Is Mount Washington actually the hardest mountain to climb?
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that New Hampshire has 48 4,000 footer mountains that hikers try to summit every year. Many of our Ridj-it adventurers want to know which mountain to start with, so we endeavored to create a document explaining the order in which you should hike the 4,000 footers of the White Mountains.
Well, it was tough.
Our team consulted various websites and specialists, including Redline Guiding’s lengthy post about the characteristics of the various mountains, plus advice from outdoor enthusiast Max DesMarais to come up with some tentative information. We then scanned reliable websites like New England Hiking for more stats. We even asked one of the biggest community groups around the mountains Hike the 4,000 Footers of NH! for their suggestions.
However, what we felt was lacking from many websites was a clearly defined list not based solely on height. Elevation gain is a killer if you’re not prepared, plus the other logistics of parking and driving were never included. We also wanted to list the mountain difficulty based on true Ridj-it principles - logistics. We then looked to our own users who completed the 48 4,000 footers of New Hampshire for their wisdom, and we were not disappointed.
“I think it all depends on what your goals are and what you value in a hike,” said Ridj-it adventurer Ulea who finished her 48 last year.
“My very first trip to the White Mountains I soloed Tom, Field, and Wiley because I'm sort of a ‘go big or go home’ type of person, and three peaks seemed better than bagging just one. It was hard, and I hurt for the next few days, but it was a great hike and got me hooked.”
What we noticed from people like Ulea and other contributors was the focus on the “wow” factor in each mountain, especially when considering beginners who might otherwise be discouraged from some of the not-so grandiose views for a couple of the beginner hikes. We made sure to balance that our in our list as well.
Another Ridj-it user and avid outdoor enthusiast was Derrick who wrote us probably one of the longest emails we have ever seen while in operation. His words are worth quoting as a block paragraph:
“Wouldn't you know, it's a bit difficult to rate this from 1 to 48. Moosilauke, for instance, would go from easy/moderate using the Glenncliff trail or Carriage Road to somewhere between “difficult” and "Tell my wife I love her" when using Beaver Brook (there's a fun sign at the trailhead warning you to take care to avoid "tragic results")... I then tried to keep in mind that this was for beginners and novices and made sure to exclude any trails that require you to first make sure your will is updated.”
We had a good laugh, but his focus on the importance of trail selection cannot be understated. In consideration of this, we included each trail to take with our list. “No matter what mountains someone recommends as easy, they all become immediately difficult the second you don't know where you are,” adds Derrick even when being cognisant of trail information.
So what factors did we end up considering when listing the order to complete the 48 4,000 footers of New Hampshire?
1. Beginner or novice hiker in moderate shape
2. “Wow” factor
3. Day trip from Boston (because hey, we’re about logistics)
4. Mountain pairing or “peak bagging” to complete more of them sooner
7. Elevation gain
8. Mostly dry, good weather during late spring, summer, and early fall
Compiling a list that addresses everyone’s individual wants and capabilities is tough, but based on a carpooling audience from Boston, we figured the above would be sufficient and more informative than a list made purely based on height. Think of this list as a living document we hope to keep up to date through your own reports, comments, and opinions about the best order to climb the 48 4,000 footers of New Hampshire. Please note that inclement weather can change everything. Trails are in parentheses and where to park in italics.
