New England Walking and Hiking
On the numerous nature trails of New England, visitors are rewarded with unforgettable views of a unique landscape – mountain ranges, green forests, lakes and rivers, and the Atlantic coast. Here are a few walks and hikes — from short, scenic strolls to grand hiking adventures. Explore links to the state websites for more hiking trail ideas.
One of the world’s longest hiking trails is the Appalachian Trail, which starts from the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine and heads south for a total of 2,184 miles (3,490 km) through five of the six New England states (then continues south all the way to Georgia). The trail difficulty varies significantly, from easier areas in Connecticut and Massachusetts to some of the most difficult passages on the entire trail in Maine. Appalachian Trail guides (detailed maps of individual sections in the various states) are available for order. There are AMC Huts and Lodges in Maine and New Hampshire that offer camps for teens, families, and 50+ travelers. According the the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, New England has the best bus service close to the trail. In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, there is also an AMC shuttle bus that provides transport to spots throughout the White Mountains, in season.
Connecticut state parks offer extensive hiking trails, plus you’ll find many other walking adventures in this state that has mostly pastoral terrain inland and easy walks along the coast.
Gillette Castle State Park
For a short hike and special adventure, take the Essex Steam Train through the scenic Connecticut River Valley and walk to the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry for a boat ride to the base of Gillette Castle State Park, in Hadlyme. The Castle was the home of the late William Gillette, known for his stage portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Hike up moderately graded trails to the castle (not suitable for families with small children or strollers).
Kent Falls — Kent/Litchfield Hills
Head to the western part of the state to see Kent Falls, a spectacular waterfall that is the crown jewel of the Connecticut state parks. This area offers two hiking trails with beautiful views, especially in autumn, and is perfect for a picnic lunch. Kent was deemed the #1 spot in New England for fall foliage in 2010 by Yankee Magazine. Watch a video of the falls.
Bear Mountain — Salisbury
For more strenuous hiking, consider tackling Bear Mountain, near Salisbury, Connecticut, the highest peak in the state with low bushes (including blueberries) and panoramic views of Connecticut and Massachusetts. The mountain has trails that hook up with the Appalachian Trail. Before or after your hike, stop in the pretty town of Salisbury.
- Learn more about hiking in Connecticut (state tourism website)
- Additional Resources: Connecticut State Parks, Walk Connecticut, Rails to Trails (featuring hiking trails along converted railroad tracks), Berkshirehiking.com
The state of Maine, which is larger than all the other New England states combined, has endless special walks and hiking trails for all abilities — from the paved “Marginal Way” in Ogunquit along a classic stretch of rocky coast, to miles of trails through raw wilderness in areas such as Baxter State Park. Here are just a few of the many choices:
Acadia Carriage Trails — Mount Desert Island
The numerous carriage trails through the mountains and valleys of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine go back to John D. Rockefeller. He had the roads paved in granite stone in 1913 to make it easier for him to explore the interior of the island in his horse carriage. Even today, cyclists, horse riders and hikers on the wild blueberry-lined, historic carriage trails enjoy picturesque views of the original landscape. In addition to the carriage trails which run through nearly 124 miles (200 km) from the coast, there are also hiking trails through wide valleys into the higher regions of Acadia National Park.
Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land
Offering a taste of wilderness in Down East Maine along the famous Bold Coast, Cutler Coast Public Lands is a 12,334-acre expanse offering a variety of ecosystems including 4.5 miles of headlands overlooking the Bay of Fundy. Difficulty: advanced.
Bradbury Mountain State Park
Although Bradbury Mountain is only 485′ high, the park offers sweeping views of Casco Bay, more than 21 miles (33 km) of hiking, biking and equestrian trails; camping; a playground and family-friendly activities year round. Difficulty: easy, moderate, advanced.
Vaughan Woods Memorial State Park
Vaughn Woods Memorial State Park, a 160-acre park in southern Maine, is one Maine’s hidden gems waiting to be discovered with 3.75 miles (6 km) of trails. Hundred year old trees tower over shady trails, and ancient streams feed the tranquil Salmon Falls River. Adjacent to the property is the Hamilton House, a beautiful historic home that can be toured in season. Difficulty: easy, moderate.
