Peak Bagging in New Hampshire: The White Mountain 48

Mt Washington Warning Sign

Mt Washington Warning Sign

New Hampshire’s White Mountains are home to 48 peaks that rise 4,000 feet or more above sea level. When you have a number of mountains that share a common trait in the same general area, you get peak baggers.

Peak bagging, simply put, is when a hiker attempts to summit a collection of mountains. Peak Baggers tend to be people who are competitive and are always looking for that next challenge. The NH48 list is just that: a list of mountains with a mix of trails where you can hike over rock fields, get above treeline for miles, scramble up a slide, or break trail in winter.

Who doesn’t like a good challenge? For me, hiking isn’t just about beautiful mountain vistas. I am always looking to challenge myself. Peak bagging isn’t a competition against others, but really versus yourself. How can you push yourself more on your next hike? These are some of the elements I consider when planning out my New Hampshire adventures:

Hiking Fast and Light

Peak bagging at its finest involves getting to the summit of multiple mountains or sub peaks in one trip. A Presidential Traverse fits the bill with a 20 mile trek across seven 4000-footers, including the five tallest on the list.

The Great Gulf Wilderness Area

The Great Gulf Wilderness Area

Night Hiking

Who says a hike has to end when the sun goes down? The beauty of hiking at night is experiencing the trail transform. There’s nothing like being miles away from civilization, under the stars. There’s a sense of serenity that is unique to hiking at night

Hiking at Night

Hiking at Night

Getting Off Trail

Peak bagging requires getting to the summit, but you can choose how you want to get there or back to the trailhead. On one particular hike, my group had ascended up the Skookumchuck Trail to the peaks of the popular Franconia Ridge. Hiking in April, we decided to skip going back over a section of very mushy snow and descended down the Flume Slide. The decision made for a very memorable hike!

Mt Flume Slide

Mt Flume Slide

Dedication to the list

While you can plan out many trips out to the Whites with a multi-peak day, some of the mountains are so isolated that they require a whole day to reach a single summit. Owl’s Head is a mountain peak baggers are notorious for putting off until the very end as it is an 18 mile day. Mount Isolation is another mountain that is difficult to reach.

Hiking to Mt Isolation in Winter

Hiking to Mt Isolation in Winter

Slides and Ladders

Many of the 4000-footers have multiple routes to the summit and you can have fun creating the perfect trip. In good weather, I really enjoy slides and ladders. The feeling of accomplishment after getting up that last section and looking back at where you were is irreplaceable. When I was planning out my final peaks for my first round of the NH48, I decided on Flume in Liberty. This wasn’t just for the 360 degree views, but also to finish the list by going up the challenging Flume Slide Trail.

45 Degree grade on North Slide, Tripyramids

45 Degree grade on North Slide, Tripyramids

The List in Winter

The more popular “all season” list can be done in any season, including winter. You can also try for the challenge of hiking all 48 in winter. You can take multiple winter seasons to hike it or dedicate your winter to an epic 48 in one season adventure. You must start after the winter solstice and before the official start of spring.

In winter there are a number of added challenges including breaking trail, postholing, falling in spruce traps (and making sure your camera is ready for when your friends fall in!), and handling weather conditions above treeline. I don’t think anything can beat a hike in the woods with snow covered pines where the only other footprints belong to a snowshoe hare. Even when a summit lacks views and the windchill is -20, there’s always fun to be had in the winter, especially when you sled down!

Southern Presidential Range in Winter

Southern Presidential Range in Winter

This post was written by Trail Ambassador Allison Nadler. You can follow all of her adventures on her blog Trail to Summit.

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