It is possible to explore a vast amount of the Northeast’s adventurous opportunities in a week. Nestled within the region lay the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains, the White Mountains, and Acadia National Park.
Each of these serves as a launching pad for epic hikes, views, and camping opportunities. Here’s our list of the best outdoor adventures in the American Northeast…
Hiking and Camping in Vermont’s Green Mountains
Vermont: home to maple syrup, hipster Burlington breweries, and the Green Mountains. Mount Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont, is a 2.4 mile hike with a total elevation gain of 2800 feet. The trail, however, does not open until Memorial Day, so for trips taken in early May, this hike is off the table. However, this mountain range hosts various other day hikes that still offer challenging ascents and wide views.
The fifth highest peak in Vermont, Mount Abraham is situated along Vermont’s Long Trail, a 272 mile traversing the length of the state. A 5.1 mile hike with a 1,735 foot elevation gain, this trail is moderately difficult. Cutting through dense vegetation and muddy river banks, this trail switchbacks up the Long Trail where it intersects with the Battell Shelter, a shelter intended for Long Trail hikers.
The last half mile of the trail is a rocky scramble, with each turn slowly revealing more and more of the promising views. Once summited, Mount Abraham provides fantastic views of the surrounding Adirondack Region, White Mountains, and Champlain Lake.
Camping in the Green Mountains
As it is a National Forest, the Green Mountains offer a plethora of free camping opportunities. Plenty of sites are located near Bristol, and are situated close to various water sources, making for an ideal camping experience.
Freecampsites.net – This is a great resource for finding free campsites within the Green and White Mountain Ranges. Remember to leave any backcountry camping site better than when you found it, and to always practice Leave No Trace principles. Don’t be mean to the environment you are recreating in.
Hiking and Camping in New Hampshire’s White Mountains
Continuing east from Vermont brings one to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This range is well known, being part of the Appalachian Trail and home to various intense day hikes, such as Mount Washington and Franconia Notch. Mount Washington, New Hampshire’s tallest peak, is known to be the most dangerous small peak in the entire United States, due its intense wind speeds and rapidly changing weather.
For current summit conditions atop Mount Washington – Go Here.
In fact, it holds the world record of fastest wind speed, having reached 231 miles per hour in 1934. Therefore, attempting Mount Washington requires cooperation from Mother Nature, since wind speeds over 30 miles per hour put hikers in serious danger. However, if wind speeds are too high, there still exists a plethora of day hiking opportunities within the White Mountains.
Hiking Franconia Notch
Franconia Notch Trail is an 8.9 mile loop that connects three peaks: Mount Lafayette, Mount Lincoln, and Little Haystack. The hike is strenuous, with a 3,900 foot elevation gain and cold wind speeds along the ridge. There are two different paths up the mountain, Old Bridal Path and Falling Waters Trail.
In early May, when ice and snow is still very present on the trail, climbing Old Bridal Path to the peak of Mount Lafayette is recommended, and then following the ridge line across Mount Lincoln, Little Haystack, and back down the mountain via Falling Waters Trail. Mount Lafayette, the highest of the three peaks, is the second most prominent mountain in the White Mountain range.
It offers stunning views, where on a clear day, Mount Washington and a wide expanse of the mountain range are visible.
For a great hiking map of Franconia Notch State Park – Go Here.
Camping in the White Mountains
Similar to the Green Mountains, the White Mountains are home to numerous free campsites. Most are situated close together, in the northern region of the mountain range. There are also plenty of paid campsites, which offer amenities such as fire pits and restrooms.
Hiking Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is home to some of America’s most distinctive scenery. It is an island located near the southern tip of Maine, sharing its island space with Bar Harbor, a charming fishing town filled with breweries and lobster shacks. Due to the fact that it is the only national park located in the Northeast, a trip to Acadia in the summertime will inevitably result in an encounter with crowds.
However, venturing off the beaten path helps to escape the hordes. Acadia has over 120 miles of trails, and while some are distinctively more populated than others, they all offer incredible scenery and unique landscapes.
