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Top 5 Beginner Winter 4000 Footers In New Hampshire

Not long ago, A friend of mine asked which 4000 footer should he tackle as his first winter 4k peak. He already had his winter equipment figured out from local lower elevation hikes like Mount Monadnock (Read more about winter gear selection here). He is also a decently experienced “fair-weather hiker” looking to extend into the winter months.

That’s a tough question to answer! So, I decided to write this article about it. I tried to approach this as a progressive 5 step program instead of just listing off the easiest 4000 footers. If I could do it all over how would I plan it? I’d Start off easy, and lead into the tougher stuff to round it out. It’s important to remember that this is purely my opinion! So here they are, the top 5 winter 4000 footers for beginners winter hikers.

What was your first winter 4000 footer? Let me know in the comments below!


1. Mount Waumbek – 4,006 ft

Looking through the trees on Waumbek

Trails: Starr King Trail
Difficulty: Easy
Stats: 7 Miles round Trip | 2500 ft elevation gain
Book Time: About 5 hours
Location: Pliny Range

This one is a no brainer to me. Mt Waumbek is one of the easiest 4K’s in New Hampshire. The Starr King trail is super gradual and gentle on the knees. This trail brings you across the smaller Mount Starr King (3,907 ft). This is the perfect “first hike” as it will give you a chance to test out your layers and gear before getting into something more committing. Views are limited on the summit of Mt Waumbek but if you walk about 1/4 mile past the true summit you’ll find a clearing that will give you a decent view of the Presidential Range!


2. Mount Tecumseh – 4,003 ft

The cleared summit of Tecumseh

Trails: Mount Tecumseh Trail
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Stats: 5 Miles | 2200 Ft Elevation Gain
Book Time: 3 Hours 30 Minutes
Location: Sandwich Range

Mount Tecumseh is another one of the easier 4000 foot peaks in the White Mountains. If you start at the Waterville Valley Ski area you can be back at your car within just a few hours. The once wooded summit of Tecumseh has been cleared illegally in recent years which has opened up a pretty amazing view. As a bonus, you can grab a beer and some food after your hike at the ski lodge!


3. Mount Pierce – 4,320 ft

Trails: Crawford Path
Difficulty: Moderate
Stats: 6.4 miles | 2,400 ft elevation gain
Book Time: About 4 1/2 Hours
Location: Presidential Range

Mount Pierce is located in the Southern Presidential range. It neighbors Mt Jackson (4,052 ft) and Mt Eisenhower (4,780). The Crawford Path is the easiest route to the top. Starting at Route 302 in Crawford Notch This trail is very gradual and easy nearly all the way to the top. The summit of Mount Pierces offers amazing 360 degree views on patch of exposed rock. Looking north on a clear day you’ll be able to look along the southern Presidential Ridge to Mt. Washington. For such a short hike, this one is a winner!


4. Mount Liberty – 4,459 ft

Mount Libertys rocky summit

Trails: Liberty Springs Trail
Difficulty: Moderate
Stats: 8 Miles | 3,250 ft Elevation Gain
Book Time: 5 Hours 30 Minutes
Location: Franconia Range

Mt Liberty is known for it’s exposed rocky pointy summit as seen from the highway below. The Liberty Springs trail offers a diverse mix of terrain and begins fairly gradual. It steepens up a bit near the top and can get icy in certain conditions. The summit offers amazing 360 degree views and a small glimpse at what being above treeline can feel like. If you’re feeling strong by the time you hit Liberty you may want to mozy over to it’s slightly smaller sibling to the south Mount Flume (4,327 feet) this peak will add 2.4 miles to your total trip and gain you another 4000+ foot peak!


