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Ten Great Hikes for Kids

Article by Fred Shirley and Wayne King reproduced from the Spring 2007 issue of Heart of New Hampshire magazine.

A mom and son hiker pair checks out the awesome view from Mount Osceola.

There is a lot we adults can (re)learn from children, and among the best places for doing that are the woods and mountains. Approaching the outdoors experience from a childlike perspective can renew your mind, body and spirit. So even if you don't have a child of your own, grab one (with permission of course) and try a few of these great hikes in NH.

Pitcher Mountain is located in southern NH near the town of Stoddard, about 50 miles west of Manchester. This is one of our favorite mountains because it is a relatively easy climb to a picturesque summit with a fire lookout tower. If you happen to be here when a fire warden is present, you may get invited up into the lookout cabin;


otherwise you will have to be satisfied with the view from the stairway just below. The NH Division of Forests and Lands promotes a Fire Lookout Tower Quest program, of which this tower is a participant. You can find more information about mountain towers on the NH Mountain Hiking website (www.nhmountainhiking.com), via the Hikes to Towers Cross-reference Mountain List.

Mount Cardigan is located in Alexandria, NH not far from the shores of Newfound Lake. It too is one of the few mountains in NH with an operational firetower. For a very short hike approach the mountain from the west side through Canaan and take the 1.5 mile West Side Trail to the summit. For a different and more challenging approach, try the Holt Trail from the east. The Holt Trail is not recommended for your descent as the top part is steep and dangerous going down.


Little Monadnock Mountain is located in southwest NH near the town of Fitzwilliam, not too far from its famous big brother Grand Monadnock Mountain. The hiking trail starts within Rhododendron State Park, which provides a bonus attraction in July when these gorgeous flowers are in bloom. This, the largest grove of wild Rhododendrons (Rhododendron maximum) in northern New England, has been designated a National Natural Landmark. Beyond the park, the Little Monadnock Trail meanders peacefully up the mountainside through regrowth woods -- with opportunities to discover flowers and critters -- up to a ledge outlook.

Mount Willard, strategically located at the top of Crawford Notch, is promoted as having the best view-for-effort in the entire White Mountains. Folks even get married here! If you were a pirate captain, this could be your lookout to spy on traffic driving up Route 302 toward your secret hideaway. There are some extraordinary buildings to explore near the trailhead, including Crawford Depot -- a railway station from a bygone era -- and the Mount Washington Hotel -- one of NH's few remaining "grand hotels" built a century ago.

West Rattlesnake Mountain, Holderness, where children are the only thing we have ever seen crawling on their bellies, rises easily over the north end of Squam Lake. This is a great location for a picnic lunch, using the mountain's ledge as a picnic table and the broad expanse of the lake for the perfect view. Most people hike up the Old Bridle Path off Rt. 113, a well-worn trail with an easy grade.

Artist's Bluff is a very short hike at the top of Franconia Notch. Now that the Old Man has fallen, this may be the best view in the area. From the ledge perch you can see Route 93 winding through the notch,


with Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge to the left and Cannon Mountain and its downhill ski area to the right. The hike up is steep and rocky, but quite short. After enjoying the view, you can extend your hike if you wish by hiking over to nearby Bald Mountain and returning via a loop trail.

Pack Monadnock Mountain is located in southern NH near the town of Peterborough. There are actually two mountains here: Pack Monadnock and North Pack Monadnock. Either mountain is a pleasurable hike in itself, or you can leave a car at the far end and traverse over both peaks via the northernmost segment of the Wapack Trail. Pack Monadnock has a road to the summit -- which originates within Miller State Park -- as well as foot trails. You have to pay a fee to park at the base or to drive up the road. On top is a fire tower, shelter and picnic tables. North Pack Monadnock is roadless and therefore has more of a "wilderness" feel. It also has a magnificent ledge lookout with a scary drop-off -- not recommended for those who fear heights.


Mount Osceola is the most difficult hike mentioned in this article. But if you are up for a little more strenuous workout, this is a popular hike in the Waterville Valley area with a rewarding big-mountain view on top. On a good day looking out from the old fire tower site (now only the cement foundations remain), you can imagine being an airplane pilot surveying the surrounding mountains and the land far below.

Blueberry Mountain is a sweet, meandering and beautiful two-mile hike in the township of Glencliff, in Warren, NH. Before the actual summit -- which is somewhat anti-climactic -- you'll find a peaceful little spot where other hikers have created a stone bench facing the majestic Mount Moosilauke. You can actually make this your final stop before descending on the same trail. The Blueberry Mountain Trail begins at a parking area along the Long Pond Road in Glencliff. If you have time after your hike, take the drive to Long Pond, a beautiful protected mountain lake in the town of Benton.

www.nhmountainhiking.com. Each mountain listed here has a hotlink to photos and driving/hiking directions. Or, see the website's Hikes by Location link to find mountains near where you may be staying. This set of lists includes a difficulty color code, with mountains in green text being the easiest and therefore most suitable for kids.