Whether it’s Snow-vember storms, mid-winter blizzards, or a deep snowpack lingering into May, snowshoes are often necessary for ascending one of the 48 summits above 4,000 feet (1219 m) in New Hampshire’s White Mountains In fact, snowshoe season in the Whites commonly lasts six months or more, dispelling the notion that snowshoeing is a winter-only sport.
Despite the Whites’ comparatively diminutive elevation, winter lasts longer at its higher elevations. Many a spring hiker leaves the trailhead in short sleeves and hiking boots only to find themselves pulling on a jacket and snowshoes a few thousand feet later. If you’re interested in exploring the Whites on snowshoes, keep reading to learn about some of our favorite intermediate-advanced winter trips.
Due to its shorter elevation (just 4,003 feet, 1220 m), moderate mileage, and sheltered trail, Tecumseh is commonly first on the list for hikers looking to get a taste of the Whites’ 4,000-footers in winter.
Leaving from the edge of the Waterville Valley Ski Area, hikers strap their snowshoes on at the Mount Tecumseh Trailhead. They stay on the trail for the entirety of this out-and-back trip—following it up 2.5 miles (4 km) to Tecumseh’s summit, then retracing their steps. The trail starts in a hardwood forest adjacent to Waterville Valley. It then weaves toward an intersection that offers a peek at the ski trails, and from here, the trail hugs the ski area’s boundary for 0.5 miles (0.8 km).
Above this intersection, you’ll be thankful for the traction your snowshoes provide. The trail climbs consistently, picking up the majority of its 2,250(ish) feet (686 m) in elevation gain. After about a mile, the Tecumseh Trail intersects with the Sosman Trail. It forks shortly after that, with either direction quickly leading to the summit. The summit view of many of the region’s notable peaks, including Mount Washington, is stunning.
Tecumseh is best for snowshoeing between late December and early March. In terms of difficulty in the snowshoeing season, Mt. Tecumseh is recommended for intermediate snowshoers (and also experienced hikers who are new to snowshoeing). The trail gets broken in quickly, even after big storms, so get up early if you want fresh tracks!
Why should skiers have all the fun? The proximity to Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, means easy après access. Stop into the T-Bar for a beverage and nachos before heading home.
The Presidential Range in the White Mountains is notorious for fierce weather and rugged terrain. Despite the range’s extreme reputation, some snowshoe routes offer amazing views while staying comparatively protected from the weather. One such route is the trip up 4,310-foot (1314 m) Mount Pierce—named for Franklin Pierce, the only New Hampshire-born president.
The trail up Mount Pierce follows one of the most classic trails in the country: the Crawford Path (which is celebrating 200 years of continuous use in 2019). Leaving from a parking lot across from the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Center on Route 302, snowshoers take the Crawford Connector to the Crawford Path. Then they climb through a forested winter wonderland—gaining 2,500 feet (762 m) of elevation over 3.2 miles (5.15km).
The forest protects snowshoers from the Presidentials’ severe winds for most of the trip. The trail only opens up onto windswept slabs for the final 0.1 miles (0.16km). In good weather, hikers are treated to a stunning view of Mount Washington and the Southern Presidentials. On the summit, watch for friendly gray jays, little birds that willingly eat from your hand. Once summit photos have been taken (and the gray jays have lost interest in begging for food), retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Mount Pierce is an excellent choice for snowshoers from early December to late March. In heavy snow years, the route stays in form well into April. Similar to Tecumseh, intermediate snowshoers or experienced hikers new to snowshoeing would likely be comfortable on this trek.
On mild days, advanced snowshoers can continue on the Crawford Path for a little over a mile to the 4,780-foot (1457 m) summit of Mount Eisenhower. A descent on the Edmands Path, followed by a road march on the Mt. Clinton Road, make a roughly 10-mile loop (16 km) out of the trip. However, this variation will keep you above the tree line, exposed to the weather, for over a mile. The Edmands Path descent and the road march back to the trailhead will likely be unbroken. Make sure you’re well prepared.
