Hike up Mount Major, New Hampshire: Lake and White Mountain Views

The views from Mount Major’s summit in New Hampshire are some of the best that I have seen. For this half-day moderate hike up Mount Major, the rewards are views of the White Mountains and Lake Winnipesaukee. This hike is a perfect stop for a New Hampshire road trip.

Hiking is one of my favorite things to do, but I prefer moderate, intermediate hikes. A few years ago, I hiked Tumbledown Mountain in Maine, and it became my favorite New England hike. Mount Major is a similar hike. There is a calmer start through forests, followed by a challenging scramble up rocks, then a large reward of vistas on the rocky mountain top. I did find Mount Major a slightly easier hike, as there was no point that I wondered if I could continue. LOL.

The 1,786 ft Mount Major is part of the Belknap Range in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. It is in the town of Alton, NH.

Best mountain hikes New Hampshire
Meredith and I near the peak. The weather was perfect for hiking. It was busy enough that Meredith felt more comfortable with a mask on.

I had been planning to climb Mount Washington, New Hampshire’s highest peak this year. Since I prefer moderate hikes, I wanted to climb it with a break by staying in the huts. This year they are closed, so I needed to set my sights on another mountain. My friend, Meredith (who joined me in Iceland), suggested Mount Major. So, with my youngest son in tow, and Meredith’s dog, Amelia, we set out to conquer the mountain on a beautiful September day. I am not an early morning person, so we headed up the mountain around 10:30 am.

Where to Park for Mount Major

There is a small parking lot in Alton on the mountainside of Route 11. It fills up quickly, so street parking is also allowed. The parking lot is closed until 10/2/20. At the trailhead, you will find portable toilets. There are none at the summit.

Trails on Mount Major

There are three trail choices for climbing Mount Major

  • Mount Major Trail- Marked with blue blazes, this is the quickest way up, but is steep, especially in the last 1/2 mile.
  • Brook Trail- Marked with yellow blazes, this is the least steep and the longest trail. Although it is called the brook trail, the brook wasn’t remarkable on our hike.
  • Boulder Trail- Marked with red blazes, this is the steepest route. I believe it is also the least traveled.

We went back and forth about which trails to take. I think it is a no-brainer to take the Brook Trail down because it would be possible to hurt yourself, sliding down the steep parts of the other two trails. We ended up taking the Mount Major Trail up. Due to the crowds, next time, we may take the Boulder Trail.

The summit of Mt Major
It is hard to find a spot alone on the top of the mountain, but there are a few spots available.

How Busy is Mount Major?

The trail is well-used, so expect crowds.

What is the Difficulty of the Mount Major Trails?

All of the trails, even the Brook Trail, are rated as moderate because of their steepness. The other two have spots that you have to climb reasonably vertical rocks.

The Peak of Mount Major

There were a lot of people on the mountain peak. On the blue trail, there is a turnoff to the right just below the summit. This area had no crowds and nearly as good a view. This is an ideal place for lunch.

The top of the mountain is flat and rocky. Many people had lunches- one person even brought a small barbecue.

On the mountain peak, you will find Mr. Phippen’s Hut. This broken-down camping hut was built in 1925 by the owner of the mountain top to serve as a resting area for hikers. The story is inspiring and interesting, a soul working to provide respite and comfort to others.

How Long is the Hike Up and Down Mount Major?

At just over three miles round trip, one could complete the journey in just over an hour. With frequent breaks and lunch at the top, the trip took us about three hours.

Where to Stay to Hike Mount Major

Due to its proximity to the lakes, I would recommend staying in a lake town.

Mount Major Trail
A small waterfall along the Mount Major Trail

Meredith, New Hampshire

My favorite town in this area is Meredith, which is more upscale and very cute with elegant white colonial buildings on Lake Winnepaskee. One hotel that has been on my wish list is Mill Falls at the Lake.

Laconia, New Hampshire

For this trip, we stayed in Laconia at the Best Western Plus. This is a basic hotel with a bit of a water view about half an hour from the mountain. Laconia has a lot to offer but is less charming than Meredith. It is closer to the mountain, which is what we wanted. You can also try the Margate Resort.

Gilford, New Hampshire

You could also stay in nearby Gilford. It is the least touristy of the bunch, but still on the water. We had dinner the night before at Lyon’s Den Restaurant and Tavern and really enjoyed it. It is a relaxed, family restaurant with upscale food and excellent views of the lake.

Brook Trail, NH
Deciduous forest at the bottom of the Brook Trail

What You Need to Climb Mount Major

  • My son and I climbed in our sneakers (tennis shoes for those Californians out there, although mine are actually “tennis” shoes). Meredith was much better off in her hiking boots. My son and I were slipping around a lot and will wear boots next time.
  • We all carried packs. I am into lightweight and cute, so have a few I rotate. Meredith values function so used a backpack with a waist strap to protect her back and shoulders.
  • I always bring a Contigo water bottle with me everywhere I go. My 24 oz bottle was more than enough water for this climb.
  • We brought along lunch and snacks.
  • Because of the steep areas, hiking poles are a great idea, especially for heading down the mountain.
  • I always have a camera with me. I generally shoot with my Nikon Z50. With the wide-angle stock lens (16-50mm), it is the perfect size to take hiking.  Today I brought my big camera lens, my Tamron 18-400mm lens, for its zoom capacity. I love this lens because of its versatility, but it is cumbersome. As an aside, it does require an adapter to fit my camera.
does Mount Major allow dogs?
Dogs are allowed on Mount Major- Amelia, the Hiking Dog. She even has her own hiking pack.

