Top 25 Loop Hikes in New England



Who doesn't love a great "loop" hike? Very few people would prefer a straight "out-and-back" hike since you see the same scenery twice. A loop keeps things fresh and interesting.

New England has hundreds (maybe thousands!) of loop hikes, but which of these loop hikes are the best? Everyone has their own favorites, but I believe these are the ultimate 25 loop hikes in New England. You can't go wrong with any of these hikes - I highly recommended all of them. In fact, I'd rate each of them a "9.5" or "10" in scenic beauty (and I think you will too).

The hikes below are listed in alphabetical order (they are not sorted by rank).

If you would like detailed driving directions and trail information for these loop hikes, I highly recommend purchasing guidebooks such as the AMC's White Mountain Guide, AMC's Maine Mountain Guide, AMC's Massachusetts Trail Guide, New England Hiking, 100 Classic Hikes in New England, and Hiking The Green Mountains.





BALDFACE LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH 9.7 miles Difficult this is a classic, challenging loop over both the summits of both South Baldface & North Baldface; most hike this loop clockwise in order to ascend the steepest part of the loop; each of the Baldfaces offers outstanding views; most will agree that this is the best hike in the Evans Notch region of the White Mountains ; do not attempt this hike when wet as ledges on South Baldface can be slippery and dangerous; plentiful blueberries in season (typically late July through early August); don't miss swimming and cliff-jumping at the cold but gorgeous Emerald Pool on your way out; can be done as a backpack by staying at Baldface Shelter en route; access via trailhead on the east side of NH 113 (north of Chatham)

The Baldfaces

BIGELOW MOUNTAIN LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
ME 12.4 miles Very Difficult features some of the most extraordinary hiking terrain in all of Maine; don't miss the short detour to the top of Avery Peak; several backcountry camping options are available at Moose Falls, Avery Col, Horns Pond and Cranberry Stream for those that don't want to hike this in a single day; ascend via the Fire Warden's Trail if you want to do the traditional 12.4 mile loop; do not attempt in foul weather as much of this hike is above treeline

The Bigelows
Photo Credit: Michael Saletnik

CADILLAC MOUNTAIN AND DORR MOUNTAIN
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
ME Varies based on upon route Moderate Side of Difficult visits the tallest peak in Acadia National Park (Cadillac Mountain); there are several ways to construct a loop to visit both summits (see an Acadia National Park map to study all trail options); beautiful views of Bar Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean

Cadillac Mountain

CAMEL'S HUMP LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
VT 6.4 miles Difficult many would argue that this is the finest big peak in Vermont; there are several approach trails; the finest trail is probably the Forest City > Long Trail > Burrows Trail loop; views are incredible from its bald and rocky summit; two nearby cabins/shelters along the Long Trail provide some basic backcountry lodging options; the wildest of Vermont's five 4000-footers; typically snow-and-ice-free from late May through early October (like most 4000-footers)

Camel's Hump

KATAHDIN LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
ME Various, but most common loop is 9.6 miles Very Difficult one of the most alpine mountain on the East Coast; this is the most scenic, most challenging hiking/climbing that you can find east of the Rocky Mountains; several routes/trails reach the summit, and every one one of them is spectacular but also difficult; don't miss the gnarly "Knife's Edge" if you can score a parking permit at the Roaring Brook Trailhead; do not attempt this mountain in foul weather; advance parking permits required for all trailheads (see Baxter State Park Authority website); common loop is Chimney Pond Trail > Helon Taylor > Knife's Edge > Saddle Trail > Chimney Pond Trail; many combine this with a summit of Hamlin Peak, but this makes for one heck of a long and challenging day hike

Knife Edge, Katahdin

GRAFTON NOTCH EASTERN LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
ME 21.0 miles Difficult features one of the newest trail systems in New England; access via ME 26; passes over several fine summits and has a lean-to and several established campsites en route; car spot, road walk or hitch-hike required since this is more of an "arc" than a true "loop"

West Baldplate along Grafton Notch Eastern Loop

GULF HAGAS LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
ME 8.6 miles Moderate Side of Difficult several excellent waterfalls and swimming holes; great camping nearby; expensive for out-of-state residents; access via Katahdin Iron Works (fee required)

Screw Auger Falls

MOUNT ADAMS LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH Varies, but shortest option is 8.6 miles Very Difficult a favorite New Hampshire peak of many hikers, Mt. Adams is ruggedly spectacular; offers alpine views for miles in all directions; there are over a dozen loop options to choose from when climbing this peak; do not attempt in foul weather; lock at a trail map closely to choose trails that see some of the waterfalls of Appalachia on the way up (or down); can combine with Mt. Madison or Mt. Jefferson, but doing two of three of these in one day is very, very, difficult; you will absolutely want to bring a map for this one, especially if you want to see some waterfalls en route; typically snow-free from early June to early October; most trails begin at the 'Appalachia' parking lot on US 2 in Randolph

views of Mt. Madison from Mt. Adams

MOUNT CARDIGAN LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH 5.5 miles Moderate the biggest and best mountain in central NH; huge open summit with room for all; several different route options available, but one of the best is the following: Manning Trail > Holt Trail > Holt-Clark Cutoff > Clark Trail > Mowglis Trail > Manning Trail; take the entire Holt Trail if you are looking for a seriously scrambly adventure (avoid when wet or icy); the easier trails are popular with cross-country skiers and snowshoers in winter

open ledges on Mt. Cardigan

MOUNT CHOCORUA LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH Varies, but most popular option is 7.6 miles Moderate Side of Difficult features a big, open rocky summit with more than enough room to fit the massive crowds that usually convene here; trails can be found on each face of the mountain, and all are rewarding; a first big summit for so many young hikers in New England; backcountry lodging available nearby at the Jim Liberty Cabin (see below for picture of summit from the cabin); easiest route to summit is via Champney Falls Trail off the Kancamagus Highway aka NH 112 (this is an out-and-back hike); the best loop is probably Brook Trail + Liberty Trail loop

Jim Liberty Cabin & Chocorua summit

MOUNT GREYLOCK LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
MA Varies based on upon route Moderate Side of Difficult tallest peak in Massachusetts; trail-side ledges and the summit offer stunning views; a historic lodge and memorial tower exist at the summit; many different routes and loop options available on this 3,491ft mountain



MOUNT LIBERTY & MOUNT FLUME LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH 9.8 miles Difficult open views from both summits; you can either do a 9.8 mile loop over both summits (but you'll have to scramble up the very steep and dangerous-when-wet Flume Slide Trail) or you can do a 10.2 mile out-and-back hike up Mt. Liberty and scoot over to Mt. Flume (return the way you came)

view of Mt. Liberty

MOUNT LINCOLN / MOUNT LAFAYETTE LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH 8.8 miles Very Difficult most would agree that this is best loop hike in the western side of the White Mountains; the classic loop is counterclockwise: Falling Waters Trail > Franconia Ridge Trail > Greenleaf Trail > Old Bridal Path, but you can also do this clockwise as well; features several miles of fantastic open ridgeline hiking; three waterfalls are seen along the Falling Waters Trail, including the stunning Cloudland Falls; do not attempt in foul weather, as many hikers have unfortunately learned this the hard way over the years; backcountry lodging available at AMC Greenleaf Hut (reservations required well in advance); trailhead is off I-93 heading north from Lincoln (although you can also park at the parking lots in front of the Lafayette Campground off I-93 heading south)

Mt. Lincoln from Little Haystack

MOUNT MADISON LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH Varies, but most common route is 8.4 miles Difficult one of the famed peaks of the Northern Presidentials, Mt. Madison has an alpine summit with 360-degree views; lodging available at the AMC Madison Hut (reservations required); don't miss the view of Mt. Madison from Star Lake, which is a short detour from the Madison Hut (see below for picture); most common route is up and down Valley Way, but there are more attractive approach trails (many with waterfalls) that you can take to bring you up to the AMC Madison Hut, which sits just 0.5 mile below the summit

Star Lake with Mt. Madison in the background

MOUNT MAJOR LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH 4.0 miles Moderate one of the two best NH lakes-region hikes (the other is West Rattlesnake overlooking Squam Lake), Mt. Major offers a fun climb to dazzling views of many bays and coves; two loop options available; one of the best "bang for the buck" hikes in New England; this is one of those peaks that can turn anybody into a lover of hiking

lakes views from Mt. Major

MOUNT MANSFIELD LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
VT Varies, but most common route is 4.6 miles Difficult Vermont's tallest peak has awesome views and a variety of approach trails; the most common route is out-and-back via the Long Trail (4.6 miles round-trip) from the east side of the mountain; the Hell Brook Trail > Long Trail loop is a shorter but much steeper option (4.1 miles); the Sunset Ridge Trail loop on the western side of the mountain is perhaps the most scenic route; this peak is extremely popular due to hikers and tourists (who arrive via an easy walk from an auto-road and/or a gondola ride); the town of Stowe makes for an excellent base camp for exploring several great mountains in the area (Camel's Hump, Stowe Pinnacle, Mount Hunger)

views from Mt. Mansfield

MOUNT MONADNOCK LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH Varies, but most common option is 4.4 miles Moderate one of the most famous mountains in the world, Mt. Monadnock is rugged & scenic, all despite its small size (it's not even close to being a 4000-footer); the most common route is a loop up and down the White Dot & White Cross trails, but there are many other less-crowded routes on this mountain (the longest and probably quietest is the Pumpelly Trail); this mountain has lots of interesting nooks and crannies (the more you read about it and explore the mountain itself, the more you will learn/find)

