Backpacking in New Hampshire: TOP 5 Multi-Day Trails

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

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Backpacking in New Hampshire offers the chance to explore stunning natural beauty, from rugged mountain peaks and tranquil lakes to dense forests and cascading waterfalls in the “Granite State.”

In this guide, we’ll share essential tips and the TOP 5 multi-day trails to tackle in New Hampshire. Whether you’re an experienced hiker seeking a new adventure or a novice backpacker eager to embrace the great outdoors, the Granite State has something for every nature enthusiast.

Interested? Let’s get started.

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 potentially dangerous wildlife such as black bears that can become aggressive when seeking food, moose that may charge when threatened, coyotes that can endanger pets, as well as bobcats, foxes, porcupines, deer, and disease-carrying ticks present in wooded and grassy areas requiring precautions.
  • 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 times to go are 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 Backpacking Trails in New Hampshire

Here are the best multi-day backpacking trails in New Hampshire:

1. Pemigewasset Loop

Vibrant fall foliage colors in New Hampshire

Photo by Craig Zerbe

Length: 31.2 mi / 50.2 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 9724 ft / 2964 m
Location: Pemigewasset Wilderness
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 13 600 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Extremely rugged 31.2-mile loop in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Considered very challenging with punishing terrain like exposed Franconia Ridge. Most take 2-3 days. Faces potential winter conditions year-round, so proper gear crucial for safety in this remote area. Limited campsites require reservations. Strenuous climb rewarded with breathtaking ridge views and alpine camping for prepared backpackers.

2. Presidential Traverse Trail

Dramatic sunset silhouettes the rugged peaks of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, viewed from an overlook along the scenic Kancamagus Pass

weesam2010, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 18 mi / 29 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 8182 ft / 2494 m
Location: White Mountain National Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 11 000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Extremely challenging 18.0-mile Presidential Traverse across New Hampshire’s highest, exposed alpine summits including Mount Washington. Recommended as a strenuous 2-3 day backpacking trip for experienced hikers only. Faces severe weather potential year-round. Proper mountaineering gear essential. AMC huts with reservations. Check forecasts for this iconic but punishing White Mountains adventure.

3. Owl’s Head Path via Lincoln Brook Trail

This vibrant autumn scene at Lincoln Woods State Park showcases brilliant New England fall foliage framing the trailhead parking area and river access point

Harold Litwiler, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 17.5 mi / 28.1 km
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 3018 ft / 920 m
Location: Pemigewasset Wilderness
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 7300 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Challenging 17.5-mile out-and-back to Owl’s Head summit in White Mountains near Lincoln, NH. Strenuous 8-hour hike climbing Franconia Brook and Lincoln Brook Trails to Owl’s Head Path. Two brook crossings required. Best views before wooded summit. Popular backpacking route with possible mud/overgrowth. Rewarding but arduous climb reaching cairn-marked peak. Best May-October.

4. Lincoln Woods Trail to Franconia Brook Trail Loop

At Lincoln Woods State Park, a serene pond reflects the vibrant fall foliage colors and warm sunset glow across the calm waters

Peter Rintels, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 32.2 mi / 51.8 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 8359 ft / 2548 m
Location: Pemigewasset Wilderness
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 15 300 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Highly challenging 32.2-mile backpacking loop in Pemigewasset Wilderness near Lincoln, NH – recommended as a strenuous 2-night, 3-day trip for experienced backpackers only. Climbs Owl’s Head, camps at 13 Falls and Galehead Hut. Summits West Bond and Bondcliff with 360° views. Traverses exposed Bonds with over 5,000 ft elevation gain. Spectacular scenery but extremely punishing – proper preparation required.

5. Appalachian Trail: White Mountain National Forest

This aerial view captures the rugged, tree-covered peaks and ridges of the White Mountain National Forest near Livermore, New Hampshire under a bright daytime sky

Length: 89.5 mi / 144 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 32 191 ft / 9812 m
Location: White Mountain National Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 52 400 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Brutal 89.5-mile Appalachian Trail section through White Mountains – extremely strenuous point-to-point traverse climbing multiple summits, miles above treeline. Famed for relentless ups/downs, boulder fields crushing hikers. 6-7 day endurance test with limited water. AMC huts offer respite. Proper footwear/planning essential on this iconic, punishing NH trail renowned for breaking thru-hikers’ spirits. For experienced backpackers only in prime season.

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):

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

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if New Hampshire is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guides for Vermont and Maine.


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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Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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