Five Mountains and Parks for the Hiking Enthusiast
Wildflowers and Rock Formations: Five Mountains and Parks for the Hiking Enthusiast
by Cassandra Luca, Let’s Go Editorial Director
Hikeable mountains and well-preserved parks dot the New England landscape; there are so many, it might be difficult to choose those with the best views, the most rugged trail, or most leisurely walk. The mountains in the list below boast some of the most beautiful sights, both at the top and along the way. Here are a small sampling of some of the most interesting paths in the area.
1. Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, ME
While this trail is only 1.5 miles long, it is not for the faint of heart. Closed between March 15 and August 15 to accommodate falcon nesting, Precipice Trail follows the edges of the cliffs and makes use of ladders for climbers to scale its sides. The “hike”—as it’s more of a climb due to the vertical ascent of nearly 1,000 feet—takes you deep into Acadia National Park for some of the best sights, as well as views of local wildflowers. No hiking poles are necessary: use your hands to ascend the ladders and the boulder at the beginning of the trail.
2. Mt. Greylock, MA
Inspired to follow in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne in the hopes that you too can become one with nature? Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts’ highest peak at 3,489 feet, boasts 70 miles of trails, 11.5 of which belong to the Appalachian Trail. The mountain is part of Mount Greylock State Reservation and also offers other activities, including backpacking, snowshoeing, and camping. After you’ve hiked to the top, you’ll be able to view five different states, given the mountain’s strategic location in the northwest corner of the state. Bring your children: you can tell them that the North American version of Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s alma mater, is located here.
3. Sleeping Giant State Park, Hamden, CT
This park gets its name from the rock formation that mimics the shape of a giant. 8 miles north of New Haven, CT, visitors can hike to the top of the giant’s head, chin, hip, or knee. For 360˚ views, head to the giant’s left hip to see Mill Valley or Quinnipiac River valley. Though most of the trails are not terribly strenuous—including the Quinnipiac Trail, which stretches 23 miles over the Giant’s length and towards Mount Sanford—visitors can also birdwatch, picnic, and fish in the area. Even an avid horseback rider can find a trail to their liking here.
4. White Dot Trail, Mount Wachusett, Jaffrey, NH
This trail is one of many at Mount Monadnock, one of the most popular mountains in the world with an estimated 125,000 visitors climbing to its bald summit each year. While it is popular, it is not the easiest of trails: the slope is rocky, and combined with the mountain’s steepness, can make it tough to climb for less experienced hikers. Much of the trail is under tree cover, which clear as you get closer to the top. On a clear day, visitors might even be able to see the Boston skyline in the distance. For the average hiker, the entire hike should last about three to four hours, but that time frame could vary depending on weather or the season. The trip is 1.9 miles from the mouth of the trail to the summit; the only way to come down is to go the way you came.
5. Sunset Ridge Trail, Mount Mansfield, Underhill, VT
Though all the other hikes on this list boast their own sights, we might have saved the best for last: visitors who brave this difficult climb will be rewarded with views of a waterfall. This hike is excellent for dog-lovers and photographers, as both are welcome on the trail—as long as dogs are kept leashed for the entire 5.2 mile length. Once at the top, you’ll be able to see Stowe Mountain Resort, a winter favorite for locals, to the east. While the best seasons to visit are spring, summer, and fall, hikers looking for more of a challenge can bring their hiking poles and brave the ice that begins to set in as early as November. The weather can change quickly here, even during seasons most conducive to hiking, so checking the forecast before leaving is a must. The mountain is located less than an hour from Burlington, and the hike will likely take, at most, five hours, leaving the rest of the free to explore the area.