. Wildflowers bloom along the trail throughout the Spring and Summer months. The trail is moderately steep but is doable for both young kids and dogs on their leash. Nearby Flume Gorge get most of the attention so if you’re looking for an uncrowded trail, head to Mount Pemigewasset. The almost 2,000-foot summit offers excellent views overlooking Franconia Notch and the White Mountains.
Lonesome Lake Trail
During the early Spring months, the Lonesome Lake Trail in Franconia Notch State Park can be packed with snow, but the travel is so frequently traveled by hikers, that you shouldn’t need snowshoes or microspikes. The trail starts at the Lafayette Place Campground and soon begins a moderately steep climb up to the AMC Lonesome Lake Hut. The 3.1-mile trail will bring you to the hut and around the small lake before coming back the same way you came. You’ll gain a total of 1,026 feet and reach a high of 3,429 feet. During a hot Spring day, a dip in the lake might be what you need!
If you’re up for a challenging hike, Mount Liberty is one of the more difficult yet rewarding hikes in Franconia Notch State Park. This 8.9-mile out-and-back trail is a steep, slow climb up to the 4,459-foot summit is worth every bead of sweat. Mount Liberty is the second highest mountain group in the White Mountains after the Presidential Range. If your goal is to peak some 4,000-footers this year, then you don’t want to miss Mount Liberty! Since Mount Liberty has a much higher elevation, then you’ll want to pack microspikes or snowshoes for this hike just in case. Even in May, the summit could be covered in snow and ice.
Spring hiking in the White Mountains is a rewarding experience. The trails are less crowded, the wildflowers are blooming, and you’ll start training those hiking legs for more strenuous climbs in the months to come. Sure, you may deal with a little mud and unpredictable weather, but if you pack right, you’ll be able to handle any weather Mother Nature throws at you.
This blog post is part of “The Guide to Spring Activities In The White Mountains” blog series.
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