open ledges on Mt. Monadnock

MOUNT MOOSILAUKE LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH 7.5 miles Difficult one of the most famous of NH's 4000-footers; wide open alpine views; several different route options available; the easiest is the 7.5 mile loop up Gorge Brook and returning via Carriage Road and Snapper Trail; do not attempt in poor weather

alpine zone of Mt. Moosilauke

MOUNT WASHINGTON LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH 8.4 miles Very Difficult New England's most alpine and tallest mountain is climbed by thousands each year; views are absolutely fantastic on all approach trails; the most popular route is as follows: Tuckerman's Ravine > Lion's Head Trail loop; the mountain is actually a bit easier to hike from the west side as follows: Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail > Jewell Trail loop; the Huntington Ravine Trail is the steepest of the approach trails and should not be attempted when icy or wet; always be prepared for windy and potentially poor weather on this mountain; many hikers have died on this mountain, so do your research on this mountain before you try to hike it

alpine views on the way up Mt. Washington

PEMI LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH 33.5 miles Difficult probably the finest 3-4 day hiking loop in New England; the 33.5 miles includes the following major summits in clockwise order: Flume, Liberty, Lincoln, Lafayette, Garfield, Galehead, South Twin, West Bond, Bond, Bondcliff; backcountry camping available at Liberty Springs, Garfield Ridge and Guyot; lodging available at the AMC Greenleaf Hut (moderate downhill detour required) and the AMC Galehead Hut (directly en route); avoid the ridge walks in poor weather (wait for storms to pass if possible); this loop is very rugged, and it will certainly test your endurance with nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain and loss

views from Mt. Garfield along the Pemi Loop

PENOBSCOT AND SARGENT MOUNTAINS LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
ME Varies based on upon route Moderate Side of Difficult lots of semi-open ridgeline hiking to two summits; fantastic views en route and at the two summits; there are several ways to construct a loop to visit both summits (see an Acadia National Park map to study all trail and carriage road options);

views from Penobscot Mountain

PRECIPICE TRAIL LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
ME 4.0 miles Difficult if you like scrambling, you will love ascending the iron rungs and ladders of this invigorating trail; this trail is often closed from spring through early fall due to nesting peregrine falcons; if you enjoy this trail, then also hike the nearby Beehive Trail; offers beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and other mountains of Acadia National Park; start early if you want to avoid crowds and score a parking spot at the trailhead

steep scrambling on the Precipice Trail

STRATTON MOUNTAIN / STRATTON POND LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
VT 11.0 miles Moderate Side Of Difficult visits a backcountry pond (shelter & campsites available) and one of Vermont's finest views from the fire-tower atop Stratton Mountain; Stratton Pond is the largest body of water along the Long Trail in Vermont; shelter and campsites can be found near the shores of Stratton Pond for those that want to turn this into a backpacking trip; a long trip can be devised by extending your hike along the Long Trail and visiting North and South Bourn Pond



TRAVELER MOUNTAIN LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
ME 10.5 miles
estimated)
Difficult scenic loop in northern Baxter State Park travels over both North Traveler & South Traveler Mountains; remote location, but offers some of the best views in the park

Traveler Mountain
Photo Credit: Kathy Varn Hawkins

WELCH & DICKEY LOOP
STATE TOTAL MILEAGE DIFFICULTY NOTES & HIGHLIGHTS
NH 4.5 miles Moderate only two hours north of Boston, this loop has fantastic views and is one of the top 10 "bang for the buck" hikes in New England; do not hike when wet or icy since the open slabs will be slippery; trailhead access is near Waterville Valley; typically snow-free from early May to mid-October

Welch & Dickey

OTHER LISTS BY NEWENGLANDWATERFALLS.COM

Here are some more lists to help you enjoy the awesome hiking trails of New England:
  • Top 10 Hikes in the White Mountains of NH = link
  • Top 25 Hikes in the White Mountains of NH = link
  • Top 25 Hikes in New Hampshire = link
  • Top 25 Hikes in New England = link
  • Top 25 Easy Day Hikes in New England = link
  • Top 25 Family-Friendly Hikes in New England = link
  • Top Rock Scrambles in New England = link
  • Hiking New Hampshire's 4000-Footers = link
  • Hiking New Hampshire's 52 Peaks With A View List = link
  • Hiking the North Shore of Massachusetts / North of Boston = link
GUIDEBOOKS TO GET YOU THERE

The following guidebooks are trusted resources to help lead you to nearly all of New England's best loop hikes. Click on any book to read reviews and/or purchase on Amazon.com. I own (and love) each of these guidebooks.
























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