Created by the New Hampshire hiking group Over the Hill Hikers as a way to showcase climbs in their home state, the 52 With a View list is an excellently curated collection of the Granite State's most spectacular summit viewpoints. Many see such a list as a challenge to complete every single hike, an effort that takes most hikers years to complete. Mastering the 52 is a completely achievable task, however, and when properly approached, can be an enjoyable activity for any beginner who is enthusiastic enough about hiking.
In an effort to make such a long list of hikes more approachable, we've picked out six top hikes geared towards different types of hikers. There are two wonderful hikes for first timers or novice hikers, two for more advanced outdoors-enthusiasts looking for a challenge, and two "hidden gems" for those who are willing to venture off the beaten path. Additionally, we have compiled a ranking of the 52 With a View list based on three factors: difficulty, quality of the view from the summit, and finally, driving distance from Boston.
One of the most popular destinations of the New Hampshire 52, Mount Monadnock (sometimes called Grand Monadnock) presents a hike of easy-to-moderate difficulty that is quickly rewarded with simply outstanding views. The mountain’s name is derived from an Abenaki word meaning “mountain that stands alone,” and a truer description could not possibly be applied to Monadnock. With few high-elevation points in the surrounding area, the summit of the mountain has little competition in offering unobscured views of Southern New Hampshire. For those hiking Monadnock for the first time, the most common hiking route starts off at the Monadnock State Park trailhead, proceeding onto White Dot Trail, which takes hikers straight to the summit. On the way down, an easy semi-loop can be created by following White Dot on to White Cross Trail, which eventually rejoins the original path to bring hikers back to the State Park Trailhead. This loop totals about 4.2 miles and covers 1800 feet of elevation gain, making it a moderate introduction to New Hampshire’s 52 With a View. For those who have hiked Monadnock in the past, monadnocktrails.com has compiled a thorough database of alternate routes and off-shooting trails to make your hike more challenging or simply more interesting. Those looking for a real adventure can attempt to locate some of the Monadnock Places of Interest which include everything from historic buildings and camp locations to particularly scenic or spectacular cliffs.
Kearsarge Mount Kearsarge (the south side, not to be confused with Kearsarge North), is one of the easiest hikes of New Hampshire’s 52, and serves as a great introduction for those new hiking. The hike is certainly worth it for more experienced hikers as well, as the rocky summit provides an excellent view. Much like Monadnock, Kearsarge stands relatively alone, leaving plenty of unobstructed room to survey the surrounding land. The easiest route up Kearsarge’s south side is 2.8 miles and climbs a mere 1100 feet. From the trailhead in Winslow State Park, the Barlow Trail takes hikers directly to the summit, while Winslow Trail is a perfect option for descending back to the starting point, making a simple clockwise loop. When you reach the summit of Kearsarge, be sure to check out the old firetower, an interesting relic of past times. The top of the mountain is also home to a small picnic area, so those looking to make a day of it can easily pack along food and enjoy a nice meal with a stunning view.
Middle Sister Mountain Of the “Three Sisters” group of mountains in New Hampshire, Middle Sister is by far the most notorious and significant. Aside from being one of the most challenging hikes in New Hampshire’s 52, Middle Sister is also a bit of a best-kept secret, though perhaps the lack of crowds is due more to the raw challenge of its trails than secrecy. Regardless, Middse Sister is nearly always devoid of heavy foot traffic, allowing any prospective hikers to suffer out the challenge of climbing it in solitude. There are really a wide variety of ways to climb Middle Sister, but the simplest route starts out at the Piper Trail trailhead on NH 16. From there, hikers can traverse Nickerston Ledge Trail to the Carter Ledge Trail, which features stunning views from its namesake, Carter Ledge. This trail then joins with Middle Sister Trail, which ends at Middle Sister’s summit. For an even greater challenge (but ultimately saving some effort if you plan to complete all 52 peaks), hikers who have reached the summit of Middle Sister can use the continuation of Piper Trail to reach the summit of Mount Chocorua. This double climb totals 9.5 miles with 3000 ft of elevation gain, but is worth every inch for those up to the challenge.
Mount Chocorua Spiking almost violently above the surrounding mountains, Mt. Chocorua offers an overlook rivaled by few in New Hampshire. Located near a number of other mountains, the hike to the summit of Chocorua can easily be combined with other summits, though tackling this mighty mountain by itself is often a quite sufficient challenge. Like many of the taller and more challenging mountains in the 52, Chocorua, has a plethora of routes to the top, and they are all well worth exploring. The simplest route, however, starts from the north side, and travels 7.6 miles round trip with 2300 ft of elevation gain. To traverse this route, start on Champney Falls Trail from the Kancamagus Highway Trailhead, then proceed to Piper Trail and directly to Chocorua’s Summit. Needless to say, this route is quite a lot more difficult than the simplicity of the directions make it sound. Chocorua can also be easily climbed from the East Side, which requires a bit more vertical gain, but also spreads the climbing out over a greater distance of 8.6 miles. This hike is as easy as taking the other side of Piper Trail directly from the Piper Trail Road Trailhead straight to the summit of the mountain. If you have a friend to pick you up, it can also be quite fun to climb one side and descend on the other.
Smarts Mountain Low in foot traffic with spectacular views, Smarts Mountain is in many ways a truly unique climb. Located much further west than many of the climbs in middle New Hampshire, Smarts stands relatively alone causing it to be frequently buffeted by the wind. The exposure to raw nature, combined with Smarts’ one-of-a-kind quartzite ledges, gives it the feel of the much larger White Mountains to the north, without nearly as much travel time. What truly makes Smarts stand out, however, is its firetower at the summit, offering the undisputed best firetower views of any of the 52. From the trailhead of the Appalachian Trail (locally named Lambert Ridge Trail) on Lyme-Dorchester road this hike is fairly straightforward. Simply following the Lambert Ridge trail (which later into the climb combines with the Ranger Trail) will bring hikers directly to the picturesque firetower at the summit. To make a loop, follow Ranger Trail when it splits from Lambert on the descent, and eventually return to the trailhead. This loop is about 7.8 miles in total, and climbs 2400 feet of elevation, making it a rather difficult hike, though the experience is most certainly worthwhile.
North Moat Though it does not share the name recognition of some other peaks on the list, North Moat lays claim to quite possibly the best scenic outlook among all the 52 With a View. A bald-topped mountain, North Moat offers stunning views of the Presidentials in one direction, with the picturesque sights of Conway in another. Such a reward does not come without a challenging climb, but while the hiking it steep and arduous, it also serves to drive away many more casual adventurers, making the summit of North Moat not only beautiful, but serene to boot. The most common route up North Moat starts from the north side of Moat Mountain Trail at its trailhead on (somewhat comically) West Side Road. From here, the best option is to follow Red Ridge trail for a thrilling sneak preview of the spectacular views to come. After rejoining Moat Mountain Trail, it’s not much longer to the summit, after which the Moat Mountain trail can easily be followed back to the base. At 10.2 miles with 2800 feet of elevation gain, this is one of the hardest of the 52 climbs, so certainly come prepared. Those feeling extra ambitious can also combine North Moat with its sister summits, the aptly named Middle and South Moat peaks, though this journey ends in a different location than it begins, necessitating the use of more than one vehicle.
To make it a bit easier to pick out climbs, we've arranged a list of all 52 With a View hikes ordered primarily by driving distance from Boston and secondarily by the quality of their view. The difficulty of the climbs is ranked in the rightmost column on a scale from 1 (easy) to 4 (very difficult).
Thank you to the following websites for providing the information for our ranking: