Backpacking in New Hampshire: Tips & Trails

Backpacking in New Hampshire: a woman on a mountain trail in NH

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in New Hampshire is awesome because the state has more than 1,200 miles of trails in the rough White Mountain National Forest, including parts of the famous Appalachian Trail.

Popular areas like the Pemigewasset Wilderness and Presidential Range provide challenging yet scenic hiking with steep ascents, rocky terrain, and mountain vistas.

In this post, we will delve into the world of New Hampshire backpacking from an ultralight standpoint, offering crucial insights for your forthcoming outdoor expedition.

We’ll showcase the TOP 5 trails in New Hampshire, sorted into two groups: day hikes covering less than 30 miles and multi-day trips with convenient water resupply points every few days.

Key Tips for Backpacking in New Hampshire

  • What to expect: Expect rugged, mountainous terrain in the White Mountains with steep, rocky trails that require navigation skills as markings can be poor. Weather is highly variable so be prepared for anything.
  • Essential gear: Streams and ponds are abundant sources of water, but it’s essential to bring a water filter for treatment. And, of course, don’t forget to bring your rain gear for unexpected weather changes.
  • Wildlife: New Hampshire is home to several species of potentially dangerous wildlife including black bears, moose, and coyotes. Black bears are generally shy but can become aggressive in their search for food. Moose are massive animals that may charge if they feel threatened. Coyotes typically avoid humans but can pose a danger, especially to pets. Other wildlife like bobcats, foxes, porcupines, and deer can also present hazards.
  • Wild camping: Dispersed or wild camping is permitted in many areas of New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest and other public lands. General guidelines include camping at least 1/4 mile from trails and water sources, not camping in day use or restricted areas, adhering to group size limits of 8 or less people, obtaining permits if required, following fire safety rules, respecting duration limits of 1-3 nights, and practicing minimum impact techniques.
  • Best time to go: The best time is typically the shoulder seasons of late spring and early fall, which provide a balance of good weather, minimal bugs, fall foliage in October, and fewer crowds on trails. Summer brings warm weather but intense bugs and crowded trails during peak visitation. Late fall offers solitude but colder temps, while winter is only for expert backpackers due to deep snow, sub-zero cold, and scarce daylight.

Top 5 Day Hikes (Under 30 Miles)

Explore these day hikes where your lightweight gear will prove invaluable:

  1. Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop (8.6 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Mount Moosilauke and South Peak Loop (6.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Mount Washington via Tuckerman Ravine and Lion Head (8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Mount Osceola and East Osceola (8.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Mount Pierce via Crawford Path (5.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

Top multi-day backpacking trails in New Hampshire featuring water resupply points every two days:

  1. Pemigewasset Loop (31.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Northern Rail Trail (58.3 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail (50.6 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Lincoln Woods Trail to Franconia Brook Trail Loop (32.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Appalachian Trail: White Mountain National Forest (89.5 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Annual Weather Averages

The weather for backpacking in New Hampshire can vary based on the season. Here’s a general overview:

  • Spring (March to May): Spring brings milder temperatures, but be prepared for occasional rain and mud on trails as the snow melts. Daytime temperatures range from 40 to 70°F (4 to 21°C).
  • Summer (June to August): Summers are generally warm with daytime temperatures ranging from 60 to 80°F (15 to 27°C). It’s a popular time for backpacking, but be prepared for occasional afternoon thunderstorms.
  • Fall (September to November): Fall is a beautiful time to hike with cooler temperatures ranging from 30 to 60°F (-1 to 15°C). The foliage in the White Mountains is particularly stunning.
  • Winter (December to February): Winter backpacking requires specialized gear due to cold temperatures and snow. Daytime temperatures can range from -10 to 30°F (-23 to -1°C), and snowfall is common.

Before making your gear selection, take a look at the weather statistics for New Hampshire (Berlin):

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High °F252837516372767466544129
Low °F5717293949535143342413
Rain/Snow (D*)77891112131110989
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.

FAQ

Can I have a campfire while backpacking in New Hampshire?

Campfires are allowed while backpacking in New Hampshire but require permits and adherence to certain guidelines. Fires are restricted to existing fire rings in state parks and prohibited in high-risk areas. Backcountry and dispersed camping on public lands requires obtaining a free campfire permit, and fires may be banned during dry conditions. Keep fires small, use only dead & down wood, fully extinguish flames before leaving, and consider portable stoves to limit impact.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in New Hampshire?

When encountering animals in New Hampshire’s forests, remain calm, keep your distance, and don’t approach wildlife. Make noise on the trail to avoid surprising bears, moose, deer and other mammals. Give them space to move away naturally. Back away slowly without turning your back, if necessary. Know proper use of bear spray in case of charging bears. Report aggressive animals to rangers. Most threatening encounters can be prevented by hiking in groups, being aware of surroundings, properly storing attractants, and employing responsible backcountry practices.

How long does it take to hike the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire?

The time it takes to hike the approximately 210-mile portion of the Appalachian Trail that passes through New Hampshire can vary greatly depending on one’s hiking pace and style, but generally most fit hikers complete it anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks. Faster thru-hikers averaging 20+ miles per day may accomplish it in around 10 days, while more leisurely backpackers covering 10-15 miles per day could take 2-3 weeks, stopping to enjoy the scenery. Section hikers may break it into smaller 3-5 day trips over multiple visits to different parts of the state. Terrain, fitness level, weather, trail conditions, and daily mile pace all factor into the overall completion time.

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