When thinking of great hiking in the United States, it’s easy to immediately look at national parks out West and forget about the abundance of great options in the New England region. With so many phenomenal hikes in such a relatively small area, it’s feasible to make a jampacked trip through many different parks and states with minimal travel time. Take a chance on a New England hiking road trip and you won’t be disappointed!
This 2-Week Guide offers a mix of day trips and overnight backpacking, campgrounds but also hotel stops for showering and laundry, and much more. The hiking ranges from moderate to difficult. Be sure you can accurately assess your skill level before going on hikes. The trip starts deep in Maine, passes through New Hampshire, and ends in Vermont or upstate New York depending on the time you have. This guide is built on flexibility. It’s packed with a lot of hiking, but can be replaced by other activities. If you want to go on a 1-Week or 3-Week trip instead, a break down of options are listed at the bottom of the article.
PREPARATION FOR YOUR NEW ENGLAND ROAD TRIP
HOW TO PLAN AN EPIC HIKING ROAD TRIP IN 8 SIMPLE STEPS
For more details on planning your own trip from conception all the way to final checks, look at these 8 simple steps to planning your own unforgettable road trip. Included is information on gear, budgeting, logistics, reservations, and more.
BEST BACKPACKING CHECKLIST FOR SHORT TRIPS
It’s necessary to be equipped with quality gear for day trips and overnight hiking. Without proper personal and safety equipment, you can find yourself in painful and potentially dangerous situations.
Having a car is critical to a road trip. Whichever car you choose to take on your adventure, ensure that the car is properly serviced before starting. Check for things such as tire pressure, wiper fluid levels, changing your oil and filter, and so on.
SAVE THIS ON PINTEREST FOR LATER!
DETAILED DAILY ITINERARY
DAY 1: ARRIVING IN BAXTER STATE PARK, MAINE
Start your New England road trip off with a bang deep in the heart of Maine at Baxter State Park. The park includes not only the highest peak in Maine and the end of the Appalachian Trail, but it also offers a completely unique and offgrid experience in nature. Baxter’s main focus is reservation first, and recreation second, so planning and booking ahead for this park is a must.
Checkout this Baxter State Park Ultimate Guide to find more information on directions, best activities, parking, camping, amenities, and more.
Starting in Baxter is an awesome option as its the furthest out from all of the other parks. Additionally, this park is one that you will need to be most prepared for as there are little to no amenities. It’s great to put this at the start of the trip when you’ll be most stocked up on food and your gear is in the best condition.
SUMMARY: Start the trip in Baxter State Park
DAY 2-3: HIKING IN BAXTER
With a few days in Baxter, there are ample amounts of activities to try from hiking to kayaking and fishing. There are 40 peaks in the park, which means there are so many incredible views and trails to pick from.
Mount Katahdin, which ends the end of the Appalachian Trail, is undoubtedly the most popular attraction in the park. Given this, there are additional reservations and research to do before arriving to ensure you’re prepared to start the hike.
READ MORE: Check out my article, Mount Katahdin: Everything You Need To Know Before Going to ensure you’ve covered every detail before arriving.
If Katahdin is a bit too daunting, or you are looking for something less popular in the park, Doubletop Mountain is also a great option. The total route is around 6 miles (10km) and is a great full-day trip activity.
As an alternative to hiking, there’s also plenty of other activities in the park including kayaking and fishing. Check out the ultimate guide above for more information on activities.
SUMMARY: Hike Mount Katahdin and Doubletop Mountain
DAY 4: ROAD TRIP TRAVEL DAY TO ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE
After finishing 2 thrilling days in Baxter State Park, it’s time to pack up your car. The next stop on the New England road trip is Acadia National Park, a 47,000 acre park situated along the Atlantic Ocean with plenty of stunning coastline to explore. It should take about 4-5 hours to get from Baxter to Acadia, which means you can take your time packing up your site and car in the morning.
If you arrive with plenty of day left, take some time to explore the little town of Bar Harbor which acts as a gateway entrance to the park. If that isn’t your cup of tea, there’s also a few lakes or ‘beaches’ in the area to enjoy a few hours with no sound but the lapsing of water at your feet.
For accommodation, you have plenty of options. The best campground within Acadia is Blackwoods Campground. It’s centrally located right on Ring Road, and isn’t too far from Cadillac Mountain. That will become very convenient for what’s in store tomorrow. If you’d rather stay indoors, Bar Harbor offers plenty of bed & breakfast and hotel options.
For more information on Ring Road, Cadillac Mountain, and more, read my Acadia National Park 2-Day Guide.
Whatever you choose, make sure that you are not too far away from the main park entrance.
