This blog post was updated on April 21, 2021.
It’s hiking season! With the smell of grass and earth in the air, people are itching to stretch their legs and get outside. But picking a trail or where to go for the first hike of the season can be tricky, even if you have previous experience. And for those trying to get muddy for the first time, it can be quite difficult to know where to start. If you’re itching to find a new trail or hike, here’s a list of fun Northeastern hikes that you may not have encountered yet!
Mount Washington, New Hampshire
With its 6,288 feet, Mt. Washington is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. The top of the mountain is intense and features a variety of plants and animals that can interest even the most casual hiker and wanderer. For those looking for a hardcore hike, the Boott Spur Trail has some pretty steep parts, but hikers are rewarded with some pretty amazing views. The area is also known for its pretty damp weather, so visitors should check the conditions before heading out. This one’s definitely for the more athletic types, so make sure you’re ready before you take that first step!
Stratton Mountain, Vermont
Southern Vermont is lush, fun, and very green. Ascending 2,000 feet through 7 miles, the Long Trail to Stratton Mountain is one of the best hikes you can take there. It offers some stunning views of the surrounding valleys, and those who make it to the end generally climb up the fire tower to see way beyond the trees’ canopies. The incline is slow and steady, so, although the hike is challenging, it can be done just taking one step at a time. The trail is best used from March to November, but winter hikes are also allowed for those who thrive on that kind of terrain.
Mount Norwottuck, Massachusetts
Mount Norwottuck is the perfect beginner’s trail. It’s short (less than 4 miles), with relatively little incline, and the whole thing is just one giant loop. The highest peak in the Holyoke range, Mount Norwottuuck has beautiful views of the entire valley. It’s dotted with the unique geological formation that make up the Horse Caves, which hikers can explore or let their dogs go in first and sniff around. The markings for the trail can sometimes get a bit confusing, so make sure to keep an eye out for the marks on the trees, otherwise you could easily get lost. The local 911 is known for being exceptionally friendly and helpful for guiding those that do manage to lose the trail, so no worries if you do!
Mount Katahdin, Maine
For those who have been hiking and bouldering for a while, the Mount Katahdin trail needs to make it to your bucket list. It’s 17 miles long and over 8,000 feet steep, and features bouldering, waterfalls, and long fields of rocks. The trail is an adventure, so visitors are encouraged to bring snacks and plenty of water to refuel on the way up. Because the trail is so long, it’s best to start the hike as early as possible so you’re not coming down in the dark. This one also features a lot of edges and scrambling, so it’s definitely not for those with a fear of heights. Part of the trail — ominously called Knife’s Edge — is known for being exceptionally tricky to surmount, but ultimately very rewarding!
Northern White Mountains, New Hampshire
While most hikes feature guides and paths with bits of paint to follow, the Northern White Mountains are remote, wild, and undeveloped. The region is filled with trails and forests sprawling hundreds of acres. Its forests are dense with spruce and firs, and the area is filled with wildlife like moose, bears, or deers. The hike can be slow and leisurely or more challenging, depending on the visitor’s pace and destination. Because much of this terrain is unmapped and unknown, it’s definitely for those with experience and knowledge of navigating in the great outdoors. But if you’re the type of person that can’t stand sharing trails and seeing people when hiking, an escape to the Northern White Mountains is just what you need!
Mount Moosilauke, New Hampshire
New Hampshire might arguably be the Mecca of hiking. If you’re not feeling brave enough to tackle the Northern White Mountains, a gentler alternative is a hike to Mount Moosilauke. The hike is less than 10 miles and runs along some rivers and ravines. Although the incline is relatively moderate (around 2,500 feet), the area is known for being a hot spot for winter-month activities because it’s safe and open year-round. For those heading over during the winter, boot spikes are highly recommended. There are also tons of opportunities for backcountry skiing and — like most mountains — amazing views!
Cascade Mountain, New York
A very well-known hiking spot, Cascade Mountain Trail is a good place for beginners to get their feet dirty. Because it can get quite busy (especially in the spring and fall), the trail is filled with other hikers who can offer some words of wisdom and advice. The two available peaks, Cascade and the adjacent Porter, are two of the easiest hikes of the “46ers” (a name for the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondack mountains). If climbing all the 46ers is on your bucket list, this is definitely the place to start! The trail is an “out and back” trail, so, if the hike ends up being a bit too difficult, visitors can easily turn around, head back, and try again later!
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Mount Mansfield, Vermont
Challenging, beautiful, and calm, Vermont’s Mount Mansfield hike is the epitome of central Vermont. The Mount Mansfield Loop Trail features sprawling boulders, colorful wildflowers, and panoramic views. The hike is challenging, with 3,000 feet of ascension over only 8 miles, so it’s best to pack light. The trail has lots of tight squeezes and large rocks with steep falls, so it’s not for the faint-hearted. There’s a gondola at the resort that can take hikers up part of the trail, but the rest is gritty and requires some pluck and finesse…those who are up for the challenge will be rewarded with jaw-dropping views!
Mount Tammany, New Jersey
Arguably the best hike in the Delaware Water Gap, the Mount Tammany Loop Trail is short (only 3 miles) and very, very beautiful. It’s in the heart of the Delaware Water Gap, and hikers will frequently bring along their swimwear to take a dip in the watering hole. The hike takes about 4 hours, and features a beautiful view of Pennsylvania and the valley below. During the summer, this area can become quite crowded, so it’s best to arrive early to ensure you get parking. The trail is filled with dogs, smiling visitors, and is known by locals for being extremely pleasant. So, if you’re trying to gauge how physically prepared you are for the upcoming Northeastern hiking season, this is a great place to start!
Bear Meadows, Pennsylvania
Bear Meadows Trail is perfect for beginners no matter the season, and a perfect destination if you manage to find some cheap flights in May. The ground is sprawling and quite flat, and the trails are well-defined and groomed. Despite this, the trail remains very quiet and rarely gets busy. For those who are trying out new gear or want to experience winter hikes for the first time, this is the place to start. The trail length is about 4 miles and has around 1,000 feet of elevation. For cardio hikers, it’s a great run up and down, and, since the trails are usually manageable, the risk of getting injured is low. Because the trail remains on the “down-low,” spring visitors can see plenty of wildlife and lovely blooming flowers.
Are you an avid hiker? Do you have a go-to trail that you absolutely love in the Northeast? Let us know what it is in our comments section below!