So it’s the weekend, you’ve spent the last 5 days adulting and you now need some sort of escape, a subtraction of everything industrial. You think … put the hiking shoes on, fill the water bottles, make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, throw a few snacks in a hiking pack, and hit the trails. But wait, it’s the weekend and the places I want to go to are always so crowded! The last time I went, I had to park half a mile away and once on the trail, I constantly had to push aside to let people pass. I couldn’t even get a moment where all I could hear was the babbling brook, the wind through the leaves, the soothing melody of a wood thrush. Forget it, I’m not going!
Don’t give up. Yes, those crowded places are most likely popular for a reason. They have some sort of wonderful waterfall, you can see Canada from the summit or the hike is simply family-friendly. But is it possible that there could be a much less-known option? A hike less crowded but as satisfying as the well-traveled destinations? The answer is yes.
If you are anything like me, getting to the summit isn’t always important. In fact, more important to me is the escape itself, what I see and hear on the way or perhaps heading off the trail and finding a waterfall that so few others might have visited. Sure, the views from the summit usually are worth the work but not all mountains are so friendly to your abilities. Place a lofty goal on your weekend adventure, call it a nature hike and not a rise to the summit, and be more satisfied while visiting a hike less traveled. Here a few of my top picks.
Mount Madison is one of my favorite destinations. Residing in the Presidential Range located among the White Mountain National Forest, Mount Madison is no small mountain, reaching the height of 5,367 feet. If you plan on hiking all the way to the summit, be aware it has a rating of difficult and the possibility of inclement weather. Aside from this, I find most of the beauty of this mountain to be below the tree line. That’s not to say that the views from the summit are not spectacular, there is just a lot more to see before you get to it. Below are two trails on Mount Madison that I find worthy of visiting and that don’t require significant conditioning to climb. Both run from a single start point at the base parking lot, where you’ll find a map to help guide you.
The name says it all. The trail, for the most part, runs alongside a brook and, depending on the season or recent weather, the brook can be either a trickle or gushing waterfalls. I like to visit this trail in late May and again in early October.
Although most of this trail is not that spectacular itself, it does lead to the amazing Cold Brook Falls.
Winniweta Falls Trail
This is a pretty easily missed trail alongside Route 16, close to Mount Washington. This trail may be less traveled due to the need to cross the Ellis River, which at times can be difficult to cross depending on the depth of the river. I recommend bringing a pair of Crocs or water shoes. Once you make it past the Ellis River, you will find a very peaceful trail and the Winneweta Falls.
The Gonic Trails
Gonic, New Hampshire
Unless you are early to rise, this trail can be busy on the weekends. The falls are spectacular as long as there have been recent rains. The trails go alongside the Islinglass River and there are plenty of areas along these trails to view unique nature.
Now that you’ve laced your shoes, filled your pack, and have a renewed sense of ability to escape, go and enjoy your nature hike. And oh, bring your camera!