New Hampshire’s White Mountains are a magical part of the Northeast. When I moved to Boston in the summer of 2020, I knew the White Mountains would be my new outdoors adventure home. Having lived in Washington state for the better part of four years, I wasn’t sure what the east coast would behold. Once I discovered the NH48 list, I knew I had to start discovering the mountains on it. These trails are no joke with limited switchbacks and endless ways to explore.
This post will share all my favorite resources for beginning to plan hiking New Hampshire’s 48 peaks over 4,000 feet! It will not serve as an all-inclusive way to plan your outdoors adventure when hiking the NH48, as I won’t go into nitty gritty details about what to pack and how to be prepared in this post. Please remember to check weather and trail conditions before you go, as these can change quickly in The White Mountains. Also, please practice Leave No Trace Principles to enjoy the journey and leave nothing behind!
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What is the NH48?
You’ve seen the hashtag #NH48 and people are talking about it, but what in the world is the NH48? In White Mountain National Forest, there are 48 peaks over 4,000 feet with a prominence of at least 200 feet. These 48 peaks make up the NH48!
Which Mountains Make the Cut?
These are the NH48, from highest in elevation to lowest (recorded in feet):
South Twin 4902
Carter Dome 4832
North Twin 4761
Middle Carter 4610
West Bond 4540
South Carter 4430
Wildcat, A Peak 4422
South Kinsman 4358
South Hancock 4319
North Kinsman 4293
North Tripyramid 4180
East Osceola 4156
Middle Tripyramid 4140
Wildcat, D Peak 4050
Owl’s Head 4025
Quick Background Information
The New Hampshire 48 peaks over 4,000 feet are within the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF), which was established in the Weeks Act of 1911. It is a national forest and is as such managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (vs. U.S. Department of the Interior for National Parks), meaning it is a land of multiple uses. White Mountain National Forest comprises around 796,000 acres of land (with ~47,000 acres in Maine and the rest in New Hampshire). This land of multiple uses can be used for guiding trips, camping/recreation, hunting, fishing, and tiber harvesting (which comprises of 45% WMNF in a controlled manner). Fun fact for your furry friends (say that 5x fast): Pets are allowed on WMNF trails!
Information to Gather Before You Go
Before you head to the White Mountains for a hike, there are a few things you need to know before you go in order to optimize safety. Here’s a quick list and references before you hike the NH48. Please note, this list may vary based on your individual needs and does not guarantee your safety! Make sure to know your personal limitations.
- Conditioning: Be sure to prepare physically for hiking in the White Mountains. While you can certainly get off your couch and start hiking, the peaks on the NH48 are no joke. Many trails have steep inclines, exposed sections, ladders, rocks, and uneven terrain. Do a few hikes locally, in the White Mountains, or in surrounding areas before starting the NH48. While not necessary, a strength/conditioning and cardiovascular program is a great way to prepare for hiking!
- Plan Your Hike: Use references mentioned below to plan which peak you’re planning to attempt, then decide on the trail you’re going to take! Some peaks can be connected via traverses and trails, and there are often various ways to get to the summit. Do you research with books, maps, trail guides, blogs/websites, and by visiting your local Ranger District Office/Visitor Center.
- Check for Road Closures/Parking Fees: Before heading to the trailhead, know its location and check for road closures on the National Forest website. Some roads are closed seasonally and others depend on weather conditions. Be prepared to display a parking pass on your windshield/dashboard. Often times, you can pay for day use at the trailhead, so bring cash! I have an America the Beautiful pass, which is $80 per year and allows for admission to National Parks/Forests in most areas.
- Check Weather and Trail Conditions: See below for weather tips, but please know weather chances VERY quickly in the White Mountains! For every 1000 feet of elevation, the temperature average decreases by 3 degrees Fahrenheit… and winds can be intense.
- Pack Essentials: Be sure to pack the 10 Essentials for Hiking, in addition to extra layers and rain/wind jackets in case of inclement weather.
- Hike Safely: Before you go, tell a friend/family member where you’ll be hiking, as WiFi is weak in the mountains (which is the point, isn’t it?!). You may choose to bring a satellite phone if you have to communicate in case of an emergency. Follow the NH Hike Safe guidelines, Recreate Responsibly, and Leave No Trace Principles.
Weather and Trail Conditions
It’s VERY important to check weather before you go to the White Mountains! The Mount Washington summit winds have gusted to more than 100 mph in every month of the year AND set a world record for highest winds in the U.S. at 231 mph on April 12, 1934 (which has since been beat by Australia in 1996). As mentioned, the temperature drops about 3 degrees Fahrenheit with every 1,000 feet of elevation gain, so higher elevations = lower temperature. These are my favorite places to check weather in White Mountain National Forest:
- Mountain Forecast: Here you can check weather for specific mountain summits. This is not always the most accurate for weather, but the freezing levels tend to be more dependable.
