Northern New England’s mountains are criss-crossed with hiking trails, woods roads, and animal paths. Within a short distance from Dartmouth are many different types of hikes — from the Appalachian Trail which cuts through downtown Hanover before ascending back into the woods, to rocky paths through the alpine vegetation above the Mount Moosilauke treeline, to the wooded trails of Vermont ducking past corn fields and grazing cows. And there are still large wooded areas to explore, like the Second College Grant.
Hikes Near Dartmouth
Want to get out on the trails? Visit the Upper Valley Trail Finder to find the most up to date trail info!
The hikes described below are some of our favorites near Dartmouth. Many more hikes are possible and are described in the abundant number of hiking books available for this region. Or you can pull out a map and pick your own destination!
The descriptions here also list a book time, calculated by adding a half-hour for every mile traveled and a half-hour for every thousand feet ascended (for example, a one-mile one-way hike which ascended one thousand feet would have a book time of one hour). This is an average summer hiking time — actual times may very considerably depending upon the weather and the season. The fastest hikers can sometimes complete a hike in half the book time, while leisurely hikers may want twice the listed book time. Since it’s not a race, it’s up to you.
If you’re looking for more hiking ideas or other people to share your hiking, check out Cabin and Trail, one of the DOC’s member clubs. In addition to being the de facto hiking club at Dartmouth, they are also responsible for maintaining over seventy miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail which runs from Georgia to Maine, as well as ten cabins throughout northern New Hampshire available for rent to the public. The club meets every Monday night at 10 pm in the basement of Robinson Hall, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
|Hike||Distance from Hanover||Round-trip Hike Time|
|Gile Mountain||7 miles||1 hour|
|Velvet Rocks||—||3 hours|
|Moose Mountain||8 miles||3 hours|
|Holt’s Ledge||13 miles||2 hours|
|Smarts Mountain||15 miles||5 hours|
|Mount Cube||28 miles||4.5 hours|
|Mount Cardigan||25 miles||2.5 hours|
|Mount Ascutney||24 miles||5 hours|
|Camel’s Hump||65 miles||5 hours|
|Franconia Ridge||65 miles||6.5 hours|
Since there are as many hiking philosophies as hiking philosophers, our advice is: Hike your own hike. Some people hike for the views, some for the accomplishment, some for the company, some for the solitude, some to appreciate nature, and some just for the hiking itself. You’ll quickly discover your reasons for hiking and they will guide you to your own hiking style.
We support the Hiker Responsibility Code, developed and endorsed by the White Mountain National Forest and New Hampshire Fish and Game.
You are responsible for yourself, so Be Prepared:
- With knowledge and gear.
Become self reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.
- To leave your plans.
Tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you will return and your emergency plans.
- To stay together.
When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.
- To turn back.
Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. The mountains will be there another day.
- For emergencies.
Even if you are headed out for just an hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don’t assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.
- To share the hiker code with others.
Leave No Trace
We encourage you to follow the practices endorsed by the national Leave No Trace education program:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces
- Pack It In, Pack It Out
- Properly Dispose of What You Can’t Pack Out
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Use and Impact of Fires
At a minimum, you should plan to bring at least one one-quart water bottle (full, and planning to fill it at least once again, since each hiker needs a minimum of two quarts of water every day), a warm hat and a warm top (no matter the date or weather) for each person in the group — and the group will need to carry a first aid kit, a map and a compass (even if you already know the area), matches or a lighter, a knife, some emergency food, and at least one flashlight for every two or three hikers, with fresh batteries, even if you’re just planning a dayhike. An injury can turn a simple dayhike into a camp and rescue operation, and the weather in the New England mountains can change with little warning. Be prepared!
Some members of the DOC argue that every hiker should carry raingear on every trip. If you’re not sure, consider your destination and plans. If you’re planning a short dayhike and the forecast is perfect, raingear may not be necessary. If you’re hiking in the Pressies (where forecasts are pretty useless), you need to be prepared for anything (people have died in the Pressies from exposure in every month of the year at some time or other).
Boots and Clothes
A few experienced hikers may choose to hike in sneakers or sandals, but most of us need boots. Boots provide protection from rocks and snags, and support ankles from twists and breaks. $30 Wal-mart boots can last a few summers and can be good as an introductory boot, though they won’t provide as much support as a better boot. More expensive boots can run into the $200-$300 range — full leather boots can last forever with proper care but Gore-Tex boots are lighter and breathe better. Throwing some padded inserts into your boots can soften the pounding, as long as they don’t cramp your toes or put your heel into a position to chafe. If your boots are new, wear them around town for a few days to break them in before you go hiking. For overnights it can be nice to throw a light-weight pair of sneakers or sandals into your pack for walking around camp.
And we’ll just mention that you don’t have to lace your boots up in the same old way (left figure). How you lace your boots can affect how they support or wear your feet. Lace them lopsided to support one side of your feet more than the other (middle figure), skip some eyelets to take pressure off the top of your feet (right figure), or play around and find your own lacing.
For the rest of your hiking outfit, start with a few pairs of good socks with some cushion soles. Always take at least one change of socks with you and try to change your socks every few hours (just taking off your boots at rest stops will feel great!). Shorts and a t-shirt will keep people from staring, but always throw at least a warm top and a warm hat in your bag, even on the sunniest summer day — weather can change quickly in the New England mountains and the weather above treeline can be dramatically different than back in town. Warm tops can include silk or polypro tops, fleece pull-overs, or heavier jackets. Cotton provides no insulation when wet (and you will get wet), so sweatshirts and other cotton tops are death.
