Every year, thousands of people seek refuge in nature to get away from the daily stresses of life. They're tempted by places around the globe promising adventure, relaxation, and a renewed connection to themselves.
New Hampshire's White Mountains are in the proverbial backyard of overworked people along the northeastern seaboard. Only a two-hour drive from Boston, the White Mountains offer an exceptional backdrop to refresh the mind, body, and soul.
Hiking in the White Mountains gives explorers the same climbing and views they can get out West without the need to book a vacation, travel thousands of miles, and acclimate to altitude first. And the Whites offer a unique East Coast history in each mountain range and wilderness, and among each stand of old-growth trees.
The White Mountains are a segment of the larger Appalachian Mountain range. The Whites, as their name is often shortened, extend across north-central New Hampshire and into western Maine and offer a range of scenic vistas, wildlife habitats, and opportunities for adventure.
New Hampshire is home to 160 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT). The AT is one of America's oldest and most famous footpaths, stretching over 2,190 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt Katahdin in Maine. However, it's the White Mountains National Forest that gives New Hampshire's section of the AT the designation of "more miles above treeline than any other Trail state."
Hiking above the treeline in the Whites brings extraordinary perspective and calm. On a clear day, you can see miles of untouched wilderness and on overcast days the peaks of the mountains look like a scene from a fantasy movie locked in above the clouds.
A gem of the northeast, the White Mountains offer the highest elevations in the area, often matching western states' total climbing capacity foot for foot. Most hikes will start around 1,000 feet above sea level, and the White's highest peaks reach 5,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level.
One of these lofty peaks is Mt Lafayette, topping out at 5,249 ft above sea level, it's situated at the northern point of the Franconia Range. It's the Whites' tallest point, outside of the Presidential Range–a string of several 5,000+ foot peaks named after American presidents.
In a world-famous 9-mile loop (featured in this National Geographic round up–number 6), nature seekers can summit the peak of Lafayette and two more of New Hampshire's 48 famed 4,000-footers. An extended 13-mile loop also allows you to summit Mt Liberty for a fourth 4,000-footer, and still return to your vehicle in a day. To make the climb more palatable, the Appalachian Mountain Club's Greenleaf Hut offers hikers a respite at the halfway point of the climb. One of eight total hike-in-only High Huts run by the AMC in the White Mountains, the Greenleaf Hut offers overnight lodging, including dinner and breakfast–just the way they've done it for nearly a century. Of course, day-hikers would be remiss not to stop and purchase some world-famous baked goods and say hello to members of the legendary "Hut Croo"–the folks that run the huts and prepare the delicious food during hiking season. Just the pick-me-up you need to make it the rest of the way.
A continued climb rewards intrepid adventures with panoramic vistas of the entire Franconia Range and, on a clear day, a glimpse of the famous Mount Washington and the aforementioned Presidential Range is possible. So take a picture and send it to your friends and co-workers at home–We wish you were here.
Hiking Mt Lafayette is one of Guineafowl Adventure's favorite outings in the Northeast. Heck, they like it so much, they head there twice a month. Guineafowl founder and owner, Dave Fatula, loves ascending above the treeline for a 360-degree view of the White Mountains.
"If I'm ever indecisive about where I want to go for a day hike, the default is Lafayette and Franconia Ridge," said Dave Fatula. "I've been up there on pristine bluebird calm days, and I've had rain pelting me sideways locked in with 10 feet of visibility (not recommended for everyone). I have run or hiked through all of it with an ear-to-ear smile on my face. The Ridge is a special place to me."
Guineafowl Adventure Company provides full-service, turnkey guided day hikes in the White Mountains and beyond for people of all abilities and experience levels. We take care of all the planning and preparation for hiking and provide round-trip transportation from the Greater Boston area, day packs with hydration and snacks, safety and convenience items, and friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced guides to lead the way!
Guineafowl's mission is to remove the barriers and obstacles that keep people from exploring nature, so they can feel comfortable, safe, and relaxed while experiencing the physical and mental health benefits of hiking and connecting with nature.