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A moderate hike with a stellar summit view makes summiting Mount Tecumseh a must-do for every White Mountain hiking enthusiast.

The Mount Tecumseh Trail on Mount Tecumseh is a classic introduction to New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers. At just five miles round trip, it offers everything hikers want: a fun climb, outstanding summit views, and a well-constructed trail that’s largely protected from the elements.

Quick Facts

Distance: 5 miles round-trip
Time to Complete: Half-day
Difficulty: ★★★
Scenery: ★★★★

Season: Year round
Fees/Permits: None
Contact: White Mountain National Forest

Turn by Turn

A hike up Mount Tecumseh via the Mount Tecumseh Trail begins and ends at the Waterville Valley Ski Area in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. Hikers should park in the upper right lot; the well-signed trailhead is located across the road from the right end of the lot.

Mount Tecumseh trail sign
Credit: Doug Martland

Starting Out

The Mount Tecumseh Trail is quite mellow at the start. Quickly rock hop across a small stream, then follow a mostly flat path as it traverses along the edge of Tecumseh Brook.

Soon the trail makes a sharp turn to the right, crossing the brook in the process. Depending on the season, water in this section can sometimes be above your boots, so choose your path wisely. Once across Tecumseh Brook, the trail climbs a short step of steps, the first elevation gain of the day. Then it loops through open forest, climbing quite moderately on a well-kept trail.

Near the 0.8-mile mark, the Mount Tecumseh Trail makes a short descent back to Tecumseh Brook, crosses the brook, and enters a short series of switchbacks up to a trail sign and a short spur to an overlook. Since the incline perks up after the sign and this is near halfway in terms of mileage, many take a quick break at the sign or the nearby viewpoint overlooking the Waterville Valley Ski Area.

Dog on the Mount Tecumseh Trail
Credit: Tim Peck

Above the First Overlook

The climbing begins in earnest above the trail sign. And the nature of the trail changes, too, becoming rockier than the earlier section.

As the trail ascends, it initially hugs the ski area’s boundary, although with the thick trees on hiker’s left, you don’t even know that there’s a ski trail nearby. On hiker’s right is Tecumseh Brook Valley. Be on the lookout for glimpses of Mount Tecumseh proper looming up and right. It’s not as far away as it looks.

As the ascent continues, the path gradually diverges from the ski area, heading for a ridge line that takes you to the summit proper. You’ll know you’re getting close to the ridgeline when you hit an extended section of steeps. Push through, you’re almost there.

Sosman Junction on Mount Tecumseh
Credit: Doug Martland

The Sosman Junction

After finishing the steeps, the junction with the Sosman Trail is just a few steps away. At the junction, hikers looking to summit should stay on the Mount Tecumseh Trail. Hikers looking to add a little extra distance can do an out-and-back (1.6 miles round trip) by heading south on the Sosman Trail, which traverses the ridge back to the top of the ski area and has a few good viewpoints.

Summit of Mount Tecumseh
Credit: Tim Peck

Topping Out

For a very short distance after the Sosman Junction, the Mount Tecumseh Trail and the northbound Sosman Trail are one and the same. When they split, the Sosman Trail (on hiker’s left) works up the west side of Mount Tecumseh’s summit cone, while the Mount Tecumseh Trail (on hiker’s right) loops around to the east and ascends there. Both are the same in terms of difficulty, although the Sosman Trail is a bit shorter and offers a vantage of the western edge of the White Mountains, including Mount Moosilauke.

Whichever direction you head in the loop, you’ll soon pop out on Tecumseh’s summit. The rocky top rewards hikers with a stellar view north and east—look for the aptly named Tripyramids straight ahead. On clear days, try to pick out Mount Washington in the distance. Find a seat and take in the view.

Schwendi Hutte
Credit: Tim Peck

Heading Down

The descent from the summit is straightforward: just retrace your steps on the Mount Tecumseh Trail back to the Waterville Valley Ski Area parking lot. Those looking for a change in scenery (and a less rocky descent) can opt to take the Sosman Trail to the top of the ski area and then descend via the ski trails.

Hiking the Mount Tecumseh Trail
Credit: Tim Peck

The Kit for Hiking Mount Tecumseh

  • A windshirt, a rain shell, and a lightweight puffy are our preferred upper body layers to carry on any ascent of Mount Tecumseh.
  • Mount Tecumseh is short enough that you can often tack it on to another activity, like a day of sport climbing at Rumney. If that’s the case, add a headlamp like the powerful and rechargeable Black Diamond Spot 400 to your pack so that you can comfortably finish when the sun goes down.
  • There are plenty of great views atop Mount Tecumseh, but all the good seats are a little bumpy. The EMS Siesta Folding Sit Pad is a small, lightweight addition to your pack that ensures you’ll always have a dry and comfy seat.
  • A trekking pole is especially helpful for the rocky descent down the Mount Tecumseh Trail. Strong, packable, and lightweight, the Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking/Running Pole is a longtime favorite.
  • Believe it or not, hiking Mount Tecumseh can be slightly confusing, despite being an out-and-back trip. A trail-ready map, like this waterproof, tear-resistant one of the White Mountains, can help ensure you stay on course.

Have more questions about what gear to bring? Check out Gear to Hike the NH 48 for the skinny on everything from layers to accessories to first aid.

Keys to the Trip

  • Mount Tecumseh via the Mount Tecumseh Trail from Waterville Valley is a popular hike, and it’s reasonable to expect to see many hikers on the trail. If you want the summit to yourself, plan on getting an early or late start.
  • Always in the trees and short enough that you can hike it quickly, Mount Tecumseh is the perfect option for days where you want to get a hike in but the weather gods aren’t smiling upon you.
  • Five miles might not seem like much, but you’ll still work up an appetite with the 2,000-plus feet of elevation gain and loss on Mount Tecumseh. Whether you want sweet, savory, or caffeine, the Mad River Coffee House is just down the road and has some of the best choices for food and drink in the Whites.
  • If want to celebrate a successful summit with a pint, The Dam Brewhouse is on the way back to Route 93 and features up to 10 beers rotating through its taps.
  • A hike to the top of Mount Tecumseh is a quick trip for many, however, overnight options abound—from resorts to Airbnbs to campgrounds—if you’re traveling from far away or simply want to spend more time in the Waterville Valley.

Looking to hike Mount Tecumseh, but want more of a challenge? The Skyline Loop tags all the region’s prominent peaks over its 34 miles, including Mount Tecumseh.