White Mountains (New Hampshire)

The White Mountains are a mountain range covering about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire and a small portion of western Maine in the United States. They are part of the northern Appalachian Mountains and the most rugged mountains in New England. The range is heavily visited due to its proximity to Boston and, to a lesser extent, New York City and Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Most of the area is public land, including the White Mountain National Forest and a number of state parks. Its most famous mountain is 6,288-foot (1,917 m) Mount Washington, which is the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S. and for 76 years held the record for fastest surface wind gust in the world (231 miles per hour (372 km/h) in 1934). Mount Washington is part of a line of summits, the Presidential Range, that are named after U.S. presidents and other prominent Americans.

The White Mountains also include the Franconia Range, Sandwich Range, Carter-Moriah Range and Kinsman Range in New Hampshire, and the Mahoosuc Range straddling the border between it and Maine. In all, there are 48 peaks within New Hampshire as well as one (Old Speck Mountain) in Maine over 4,000 feet (1,200 m), known as the four-thousand footers.

The Whites are known for a system of alpine huts for hikers operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club. The Appalachian Trail crosses the area from southwest to northeast.

White Mountains
Looking south on the Franconia Ridge Trail towards Mount Flume (left) and Mount Liberty (center)
Highest point
PeakMount Washington
Elevation6,288 ft (1,917 m)
Coordinates44°16′15″N 71°18′12.5″W / 44.27083°N 71.303472°W
CountryUnited States
StatesNew Hampshire and Maine
RegionNew England
Range coordinates44°16′16″N 71°18′18″W / 44.271°N 71.305°WCoordinates: 44°16′16″N 71°18′18″W / 44.271°N 71.305°W
Parent rangeAppalachian Mountains


It is not clear where the name "White Mountains" came from. There is no record of what Native Americans called the range, although pre-Colonial names for many individual peaks are known.[1] The name and similar ones such as "White Hills" or "Wine Hills" are found in literature from Colonial times. According to tradition, the mountains were first sighted from shipboard off the coast near the Piscataqua estuary. The highest peaks would often be snow-capped, appearing white. An alternate theory is that the mica-laden granite of the summits looked white to observers.

Geology and physiography

Map of the main regions of the northeast Appalachians

The White Mountains are a physiographic section of the larger New England province, which in turn is part of the larger Appalachian physiographic division.[2]

The magma intrusions forming the White Mountains today were created 124 to 100 million years ago as the North American Plate moved westward over the New England hotspot.

Widespread evidence of glaciation may be seen in the U-shaped form of various notches, or mountain passes. Glacial cirques form the heads of Tuckerman Ravine on Mt. Washington and King Ravine on Mt. Adams. Glacial striations are visible at numerous locations, including on the exposed rocks at the summit of Pine Mountain in Gorham.


The Mount Washington Auto Road and the historic Mount Washington Cog Railway ascend the range's highest peak, which hosts a visitor center and weather observatory. Heavily visited Arethusa Falls, the second tallest waterfall in New Hampshire, lies on a southwest flank of Crawford Notch. The Old Man of the Mountain, a rock formation on Cannon Mountain that resembled the craggy profile of a man's face, was a White Mountain landmark until it fell in May 2003. It remains the state symbol of New Hampshire. The range also includes a natural feature dubbed "The Basin", consisting of a granite bowl, 20 feet (6 m) in diameter, fed by a waterfall, worn smooth by the Pemigewasset River. The areas around The Basin are popular spots for swimming in the ice-cold mountain-fed water.

The range is crossed north–south by U.S. Route 3 and Interstate 93 through Franconia Notch and New Hampshire Route 16 through Pinkham Notch, and east–west by the Kancamagus Highway (part of New Hampshire Route 112) through Kancamagus Pass and U.S. Route 302 through Crawford Notch.