SUMMARY: Drive to Acadia National Park, stay at Blackwoods Campground
DAY 5-6: EXPLORE ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
Acadia National Park offers so many diverse activities in the area. Start the day early with sunrise on Cadillac Mountain before enjoying the rest of the famous Ring Road.
READ MORE: Check out this Acadia National Park 2-Day Guide to find a detailed itinerary of the best activities to do in the area including hiking, biking, campgrounds, swimming, and more.
Before leaving Acadia and Bar Harbor take some time for a gear check and make sure everything is in order. As well, stop at a grocery store if you’re going to need more food in the next 3 days. Bar Harbor and the surrounding area will have a lot more options compared to small towns you’ll find on the way to New Hampshire.
SUMMARY: Spend 2 days in Acadia National Park, gear check and food stockup, stay at Blackwoods or Seawall Campground
DAY 7-9: TRAVEL DAY TO WHITE MOUNTAINS, NEW HAMPSHIRE FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL TRAVERSE
After spending a couple days in Acadia National Park, it’s time to head over to the famous White Mountains of New Hampshire. Leaving from the Bar Harbor area, it should take around 4-5 hours to arrive at Appalachia trailhead. This will be your starting point of the Presidential Traverse, where you will be spending 3 days on the trail.
This traverse is one of the most popular and difficult activities in the area. It spans 20.4 miles and includes 8 peaks over 4,000 feet. The 8 peaks are named after presidents, such as Monroe and Adams, giving the traverse a very appropriate name. Most famous of the peaks is Mount Washington, which is the highest point in the northeast United States.
READ MORE: Find all the information you’ll need for the traverse including trailheads, parking, and what you’ll be doing each day in my Presidential Traverse post.
Before heading off, you will definitely need to prepare your gear and food ahead of time. Although there are huts along the route, access to resources are minimal and you should double and triple check your pack before starting. For a comprehensive backpack guide of everything you might need, check out this Essential Packing List for overnight backpacking trips.
The last day of the traverse is not that long, and you should be finished by noon. Due to the popularity of the White Mountains, there’s an abundance of accommodation options in the area. Take the rest of the day to enjoy a nice shower, re-organize your gear, recharge all your electronics, and do some laundry.
SUMMARY: Drive to White Mountains for 3 days backpacking along the Presidential Traverse, stay at hotel in area
DAY 10: RELAXING LAKE DAY
Reward yourself after finishing the traverse with a nice day off in one of the many lakes in the area. When looking for a lake in the area, take note of any entrance or parking fees, size of parking lots, if the lakes have leeches, and how far away it is from the rest of the area. Below are some great options close to Gorham and not too far from where you will be for the next few nights.
- Chocorua Lake: Chocorua would be my personal recommendation as its very quiet, has no fees, and doesn’t require reservations. On top of that, there’s an amazing view of Mount Chocorua right from the water.
- Echo Lake: Check the link to ensure the park will be open when you plan to go. There’s a $4 fee for adults, and $2 for children.
- Jericho Lake: Check the link to ensure the park will be open when you plan to go. There’s a $4 fee for adults, and $2 for children.
- Diana’s Bath: This attraction requires a 1.5 mile slight incline walk, but offers great falls and baths to relax. It cost $5 to park, and the lot can be limited so be sure to get there early if you plan on going.
When you’re done relaxing, head over the town of Lincoln to restock on food or anything else you may need. There’s plenty of restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, and more. From here, it’s about a 20 minute drive to the next campground.
Lafayette Place Campground isn’t as remote as other grounds in the area, however its location is the best option for any activities in this area. It has direct access to lakes and popular trails in the area. You can find further information here on campground amenities and booking at Lafayette Place.
SUMMARY: Lake day in the White Mountains area, stay at Lafayette Place Campground
DAY 11: HIKE FRANCONIA RIDGE, WHITE MOUNTAINS
Jump right back into the action after a day off, and hike along Franconia Ridge for some of the best views in the White Mountains. With some of the highest peaks in the area outside the Presidential Traverse, it’s considered to be a moderate to difficult hike. Check out the Franconia Ridge Guide for more information on trail recommendations, what to expect, and other important information.
The best part about this hike is the location convenience. The trailhead is directly connected to Lafayette Place Campground, which means you don’t have to worry about parking. With only 10-15 minutes of walking, you’ll find yourself at the trailhead of the hike to start the day.
After finishing the hike, you’ll find yourself right where you started. Enjoy the rest of the day back at the campsite with a delicious and rewarding dinner to celebrate your last night in the White Mountains!
SUMMARY: Hike Franconia Ridge, stay at Lafayette Place Campground
DAY 12: ROAD TRIP TRAVEL DAY TO MANSFIELD STATE FOREST, VERMONT
With a wrap on the White Mountains, Vermont is next on the New England road trip list. Pack up your site at Lafayette, and drive about 2 hours to arrive at Mount Mansfield State Forest. This state forest is home to Mount Mansfield, which is the highest peak in Vermont.