For overnights and daytrips above treeline, also consider bringing clothing to handle more inclement weather. Wind requires shell pants and a shell top (though in New England usually only a problem when combined with cold or rain — except in the Presidentials above treeline!). Rain requires a jacket with a hood or a rain-proof hat (and some way to keep your pack dry), and more changes of clothing. Cold requires heavier clothing, mittens and gloves, etc.
Packs, Sleeping Bags, and Tents
For summer dayhikes, any small pack (or even a fannypack … or even a duffel bag) can do, but if one person is carrying the day’s supplies for a group they may want a daypack with a hip belt to take the weight off their spine. At a minimum, the group needs to be able to carry at least one quart of water per person, plus a warm hat and top for each person, plus food and other miscellaneous gear, so plan accordingly (one daypack for every two or three dayhikers is about right if you don’t need to carry raingear). For overnights, everyone will be carrying their own pack with tents, stoves and food distributed among the group. Most hikers use internal frame packs but you’ll still see some external frame packs out there (they do still tend to be a little less expensive). Make sure that your pack is the correct size for you, and adjust the straps to put the weight on your hips, using your shoulders only to balance the load. (One common mistake is setting the shoulder strap adjustment strap — the little strap on top of the shoulder strap — too low: make sure it's taking the weight off your shoulder, not putting weight on.)
A 40° (°F) sleeping bag will be enough if you’re only hiking in the summer (or staying in woodstove-heated cabins!), but if your season extends into spring or fall, you’ll want a 20° bag (some bags have less fill on the bottom because they expect you to have a sleeping pad — these you can flip over in the summer to stay a little cooler). For winters in New England, you’re going to want at least a -20° bag, even if you only plan to sleep out on the cabin porch in the winter (personal experience talking here) — a 0° bag is not enough (and even a -20° bag won’t be sufficient for all situations in New England). Look for a synthetic fill which won’t lose its insulative properties when wet (like feather down will) and a bag with baffles which keep the fill from moving around and creating cold spots (though some bags advertise their ability to move fill around in order to adjust to the temperature need — inexperienced baggers won’t appreciate this feature). And do not forget your sleeping pad! Sleeping pads not only make your sleeping more comfortable — they provide crucial insulation between you and the heat-sucking ground (earth and rock have low resistance to heat transfer, but high heat capacitance, so they will suck, and suck, and suck…).
Whether to wear warm clothes inside your sleeping bag is mostly a matter of preference. That first minute or two in a bag without clothes can be off-putting, but if your bag is adequate to the weather, you’ll soon warm up the inside and be toasty the rest of the night. If you do choose to wear warm clothes inside your bag, wear all your warm clothes — if you put on your jacket to keep your core warm, that’s less body heat warming up the rest of your sleeping bag so your less-protected extremities will be cooler. A common trade-off is to wear little around your torso, allowing your body heat to warm your sleeping bag up to temperature, but stuff something warm down at the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your feet warm. Also, during winter, it may be necessary to keep with you, inside your sleeping bag, your boots, water bottles, and anything else you don’t want to freeze overnight. (And don’t throw your water bottles down into the foot of your bag and then throw something else between them and your feet — you need your body heat to be able to reach to anything you don’t want to freeze!)
Free-standing (“geodesic”) tents are most common today, but some people prefer to camp under a tarp or poncho, or in a bivvy sack, usually for weight or financial reasons. Free-standing tents can be pitched almost anywhere, but if you’re not going to stake it down then be sure to throw something inside so it doesn’t blow away. Most tents come with a water-resistant fly you put over the tent to keep it dry, and usually you’ll want to put something underneath the tent to protect it (ie. you and your gear) from groundwater as well: either a footprint you buy with the tent, or a plastic tarp you cut to size (it should not stick out from under the tent or it will catch rainwater). Vestibules can help you keep the muddier of your items outside your sleeping space or just provide extra room to keep things out of the rain. Not all tents are rated for winter conditions or for heavy winds so be sure your tent is adequate to your intentions. And don’t forget that using a stove inside a tent can be very dangerous — in addition to the fire hazard should you accidentally set the tent surrounding you on fire (!), in the restricted airflow of a tent carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion can accumulate and kill you (symptoms like headaches and drowsiness can give you some warning).
You can rent packs, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tents, and lots of other gear from the DOC rental shop.
There are three main kinds of stoves in use today: white gas, propane, and alcohol. White gas stoves are the most efficient in terms of weight and fuel cost, but can be finicky to use — nevertheless, they are the most common stove on the trail. Propane canisters can be expensive, but provide nearly the same heating times as white gas and are easier to use. Alcohol stoves take a little longer to heat food but are dead-simple to use (in fact, so simple, that when set-up and lighting times are included, alcohol stoves can often boil a quart of water faster than white gas or propane stoves!). Because of their simplicity, the DOC only rents out alcohol stoves (well, actually we have some larger two-burner stoves which use propane or white gas, but they don’t count). Other stoves available are sterno stoves and stick-burning stoves, though they’re not common.
Flashlights with fresh batteries are essential gear, even on dayhikes. You never know when an injury will turn a dayhike into a rescue operation which can extend far into the night. Most common now are headlamps with LED bulbs — headlamps keep the hands free for clamboring over rocks and water bottles, and LEDs provide decent light for longer on the same battery charge. Always make sure your batteries are fresh and it’s a good idea to have a spare set along as well.
Knives are useful for preparing meals, but after an injury they can become essential for cutting bandages and other first aid applications. There are few animals in the New England mountains which are dangerous to humans, so don’t plan on using your knife on animals unless you are on an actual hunting trip and you know what you’re doing.
The DOC rental shop has stoves and flashlights for rent too.