Looking for some gorgeous hikes within an easy drive of the New Hampshire seacoast? Want to get the family out in the mountains, but not ready for the 4,000-footers just yet? The Belknap Range near Lake Winnipesauke offers stunning, rugged, and scenic mountain hikes that are also family- and beginner-friendly. And if you need a fun goal to keep you going, climbing all 12 mountains will earn you the Belknap Range Hiker patch.

The Belknap Range is a series of modest peaks spanning between the very popular Mount Major on the east, and Gunstock and Rowe Mountains on the northwest. In between, you have some beautiful hikes with a mix of forest, open rock scrambles, hidden lakes and ponds, and breathtaking views. These hikes very accessible to all abilities and will make you feel you’re in the distant backcountry in just a short time. And if you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can always tackle multiple peaks at a time!

Credit: Bryce Waldrop

1. Mount Major (1,786 ft)

Arguably one of the most-hiked mountains on the seacoast, Mount Major is great hike that rewards you with epic views of Lake Winnipesauke. There are two options for ascending the peak, the Mount Major Trail, which is more gradual, or the steeper, Boulder Loop trail. The Mount Major trail begins with a gradual ascent past a boulder field where kids might enjoy clambering over the rocks. The trail is wide and well-worn and easy to follow, and about halfway it becomes steep as you climb your way to the summit. The boulder loop starts off with a more-direct climb right away and may prove more challenging for some young ones, but either trail is fun to do.

The summit is wide open and has a stone structure to explore, and plenty of room to relax and enjoy your lunch. Dogs are allowed, but must be kept on-leash. And if you’re not too worn out, you can continue on to South Straightback Mountain just 1.1 miles away for another of the “12” peaks in this range.

2. South Straightback Mountain (1,910 ft)

Situated just southwest of Mount Major, this peak can be approached from the east via Mount Major, or for a different perspective, via a completely different trail from the south. Either way, it’s a nice flat-topped summit with some views, but the larger reward is finishing another peak on your list! With a 1,260-foot ascent, it is comparable in difficulty to Mount Major.

Credit: Bryce Waldrop

3. West Quarry and Rand (1,894 ft and 1,883 ft)

The trailhead is at the end of Glidden Road and follows a very gentle unimproved lane directly between the two peaks. When you reach the Dave Roberts Quarry trail, you have the choice of turning east towards West Quarry, or west for Rand, each approximately one half-mile in either direction. The ascent is just under 800 feet for each peak and the gentle climbs and shorter distance make completing both peaks very doable, even for the young ones.

West Quarry provides nice terrain like open rock, and you’ll see the remains of an old hillside quarry operation. You’ll take in a little history along the way, but take note there are old metal quarry implements and systems still in-place, so just watch your step. But one of the neatest parts of this hike is following the route south-southwest as you ascend the summit. Here, you are rewarded with stunning views south and west. For a moment you’ll forget civilization exists, even after a relatively short walk.

Rand offers a nice stroll through a mixed forest, leading to a wooded summit. While there won’t be distant vistas, it is still a lovely walk, and a little open rock at the top offers a fun setting for pictures with the summit sign.

Credit: Bryce Waldrop

4. Klem-Mack Loop (2,001 ft and 1,945 ft)

These are two very fun mountains which will take you past bucolic Round Pond. Approaching from the north, the trailhead is at the end of Wood Road (which also offers a steeper and more challenging approach for Belknap Mountain). For Klem and Mack, you take the turn onto the Round Pond trail which ascends gently to this hidden gem. Like an oasis in the mountains, the pond emerges from the trees, with no structures or civilization in sight.

Following the trail around the pond, you can choose which mountain to approach first, looping over the other on your return by the pond. Mack, with a wooded summit, has fewer views, but Klem offers a stunning vantage north to Lake Winnipesauke. There is plenty of room at the summit to explore and find room for lunch. Returning by the Pond is very refreshing after a nice loop hike, and in fall the colors are just gorgeous. Bring a camera!

5. Anna (1,670 feet)

Mount Anna sits on the south side of the Belknap Range, with the most direct route coming from the south off of Alton Mountain Road (approximately a 700-foot ascent). You can also approach Anna from South Straightback (1 mile each way) or Mount Mack (1.4 miles each way). Either way, you’ll enjoy a nice foray into a quiet, slightly less-traveled area of the range. It is largely a wooded summit with a few views, but definitely worth exploring.

Credit: Bryce Waldrop

6. Piper and Whiteface (2,044 ft and 1,670 ft)

These mountains extend south from Belknap Mountain and provide nice views of the range to the north and east. The summits are both open with a mix of grasses and open rock, giving you the feel of being above tree line at higher elevations. Piper is little higher with a approximately a 950-ft ascent, while Whiteface is an easy jaunt over from the trail junction. The trailhead at the end of Belknap Mountain Road was a little tricky to find at first, but the trails are easy to follow, and the Piper-Whiteface Link trail connects the peaks nicely with signage.

7. Belknap, Gunstock, and Rowe (2,382 ft, 2,250 ft, and 1,690 ft)

Belknap Mountain is a fun, stiff hike depending on which trail you choose, and a great way to start or end your Belknap Range adventures. The easiest approach is the Warden or Red trail from the west (roughly a 700 foot ascent), but approaching from the north makes for a nice, rewarding climb (a 1,380 foot climb). Belknap is the highest in the range, and there is a fire tower at the top which provides additional views. You can always head over to Gunstock (.8 miles) and just enjoy this classic summit all by itself.

Gunstock and Rowe form the western end of the Belknap Range and can be hiked together nicely. Starting at Gunstock Mountain Resort allows you to loop the two peaks and return back to your car. And if the resort is open, there is food and facilities available when you finish. After following a gravel road to Rowe, The Belknap Range Trail heads south from Rowe and follows a grassy trail around to Gunstock. You’ll likely encounter more people on these trails, as there are all season activities on Gunstock. In the summer and fall you’ll enjoy hiking the mountain while people fly above you on the zipline!

Belknap Range Hiker Patch

Now that you’ve completed all 12 peaks, definitely consider applying for the Belknap Range Hiker Patch. Offered by the Belknap County Sportsmen’s Association, this colorful patch provides a nice memory of the journey and gives those young ones a fun goal to shoot for.

Do you have a favorite hike in the Belknap Range? Let us know in the comments!