The forest contains 4 different state park, which means there’s plenty of campground options. There’s direct access to trailheads to reach Mansfield from Underhill State Park and Smuggler’s Notch State Park.
Depending on how early you want to start the day, you can take on a short and easy trail in the area if you’re up for it. Tomorrow will be spent hiking Mount Mansfield, so it’s up to you and how you feel if you want to relax or keep on with the hiking.
SUMMARY: Drive to Mansfield State Forest, stay at Underhill or Smuggler’s Notch Campground
DAY 13: HIKE MOUNT MANSFIELD
After settling in at the campsite, it’s time to hike Mount Mansfield. The Mansfield loop is a 7.3 mile trail that is heavily trafficked, but only recommended for experienced hikers. Always be sure to understand your skill level before starting on big hikes.
If you are staying at the campground in Underhill State Park, the trailhead starts directly off Mountain Road. You should go counterclockwise and start on the Maple Ridge Trail, which is the more technical part of the hike. After summiting, you should take Sunset Ridge trail back down to the campsite. You can find more information about this trail here.
If you choose to stay at Smuggler’s Notch Campground, there are also trailhead options leading directly from the park. A quick google search should give you plenty of details and the exact specifics.
End the night back at your campsite, and be sure to enjoy one more night under the stars to celebrate the end of your road trip adventure through New England!
SUMMARY: Hike Mount Mansfield, stay at Underhill or Smuggler’s Notch Campground
DAY 14: TRAVEL HOME AND END YOUR EPIC HIKING ROAD TRIP!
It’s time to finally pack up your camp one last time, and finally head home. Hopefully you’re still in one piece, and have most of your gear still in proper working order. The last 2 weeks of jampacked adventure will hopefully hold you over until you’re back out on the open road. Take some time to maybe journal some of your favorite moments and memories so you can remember them years from now! And remember, Always Embrace the Adventure.
FLEXIBLE ROAD TRIP OPTIONS
1 WEEK NEW ENGLAND ROAD TRIP
If you only have 1 week for a mini road trip through New England, there’s plenty of options.
At the end of the day, it’s your priorities that matter most when deciding what to cut out. My personal priority would be to minimize driving time but still maintain variety. I would start off at Acadia National Park as it has so many different things to see and do. On top of that, Bar Harbor is truly a mini highlight of Maine that’s worth seeing. Then, I’d head over to the White Mountains. Options in the Whites include the 3-day Presidential Traverse, or a few day trips. Some of the best day hikes include Franconia Ridge, Mount Washington, and Mount Chocorua.
3 WEEK NEW ENGLAND ROAD TRIP
If you find yourself with an abundance of time, there’s so many other great hikes in New England. After hiking Mount Mansfield, feel free to take a day and explore around Vermont. If you want to get back on a trail quick, take the next day to head over to the Adirondacks in Upstate New York. Total travel time is around 2-3 hours.
The Adirondacks is known for their 46 peaks that sit above 4,000 feet of elevation. This gives you plenty of mountains to explore. Some popular hiking options include Mount Colden, Whiteface Mountain, Algonquin and Wright Peak, Gothics Mountain, and Cascade Mountain. These only scratch the surface of what the Adirondacks offer. Do some research based on your priority criteria including length, difficulty, popularity, elevation, and anything else important to you.
Beyond the hiking, Lake George and Lake Placid are both popular places to explore in the area. Check out Lake George’s official website for in depth information on campgrounds, activities, and more.
QUICK NOTE: If you are hockey fan, visiting Lake Placid Olympic Museum is totally worth the visit. It’s located in the same building as the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey game!
If you have time between Acadia and the White Mountains, I would definitely recommend a day in Portland. It’s frequently rated as one of the best small cities in the United States. Taking a break from the rugged outdoors and fresh mountain air to explore its quaint and cozy downtown is worth the time if you have it. The drive takes about 3 hours from Acadia. From Portland to the Whites is about 2-3 hours.
ARE YOU PLANNING YOUR OWN HIKING ROAD TRIP THROUGH NEW ENGLAND?
There’s plenty of articles and resources on the site to help you best prepare for your own adventure! Read some article highlights below on some great parks and hikes in New England:
PRESIDENTIAL TRAVERSE: Weekend Trip in the White Mountains
FRANCONIA RIDGE GUIDE | 360 Views
MOUNT KATAHDIN, Highest point in Maine
DOUBLETOP MOUNTAIN, Baxter State Park
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Best 2-Day Guide
Want to make your own epic road trip adventure but don’t know where to start? Check out these
8 Simple Steps to Planning a Hiking Road Trip that will bring you from a basic concept all the way to your final checks before heading out.