What is your favorite mountain to climb in New England? What about New Hampshire? Have you seen a better view?

Climbing a mountain is a New England bucket list item. Check out 46 others.

Pin for Later

Looking for a moderate hike with an incredible view in New Hampshire? Read on for details about hiking Mount Major in New Hampshire. #NewHampshire #hikinginnewengland #hiking

Sharing is caring!

14 thoughts on “Hike up Mount Major, New Hampshire: Lake and White Mountain Views”

  1. Wow what a view! Its no wonder it is a busy hike, although I find busy hikes slightly less enjoyable and less authentic. Maybe going early in the morning would be best for me to skip the busiest times 🙂

  2. What a spectacular view from the top of Mount Major. It sounds like a really doable hike for kids and families as it’s not too long. Although the steepness is something to keep in mind. I love that you can even take the furbabies.

    • I recently saw a couple at the summit with their 6-year-old boy and their 4-year-old girl – both of whom hike the whole way up

  3. I was just talking to Logan about New Hampshire! Neither of us has ever been, so we planned on doing a fall road trip through the east coast. Unfortunately that’s not in the cards this year, but i’ll be saving this for next year!

  4. I’m with ya. I definitely prefer moderate, intermediate hikes too hahaa. This totally sounds like my kinda hike and those views at the peak are just stunning! Seems like hiking boots are for sure needed and great tip about bringing hiking poles too!

  5. To say the trail is crowded is an understatement. This place is so overrun with people in the summer and fall months that it’s not just crowded, you’re basically hiking in a single file line to the top. So many better hikes in the Belknap range with the same or better views and little to no people. Avoid this hike in the summer and fall. Literally hundreds of cars lined up down mount major highway.

    • The problem with the crowds is that everyone wants to be an early riser. My wife and I often drive by there around 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon, even on a weekend, the parking lot is half empty, and most of the cars parked along the street are gone. There’s barely any evidence that there were cars lined up at that point, though they are mostly gone.
      This is also a really fun hike in the winter (far less crowded, though the parking lot is still often surprisingly full). We hiked it in February, and the snow packed trail was great. We did not have micro spikes at the time, so we took the Brook Trail both ways and it was pretty easy.

      I can’t make promises about the reduced crowds in the afternoon – this is my more recent experience passing mountain major a few times this summer on a Saturday. However last fall I do recall driving by in the early afternoon and it was still too crowded to park.
      Just saying, if you aren’t committed to being an early bird, you might do all right with parking and crowds. However, you should probably have a backup plan in the event that you approach the trailhead of Mount Major and find that it is mobbed (you can usually tell in advance if it is mobbed by looking at the traffic layer on Google Maps, when you zoom in to the Mount Major parking lot on route 11 – if you see red lines on the road, go to plan B).

      With that said, there are plenty of other mountains in the area with great views, including Belknap (though you have to climb the fire tower for a view) and Gunstock.
      On the other side of the lake by the castle in the clouds is Mount Roberts, which is a great hike that takes probably two hours to get up.

      But if you are willing to drive a little further north, Mount Chocorua is just south of Conway – the Liberty trail is great, and it’s mostly an easy hike, except for the last half a mile at the top gets tougher. Just have good footwear and be careful – But that will definitely get to some incredible views.
      And while I’ve seen crowded parking in the afternoon, it doesn’t compare as the mountain is so much bigger, and there are also probably three different parking lots around the mountain where you can start from.

  6. With the recent overcrowding, please find another place to go. Have a few options in mind when you head out, and don’t contribute to the lines of cars outside of a parking lot – there are so many other beautiful trails nearby!

    Dogs may be allowed, but there are increasing incidents and trail closures due to uncontrolled “friendly” dogs. The huge crowds and masks and other dogs stress them out – don’t put your dog through that. Please keep them on a leash and out of the way of other trail users!


Leave a Comment

You may also like to read

Martha's Vineyard things to do

47 Fabulous Things to Do in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

This list should keep you busy if you are trying to figure out what to do on Martha’s Vineyard for a day or a week. Martha’s Vineyard is a large island off the coast of mainland Massachusetts and the third-largest island on the US east coast. It is around 88 square miles, many of which…

12 of the Best Rhode Island Hiking Trails

Since my family loves spending time in nature, we hike a lot in our home state of Rhode Island. Here are 14 of the easiest and best hiking trails in Rhode Island and one right over the border into Massachusetts. The Best Hikes in Rhode Island 1. Carr Pond, West Greenwich Carr Pond is a…
things to do in Woodstock, Vt

Things to Do in Woodstock, Vermont

Oh, how I love Vermont! It makes me happy just thinking about it. It has gorgeous forests, charming towns, and inspiring artisan culture. Located in southern Vermont, the area around Woodstock is very convenient to the rest of New England, and this area embodies all that I love about Vermont. If you are searching for…

Things to Do Around Mendon, Massachusetts: Lookout Rock

On a Monday in October, my friend and I were looking for a fantastic fall view. I had heard about Lookout Rock only about an hour from my home, so we set out to see if the views were as good as the internet says. While we were there, we also spent the day exploring…
things to do when seeing the Bridge of Flowers

Things to Do in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts

Being a lover of bridges and flowers, ever since hearing that a bridge of flowers exists, seeing it has been high on my New England bucket list. And the experience was even better than I expected! Not only can you see The Bridge of Flowers, but there are also many cool things to do in…

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.