The hike to the summit of Mt. Major is a great day hike with very rewarding views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the surrounding mountains. There are several trails that lead to the summit offering different levels of difficulty. For the more intense hiker, the Boulder Trail would be the more challenging of the trail, but still not extremely difficult. There were plenty of families and hikers with pets using either the Brook Trail or the Main Trail to reach the summit making Mt. Major a very inclusive hike for all skill levels. While there are no good views until you reach to top, the overlook of the lake and its islands, as well as the other low mountains and rolling hills, is well worth the trek to the top.
Alton, New Hampshire
The trail head is off Highway 11 on the left hand side if headed north. There is a small parking lot with maybe 30 spaces. Because the parking lot is small, it fills up quickly. When the lot is full, people just park on the side of the highway near the parking lot entrance. There are a few portable bathrooms in the parking lot, but no place to get water.
There are three trail that all lead to the summit of Mr. Major providing three up and back or three different loop options. Most people we saw were hiking up and down using either the Brook Trail or the Main Trail. We opted to hike up the Boulder Trail and down the Brook Trail for a little bit longer hike. Although we did not hike the Main Trail, due to the number of people with children and dogs, we assumed it was one of the easier trails. The Boulder Trail, marked by orange rectangles, is very steep and full of large rocks creating sections of natural stairs up the mountain. There were also several sections of trail where we were scrambling over large rocks which could make this trail hard for young children and pets. As you can see from the elevation plot in the "Trail Info" section, there is a lot of elevation gain at a high rate. The entire trail is in the woods until the summit is reached. From the parking lot, it is around 2 miles to the summit along the Boulder Trail.
The summit of Mt. Major is bare and rocky with beautiful views of Lake Winnipesaukee. From the top you overlook the south-eastern portion of the lake including Rattlesnake Island. There are plenty of great spots to rest and take in the view but very little shade. We also encountered swarms of gnats, but they were isolated to a small section of the summit. Standing on the summit looking at the lake, the Boulder Trail approaches from the right, Main Trail from straight in front, and Brook Trail from the left. We opted to take the Brook Trail back to the parking lot.
The Brook trail started out with a very gradual descent from the summit until the trail reached the wood line. From there, the descent became more intense, but still very manageable. It was no where near as steep as the Boulder Trail. Once off the summit, the trail winds through the woods the entire way. There are no good views from the trail during the descent. The trail does cross two creeks on the way back, but neither were deep or difficult to cross. During our descent we passed several groups hiking up the trail, many with children or dogs, and none of them seemed to be having trouble. It had rained the day before we hiked so the trail was very muddy and slippery. From the summit it was around 2.25 miles back to the parking lot.
See interactive map for trail locations and general elevation information.
- At the trail head parking lot there are a few portable bathrooms, but no running water. You will need to bring your own water.
- Bring snacks and water for the hike.
- On a sunny day there will not be much shade toward the top. If you plan to stay at the top for an extended period, sunscreen or long sleeves could be a good idea.
- During the summer and fall, bug spray could be a good idea, but not a necessity.
- Allow 3-4 hours for the hike unless you plan on hiking very quickly.