In this state, choose from trails along the coast, on famous islands, or inland where the pastoral greenery goes on for miles. The following are some of the best known hiking areas:
Mohawk Trail — Western, Massachusetts
The Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts is an old Native American trading route. The first settlers used the 62-mile (100 km) road from Orange to North Adams, as well. The stretch of road between Greenfield and North Adams is the first, official, reported panoramic road in New England with a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains. This area has many hiking opportunities, including a hike to Poet’s Seat, a lofty perch with a near 360-degree view of the lush Pioneer Valley.
Cape Cod National Seashore — Outer Cape Cod, Massachusetts
There are twelve self-guided trails at the seashore that are open year round: in Eastham — the Fort Hill, Red Maple Swamp, Buttonbush, Nauset Marsh, and Doane trails; in Wellfleet — the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp and Great Island trails; in Truro — Pamet Area Bearberry Hill Overlook, Woods Walk at Highlands Center, Small’s Swamp, and Pilgrim Spring trails; and in Provincetown — the Beech Forest Trail. Interpretive folders with information on natural and historic features are available at some trailheads. Trailside plant identification markers are referenced in the Common Trailside Plants guidebook on sale at the visitor center bookstore.
Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts
This is a city walking tour — a 2.4 mile (4 km) long trail, with a red line marking the way through Boston along 16 iconic historic sites of the Revolutionary War. The path of freedom begins at the Visitor Information Center on Boston Common. The first part of the trail leads visitors interested in history through the city center and Old Boston with the Old State House and the Faneuil Hall. The second part goes through the streets of North End (where you’ll also find good pastries shops and cappuccino) over the Charles River up to the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown.
Purgatory Chasm — Sutton, Massachusetts
A unique natural landmark, Purgatory Chasm runs for a quarter of a mile between granite walls rising as high as 70 feet. Popular with picnickers and rock climbers alike, the Chasm is believed to have its origin in the sudden release of dammed-up glacial meltwater near the end of the last Ice Age, approximately 14,000 years ago. Trails lead to a wide variety of rock formations, with such romantic names as The Corn Crib, The Coffin, The Pulpit, Lovers’ Leap and Fat Man’s Misery.
Mount Greylock State Reservation — Lanesborough, Massachusetts
At 3,491 feet, Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts. Rising above the surrounding Berkshire landscape, dramatic views of 60-90 miles distant may be seen. It became Massachusetts’ first wilderness state park, acquired by the Commonwealth in 1898, to preserve its natural environment for public enjoyment. Wild and rugged yet intimate and accessible, Mount Greylock rewards the visitor exploring this special place of scenic and natural beauty.
- Learn more about hiking in Massachusetts (state tourism website)
- Other resources: Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Everytrail.com, Berkshirehiking.com
New Hampshire is hiking country with breathtaking mountains and abundant wildlife. For an easy hike, head for Mount Monadnock, reportedly one of the most hiked mountains in the world.
Lincoln Woods Trail
More than 1,180 miles (1,900 km) of hiking trails lead through the forested north region of New Hampshire. A popular trail through the White Mountains is the 2.7-mile-long (4.5 km) Lincoln Woods Trail. Numerous lakes and rivers wind through the area and usually attract moose that hide in the forest, in the early mornings or in the early evening hours. Side journeys include the trail to Black Pond and Franconia Falls, which pours a cascade of water over a number of large granite rocks. This is inviting to visitors as a perfect spot for a picnic or sunbathing on the rocks in the summer.
Franconia Notch & Crawford Notch State Park
There are many trails for all abilities to choose from in these areas For an easy hike, head to Artist’s Bluff for some of the best views of Cannon Mountain. Other scenic hikes are Bald Knob loop, the Basin, or Lonesome Lake. More advanced hikers will want to head for the Franconia Range or Crawford Notch State Park to see Arethusa Falls, the tallest waterfall in N.H.
Lakes Region — Mount Major
For an especially stunning view of New Hampshire’s largest lake, climb to the rocky flat top of Mount Major (elevation: 1,100 feet) — truly spectacular in fall foliage season. Most of the hike is easy along old logging roads, although the summit is steep and sometimes slippery. Three miles (4.8 km) in length.
Odiorne Point State Park — Rye
This park is easily accessible and offers sweeping views of the ocean, sandy and rocky shorelines, and a coastal salt pond marsh. Extensive trails wind throughout the park through dense vegetation. The park also houses the Seacoast Science Center.