1. Waumbek - (Starr King trail). Pool Rd, Jefferson, NH 03583
2. Tecumseh - (Mt. Tecumseh trail). Mt Tecumseh Trailhead, Ski Area Rd, Waterville Valley, NH 03223
3. Hale - (Hale Brook trail). Hale Brook Trailhead, Twin Mountain, NH 03595
4. Cabot - (Bunnel Notch, Kilkenny Ridge, Unknown Pond). Unknown Pond South Trailhead, Milan, NH
5. Moriah - (Carter Moriah trail). Bangor St, Gorham, NH 03581
6. Garfield - (Garfield trail). Garfield Trailhead, Gale River Loop Rd, Bethlehem, NH 03574
7. Cannon - (Kinsman Ridge trail). 260 Tramway Dr, Franconia, NH 03580
8 & 9. Liberty + Flume - (Flume Side to Liberty Spring). Flume Visitor Center, 750 US-3, Lincoln, NH 03251
10, 11 & 12. Willey, Field, & Tom - (Ethan Pond to Willey Range and back). Willey Station Road off Route 302, Whitefield, New Hampshire
13. Jackson - (Webster-Jackson). Highland Center at Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, U.S., US-302, Bretton Woods, NH 03575
14. Zealand - (Zealand to Twinway). Zealand Trail Head, Zealand Trail, Jefferson, NH
15. Moosilauke - (Beaver Brook). Beaver Brook Trailhead, Lost River Rd, Lisbon, NH 03585
16, 17 & 18. Carter Dome, Carter Middle, & Carter South - (Nineteen Mile Bike, Carter Dome, Carter Moriah, North Carter, to IMP) - Carspot needed if you want to avoid 1.5 miles of walking on the road: Start at Nineteen Mile Brook Trailhead, White Mountain Rd, Gorham, NH 03581, end at Imp Trailhead, Mt Washington Auto Rd, Jackson, NH 03846
19 & 20. South Hancock & Mount Hancock - (Hancock Notch to Hancock Loop). Hancock Overlook, Kancamagus Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251
21 & 22. North & South Kinsman - (Lonesome Lake, Fishin’ Jimmy, Kinsman Ridge, to Kinsmans Pond). Lafayette Place Campground, 2 Franconia Notch State Park, Franconia, NH 03580
23 & 24. Mount Osceola & East Osceola - (Greeley Pond to Mount Osceola trail and back). Greeley Pond Trailhead (Kancamagus Hwy), Lincoln, NH 03251
25, 26, 27. North Twin, South Twin, & Galehead - (North Twin Trail, North Twin Spur, Frost and back). N Twin Trailhead, N Twin Trail, Jefferson, NH 03583
28. Jefferson - (Caps Ridge and back). Caps Ridge Trail Head Parking, Jefferson Notch Rd, Randolph, NH 03593
29 & 30. Pierce & Eisenhower - (Crawford Connector, Crawford Path, & Edmands Path) - Carspot needed: Start hike at Crawford Connector Trailhead, Bretton Woods, NH 03575 and then finish at Edmands Path Trailhead, Mt Clinton Rd, Jefferson, NH 03583.
31. Carrigan - (Signal Ridge trail). Sawyer River Rd, Bartlett, NH 03812
32 & 33. Whiteface & Passaconway - (Dicey’s Mill, Tom Wiggin, Blueberry Ledge, Rollins, back to Dicey’s Mill). Dicey's mill trail head, Ferncroft Rd, Tamworth, NH 03897
34 & 35. Lafayette & Lincoln - (Falling Waters, Franconia Ridge, Greenleaf, to Old Bridle). Lafayette Place Campground, 2 Franconia Notch State Park, Franconia, NH 03580
36 & 37. Middle & North Tripyramids - (Sabbaday Falls to Pine Bend Brook). Start at Sabbaday Falls Observation Site, Kancamagus Hwy, Campton, NH 03223 and walk along the road to Pine Bend Brook Trailhead, Kancamagus Hwy, Albany, NH 03818 along the road to jump on the trail.
38 & 39. Wildcat A & D - (WIldcat Ridge trail). Glen Ellis Scenic Area, Jackson, NH 03846. Go under the road and cross the river to hit the trail.
40 & 41. Monroe & Washington - (Ammonoosuc Ravine, Crawford Path, to Jewell). Ammonoosuc Ravine Trailhead, Base Station Rd, Jefferson, NH 03583
42. Owl’s Head - (Lincoln Woods, Franconia Brook, Lincoln Brook, Owl’s Head Path). Lincoln Woods Visitor Information Center & Trail Head, Kancamagus Hwy, Lincoln, NH 03251
43. Isolation - (Glen Boulder, Davis Path, and back). Glen Ellis Falls Trailhead, White Mountain National Forest, Appalachian Trail, Jackson, NH 03846