Top Ten Summit Hikes in New England!

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Jan 28, 2010
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NH Seacoast
Just for fun and inspired by the recent National Geographic article on the top ten summit hikes in the world, I thought about what 10 hikes in New England I would pick for the top ten in our region. I counted mountains as massifs, so the Twins includes both, Adams includes all 5 summits, Katahdin is Baxter/Hamlin and all in between. I'm not differentiating Bond from Bondcliff for example and am counting Lafayette/Lincoln together.

Here's mine in order of preference; I committed.

1. Adams
2. Katahdin
3. Washington
4. Bonds
5. Jefferson
6. Mansfield
7. Carrigain
8. Twins
9. Lafayette/Lincoln
10. Moosilauke

I doubt anyone's would match this exactly, so what's yours? I won't list the multiple honorable mentions that almost made the list.
Good thread! Here are my top 10, I included 3000'ers since you didn't specify elevation:

01) Glastenbury (Vt)
02) Washington (Nh)
03) Bigelows (Me)
04) Stark Mountain (Vt)
05) Moosilauke (Nh)
06) Old Speck (Me)
07) Katahdin (Me)
08) Carrigain (Nh)
09) East Mountain (Vt)
10) Jay Peak (Vt)
1. Katahdin, via any route
2. North Percy, via the West Side Trail
3. Adams, via the Great Gully Trail
4. Jefferson, via Six Husbands Trail
5. Coe, via the slide
6. The Traveler, via the Traveler Loop
7. The Owl
8. West Bond
9. Baldfaces, via the Baldface Circle Trail
10. Lowell, via Carrigain Notch
Every peak has a special meaning to me so I find it impossible to rate them in absolutes. I like Raven's list but would not order them in any way and would not place Mansfield on it. I would add the Bigelow Range, notably West and Avery Peaks (though the ridge between Horns Pond and Avery are a must do), and the Traveler Loop in Baxter Park. Stretching the geography a bit I'd add les monts Albert and Jacque Cartier in the Gaspe and a trek of the Daks' Wolfjaws, Armstrong, Gothics and Saddleback in this league of superlatives.

I'm sure as people add their lists I'll say, "Oh, yeah! that's a favorite, too!" but, off the top of my head, the most comparable by my standards for such a list would be Gros Morne and the Tablelands in Newfoundland. Can't honestly think of comparables, as much as we've enjoyed the area and the hikes, in the more southern of the Appalachians. My apologies for digressing a bit from New England but I just couldn't help but think of comparisons ... and its a testament to Raven's list.

Its a fair question to define the criteria of such a list. For me that includes 1) a unique experience in some way, 2) views either from or of the mountain, 3) the more remote the better, 4) an element of historical, geographical or natural (flora and fauna) distinction, and 5) something that must be earned.
I made my list based on how much I enjoyed my own hike associated with the peak.

1) Katahdin (views and challenge coming up Dudley & the Knifes Edge in 30+ blow)
2) Bonds (views plus the challenge of a long 1 day winter hike breaking some trail)
3) Carter/Wildcats (nice overnight hike off season at the hut)
4) N. Tripyramid (for the slide)
5) The Horn near Cabot (views and challenge getting up the rock)
6) Boundary Peak (unique and for me getting there was a challenge)
7) Nancy (for the falls and ponds)
8) Menden (most difficult and satisfying bushwhack – but I haven’t done V.S. yet)
9) Owls Head (nice winter overnight)
10) Lincoln & Lafayette (views and it was my first)
1 - Katahdin & Hamlin (my Northeast list has Haystack in NY as #2 but since you picked just New England...)
2 - Lincoln & Lafayette (Like Lincoln)
3 - Bonds (Prefer W. Bond)
4 - Saddleback
5 - Moosilauke
6 - Twins (S. Twin & Guyot)
7 - Bigelows
8 - Adams (not sure how you can call Hamlin the same as Katahdin & then split the Presidentials up but then also lump the Franconia's together....)
9 - Mansfield
10 - Carter Dome & Hight (Hight)

(11th - Garfield, Camel's Hump, Abraham - ME, South Turner, BSP,)
1.) Washington up Huntington Ravine, down Boot Spur
2.) Franconia Ridge Lincoln/LaFayette up Falling Waters down Bridle Path (or reverse)
3.) Adams up King Ravine tr, down Airline (could include Madison but I will count that separate)
4.) Madison up Valley Way & down Howker Ridge (basically there are numerous permutations of trails from Appalachia to Madison/Adams that are pretty close for me)
5.) Madison up Madison Head wall Tr, down Osgood Tr
6.) Bigelows via Fire warden Tr loop, include the Horns
7.) Mansfield summit ridge traverse, loop up Maple Ridge & down Sunset Ridge, or reverse (long Trail from south over forehead can sub for Maple Ridge trail)
8.) Tripyramid Loop from Livermore Road side
9.) Bond cliff
10.) Camel's Hump via Bamforth Ridge Tr

Caveate, this is only among the hikes I have done. I have not done Katahdin. In fact the Bigelows are the only Maine peaks I have done, I have done that hike 4 times. If I included Adirondack peaks the list would look allot different, but this is for New England, obeying political boundaries. Ask me next week and the list may change a bit.
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Great responses.

Some nice additions TEO.

Marvin - I laughed at Owl's Head, but not as much as Mendon. But I like your reasoning.

Mike P - Yes, I had to make some arbitrary cut-offs for this to make sense and in order to not have things like Bond. Bondcliff, and West Bond taking up three places when they are really one mountain, but to me the Northern Pressies seem distinct due to the huge cols. I counted Katahdin since it's the whole mountain anyway with Baxter and Hamlin as individual peaks. Franconia to me seemed too have too much of a ridge character to include all of it, so I just cut it in half to call the Lafayette massif that section. Anyway, it's a bit arbitrary. I picked only New England because I can't speak to the Adirondacks, but those who could would make a great top ten for the northeast. When I go to NY to hike, I'll try Haystack.

The rest of you have a few that almost made my list. Hard to make the cut offs.
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A few in no particular order

Traveler Loop and its three summits- This one isn't on the primary lists and is located in the NE corner of BSP so even folks who have hit the list summits at BSP may never have spent the time to visit this loop. It also didn't have a trail and was a bushwhack until about 15 years ago that also limited visitors. Nevertheless for remoteness and its hard to beat and the views north and east over the north maine woods is hard to beat .

Katahdin and Hamlin via Northwest Basin and northwest plateau. - The day hike from Russell pond to Chimney Pond or Roaring Brook is another logistically difficult but will blow your socks off. Logistically its a backpack for most unless someone wants a lot of extra mile up front. There really is nowhere in NNE that is like the Northwest Basin and the approach to Katahdin via the Northwest Plateau with the Northwest basin on one side, the Klondike on the other and the Brothers and Coe in the background is one to do on a nice day.

The Saddleback ridge from Poplar Ridge Shelter to Piazza Rock is another under appreciated ridgeline hike with several summits

Mt Speck via the Grafton Loop trail from the south is another less visited spot that deserves a mention. The approach from the south is completely different than the traditional approach via the AT. The trailwork is also quite impressive with numerous switchbacks and a fairly steady grade.
Camel's Hump
West Bond


Clay (I know, I know, not an official peak)
North Baldface
Travelers (haven’t actually done this one, so perhaps it’s top 10)
Saddleback (haven’t actually done this one, so perhaps it’s top 10)
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Monadnock should be in the top 10. If not #1. along the same lines Cadillac and Chucorua. After those three then Katahdin and Washington. Those all have to be in the top 10 imho.
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