Hike Into the Clouds On The Giant Stairs In New Hampshire's White Mountains
Whether you’re trying to beat the summer heat with some cool elevation gain or just find a new vantage point from which to marvel at New Hampshire’s stunning landscape, the Granite State has plenty of high-elevation mountain hikes to choose from. Fortunately, with a state as gorgeous as ours, you don’t necessarily need to scramble up New Hampshire’s tallest peak to get those breathtaking, photo-worthy views… although a little altitude certainly has its perks! For a stunning hike that will take you (literally) into the clouds and boasts some spectacular sky-high views, an adventure up Stairs Mountain should definitely top your summit list.
Sitting over 3,400 feet above sea level, Stairs Mountain is a quintessential hike in the Whites, although it might be difficult to see why without getting a little perspective.
From a vantage point like Mount Crawford, Stairs Mountain's unique stairway to heaven is easily visible, and it's those unique, rocky "giant steps" on the horizon that have earned the mountain its must-hike reputation.
Your journey will start at the Rocky Branch Trailhead, which follows the Rocky Branch River through the trees and offers a quiet, shady respite. Lush groundcover will provide a soft, welcoming cushion underfoot before the next leg of the trail.
A scenic bridge, plenty of wildflowers, and open valley views add some magical photo ops to this trail prelude!
Looking to take a slower pace on this hike? You'll find a picnic shelter here as well as a few camping spaces.
Catch your breath while you can! When the Rocky Branch Trail connects to Stairs Col in the Presidential Range-Dry River Wilderness, the intensity of the hike kicks up a notch.
Challenging and heart-pumping in its rocky ascent, Stairs Col is aptly named. But sneak peeks of the mountain's iconic "stairs" ledges and a few overlooks will help you stay motivated to keep going up the steep incline!
Finally, the smooth and sweet sub-two mile Davis Path will wind you up the last stretch of mountain before the short Stairs ledges spur opens up to a brilliant overlook.
And just like that, you'll find yourself standing in the clouds at the top of the state!
The view from up from the top of Stairs Mountain is truly spectacular. Here you'll find nothing but grandiose, panoramic New Hampshire beauty and the serenity that comes from the great outdoors. Experienced up close and personal, the once "giant" ledges now plunge dramatically and offer sweeping vistas of Mount Crawford, Mount Resolution, and more.
Pro Tip: This is a great overlook to see fall colors from!
With multiple trail connections and at nearly 9 miles round-trip, hiking Stairs Mountain is a bit more challenging than our usual trail recommendations. But don't let that stop you! Each leg of the hike is well-marked and offers something new to keep the journey interesting.
For more of a challenge, many experienced hikers extend their journey to include the surrounding peaks and turn this day-hike into a lengthy loop. Primitive camping is available at the Stairs Mountain summit.
Besides, this view is 100% worth the extra effort.
It’s nearly impossible to find a bad view in New Hampshire! Will you be trying this hike out this season? Let us know!
For some family-friendly trails in New Hampshire that are a little more low-key, check out these
beginner-friendly hikes around the state.
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Rocky Branch Trail, Jackson, NH, USA