15 Best Hikes In New England That Should Be On Your List

Best hikes in New England

Planning a trip to New England and want to add a few hiking trails to your travel itinerary? Whether you’re seeking a quick day hike to do with your family or a more challenging trek, we have you covered!

In this post, we share 15 of the best hikes in New England and what you can expect on these amazing trails.

To help you with trip planning, I have divided our guide by different New England regions. These are areas that we have personally explored so you can expect first-hand knowledge on what you need to know, where to park, what to bring, and other tips to make the most of your time in New England.

How To Get Around?

If you’re flying out to travel in New England, having a rental car is a must to get around and explore various areas. The hikes that we cover in this post are located all over New England and require a bit of driving if you plan to do a few of them.

For our New England road trips, we typically fly into the Newark Liberty International Airport in New York. This airport has the most (and cheapest) flight options and we can easily pick up a rental car when we land. You can try to rent a car outside of the airport to save on cost, but you might end up paying the same in Uber or Taxi fees to get there.

Check out the highly rated Enterprise Car Rental at Newark Liberty International Airport.

How Many Days Do You Need?

When we plan our New England trips, we typically set aside a week up to 10 days (since we have to fly out there). This gives us enough time to visit 2-3 different New England states and add a few longer day hikes to our travel itinerary.

If you can’t dedicate that much time to a single trip, you can also visit and explore one area at a time. Some of our personal favorite regions in New England for hiking and outdoor adventures include Acadia National Park, White Mountain National Forest, and Stowe.

If you stay in one area, you end up spending less time driving and more time exploring and hiking – which is the ultimate goal anyway!

What To Bring?

If you’re wondering what you should bring for a trip to New England, here are a few essentials:

Hiking Boots

The weather in New England can be a bit unpredictable and it can start raining mid-hike. You’ll want to wear hiking shoes with a lot of grip to prevent falling on slippery rocks and tree roots.

Danner Mountain Hiking Boots

Mountain Jacket

It can get chilly on the hikes so bring a light jacket. I love my Mountain Hardwear jacket that comes with a hoody in case it starts raining and folds small so I can easily pack it in my day pack when it’s hot.

Mountain Hardwear Alpine Hoodie

Trekking Poles

Hiking poles can assist with tackling steep trails, finding balance, and trekking across difficult surfaces. Some of the harder New England trails can be pretty rough and these hiking poles will help you take them on with ease!

Black Diamond Trekking Poles

Hiking Medical Kit

Having a small medical kit can come in handy if you get injured out on the trail. My husband severely bruised his leg on a hike from stepping wrong, but he was able to clean the wound and take medication for the pain to make it down safely.

emergency medical kit

Ultralight Medical Kit on REI

Mineral Sunscreen

Some of the New England trails travel on exposed ridges offering little to no shade so a mineral sunscreen is a must. It’s easy to get sunburned on longer hikes even on cloudy, overcast days.

Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen

Water Bottle

Bring plenty of water, especially in warmer months. Many of these trails offer no water sources so you will need to go prepared.

REI Co-op Nalgene Water Bottle

Day Pack

I have a small lightweight day pack from REI that fits all my essentials, water, and camera gear. The REI Co-Op Trail packs come with a padded mesh back, several adjustable straps, and plenty of small pockets.

REI Co-op Trail Pack

Best Hikes In New England

Now that you have an idea of what to expect, here are 15 of the best hikes in New England!

1. Precipice Trail – Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park boasts some of the best hiking in all of New England. Precipice Trail is a short, yet challenging hike that ascents 1000 feet up to the summit of Champlain Mountain all while offering a bird’s eye view of the bay and Acadia National Park’s coastline below it.

The Precipice Trail is truly one of the most interesting and unique hikes that I’ve ever done. But this trail is not for the faint of heart – you’ll need to scramble across giant boulders, climb up metal ladders and walk on narrow ridges that will make your heart skip a beat.

If you love thrilling hikes with a little bit of an adrenaline punch – this trail is for you!

To hike the Precipice Trail, you should set aside a few hours. We followed the Precipice Loop route which took us about 3 hours with many stops to take photos, videos and enjoy the views.

This can be a slow-moving hike, especially on busy days. You might need to wait in a line as people climb up ladders and pass through narrow sections one by one.

For your safety, you want to hike the Precipice Trail at optimal weather conditions. You want to avoid hiking this trail during rainy, misty, or wet conditions when the metal ladders can get slippery and dangerous.

Trail Summary:

Read More: Hiking Precipice Trail In Acadia National Park

2. Beehive Trail – Acadia National Park

The Beehive Loop Trail is one of the most popular and memorable hikes to do in New England, especially in fall. But similar to the Precipice Trail, Beehive Trail climbs up a steep cliff face along narrow ledges and exposed metal staircases.

Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with panoramic views overlooking the ocean, Sand Beach, Newport Cove, and the surrounding landscape from the summit. It is truly a remarkable view that looks especially stunning on sunny days when the ocean water reflects turquoise and blue hues.

While the hike is moderate in difficulty, once you reach the top, you can relax, take a break, eat a snack, and continue in a loop on a much easier path that gradually descends through a forest. It’s not recommended to climb the same way down to avoid congestion and passing people on narrow ridges.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 1.5 miles long loop
  • Elevation Gain: 500 feet
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time Needed: 2 hours
  • Location: Beehive Trail, Bar Harbor

3. Bubble Rock Overlook – Acadia National Park

Bubble Rock Overlook is a scenic trail at Acadia National Park that features two different viewpoints and overlooks Jordan Pond. The Bubbles Trail is just 1.5 miles long and you will be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views from up top.

The two viewpoints along this hike are called South Bubble and North Bubble. We liked the South Bubble Overlook the most because it offers clear views of the lake that look especially great for sunset. The North Bubble is higher up in elevation and is more obstructed by trees, but is still a pretty great sight if you have the energy to climb to both!

North Bubble Viewpoint

The trailhead is located off Park Loop Road at a designated visitor parking lot. The hike starts with a steep climb through a forest and flattens out towards the summit. This hike is quite stunning and we even saw some wild turkeys roaming in between the trees!

Despite its short length, the Bubble Rock Overlook Trail can be confusing and intersects several different paths. Be sure to download an offline hiking map ahead of time to track your route and bring a headlamp if you plan to hike it for sunset.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 1.5 miles long loop
  • Elevation Gain: 500 feet
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time Needed: 2 hours
  • Location: Bubbles Divide Trail

Psssst! Here are some of the best places to stay near Acadia National Park so you can have a fantastic time both in nature and out!

4. Cadillac Mountain – Acadia National Park

Visiting Cadillac Mountain is on top of the list for almost anyone heading into Acadia National Park. Most people drive up to the top of Cadillac Mountain in their cars, but did you know that the 7-mile-long Cadillac South Ridge Trail goes to the summit as well?

To drive up the Cadillac Summit Road, you will need to make a reservation and pay an entrance fee. Hiking the Cadillac South Ridge Trail is a great alternative to experience Cadillac Mountain if all of the vehicle reservations are booked up, especially for those highly coveted sunrise and sunset spots.

The Cadillac South Ridge Trail travels along exposed ridges passing a small pond along the way. If you plan to hike this trail for sunset or sunrise, be sure to bring extra layers as it can get quite windy near the summit. As the highest point on the East Coast, visiting Cadillac Mountain in New England is a must!

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 7 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time Needed: 4-5 hours
  • Location: Cadillac South Ridge Trail

5. Ocean Path – Acadia National Park

Unlike other trails that climb to steep summits, the Ocean Path Trail is one of the easiest hikes in New England. The Ocean Path starts at Sand Beach and trails along the shoreline to Otter Point for around 2 miles. You can also opt to do shorter sections or turn around at any point.

This is a great hike if you want to visit some of the main Acadia National Park attractions, but don’t want to look for parking at every stop.

Some of the main highlights along the Ocean Path are:

  • Sand Beach. This is a scenic beach that is known for its white-sand shoreline and turquoise water. Here you can walk in the sand, hike to the Sand Beach Overlook, or even jump in the water for a swim. Sand Beach is quite a unique attraction as it’s one of the only cold-water shell-based beaches in the world.
  • Thunder Hole. Thunder Hole is a section of the rocky Acadia National Park shoreline where the water crashes against the rocks spouting high in the air. Thunder Hole has a designated area overlooking a cave that creates thunder-like noises by trapping air and releasing it with bursts of ocean water. But to see and hear this nature show you have to arrive at the right time which is around 2 hours before high tide.
  • Otter Cliff. Otter Cliff is a wonderful viewpoint of the coastline that consists of interesting granite rocks. If you’re unable to see a sunrise at Cadillac Mountain, this is a great alternative place to watch the sunrise as it offers unobstructed views of the ocean.

To start this hike, you can park in a large visitor lot by Sand Beach and follow the shoreline from there.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 4.5 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 350 feet
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Time Needed: 3-4 hours
  • Location: Ocean Path Trailhead

Looking for fun things to do around Acadia National Park after hiking? Consider signing up for this Bar Harbor Culinary Walking Tour that goes to some of the best local foodie spots in town!

6. Flume Gorge – Franconia Notch State Park

The Flume Gorge is a 2-mile-long hike that travels through an 800 feet long natural gorge with footpaths, stairs, waterfalls, and a river that flows through it.

