Why Mt. Major is the Best Day Hike in New Hampshire
When I first moved to New Hampshire from California ten years ago, I knew almost nothing about the Granite State. What could it offer that the West didn’t have? After spending a decade living and exploring New Hampshire, I’ve discovered its natural gems are abundant. While the Seacoast, Lakes Region, and White Mountains have endless opportunities for outdoor adventures, there’s one trail that I continue to hike over and over again: the route to the summit of Mount Major.
1. The Views
Though this peak is only 1,785 feet in elevation, the vista from the top of Mount Major is impressive. In addition to being rewarded with multiple lookouts along the route, the summit boasts a clear picture of the expansive and iconic Lake Winnipesaukee. The 69-square-mile lake contains at least 264 islands! I love looking down on the islands sprinkled through the sizable body of water. What’s more, the view spans over the Belknap Mountain Range that surrounds the lake.
2. Route Options
Since multiple trails lead to the summit, you can take a different route each time! From the main parking lot, the Mt Major Trail, Boulder Loop Trail, and Brook Trail all reach the summit. I like making each trip a different loop.
There are other options as well, like entering from trails that traverse other nearby peaks. Not only do these many route options allow hikers to choose their own adventure, but it also spreads out the heavy trail traffic that this area sees during the popular summer and fall hiking seasons.
3. Year-Round Accessibility
Mount Major is accessible in every season. While extremely popular in the warm summer months, I tend to frequent the peak mostly in the late fall and through winter. Being a low-elevation peak means that almost the entire forested trail is made up of predominantly deciduous hardwood trees. The fall foliage is incredibly beautiful! For almost the entire month of October, hikers are rewarded with brilliant colors and falling leaves.
Mount Major is also the best day hike in New Hampshire in winter months. By layering up and wearing the right gear, I am able to hike to the summit and enjoy gorgeous snowy views.
4. An Achievable Challenge
Mount Major is a moderately difficult climb with a few short, steep sections. Fit adults with little to no hiking experience should be able to enjoy the hike to the peak. Even as an experienced hiker, I consider this hike to be the perfect difficulty level. It’s an uphill climb, so I get my heart pumping, but I don’t have to worry about technical footwork to summit. I’ve guided older kids, teens, and friends on this hike, and they’ve all enjoyed the challenge.
Another reason Mount Major is the perfect day hike is because the loop is less than five miles—an achievable length for most hikers. Depending on your preference, you can adjust the mileage based on which route you take. The popular Brook Trail Loop makes the trek a do-able 3.8 miles. Want a longer day on the trail? Visit neighboring peaks Mount Anna or Straightback Mountain to make the hike seven miles or more.
5. Easy to Get To
Convinced that Mount Major is the best day hike in New Hampshire? Hike it for yourself! The trailhead is located on the shores of the southwestern tip of Lake Winnipesaukee in the town of Alton Bay, New Hampshire. There’s a large parking lot off Route 11, about four miles north of the Alton Bay town center. To get more information about the trails and routes, visit the Belknap Range Trail website.
Never Gets Old
Over the years, I have hiked Mount Major countless times. I have photos on the summit with my then-new boyfriend, Matt. Later, Matt and I have a summit as newlyweds with our new puppy, Summit. It’s the first hike I took my infant son on and later my baby daughter. I’ve taken friends, family, and even the entire 8th grade class from the school at which I teach.
Many of us have a hike that has a special and never gets old, and Mount Major is mine. In my opinion, it’s the best hike in New Hampshire!
Originally from the West Coast, Lindsey Lapointe moved to New England after college and found a permanent home in New Hampshire with her husband, two kids, and her dog. She’s held a lot of titles including marine biologist, wilderness instructor, teacher, writer, and mom. Part of the joy of being a mom is sharing her passion for adventure and the outdoors with her children. She shares more outdoor adventures on her blog, The Freelance Adventurer. Instagram: @freelanceadventurer