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5 Amazing Backpacking Adventures in the Northeastern United States

clouds fleck blue skies over the Presidential Mountains within White Mountains National Forest in upstate New Hampshire

Presidential Traverse: White Mountains National Forest, NH - Photo Credit: Tyler Gemmer


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The Northeast is a unique place for backpacking. You face a variety of conditions and terrains, and that’s part of what makes this region so special. Backpacking in the United States started in the Northeast - the history of long-distance hiking runs deep, and some of the oldest trails in America can be found here. In this guide, we’ll take you through some of our favorite backpacking trips in the region.

If you’re new to backpacking, don’t be discouraged by the amount of time some of these longer trips can take! These hikes can be done in a single shot as a thru-hike if you’re ready for it, or you can take on smaller chunks as section hikes, one at a time over the course of weeks, months, or even years should you require. Just make sure you prepare accordingly for whatever your preference may be!

Unlike many of the West’s backpacking trails, none of the hikes below require permits to take on - though some of the parking lots where you’ll be leaving your car do have daily fees associated with them, so be sure to check in advance!

Mount Marcy, Mount Skylight, Gray Peak Loop

The rocky summit of Mount Marcy in upstate New York provides an incredible view of the surrounding Adirondack Mountain range

Mount Marcy, NY - Photo Credit: Jack Malczynski

Location: Lake Placid, New York

Distance: 18 miles

Time to complete: 1-3 days

Best time of year for the hike: Year-round

For how scenic the Adirondack Mountains are, they still don’t get the credit they deserve. Even coming from an extremely biased New Englander, it is safe to say the autumn foliage in upstate New York holds up as some of the most beautiful in the country. Mount Marcy is the highest peak in New York, and Mount Skylight offers incredible views of Marcy as well as 30 other peaks throughout the region. This loop is one of the few backpacking trails in the Northeast that can be traversed in all seasons - though you’d definitely want snowshoes for winter hikes.

Presidential Traverse, New Hampshire

A woman in purple hiking gear nears the summit of Mount Washington, using her hiking pole to point out that this region of the White Mountains National Forest in New Hampshire  is known for having some of the worst weather in the world

Presidential Traverse: White Mountains National Forest, NH - Photo Credit: Tyler Gemmer

Location: White Mountains, New Hampshire

Distance: 23 miles

Time to complete: 1-3 days

Best time of year for the hike: July-August

Although this hike is short, it surely isn’t for the faint of heart. This trail goes through the rugged White Mountains in New Hampshire and visits the peaks of Mt. Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay, Washington, Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower, Pierce, and Jackson. Eight of these mountains exceed 4,000 feet in elevation (extremely tall by New England standards), and five of them represent the tallest in New England. The weather in the White Mountains can be extremely unpredictable, and Mount Washington, the tallest, is renown for having the “worst weather in America” (hence the sign pictured above) - so be sure to prepare accordingly and attempt this hike in the summertime.

Grafton Notch Loop, Maine

An onslaught of lush greenery in the Grafton Notch State Park in western Maine

Grafton Notch State Park, ME - Photo Credit: Jack Malczynski

Location: Grafton Notch State Park, Maine

Distance: 39 miles

Time to complete: 2-5 days

Best time of year for the hike: June - September

Located in the Mahoosuc Mountains of western Maine, this relatively new trail (completed in 2007) cuts across crest lines, which affords amazing views along the way. This hike features vast swings in elevation, with some stretches requiring the utilization of rebar ladders to traverse. There are nine established campsites along the route, allowing hikers to set their own pace throughout this loop. Fires are not allowed anywhere on the trail, so stick to the summer months when planning your trip. Be on the lookout for moose!

New England Trail

Western Massachusetts sprawls out in the beginnings of Autumn foliage as far as the eye can see from the peak of Mount Holyoke

Mount Holyoke Summit: New England Trail, MA - Photo Credit: Heather Donoghue

Location: Connecticut and Massachusetts

Distance: 215 miles

Time to complete: 14-28 days

Best time of year for the hike: Spring or Fall months

This trail starts on the Long Island Sound, winds all the way through Connecticut and Massachusetts before ending at the New Hampshire border. The best times to hike are Springtime while the trees and flowers are blooming, or Autumn when the New England foliage is in full effect. Be sure to check yourself for ticks on a regular basis - the 2021 season is one of the worst in recent history. Be forewarned - camping options along the New England Trail are extremely limited, but there are a few cabins, lean-to’s, and campsites that can be utilized (though these tend to fill up quick in the busy season!)

Long Trail, Vermont

the Long Trail splits the trees and stretches off into the horizon in Green Mountains National Forest in Vermont, home of the greenest greens that ever did green

Long Trail: Green Mountains National Forest, VT - Photo Credit: Jack Malczynski

Location: Green Mountains, Vermont

Distance: 272 miles

Time to complete: 20-30 days

Best time of year for the hike: July-September

The Long Trail is considered to be the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States. It starts at the southern border of Vermont, winds all the way through the Green Mountains, and ends at the Canadian border. The trail follows mountainous terrain through forests, around lakes, and across streams. Embarking on this trek sometime between July and September should minimize the impact of early summer mud and black flies, while providing ample time to traverse before the autumn snows creep into the mountains of the Northeast.


This article was contributed to by Pathloom staff writers Bryan Donoghue and Jack Malczynski. Do you have other favorite backpacking trails in the Northeast or anywhere else in the US? Let us know at blog@pathloom.com and your recommendations could be featured in a future post!


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