Flume Gorge is a unique geological attraction and one of the most popular things to experience within New England. The trail that leads through this glacier-carved chasm passes covered bridges, giant glacier boulders, and even a rock cave where visitors can crawl in and through to the other side.

Wolf Den rock cave at Flume Gorge

Although the trail is only 2 miles long, be sure to set aside a couple of hours for this interesting stop. As a highly popular attraction, you can expect it to be congested and might need to wait around a bit as the lines move through the narrow walkways.

Tickets for Flume Gorge cost $18 and can be purchased on the New Hampshire State Parks website or in person. Reserving tickets online will secure the best time spots, especially in the busy tourist seasons like summer and fall.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 2 miles long loop
  • Elevation Gain: 500 feet
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Time Needed: 2 hours
  • Location: Flume Gorge

7. Artist’s Bluff Lookout – Franconia Notch State Park

Artist’s Bluff Trail is a favorite for many people traveling to New England, especially in the fall months. Artist’s Bluff Lookout has become a popular location for photography and enjoying sunsets from its viewpoint.

The Artists Bluff Trail starts off Profile Road in Franconia Notch State Park. This scenic 1.5-mile-long trail is fairly easy and you have the option to do it as an out-and-back hike or go in a loop for a change of scenery.

This short, yet epic hike goes to a viewpoint that overlooks Echo Lake and the stunning New England landscape from up top. Once you reach the overlook there is plenty of space to spread out on the rock slab but be careful of where you step as there are steep drop-offs all around.

With the picture-perfect Echo Lake framed by mountain peaks and a windy road, New England landscape settings don’t get better than this!

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 1.5 miles long loop
  • Elevation Gain: 450 feet
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time Needed: 2 hours
  • Location: Artist’s Bluff Loop

Read More: 10 Memorable Things To Do In Franconia Notch State Park

8. Cannon Mountain – Franconia Notch State Park

At the summit of Cannon Mountain

From all of the locations at Franconia Notch State Park, Cannon Mountain offers some of the best views around. To get there you can take the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway and hike a few trails at the top or start at the mountain base and trek along the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the summit.

During our visit, we opted for the easier option. We took the air tram to the peak of Cannon Mountain and hiked a short trail to the Observation Tower, then looped back along the Rim Trail.

The Rim Trail follows the edge of a cliff with panoramic views overlooking the classic New England mountain peaks all around. This is a great option for enjoying stunning sights without doing a whole lot of work.  

9. Diana’s Baths – White Mountains

Diana’s Baths waterfalls

Diana’s Baths is the perfect quick outdoor adventure and one of the most popular trails to do in the White Mountains. This short and fairly flat 1.3-mile-long trail leads to a set of stunning pools, rock ledges, and a cascading waterfall with a total drop of 75 feet.

To reach Diana’s Baths you can park in the large visitor lot off West Side Road in North Conway. From there follow the wide path that leads directly to the waterfall. This is an easily accessible, highly visited trail so we suggest going early in the morning if you want to avoid the crowds.

Since 1863, Diana’s Baths has marked the location of a family-owned and operated sawmill in the White Mountains. Now visitors can see the location of where the mill used to stand before the land was sold to the U.S. Forest Service and turned into a public trail.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 1.3 miles out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 100 feet
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Time Needed: 1 hour
  • Location: Diana’s Baths

10. Sabbaday Falls – White Mountains

One of my favorite hikes in New England is Sabbaday Falls, a scenic trail featuring three different falls, pools, wooden rails, granite steps, and viewing platforms. This trail is only 0.7 miles long so you get some pretty amazing views for very little work.

The hike starts at the Sabbaday Falls Trailhead next to the Kancamagus Highway. From there you can follow the wide path to a set of walkways that pass through a deeply carved gorge with several scenic waterfall tiers.

Sabbaday Falls earns its name after Sunday – the rest day. While for early settlers surviving in the New England’s White Mountains took a lot of work, families would often take the Sunday off chores to enjoy a stroll to this waterfall.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 0.7 miles out and back
  • Elevation: 100 feet
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Time Needed: 1 hour
  • Location: Sabbaday Falls Trailhead

11. Mount Washington – White Mountains

At the base of Mount Washington

In the early days of the White Mountain settlement, outdoor recreational activities were off-limits to most people. Mountains were only climbed to survey the land and for mapmaking.

It wasn’t until 1819 that a trail was established and a footpath was built to the summit of Mt Washington to guide adventurers and explorers as a recreational activity. Since then, many people have traveled to the White Mountain National Forest for its hiking trails.

Mount Washington summit

The summit of Mount Washington sits at 6288 feet making it the highest peak in New England. It also holds the record for the highest wind ever observed in the world at 231 miles per hour.