The highest peak in the northeastern U.S., Mount Washington is a favorite with highly experienced hikers. On a clear day, the 6,288 foot summit provides views from the Atlantic Ocean to New York’s Adirondack Mountains and Canada. The summit has a day-use visitor center and museum. Weather changes quickly on this mountain so it is critical to be prepared and to turn back if the weather deteriorates. Learn about shorter treks for less experienced hikers during warm weather periods. Or, skip the hiking and head up by auto or guided van tours on the Mt. Washington Auto Road, or The Cog Railway, a mountain-climbing train.
- Learn more about hiking in New Hampshire (state tourism website)
- Hiking the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains
- Other resources: Hike Safe, New Hampshire State Parks
Although Rhode Island is the smallest state in the U.S., it is surprisingly varied in terrain. These two spots are highly scenic, and you’ll find many others throughout the state.
Cliff Walk, Newport (Rhode Island)
The 3.4 mile (5.5 km) Cliff Walk in the picturesque seafaring town of Newport, Rhode Island, combines the natural beauty of the rocky waterfront cliffs of New England with the architecturally remarkable mansions and country houses of the city from the “Gilded Age”. The Cliff Walk meanders past the Newport Mansions, which were built in the late 19th century by industrialists or entrepreneurs’ as summer residences with direct ocean views, and are now open for public touring. If desired, visitors can interrupt their journey for a tour of The Breakers, originally built by the railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt II. The southern part of a walking tour on the Cliff Walk requires climbing. A good pair of walking shoes and alertness walking on these unpaved trails is a must.
This island, located just 12 miles (19 km) off the Rhode Island coast, has been heralded as “one of the twelve best unspoiled areas in the Western Hemisphere.” Along this trail you’ll see magnificent views of lighthouses and sweeping views of the Atlantic. The Mohegan Bluffs rise abruptly to a height of about 200 feet above the sea and stretch for nearly three miles along the southern shore. Block Islands Greenways, 25 continuous miles of walking and hiking trails, offer the ultimate way to see Block Island’s grassy meadows, stone walls, inland moors, majestic Mohegan Bluffs, and plentiful wildlife. The Nature Conservancy office on Block Island, 401-466-2129, provides trail maps.
Learn more about hiking in Rhode Island (state tourism website)
Whether you are looking for an easy family hike or a complete hiking adventure, Vermont has a trail for you. Hike in spots overlooking the great Lake Champlain, through the vast public forestland and around the deep water lakes of the Northeast Kingdom, or in one of Vermont’s state parks.
Long Trail — Green Mountains (Vermont)
A beautiful hiking experience during the summer and autumn season is to tour a section (or all!) of the Long Trail. The oldest hiking trail in the USA follows the ridgelines of the Green Mountains for the 272 mile (438 km) length of Vermont, from Massachusetts to Canada. Section hikes include summit views from Glastenbury and Stratton Mountain, Killington Peak, Mount Abraham, Mount Ellen, Camel’s Hump, Mount Mansfield and Jay Peak.
The Appalachian Trail
This venerable trail shares much of its 62-mile (100 km) route through Vermont with the Long Trail, from the Massachusetts border to Killington Peak, where it turns east toward New Hampshire. This scenic section passes just to the north of Woodstock and Norwich, and is accessible by several feeder trails for day hikes.
Travelers on their way through the natural beauty of the Green Mountains and the Champlain Valley in Vermont can experience the typical New England country style for the region. One of the best ways to connect with these places is with a hiking tour on the Inn-to-Inn Trail. Charming, often historic, guest houses in green open spaces along the way make for an original New England vacation experience. Travelers can also discover romantic, culinary, or environmentally-friendly themed routes.
Stowe Recreational Path: In the scenic area of Stowe, a 5.3 mile paved trail is an easy way to enjoy nature. The multi-use (non-motorized) trail starts in Stowe Village, next to the Stowe Congregational church, winds its way through woods and meadows, and crosses the West Branch River 11 times on arched wooden bridges. Numerous shops, lodges and restaurants are accessible from the path. Those seeking more adventure will want to explore the many natural hiking areas nearby, including the state’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield.
- Learn more about hiking in Vermont (state tourism web site)
- Other Resources: Vermont Outdoor Guide Association, Green Mountain Club, Vermont State Parks