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