- Mount Washington Observatory: Great to check Mount Washington real-time summit conditions, read the Mount Washington Summit Forecast, and the Higher Summits forecast for peaks in the region outside of Mount Washington (an awesome resource for the NH48!).
- NOAA Wind Chill: Use this for reference when determining risk of cold-related injuries.
For trail conditions, you can check the below websites for user feedback on their trail experiences. Please note, these sites are all subjective reports and individual trip reports may not be applicable based on your personal experience or the weather conditions you are traveling in. I usually like to check a variety of sources:
While there is a ton of information online, I still like to have books for reference when planning hikes and backpacking. These are my favorite books for reference and planning in the White Mountains:
AMC’s White Mountain Guide (30th Edition)
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Why I love it: This Mountain Guide has been coined the “Hikers Bible” of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It includes SIX topographic maps of the White Mountains (please note, these are NOT waterproof!) and over 600 pages of trails and guidelines for every trip in the White Mountains.
AMC Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains (3rd Edition)
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Why I love it: There are full color photographs in this book, which certainly help to inspire adventure! It is a four-season guide to 60 different hikes in the White Mountains.
AMC’s Best Backpacking in New England (2nd Edition)
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Why I love it: This is a great reference to start planning overnight trips in New England. It has helped me a ton when planning as I am not as familiar with the lands of the White Mountains and New England. There are 37 multi-day trips outlined from Maine to Connecticut.
The White Mountains: Names, Places & Legends
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Why I love it: This book was recommended to me by Steve Smith at The Mountain Wanderer Bookshop in Lincoln, NH! I love how it goes into details on the history of different areas in the White Mountains, including information about the Native American Tribes and land ownership.
Navigation and Maps
When hiking in White Mountain National Forest (and anywhere, for that matter), make sure to bring a map and compass. Ideally, having a waterproof map is the best, in addition to tear proof for longevity and durability, especially with outdoor adventures. You can also opt to add a GPS/satellite map system to your navigation package, but it’s not imperative. Two of my favorite maps include:
1. White Mountains Waterproof Trail Map (6th Edition)
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I bring this map on every hike! It includes the Appalachian Trail, mileage between points, camping/huts/lean-tos, winter trails, and trailhead parking. It was recommended to me by a local in New Hampshire and appears to be the best for reference, despite not having a ton of reviews (don’t let that deter you). Plus, it’s waterproof AND tear-resistant. Win, win!
2. Trails Illustrated White Mountains Map Pack by National Geographic (2011)
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This pack contains TWO National Geographic maps, including (1) White Mountain National Forest – East Side and (2) White Mountain National Forest – West Side. Together, they cover all trails in the White Mountain National Forest and surrounding areas. They are printed on waterproof plasticized paper and the package offers $3.95 savings over purchasing maps individually (woo!).
- New Hampshire 48 on New England Hiking Website links to all the NH48 with maps, trail options, etc.
- AMC 4000 Footer Club Website is the “Official 4K Club” website home to local events, updates, and information on the hiking lists below
- Nichole the Nomad Blog Posts on the NH48 is my favorite local hiker with tons of experience and information!)
- KConn Wanderlust Blog Posts on the NH48 from me, myself, and I (but I haven’t finished the NH48… yet!)
- “Hike the 4000 footers of NH!” is a Facebook Group to connect with other hikers and get trail updates, ask for recommendations, and more!
Other Hiking Lists to Explore
There are tons of other ways to explore the Northeast mountains! By completing the NH48 and many of the lists below, you can actually earn a patch from Appalachian Mountain Club. The recognized lists by AMC include: New Hampshire 48 (NH48), New England 67 (NE67), New England Hundred Highest (NE67+33 more), and Northeast 111 Club (NE111). To earn a patch, go to AMC4000footer.org for an application!
- NH48: Earn a patch for summiting all New Hampshire 48 peaks over 4,000 feet
- Winter NH48: Earn a patch for summiting all NH48 in the winter
- 52 With a View (aka Over The Hill Hikers): New Hampshire peaks under 4,000 feet with a view
- NE50F: New England 50 Finest peaks with prominence between 1,820 and 6,150 feet
- NE67: New England 67 peaks over 4,000 feet
- NE111: Northeast 111 peaks (actually 115) including New England 67 Peaks, 46 Adirondack High Peaks + Slide and Hunter Mountain in New York
- New England Hundred Highest: New England 67 + 33 other peaks with bushwhacks!
What are your favorite resources for hiking the NH48?
What peak would you want to hike first?
Post Updated: Thursday, April 12, 2022