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5 Great Hikes in the Upper Valley


Located along the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, the picturesque Upper Valley is ripe with opportunities to get outside. With abundant natural beauty and views of the Connecticut River Valley, hiking here will make for an outdoor adventure you won’t soon forget. And better yet, there are options here for all ages and abilities:

Gile Mountain Norwich, VT

This is an easier hike through the beautiful scenery of Vermont. Located near Norwich, this 1.4-mile trail leads you up almost 400 feet of the mountain – an excellent hike for beginners or those just getting the lay of the land. Take in the sights, including blooming wildflowers and the fire tower at the top.

The relative ease of the hike makes it perfect for families with younger children. You’re also welcome to bring your dog to enjoy the outing -just make sure to keep him on a leash. The trailhead is located just off Upper Turnpike Road in Norwich, Vermont, and ample parking is available in a lot nearby.

Velvet Rocks Hanover, NH

This popular New Hampshire trail is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Beginning at the Hanover Green, the Velvet Rocks trail is considered an easy day hike, comprising a total of 5.2 miles. It also holds some historical significance that makes it an important part of the town of Hanover; Velvet Rocks was the first protected area of land in the Appalachian Trail.

Velvet Rocks Trail takes its name from the smooth, moss-covered rocks and thick vegetation that lines your path. This trail is remarkable for its proximity to downtown Hanover – you can get started on the hike just outside the Hanover Inn on the corner of Main Street and East Wheelock Street. Soon, you’ll be led out of town and into the lush green natural beauty of the trail.

Smarts Mountain Lyme, NH

Want to conquer part of the Appalachian Trail? Check out Smarts Mountain, a 7.6-mile hike that will take you 3,240 feet up to the summit. The hike takes about five hours and can be joined from the town of Lyme, New Hampshire.

While the hike up Smarts Mountain is fairly challenging, you’ll be rewarded at the peak with sweeping views of the countryside, as well as an old fire tower and ranger cabin to explore. The trail itself is quite wild, so enjoy the beautiful greenery, plants, and trees on your hike up.

Mount Cube Orford, NH

Another Appalachian Trail highlight in the Upper Valley is Mount Cube, located near Orford, New Hampshire, at the northern edge of the South Moose Mountains; it forms the eastern edge of the Connecticut River Valley. Mount Cube offers a popular day hike that’s rated at moderate difficulty and consists of a 6.6-mile trail.

Mount Cube is known for its quartzite summit, giving the mountain a pink-gray color. If you visit on a warm spring day, make sure to bring a picnic, as the summit ledges offer the perfect spot to sit down and enjoy a meal! From up at the summit, you’ll be able to take in sweeping views of Hanover, Mount Moosilauke, and the White Mountains off in the distance.

French’s Ledges Plainfield, NH

If you’re looking for a hiking area that offers a variety of trails for hikers of all experience levels, French’s Ledges may be a great fit. For a serious hike with an incredible view, head up French’s Ledges Trail, which will take you up 1,310 feet; the trail is steep and zig-zagging at points. The summit looks out over Croydon and Grantham Mountains, as well as Mount Ascutney and the town of Meridien. The last section of this trail becomes quite steep and narrow, but it is definitely worth it for the view.

Not looking for something that strenuous? The yellow and blue marked trails are shorter alternate routes that are family-friendly and great for exercising. Overall, French’s Ledges is rich in natural beauty, with a strong conservation effort that has preserved several hundred acres of lush forest. Parking is available at Plainfield Elementary School, where a trail map is located at the edge of the woods.

Mount Ascutney Windsor, VT

Home to Vermont’s first mountain-hiking trail (created in 1825,) Mount Ascutney is one of the most unique hiking experiences in the Upper Valley. The mountain was once a 20,000-foot volcano, and igneous and metamorphic rock still lies beneath the surface. Today, of course, it’s known as a popular Vermont outdoor recreation spot.

Choose from four trails that will take you up to the summit, which is 3,130 feet high. These trails include Weathersfield, Windsor, Brownsville, and Futures, each of them offering stunning views. The longest is Futures, stretching for 4.6 miles beginning at the Mount Ascutney State Park’s campground; this trail will take you right up to the summit along interesting sights like Bare Rock Vista and the Steam Donkey, a steam-powered cable logging machine from the early 1900s. The shortest trail is Windsor, which spans 2.7 miles from the trailhead to the mountain’s summit; along the way, you can view Gerry’s Falls, Castle Rock, and Brownsville Rock.

If you’re not sure that you want to head up to the summit, try the half-mile hike that takes you up to the picnic table, where you can enjoy beautiful countryside views. While dogs are permitted in the park, they must be always on a leash. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve prepared with sturdy shoes and water bottles, even for the more moderate trails, as the elevation becomes steep.

If after all the fun you find yourself interested in looking for homes for sale in the area, contact us at Higgerson Team. We serve New Hampshire and Vermont with a focus on the Hanover, Lyme, Norwich, and Woodstock area markets. With almost three decades of success in the Upper Valley region, our results are founded on a commitment to superior service and market knowledge. From country estates to contemporary condominiums, our experience is broad and deep. Let us guide you home.

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