Cadillac Mountain is well known within the national park, as it is the highest point on the eastern seaboard. Despite the fact that the peak is accessible by car, hiking to the top provides amazing views of the surrounding coastline, all while avoiding other visitors. There are two routes to the peak, the North Ridge Trail and the South Ridge Trail.
The North Ridge Trail, a moderate 2.2 mile hike, features pine trees and a gentle scramble near the middle of the trail. Once at the top of the peak, 360 degree views of the surrounding island are visible, making this the most popular spot in the park to watch the sunrise.
It is possible to follow to North Ridge trail back down the mountain, however, taking the 3.5 mile South Ridge Trail back down offers some of the most distinctive scenery in the park. Along the trail is exposed rocky terrain, marked by cairns and blue blazes pointing the way. About halfway down hikers encounter the “Featherbed,” a lonely pond seated atop the rocky face.
The “Bubbles” are one of the most unique features of Acadia National Park. The two twin mountains look over Jordan’s pond, and both offer opportunities for a moderate day hike with rewarding views. Bubble Rock, situated atop the South Bubble, is one of the most visited spots in Maine, due to its seemingly gravity-defying existence.
Perched on the edge of a rocky ledge, the boulder has boggled many for generations, a glacial erratic well known within the park. The hike is simple, 0.7 miles to the top, but a steady climb nonetheless.
Ocean Path Loop to Sandy Beach
More of a walk than a hike, this 4.5 mile loop connects some of the most well known attractions in Acadia. Beginning at Otter Point, it provides access to rocky outcrops that overlook the Atlantic Ocean. Around 2 miles in, you will come across Thunder Hole. This rocky cliff is perfectly situated so that waves hit the rock with the force imitating the sound of a thunder clap.
Following the trail brings one to Sandy Beach, one of the only sand beaches in Maine. This small stretch of sand is bordered on each side by rugged cliffs studded by pine trees, and bordered on the back by tall grass and a small creek. The diversity of landscapes this one stretch of coastline provides makes it one of the most interesting points of Acadia.
The Beehive Trail
Not for the faint of heart, or for anyone with a slight fear of heights. Although it is a short ascent equipped with fantastic views of nearby Sandy Beach, this exposed trail is known as an “iron rung” trail, due to the fact that hikers meander along a precipice, with the aid of iron rungs.
As one of the busiest trails in the park, there is often a line of people running up the precipice, so be prepared to wait along the route for others to make their ascent.
Camping in Acadia National Park
Due to its island nature, finding camping outside of Acadia’s established campsites is nearly impossible. However, the park offers various campsites, ranging from incredibly remote locations accessible only by ferry, to more populated campsites located right on the coast.
Blackwoods Campground, which is the most popular campground in the park, is open year round. It is situated near Bar Harbor, and though densely wooded, is only a 10 minute walk from the ocean. During peak season, campsites are $30, and during the off season this price is reduced to $15 a night.
For a comprehensive and up to date guide of Acadia National Park campsites – Go Here.
Seawall Campground is a quieter campground then Blackwoods, with more space in between campsites. It is located on the western side of the island, and also boasts beautiful wooded scenery intermingled with a proximity to the sea. Seawall Campground is also $30 a night for drive up tent camping during peak season.
Schoodic Woods Campground is located on the Schoodic Peninsula, offering 94 campsites. There are multiple hiking and biking trails that lead directly out of this campground, making it a popular option for hike-in campers. The cost for this campground is also $30 per night.
Duck Harbor Campground is the most remote campground in Acadia. Located on Isle de Haut, the five sites are only accessible by boat, and offer the most immersion in the Acadian wilderness. Though camping reservations cost $20 per night at this campsite, a round trip ferry costs $40 per person.
America’s Northeastern region is home to amazing outdoor recreation opportunities. The rugged and vast mountain ranges, mixed with the charm of northeastern culture, make it an easily accessible yet beautiful wilderness experience.