5. Mount Moosilauke – 4,803 ft

The view near the summit on Mount Moosilauke

Trails: Glenncliff Trail
Stats : 7.8 Miles | 3300 ft elevation gain
Difficulty: Moderate
Book Time: About 5 1/2 hours
Location: West Cannon-Kinsman Range

The western-most 4000 footer… Moosilauke! Commonly known as the “other above treeline peak” in the White Mountains. Moose has proven to be one of my favorite peaks in all seasons. In the winter it’s the perfect peak for new hikers looking to experience some above treeline conditions. The Glenncliff trail is very gentle with a few sections of steepness near the top. In some instances this trail can become extremely icy so you best have your traction devices! The beauty of Moosilauke is how abruptly you pop out of the trees to the exposed rocky path to the summit. On a windy day it’s like flipping a switch when you cross the threshold into above treeline territory. The above treeline stretch is only about a 1/2 mile and can be a thrill. Views at the top are some of the best! On a clear day you can see all the way to Vermont. On you’re descent, don’t forget to stop at the “south peak” which is not a true 4000 footer but is equally as beautiful as the main peak.


Helpful Tips

  • Always check the forecast! The weather changes by the minute in the White Mountains.
  • Go with a friend who has done some winter hiking before.
  • Test your layers on non-committing terrain. Even around town or on a local trail system.
  • Have bail out plans.
  • Let someone know where you are going and what trails you intend to use.
  • Take zero risks. Turn around if you need to!
  • Have Fun!

Hiker, climber, father, and husband. The mountains have become a tremendous source of inspiration, physical challenge, fitness, motivation, and enrichment for me. I love the gear, and technical aspects of climbing. I also enjoy sharing this other type of lifestyle with people who haven't experienced it!

12 Comments

  • Stewart Hanna

    February 6, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    Great list, exactly what I was looking for as I plan a trip for Feb Vacation with my son. Any suggestions on a base camp that is conveniently located for a couple of days hiking? That is next on my list.

    Reply
  • David Priester

    January 31, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    I would add Mt. Field, and while you are at it Mt. Tom. And if you are having a really good day add in Willey and don’t miss the 100 yard (Though steep) side trip to the Mt. Avalon ledge. It’s a terrific view though the upper part of the Avalon trail is quite steep. 10 mile round trip. Generally the Avalon and A-Z trails are well traveled and not far from civilization.

    Reply
  • David Lottmann

    January 9, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Great article, though I want to throw out there that Lafayette/Lincoln get more Search & Rescue incidents than almost all the other 4000k’s, so I’m not sure I would include them on a beginner list. They have significantly more above treeline terrain and weather exposure than any 4000k’s out side of the Presidential Range and should be considered on par with the Presidential peaks in terms of seriousness. That loop is SO classic though!

    Reply
    • mm

      Dave Dillon

      January 9, 2017 at 7:59 pm

      Thanks for chiming in Dave! Others have mentioned this as well. I wrote this for the “experienced 3 season hiker”. With this comes the common knowledge of checking the forecast, and knowing when to bail and turn around. This article is meant more as a progressive step-by-step type of list. Meaning #5 is harder than #1.
       
      I guess the intent behind adding Franconia Ridge to the list was a means of introducing the above treeline environment to someone who has 5-6 winter experiences under their belt.
       
      However, I do understand how this could misguide someone. I’ve removed Lincoln/Lafayette and replaced it with Pierce. Moosilauke moved to Number 5, as it is an ideal way to experience the above treeline conditions with the safety net of the treeline being so close by.

      Reply
      • Danny Hughes

        January 10, 2017 at 12:55 pm

        Nice write up Dave!
        I particularly appreciated that you asked for feedback and then acted on it appropriately. This article will help others make good decisions about their hiking adventures. I would like to post a link to this article from our 4 Seasons Hiking MeetUp group site if that is OK with you?
        My first winter hike was either Tecumseh or Pierce, I think. Have to check the records.

        Reply
  • Bruce O Brown

    January 8, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Good article. My first winter NH/NE 4000 Footer was Moriah, back in late Dec 1972. The choice was based on a recommendation from my hiking mentor, Richard Stevens of the AMC. It was a day trip led by Bob Wagner of the Worcester Chapter of the AMC. That organization led moderately sized winter climbs composed of hikers with varying strengths, abilities, and experience – always focusing on a group effort.

    Reply
  • JoAnne Murphy

    January 8, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    I like your list. I finished my 48 without a true “winter hike” but did travel a few mountains with snow cover on them during May, October and November. The November, winter conditions hike I did was Mount Moriah. While we didn’t need snowshoes on that hike, microspikes were handy on ledges and upwards from those. I look forward to trying a true winter hike. Thanks for your suggestions.

    Reply

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