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5 Great Day Hikes Near The Upper Valley

Jun 12, 2015 07:08PM ● By Victoria Pipas
Are you itching to get on the trails this time of year? Look no farther than the outskirts of the Upper Valley. Here’s a list of easily accessible, family-friendly day hikes that will leave you, your family, and summer visitors with a sweat, an appreciation of the great outdoors, and a sense of accomplishment at the summit. Read on to find your perfect path.

Gile Mountain:

This very easy hike is located on the border between Norwich and Sharon, Vermont. The mountain’s summit is at 1,873 feet, and at only 1.4 miles round trip, this hike shouldn’t take more than an hour. You can access the trailhead off Upper Turnpike Road in Norwich; park at the parking lot designated for Tower Trail. Despite the short length of the route, you can get great views from atop the fire tower.

Moose Mountain:

This easy-to-medium hike is a slightly more substantial route, offering a 4.1-mile round trip; you should plan on it taking about three hours. This peak is part of the Appalachian Trail and can be accessed 1.3 miles up Three Mile Road in Etna, New Hampshire (take Ruddsboro Road to get to Three Mile Road). At the summit, you will find a box for the Valley Quest adventures—a great summer treasure hunt for kids.

Cardigan Mountain: 

This lovely hike is a perfect moderate challenge for a family with tweens or teens. Pack snacks and a camera for this hike, which ends in a vast, rocky summit with incredible 360º views and strong winds. The hike is located in Cardigan Mountain State Park, which covers 5,655 acres of New Hampshire wilderness.

The mountain itself has a 3,121-foot summit topped in granite and affords great views of surrounding mountains. The one-way trip is 2.6 miles, with moderately difficult terrain until you reach the summit. There you will encounter some steep granite slabs—careful, they may be slippery when wet— that are a welcome challenge in sunny weather.

Another feature of Cardigan that makes it a sweet trip are the many wild blueberry bushes growing around the granite summit. The berries peak in August so be sure to bring a container if you’re hiking the mountain then. Trailhead parking lot can be accessed off Route 4 in Canaan; follow the road past the Canaan Speedway, driving until you reach the base of the mountain.

Smarts Mountain: 

This more rigorous hike is in Lyme Center, New Hampshire, and offers a summit at 3,238 feet and a 7.6-mile round trip. Expect approximately five hours of hiking in fair weather. This mountain offers opportunities to meet some hikers on the Appalachian Trail, and you can even participate in the through-hiking experience yourself if you rest at a shelter or lean-to for lunch. Smarts Mountain also has a fun fire tower at the summit. Make the hike a loop by taking Lambert Ridge Trail up and Ranger Trail back. Definitely bring lunch for this hike.

Moosilauke Mountain: 

This very strenuous hike is nonetheless doable in a day and is a great challenge for high-energy teens. This mountain is 4,802 feet tall and is settled at the southwestern edge of the White Mountains; it is the 10th highest summit in the Whites. Plan to leave mid morning to reach the summit by lunchtime. The most popular route up the mountain is via the Gorge Brook Trail, which offers a loop if you return on Carriage Road and Snapper Trails.

At the summit, you’ll find the foundation of the 1860 Prospect House, a stone hotel modeled after the one atop Mt. Washington. Moosilauke’s strenuous climb is well worth the views and photo ops along the connecting ridges.

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