Most visitors reach the peak of Mount Washington by driving up the Mount Washington Auto Road or by taking the historic Mount Washington Cog Railway. But if you’re looking for a challenge, you can also take the 7.5 miles long trail along Tuckerman’s Ravine, Huntington Ravine and Nelson Crag that leads to the top as well.

Mt. Washington Observatory Weather Station

This is a challenging trail with rough terrain and large boulders so it should be attempted by experienced hikers. Mount Washington is also known for high winds and unpredictable weather so be sure to do plenty of planning ahead of time and go prepared.

Trail Summary:

Read More: 20 Incredible Things To Do In The White Mountains, NH

12. Bingham Falls – Stowe

Stowe is a small, historic town in New England that is a great spot to visit for fall trips and outdoor activities. Bingham Falls Trail is a popular hike that’s located at Smugglers Notch State Park just slightly outside of Stowe’s downtown.

Bingham Falls trail is only 0.5 miles long but this hike passes through a mossy gorge with multiple cascading waterfalls. Roaring Falls is the tallest of the tiers with a 25-foot drop which is unusually high for Vermont.

In the summertime, Bingham Falls is a popular area for swimming and cliff jumping. This gorge is made of rocks that are millions of years old with deep potholes and pools that are great for cooling off on a hot summer day.

To reach Bingham Falls you’ll need to climb down some steep rocks. Hiking boots with support will help you against slipping and injuring yourself while climbing down to get a closer look at the waterfalls.

Trail Summary:

13. Mount Mansfield – Stowe

Beautiful trail near the Mt Mansfield Peak Visitor Center

Mount Mansfield is Vermont’s highest peak sitting at 4393 feet in elevation. From the summit, you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes as far as you can see.

Mount Mansfield offers several jaw-dropping trails. During our visit, we hiked a portion of The Long Trail that passes next to the visitor center and travels through one of the last arctic-alpine zones left in Vermont.

The Long Trail at Mount Mansfield

To reach the Mt. Mansfield peak you can hop on the Gondola SkyRide which costs around $30 per person. You can also opt to take the Stowe Scenic Auto Road that follows in the same direction as the gondola.

The Stowe Scenic Auto Road begins next to Highway 108 and it goes for about 4.5 miles up a narrow, windy road that ends at the Mt Mansfield Peak Visitors Center where some of the hiking trails start. Do note that the Stowe Scenic Auto Road is not free. It costs $25 per car and driver plus $9 for every additional person.

It can be very chilly and windy up at the peak of Mount Mansfield so bring some extra layers. Be sure to wear waterproof hiking boots because most of the terrain consists of slippery, wet rocks and muddy ground.

Read More: 15 Incredible Things To Do In Stowe, Vermont

14. Freedom Trail – Boston

Boston Common Public Park

The Freedom Trail is a classic must-do New England hike. The Freedom Trail is a walking route that visits many historic sites in Boston providing an opportunity to enjoy the scenery and learn a bit about the city’s history at the same time.

Boston’s Freedom Trail marks the most noteworthy homes, churches, museums, neighborhoods, and burial sites of the Boston revolutionaries that fought for freedom from the British Empire.

Freedom Trail travels through downtown Boston passing many historic buildings mixed in with new skyrises

The Boston Freedom Trail is 2.5 miles long and covers 16 significant stops. The Freedom Trail starts in Boston Common which is the oldest public park in America.

You can explore the Freedom Trail on your own or sign up for a Downtown Freedom Trail Walking Tour like this one with a professional guide to fill you in on the history of each location. If you plan to do it on your own, we recommend you use this super handy Freedom Trail brochure that describes each location and its significance.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 2.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 150 feet
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Time Needed: 2-3 hours (to stop and learn more about each location)
  • Location: Freedom Trail Starting Point

15. Island Line Trail – Burlington

If you’re looking for a longer trail in a city setting, the Island Line Trail is a 7.5-mile-long pathway in Vermont that runs along Lake Champlain through all of Burlington.

The Island Line Trail starts at Oakledge Park in the south and ends near the Winooski River in the north. You can spend hours walking the entire trail, or just tackle a smaller section near the downtown.

This pathway was built in 1980 and is mostly flat making it the perfect place to experience Burlington on foot. My favorite section of the Island Like Trail is located by Oakledge Park where during a restoration project 1000 native trees have been planted creating a lush forest within the city borders.

Trail Summary:

  • Length: 14 miles out-and-back
  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy (just long)
  • Time Needed: half a day for the entire trail
  • Location: Island Line Trail

Read More: 10 Fun Things To Do In Burlington, Vermont For Visitors

New England offers many incredible day hikes that look especially stunning in fall. Jaw-dropping mountain ridges, deeply carved gorges, serene waterfalls, and pristine wilderness are just a few of the best things that you can experience while hiking in New England.

Looking for more New England travel inspiration? Here are some of our other popular travel posts that you may like:

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