Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
The bright red, orange, and gold leaves of fall will be at their most vibrant in October this year for New Hampshire residents, and nothing tops the view you can get from a summit. Whether you are a beginner or intermediate hiker or a family here are six hikes to see the hardwood forests this fall, including one that is wheelchair accessible.
Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Peak foliage Oct. 14-28)
The Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge is ADA accessible and has several trails, including the Upper Peverly Pond Trail, a half-mile long boardwalk with wheelchair access. The William Furber Ferry Way Trail is only 2 miles long, and takes you through several sections in the refuge, including a beaver pond and an apple orchard, before ending at the Great Bay. The apple orchard will have vibrant golds and oranges during peak bloom, making this an attractive trail, but portions of the hike will be wet and muddy. Be sure to wear waterproof footwear if you plan on going on this hike.
Pitcher Mountain Fire Tower (Peak Foliage Oct. 14-28)
Pitcher Mountain offers a short, less than one mile hike to an amazing view of hardwood forests for groups of all ages. The white trail is a dirt and gravel road that gradually climbs to the 2,100 foot peak. The blue trail is shorter, but steeper and rockier.
At the peak is a fire tower that is still in use today when the fire risk is high. The steel tower there now replaced a wooden fire tower that burned down during a 1941 forest fire. Hikers are able to climb the steps of the fire tower, and if a fire warden is present they may let you see the views from inside.
Additionally, blueberries and raspberries grow along the Pitcher Mountain ridge, and are available for visitors to pick for a small fee. Raspberry season in the area extends to late September, so there may be some late raspberries left if you visit the first week of October. Otherwise you can make another trip next year from July to September and grab the berries at their peak! Overall this is a great family hiking destination.
Mount Starr King and Mount Waumbek (Peak foliage Oct. 1-14)
This is a 7.2 mile long out-and-back trail of moderate difficulty that brings you across two peaks, with Mount Waumbek cresting the 4,000 foot mark at its summit. The Starr King Trail has you climb steadily, but without any significantly steep sections, making it a reasonable option for a day hike. The trail takes you through a hardwood forest, perfect for enjoying fall colors, and each peak offers a view of the Presidential Mountain Range – just be sure to walk a short 50 yards past the Waumbek summit to find the view.
Mount Chocorua Liberty Trail (Peak foliage Oct. 3-17)
The Mount Chocorua Liberty Trail is a moderate to difficult trek to the summit of Mount Chocorua. At 3.7 miles to the peak, this is an extremely popular hike, with many choosing to add the Brook Trail to make a 7 mile loop back to the parking area. The Brook Trail is a harder hike with steeper sections, so beginning hikers may choose to return back down the Liberty Trail, bringing the total hike closer to 8 miles.
One reason this is such a popular hiking destination is the 3,500 foot summit, which offers stunning views of the nearby lakes, mountains, and forests.
Mount Major Loop (Peak foliage Oct. 7-21)
Mount Major is an easy to moderate trail that is only 3.7 miles round trip, making it a popular hiking destination for families. The summit overlooks Lake Winnipesaukee and offers panoramic views of the area. It is best to arrive early, or else the main parking lot may be full. If that happens, you can park further down Route 11 and walk in.
Pack Monadnock Loop (Peak foliage Oct. 14-28)
Pack Monadnock is part of Miller State Park, the oldest state park in New Hampshire. The summit is 2,300 feet, and there are several trails leading to the summit. The Wapack and Marion Davis trails start at the same spot, making them a great 2.7 mile loop hike option. It would be best to start by hiking up the Wapack Trail, which is the steeper of the two. That way your knees aren’t straining to manage a steep decline on the way down.
The summit of Pack Monadnock also features a side path leading to the Audubon Society’s Raptor Viewing Area, a great spot to rest and watch for birds of prey before you begin your journey back down.