Readers' Choice 2012: Top 3 – Northeast Hikes

The region's top map contributor—with 20 years of experience in the area—dishes tips for beating the crowds on her all-time favorite hikes.

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Adrirondack Park, NY (Tim Seaver)


White Mountain NF, NH (Tim Seaver)


BAXTER SP, ME (Eric Krukowski)


Lisa Densmore

Chateaugay Lake, NY

“Solitude secret? There are hundreds of great peaks below the popular 4,000 footers.”


{ Day }

White Mountain National Forest, NH

Bag three peaks above 4,000 feet.

The classic 8.2-mile Franconia Ridge Loop features scenery Densmore calls “more like the Alps than the Appalachians.” Hit it midweek for max solitude. From the Lafayette Place trailhead, take the Old Bridle Path .2 mile to the Falling Waters Trail. Negotiate slick rocks up past two smaller cascades to 80-foot Cloudland Falls, then gain 2,100 feet in 1.6 miles to 4,760-foot Little Haystack Mountain. Turn north onto the Franconia Ridge Trail for 1.5 miles of alpine ridgeline with views of wooded peaks stretching to the horizon. Crest Mt. Lincoln en route to 5,249-foot Mt. Lafayette, where the remains of a hut provide shelter. Turn west down the Greenleaf Trail for a mile scree-field descent to the AMC’s Greenleaf Hut (with water and bathrooms). From here, follow the Old Bridle Trail down the steep spine of Agony Ridge 2.8 miles to close the loop. Contactnhstateparks.orgTrip ID369193

The way From Lincoln, NH, take I-93 north 7.6 miles to Franconia Notch State Park.

{ Weekend }

Baxter State Park, ME

Summit Maine’s highest mountain.

You could climb 5,268-foot Katahdin in a day (as many hikers do). But Densmore has a weekend itinerary that sidesteps parking-lot crowds—and includes lakeside camping at Chimney Pond (reserve four months in advance). From the Roaring Brook Campground, take the Chimney Pond Trail 3.3 miles to your lean-to below Katahdin’s steely cliffs. Next morning, begin a strenuous, 4.6-mile loop on the Dudley Trail, scrambling over car-size boulders up 2,000 feet in 1.4 miles. Top barren, 4,919-foot Pamola Peak and check for signs of storms before braving the Knife’s Edge, a 1.1-mile ridge only three feet wide in places, with 1,500-foot drops. Snag summit views of primeval forest and glacier-carved cirques before heading back to camp on the slightly mellower 2.2-mile Saddle Trail. Contactbaxterstateparkauthority.comTrip ID1361849

The way From Millinocket, take Millinocket Rd./Baxter State Park Rd./Lake Rd. northwest 16 miles to Togue Pond Gatehouse.

{ Multiday }

Adirondack Park, NY

Score Lakeside camping at its best.

Densmore says you’ll want to spend at least four days on the leisurely, 19.2-mile High Falls Loop, a route packed with stay-awhile features. From the Wanakena trailhead, follow the Wanakena Primitive Corridor 3.7 miles to camp along the Oswegatchie River at High Rock. The short day allows late starts, swimming, or picking trailside blueberries (August). Next day, continue southeast on the High Falls Trail, past beaver ponds and an old-growth white pine forest. Hit 20-foot High Falls on your way to Jannock’s Landing at mile 12.7. Settle in at this sandy beachfront lean-to (first come, first serve) on Cranberry Lake. Day three, pack for a daytrip and retrace your route .9 mile to the Cat Mountain Trail, leading 1.1 miles (gaining 500 feet) to an open ledge with views of endless wild forest. Sleep at Jannock’s Landing again before following the Dead Creek Flow Trail three miles back to Wanakena. Contactadk.orgTrip ID1330274

The way From Wanakena, take S. Shore Rd. south .4 mile to the trailhead.