The White Mountains are famous for their scenic high peaks with stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges and nature. But what do you do when you’re short on time yet still want a hiking trail that packs a big punch when it comes to views? Thankfully, the White Mountains have an abundance of smaller peaks that provide world-class views of the area.
Here are five of our favorite half-day or shorter hikes that offer views similar to the famous 4,000-footers in the area.
Welch-Dickey Loop Trail
Mileage: 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,650 feet
Trailhead Location: Orris Road, Thornton, NH
Located in Waterville Valley, Welch-Dickey Loop Trail is a moderate mileage trail with rewarding views from the summits of Welch Mountain (2,605 feet) and Dickey Mountain (2,734 feet). Shortly after the trail begins (yellow blazes) at the trailhead in Thornton, the trail splits into two. The right-hand branch leads to the summit of Welch Mountain and the left-hand branch leads to the summit of Dickey Mountain. Take the right-hand branch up the Welch Mountain Trail first (counter-clockwise direction). You’ll climb approximately 1.3 miles before seeing your first open ledges and incredible views of the White Mountains. Just over a half mile later, you’ll reach the summit of Welch Mountain where there are 360-degree panoramic views.
The summit of Welch Mountain is the perfect place to enjoy a little snack while you reenergize yourself for Dickey Mountain summit. Take the Welch-Dickey Trail from the opposite side of Welch Mountain peak towards Dickey Mountain. You’ll climb uphill a bit, but the next peak is only a half-mile away. The summit of Dickey offers breathtaking views of Franconia Notch. From the summit, you’ll descend down 2.1 miles to the trailhead.
Next to the Franconia Ridge Loop Trail, Artist’s Bluff is one of the most iconic trails in Franconia Notch. The short hike is one of the most rewarding in the area and has been a favorite amongst artists for centuries. Bald Mountain, where Artist’s Bluff is located, stands at 2,368 feet with incredible views of Echo Lake, Cannon Mountain, and Franconia Notch. While the locals will tell you the trail is “easy,” easy is relative to the White Mountains. If you’re from a relatively flat state, you might find the trail to be steep, but it’s free of a lot of very steep, rocky uphills that you commonly find in the White Mountains. Artist’s Bluff is a must-hike trail during the height of fall foliage season.
North and Middle Sugarloaf
Mileage: 3.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,100 feet
Trailhead Location: Zealand Road, Carroll, NH
Offering stunning views of Twin Mountain, Rosebrook, and the Presidential Mountain Range, North and Middle Sugarloaf pack big views on two small mountain peaks. Standing at only 2,539 feet, Middle Sugarloaf offers 270-degree views from its open summit, including incredible views of Mt. Washington, Jefferson, Deception, Hale, Rosebrook, and North Twin.
From the trailhead on Zealand Road, take the Sugarloaf/Trestle Trail for about 0.2 miles along the Zealand River before the Sugarloaf Trail splits off from Trestle Trail. You’ll start to climb up gradually through a giant glacier boulder field that is common throughout the White Mountains. Just past the boulders, the Sugarloaf Trail splits into two. If you head left towards Middle Sugarloaf, you’ll climb until you come to a wooden ladder just below the summit. Take the ladder up and you are rewarded with an open ledge overlooking North Sugarloaf Mountain and the White Mountains.
To get to the peak of North Sugarloaf, you’ll need to retrace your steps back to the trail junction and head in the opposite direction towards the summit of North Sugarloaf. The north peak offers a view, but Middle Sugarloaf offers the best views, so if you’re short on time, choose Middle Sugarloaf.
Lonesome Lake Trail
Mileage: 3.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,040
Trailhead Location: Franconia Notch State Park, Lincoln, NH
Popular year-round with both locals and tourists, you can’t go wrong with a hike on Lonesome Lake Trail. Beginning at Lafayette Place Campground in Franconia Notch State Park, Lonesome Lake Trail is a moderate trail that starts gradually through the campground and then steepens as it climbs through the woods toward Lonesome Lake. As the trail continues past the junction with Hi-Cannon Trail, you'll continue to climb steeply with stone steps. When the trail starts to level off, you know you’re close to your destination.
When you reach the shores of Lonesome Lake, the trail splits into two. You can follow the shoreline to the Lonesome Lake AMC Hut by the left-hand trail or take the right-hand trail around the lake towards the Basin-Cascade Trail. The right-hand trail around the north side of the lake provides lovely views of Mount Lafayette. During the hot summer months, you can cool off in the lake. Lonesome Lake Trail is popular with snowshoers during the winter months.
Just off the infamous Kancamagus Highway lies one of the White Mountains’ easiest hikes – Greeley Ponds. Greeley Ponds are the source of the Mad River that runs through Waterville Valley and along Route 49. From the trailhead on the Kancamagus Highway, the hiking route is easy with only a 350-foot elevation gain through the White Mountain National Forest. The most difficult section of the trail is probably the brook crossing at the beginning of the trail, which can be difficult in high water. High water is typical during the spring and early summer months as the snow melts off the high peaks. The trails wind around both ponds offering views of the cliffs of East Osceola and Mt. Kancamagus. Pack a picnic and enjoy it on the shores of Upper Greeley Pond.
Take a Hike!
Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails for low mileage, but grand views of the White Mountains and beyond today.