Mount Liberty and Mount Flume
Northeast hikers flock to Franconia Ridge, located in the Franconia Range of the White Mountains, for its spectacular views and exposed terrain. Although less traveled than the classic ridgeline section between Little Haystack and Mount Lafayette, the portion connecting Mount Liberty (4,459 feet, 1359 m) and Mount Flume (4,328 feet, 1319 m) should be on every snowshoer’s list. The trip offers beautiful summits with stunning views, minimal crowds, and a fun, snow-filled romp across the col between the peaks.
The most popular way to hike Liberty and Flume is as an out-and-back hike leaving from the Basin parking lot just off I-93 North. After a few minutes south on a bike path, snowshoers will duck into the woods on Liberty Springs Trail, which also happens to be part of the Appalachian Trail. The trail gently but consistently climbs roughly 3,000 feet (914 m) over 3 miles (4.8 km) to a junction with the Franconia Ridge Trail. From there, it’s just a short scramble south to the exposed, rocky summit of Mount Liberty.
From Liberty’s summit, snowshoers can either retrace their route (for about 7 miles round trip) or continue on the Franconia Ridge Trail for another 1.5 miles to the summit of Mount Flume. Those forging ahead are rewarded with a snowy walk through New England pines. Finally, they gain another craggy summit with stellar views of Liberty Mountain to the north and Loon Mountain, a popular ski destination, to the south.
Snowshoeing on Liberty and Flume is best between December and late March. The Mount Liberty trek is recommended for intermediate snowshoers. However, the continuation hike to Mount Flume from Mount Liberty is best for experienced intermediate or advanced snowshoers. Even when the snow melts at lower elevations, snowshoes are useful for the ridgeline traverse well into May.
If tagging both peaks feels like a lot of snowshoeing in one day, spend the night. Liberty Springs Tentsite is just below the junction of the Liberty Spring and Franconia Ridge trails. The tentsite and features tent platforms and a composting outhouse. Best of all, it’s free during the snowshoe season!
The westernmost of the White Mountains, Mount Moosilauke is the tenth tallest mountain in the state. It’s also the fifth-highest outside of the Presidentials. Provided the weather above treeline cooperates, it’s one of the best snowshoe trips in the region. It’s also the most challenging trip on our list today.
Leaving from the end of Breezy Point Road in Warren, New Hampshire, snowshoers follow the five-mile Carriage Road. The road winds through dense New England forest and beautiful birch glades before continuing along the Krumholz-lined path to the barren, windswept summit. The mountain takes its name from the Abenaki word for “bald place.” However, large cairns now help direct snowshoers across the mountain’s moonscape summit.
Gaining 3,000 feet (914 m) in elevation, the Carriage Road dates back to the 1870s when horse-drawn carriages carried tourists to a summit hotel. Remnants of the hotel’s foundation can still be found on the summit and are frequently used by hikers as windbreaks. An extraordinary 360-degree view highlighted by Franconia Ridge and the Presidentials is available to Mount Moosilauke summiters.
The Carriage Road is typically an excellent snowshoe romp from late December until mid-March. Experienced intermediate or advanced snowshoers should attempt the trek to Mount Moosilauke.
The Carriage Road’s width and moderate pitch make it the perfect place to deploy a snowboard, skis, or sled to speed up the descent.
The White Mountains in New Hampshire are a snowshoer’s paradise thanks to the easily accessible mountains and a variety of challenges for snowshoers of all abilities; we’ve only scraped the tip of the iceberg.
Before visiting any of the peaks discussed here, be sure to check the weather forecast at Mount Washington Observatory’s Higher Summit Forecast. Also, we recommend looking through recent trip reports at trailsnh.com for current trail conditions and 4000footers.com for basic route information.
We’d love to hear your experiences and recommendations in the comments below. Happy snowshoeing!