Top Ten Day Hikes in New England
|Mount Abraham in Vermont's Green Mountains (James P. Blair/National Geographic/Getty)|
10. Pine Knob Loop
2.5-mile loop near Housatonic Meadows State Park, CT
This short-ish jaunt makes for an excellent introduction to the lower-elevation summits of Connecticut's Litchfield Hills. From the parking lot off Route 7 North (just past where it meets Route 4), cross Hatch Brook and begin your ascent to the first knob through a forest of oaks, ashes, maples, and hickories. Follow the blue blazes up the steep, rocky slopes to your first lookout, followed by a precipitous descent into a col. Here, you meet up with the Appalachian Trail and veer left back into the forest. Soon, you're atop the second knob, which provides more vistas of the surrounding hills. The Housatonic River winds through the valley, while the ski trails of Mohawk Mountain can be seen in the distance. The Pine Knob Trail and the AT eventually split when you reach Hatch Brook again. Veer left and venture downhill accompanied by the sounds of rushing water. When you reach the loop junction, turn right to return to your car.
9. West Kennebago Mountain Trail
5-mile circuit outside of Oquossoc, ME
To reach the West Kennebago Mountain trailhead, you first have to drive past this mighty mountain on a logging road. Perched at just over 3,700 feet, the fire tower stares down from the summit—but to reach that vantage point is no easy task. The 2.25-mile climb gets steep almost immediately. You hike through a hardwood forest, gradually leveling off as you reach the odoriferous pines. Eventually, you reach the fire warden's cabin and continue up the trail on the right-hand side. The path gets steep again, climbing over rocks, as you approach the ridge near the summit. Here, vistas of western Maine's vast Rangeley Lakes region open up. The trail continues along the ridge for at least 15 additional minutes, until you reach a clearing. This is the best place to have lunch, since the views atop the summit are above tree line. The waters of the Kennebago, Cupsuptic, and Aziscohos lakes add some vibrant color to the surrounding evergreens, a small appetizer before the main course. Climb the last few steps to the summit and up the fire tower. Every step higher offers exponentially better views of Maine's expansive mountains, lakes, and forests. It's like looking at a Japanese silkscreen, the vast layers of undulating hills fading into the horizon. Upon reaching the top, it's possible to see Mount Washington in New Hampshire, Mont Mégantic in Quebec, and Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park. If the view leaves you gasping for air, there's a rocking chair in the room atop the fire tower—you'll need the rest before attempting the descent.
Check out our profile of West Kennebago Mountain Trail—and add to it—in our Trail Finder Wiki
8. Mount Abraham
5.2-mile circuit in Green Mountain National Forest, VT
South of Camel's Hump, Mount Abraham is another of Vermont's popular 4,000-plus-foot ascents—but since you begin high atop Lincoln Gap on the Long Trail, the actual climb is only 1,700 feet. The 2.6-mile, one-way trail starts gradually, weaving its way over tree roots and small rocks. At 1.2 miles, you pass the Carpenters, two large boulders named after stalwart trail workers, not the '70s duo. A little more than a half-mile later, the path passes the Battell Trail and a small shelter of the same name. From here, the going gets rough, leaving you to scramble over large, slippery slabs of rock until you reach the open summit. The views from the top are stunning, though there's a fair chance the summit might be obscured by clouds. Still, literally walking into the swirling blanket of clouds makes for a worthy experience, even if the views aren't forthcoming. Be cautious of slipping on the smooth rocks on the way down, especially if they're wet.
7. Great Island Trail
7-mile circuit in Cape Cod National Seashore, MA
Even though this round-trip route resides not in the mountains but on the coast, Great Island Trail—Cape Cod National Seashore's longest—still qualifies as a hike, not a walk. This three-hour-plus trail through marsh, woods, and soft sand is a strenuous thigh-burner. It follows the circumference of Great Island, a former whaling port and now one of the most secluded areas on Cape Cod. Stroll down the short hill from the parking lot off Griffin Island Road and take a right, continuing around the marsh the entire distance. At the fork, take a left toward Smith Tavern. Just prior to reaching the easternmost tip of the island, where people often fish for stripers and blues, another sign will direct you over the dunes through the woods. The trail winds through the pine forest to the site of an original whaling tavern. Continue out of the woods to a marsh where sand dunes tower on your right and Wellfleet Harbor is visible to the left. This sandy path leads to Great Beach Hill. Five minutes later, you'll reach another marsh and a sand spit known as Jeremy Flats. At low tide, you can walk out to the tip, but save your energy; you still have a 2.2-mile walk down the beach of Cape Cod Bay to reach The Gut. If you start to feel like Lawrence of Arabia lost in the desert, look to ten o'clock and you'll see Provincetown's Pilgrim Monument, the lone sign of civilization.
Check out our profile of Great Island Trail —and add to it—in our Trail Finder Wiki
6. Camel's Hump via Forestry Trail
6.5-mile loop in Camel's Hump State Park, VT
On nearly every Vermonter's list of favorite hikes is the climb up the distinctive mass of rock known as Camel's Hump. Standing 4,083 feet tall, the summit can be seen from Burlington and from as far east as Mount Pisgah on the other side of the state. Begin your walk on the Forestry Trail, one of three routes to reach the summit. At 1.3 miles, veer left onto the Dean Trail, crossing over Hump Creek, where there is a small campground. The trail climbs ever so gradually through a boreal forest, where the air becomes cooler and fills with the sweet smell of firs. One mile from the intersection of the Forestry Trail, turn right on the Long Trail for a rigorous 1.7-mile climb. The narrow trail winds steeply up a rock face before leveling off at an overlook. Next, skirt the shores of a pond and climb through a glacial morass, following the rocky trail upward. Eventually, you'll descend into a col where the massive peak stands directly above you. Follow the white blaze for a short distance and then have lunch while sitting on the bare summit of Camel's Hump, taking in the views of Lake Champlain, Mount Mansfield, the White Mountains, and the Adirondacks. Choose the Alpine Trail for the first 0.7 miles of your descent. Halfway down the path, a wing from an airplane can be seen. It was here on October 16, 1944, that a B-24J bomber crashed and nine crew members died. The Alpine Trail eventually connects with the Forestry Trail. Veer right and continue for 2.5 miles to the trailhead and parking lot, weary yet invigorated by the day's accomplishment.
Check out our profile of Camel's Hump—and add to it—in our Trail Finder Wiki
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication