Spectacular Hiking Trails in the NH Lakes Region

With the warmer temperatures, longer days, and stunning views, spring may be the most popular time to hike in New England, especially near this NH vacation spot. However, the region has such a varied landscape and so many outdoor getaways, a lot of folks enjoy hiking in New Hampshire year round. The state has thousands of miles of scenic trails, including 1,200 miles in the White Mountain National Forest, as well as a section of the Appalachian Trail and 48 4,000-footers. Although some smaller mountains’ vistas remain hidden after the trees leaf out, here are a few Lakes Region hikes that, with moderate effort, provide a dramatic outlook at any time of year.

Mount Major

One of the most popular views of Lake Winnipesaukee can be had from the rocky flat top of Mt. Major, with an elevation gain of about 1,100 feet. This small mountain, located in Alton, NH at the southern tip of Lake Winnipesaukee, has a rocky summit with extensive views of the lake and the Belknap Range, of which it is a part. Even the distant White Mountains can be seen in clear weather. It’s a favorite hike of children’s camps and families, and has heavy traffic all summer, but that doesn’t diminish the fun hike and the great views at the top! Also at the summit are the remains of a stone hut, built for hikers in 1925 by then-landowner George Phippen. The roof blew off the first winter, and a stronger roof lasted two winters before blowing off in the spring of 1928. The stone walls still provide shelter from the wind, as well as a great photo opportunity!

Gunstock Mountain 

Gunstock, also located in the Belknap Mountain Range, offers several trails that are suitable for hiking. Hikers can pick up a trail map at Gunstock Resort’s camp store. Overlook Trail utilizes some of the cross-country ski trails to start, then the crosses a brook, climbs the mountain, and comes out to a fantastic overlook. From the overlook the trail goes through a beautiful forest and then climbs up to intersect with the Saddle Trail. From this trail you can either go to the summits of Belknap and Gunstock, or come down the Brook Trail. This is a good trail for an intermediate hiker. For more information, please visit Gunstock’s website at www.gunstock.com or call 603-293-4341.

Belknap Mountain

On the Belknap Mountain trail, hikers climb 740 feet to the summit’s peak elevation of nearly 2400 feet. The trail runs about a mile and a half long and can take up to an hour and a half to complete. It’s a climb of moderate difficulty, and fully worth the effort, as the view from the summit is stunning. On a clear spring or fall day, hikers are able to see the brilliantly snow capped Mt. Washington in the distance.

Red Hill

By Lakes Region standards, Red Hill is bigger than most mountains. Its summit rises 2,029 feet above sea level. However, hikers only have to climb 1,370 of those feet. Red Hill is a long, flat-topped ridge, rising up from nearly flat ground at its base. At the top stands a fire tower, which is staffed by the Moultonborough Fire Department from May through October. It is the only fire tower in New Hampshire not run by the state. During the off-season, hikers can ascend the tower to a viewing platform just below the cab to enjoy 360-degree views. Located off a market dirt road from Bean Road in Center Harbor, Red Hill offers moderate hiking and unsurpassed views of many lakes in the area, including Squam and Winnipesaukee.

Mount Chocorua

Mount Chocorua is only about the 100th highest mountain in New Hampshire, but its large bare summit, which is visible from all directions in central NH, gives it a much larger stature. Located in the town of Albany, it is the easternmost peak of the Sandwich Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest, just north of the Lakes Region and south of the Presidential Range. Easy access makes it one of the most popular mountain hikes in New Hampshire. In addition, Chocorua is purported to be one of the most photographed in the world, due to its picturesque rocky cone summit, often snapped from Chocorua Lake at the mountain’s base. Since most of Chocorua’s trails begin at low elevations, a hike to the summit can be strenuous exercise, with moderate difficulty. Its many trails are often crowded in the summertime, but the excellent views in all directions at the top are well worth the effort!

For details on the many great mountains in the area, check out www.hikenewengland.com.

For information on more gentle walking trails in the Lakes Region, please visit the Meredith Area Chamber of Commerce website at www.meredithareachamber.com/trails.php.

Whatever time of year you like to hike, there’s a trail nearby for you. Don’t forget your hiking boots on your next New Hampshire vacation or outing!

Carrie Reed
The Mill Falls Blogging Team

photo courtesy of www.meredithareachamber.com



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