Book Reviews

Book Review: Fifty Hikes in the White Mountains: A Guide to Hiking My Favorite Place on Earth

I had an older edition of Fifty Hikes in the White Mountains back when I used to go hiking with friends, fifteen years and three kids ago, so I was happy to see a newer edition.

The title aptly describes the main purpose of the book; what is detailed here are fifty hikes of varying degrees of difficulty in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The authors might have played a little loose with what exactly defines the “White Mountains” as hikes in the book do include several which would be more aptly placed in either the state’s Great North Region or Lakes Region, but these hikes are only a short drive from people who might be based in the White Mountains region.

The series was originally authored by Daniel Doan, who died in 1993. His daughter, Ruth Doan MacDougall has prepared this most recent edition based on previous editions.

In the introduction, tips for hiking are given. The hiking season for New Hampshire is generally May through October, so a wide range of conditions can be encountered on the trail. For novice hikers, this introduction is very helpful, as the authors give information about clothing and equipment for the trail, as well as rules and regulations people may be unfamiliar with, and safety advice. For someone who’s never hiked before, as I was when I first picked up this book years ago, it’s a great source of information.

I love the White Mountains of New Hampshire because of its beauty, and the fifty hikes contained in the book can take you to the deepest and most beautiful and secluded parts of the region. The hikes are mainly clustered in the Franconia Notch area and the area surrounding Mount Washington, although there is a nice selection outside of these two areas as well.

The first hike I ever took with my cousins is here, the simple Sabbaday Falls trail which is only a half-mile long and rises a mere 100 feet. This is on the short end of hikes detailed in this book as they range a wide variety of distances all the way up to 33 miles. Each hike is detailed with information on the distance (usually round-trip or once around a loop), the estimated walking time at a leisurely pace, the vertical rise, and a map. The maps are composites from the United States Geological Survey and the Forest Service which give topographical information as well as the locations of parking, camping, shelters, and look-outs.

The directions to the trailhead are quite good and detailed, making each hike easy to find. The author’s description is detailed, and he also gives the background to each trail, so when your kids are asking you how that stone hut got on top of Mount Major, you might have an answer for them. He also talks about what plants you might see growing along the trail at various times of year and gives a great description of what you are looking out at from many of the views. This is terrific for pointing out various sights in the area.

Many black and white photographs have also been included in the book. Much of it is simply of the animals and plants seen along the trails, but there are a few of the trails themselves or the views, giving the reader a taste of the majesty to be seen if you embark on that particular hike.

For novice hikers, and people with young children, Fifty Hikes in the White Mountains is a great way to introduce yourself and your family to hiking in one of the most beautiful places in this country. The descriptions make it easy to know what you’re getting into beforehand and gauge it to your level of experience.