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Backpacker Magazine – May 2009

America's Best Dayhikes: Northeast

From blueberry picking in New York and New Hampshire to pure solitude in New Hampshire and Maine, moose sitings in Vermont, and peaks in New York, these the hikes feature the best of the Northeast.

by: Lisa Densmore

Franconia Ridge (Tyler Stableford)
Franconia Ridge (Tyler Stableford)
Big Muddy Pond, Devil's Gulch (Lisa Densmore)
Big Muddy Pond, Devil's Gulch (Lisa Densmore)





Cascade Mountain, NY 4.2 miles (Easy)
The easiest of the Adirondack 4,000-footers lies in the heart of the High Peaks between Lake Placid and Keene. On this round-trip hike, climb through a mosaic of rocks and roots, then break out of the trees onto the elongated bald summit–with views so stunning it feels like cheating. Gaze out at Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains, Whiteface Mountain, and the iconic Great Range. Arrive by 9 a.m. for a parking spot, though there's plenty of space for a private picnic on the expansive summit ridge.
Season June-October
Info (518) 897-1276
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Mt. Mansfield, VT 6.8 miles (Moderate)
Hike to the top of Vermont on this round-trip along the Sunset Ridge Trail. Pass gravity-defying Cantilever Rock and two tunnels formed by enormous glacial erratics on the 2,550-foot ascent to the summit. Above treeline, enjoy views of Camels Hump, the Green Mountains, and the Adirondacks. Merge with the Appalachian Trail on the ridge, then stroll across puncheon and bedrock to reach The Chin, the true summit.
Season June-October
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Most Remote
Saddleback Mountain, ME 13.4 miles (Difficult)

Yes, the Appalachian Trail climbs Saddleback, but you'll find none of the AT hordes from down south: This exposed round-trip route, in the heart of moose country, is traveled only by thru-hikers and mountain-savvy trekkers. About 1.4 miles from the start, scramble to the top of jutting Piazza Rock, which hangs at an outrageous angle with a tree bizarrely rooted to its top. Break from the gnarled krummholz to traverse a 1.6-mile ridge amid a maze of lichen-covered slab and chunks of granite. Then ascend wooden ladders to a subpeak called The Horn, with stay-awhile views of the Rangeley Lakes and the entire Sugarloaf region.
Season June-October


Bald Mountain, VT 4.2 miles (Moderate)
Hike into the heart of the Northeast Kingdom on this South Trail out-and-back, which passes through several clearings where moose often linger. Then climb 1,450 feet to the summit of Bald Mountain-Westmore–which offers a striking view from the top of a 50-foot firetower. The vista encompasses nearby Lake Willoughby, the Whites in New Hampshire, and Lake Memphremagog.
Season May-November
Info (802) 244-7037

Moose Mountain, NH 8 miles (Moderate)
You don't name a mountain Moose for its bird life. Take the Appalachian Trail across Mink Brook–where you'll likely see a large ungulate before you've even broken a sweat–and then climb 1.9 miles through hardwoods to 2,290-foot South Peak (one of two peaks that constitute Moose Mountain). Check the view of Mt. Cardigan, and continue two miles along the ridge to North Peak, your turnaround.
Season Year-round (great for snowshoeing)

Best Alpine Hike
Franconia Ridge, NH 9 miles (Difficult)

Get a taste of the Alps in New Hampshire on this high-wire loop. Franconia Ridge's exposed, 1.7-mile alpine traverse--over Little Haystack Mountain, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Lafayette--feels much higher than its 5,000-foot elevation. The best loop route: Start on the Falling Waters Trail and climb through the spray of trailside cascades, emerging from treeline just below the summit of Little Haystack. Then head north on the Franconia Ridge Trail/AT and scramble over granite outcroppings as you peer across the entire Pemigewasett Wilderness. Rare diapensia and alpine sedges turn a patchwork of color in late September. From the AMC's Greenleaf Hut, descend via the Old Bridle Path to close the loop.
Season June-October
Info (603)466-2721
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Reader Rating: -


Oct 06, 2011

Probably my favorite short day-hike in New Hampshire is Mount Chocorua. Completely exposed summit cone, blueberries on the top half of the mountain. Pretty sweet for a couple hours of work.

Of course, the ultimate day hike in New Hampshire is a Presi Traverse. Do it in early summer to get maximum daylight and minimum chance of freak winter storms. Seeing people's reactions on the ridge when you say you're hiking the whole thing in one day is also a highlight. Usually a mix of, "oh that's pretty cool/hide the kids because this person is insane"

Richard Ruch
Feb 17, 2011

There are a lot of great hikes here in the northeast and many are mentioned in this article. My favorite hike which will stretch the day hike category is the Bondcliff/Bond range in NH. One only needs to go there once an experience the 360 degree views of the White mountains plus the spectaculer rock outcroppings to appreciate it's beauty.
The early part of the hike is on a flat road until you meet the trail junction for Bondcliff. From there the trail gradually assends to the "cliffs" getting more difficult as you get nearer the summitt. Allow a full day for this hike so you can spend lots of time on the ridges and cliffs. I give it a difficult rating based on the length of the trip.

John Weber
Jun 29, 2010

Lest anyone else think they might sight a moose on the way to Moose Mountain, our recent trip there revealed no sign of moose let alone sightings. There was nary a print or poop to be found. Folks we met on the trail that frequented the area said they have never spotted a moose there in years. The hike is still quite pleasant. We took our 5 year old who negotiated it quite readily...just don't promise a moose before you go!

Jul 01, 2009

The Franconia Ridge route is terrific. Definitely in my top 10, including western peaks as well as eastern. You can make it a loop by ascending the Falling Waters Trail and returning via the Greenleaf and Old Bridle Path trails. You must be in decent shape. Don't forget to eat a good hearty breakfast. (I blew that only once!)


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