Gaze out at the patchwork of the Champlain Valley from the top of Snake MountainPhoto Credit : Heather Tourgee
While it’s easy to be intimidated by New England’s outdoor scene, you don’t need to climb all 67 of the region’s 4,000-foot peaks to enjoy hiking some of its most beautiful terrain. Here are our picks for the best beginner hike in every New England state — all of which you can do without climbing equipment, and most of which clock in at less than an hour.
Favorite trail:Haystack Tower Loop Trail
Summit elevation: 1,716 feet
Elevation gain: 239 feet
Distance: 2 miles (loop)
Summit views: 360 degrees, from tower
Why we love it: The panoramic view from the Rapunzelesque tower atop Haystack Mountain is worth the half hour or so it will take to do this hike. The path is by no means flat but still doable for nearly all ability levels. A 2016 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Short Hike.”
Elevation gain: 283 feet (very gradual)
Distance: 2.9 miles
Views: The trail is mostly wooded but still offers views of the Pemigewasset River, waterfalls, and White Mountains.
Why we love it: It lets you hike in the Whites Mountains without scaling a huge peak. The well-marked visitors center just off the Kancamagus Highway is your gateway to this popular trail, which runs alongside the Pemigewasset River. Most of this hike is very flat and wooded (it’s based on an old railroad bed). Side trails give you the option of making your excursion as strenuous as you’d like.
Favorite trail:Old Carriage Road
Summit elevation: 1,287 feet
Elevation gain: 980 feet
Distance: 1.5 miles to summit
Summit views: 180 degrees, west-facing (perfect for sunset hikes)
Why we love it: Vermont’s Green Mountains are home to some spectacular views and steep climbs, but when you’re short on time and energy, you can’t beat Snake. Park in the lot on Mountain Road and walk less than a quarter mile to the well-marked trailhead on the left. Follow the Old Carriage Road to the top, where you’ll find a cement platform from the 1870 Grand View Hotel that was once sited here. A great spot for picnics!
Where: South Berwick
Favorite trail:The Big A
Summit elevation: 692 feet
Elevation gain: 337 feet
Distance: 1.7 mile (loop)
Summit views: 360 degrees
Why we love it: Most visitors to Maine’s south coast head straight for the beach, and rightly so. But a detour to Mount Agamenticus, just a stone’s throw from Ogunquit and Wells, will reward you with one of the best “bang for your buck” hikes in the Pine Tree state. It’s ideal for families, offering a wide path and benches to rest, and there’s a nature center at the top.
Where: South Deerfield
Favorite trail:South Sugarloaf Trail
Summit elevation: 791 feet
Elevation gain: 452 feet
Distance: 1.4 miles (to summit)
Summit views: 360 degrees
Why we love it: Though it’s a dwarf compared with the Maine mountain of the same name, this Sugarloaf has arguably the better view-to-effort ratio. Park on Sunderland Street (Route 116) or Sugarloaf Road to access the trail. It’s very short but gets steeper as you near the top. Once at the summit, you can climb the lookout tower for a sweeping view of the Connecticut River and Pioneer Valley.
Elevation: Sea level
Distance: 0.5 mile (one way)
Views: Incredible ocean views
Why we love it: This hike isn’t technically a mountain, but we still love walking this wildflower-lined path in the coastal town of Narragansett. It follows a boulder-strewn stretch of shore south toward Scarborough State Beach, passing the ruins of a carriage house for a since-destroyed estate. Scrambling out onto the rocks to listen to crashing surf and spy on sea creatures in the tide pools is a pastime that predates the Civil War. Named a 2015 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Short Hike.”
What is your favorite beginner hike in every New England state?
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.