Franklin Leavitt map 1871
Map of the White Mountains, Franklin Leavitt, 1871

Some of the earliest maps of the White Mountains were produced as tourist maps and not topographical maps. One of the first two tourist maps of the mountains was that produced by Franklin Leavitt, a self-taught artist born near Lancaster, New Hampshire in 1824.[3] Leavitt's hand-drawn map, today in the collection of Harvard University, is largely folk art, but does convey some of the region's features.[4] Leavitt drew several versions of his map, beginning in 1852. The fourth version, printed in 1871, was printed at Boston and carried a retail price of one dollar.[5] Other early maps of the region were drawn by H. Conant and by Harvard astronomer George Phillips Bond, who published the first topographical map of the region in 1853.[6]


The White Mountains drew hundreds of painters during the 19th century. This group of artists is sometimes referred to as belonging to the "White Mountain school" of art. Others dispute the notion that these painters were a "school", since they did not all paint in the same style as, for example, those artists of the Hudson River School.

Peaks of the Franconia Range of the White Mountains as viewed from Loon Mountain resort after an October snowfall, looking to the north.
Peaks of the Franconia Range of the White Mountains as viewed from Loon Mountain resort after an October snowfall, looking to the north.

In literature and drama

Nathaniel Hawthorne chose the White Mountains as the setting for his short story, "The Great Carbuncle". Other White Mountain tales by Hawthorne include "The Ambitious Guest", "Sketches from Memory" and "The Great Stone Face". The White Mountain region also figures prominently in the writings of Louisa May Alcott, including the novel Eight Cousins and its sequel, Rose in Bloom.

See also


  1. ^ AMC: "How the White Mountains Were Named"
  2. ^ "Physiographic divisions of the conterminous U. S." U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2007-12-06.
  3. ^ Franklin Leavitt, Map of the White Mountains, New Hampshire, WhiteMountainHistory.org
  4. ^ Franklin Leavitt White Mountains Map, Harvard University
  5. ^ 1871 Franklin Leavitt Map, WhiteMountainHistory.org
  6. ^ George P. Bond: Map of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, WhiteMountainHistory.org

External links

Carter-Moriah Range

The Carter-Moriah Range of mountains is located in the White Mountains, in Coos County, New Hampshire. The range forms the northern east side of Pinkham Notch, opposite the northern Presidential Range. The range is also referred to as the Carter Range.

Charles River (Maine)

The Charles River is a 1.2-mile-long (1.9 km) channel connecting Charles Pond with the Old Course Saco River in the town of Fryeburg in western Maine, United States. It forms the natural extension of the Cold River, which flows from the White Mountains, New Hampshire, around Evans Notch south to Charles Pond.

Dry River (New Hampshire)

The Dry River is a 9.0-mile (14.5 km) long river in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Saco River, which flows to the Atlantic Ocean in Maine. For nearly its entire length, it is within the Presidential Range-Dry River Wilderness of the White Mountain National Forest.

The Dry River rises in Oakes Gulf, a glacial cirque on the southern slopes of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States. The river flows southwest through a wooded mountain valley between the southern part of the Presidential Range to its west and the lower Montalban Ridge, including Mount Isolation, to its east. It is paralleled for its entire distance through the wilderness area by the Dry River Trail.

The river ends in Crawford Notch State Park, where it joins the Saco River.

East Branch Pemigewasset River

The East Branch of the Pemigewasset River is a 15.8-mile-long (25.4 km) river located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Pemigewasset River, part of the Merrimack River watershed.

The East Branch is a longer and larger river than the river that it flows into, but it is named a branch of the main stem because its source lies deep in the Pemigewasset Wilderness of the White Mountains, while the main Pemigewasset River flows directly from Franconia Notch, a major pass through the mountains. The East Branch begins in the locality known as Stillwater, in a wide valley north of Mount Carrigain and Mount Hancock, where several large brooks converge. The river flows west and southwest through the heart of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, picking up tributaries such as the North Fork of the Pemigewasset and Franconia Branch before reaching, at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center, the Kancamagus Highway stretch of New Hampshire Route 112.

Now into developed areas, the East Branch meets the Hancock Branch coming from the southeast and flows past the Loon Mountain ski area to the village of Lincoln, New Hampshire. The river crosses into Woodstock and ends at the Pemigewasset River just downstream from the Interstate 93 highway bridges.

Mahoosuc Range

The Mahoosuc Range, a northern extension of the White Mountains, straddles the border between New Hampshire and Maine. The range's highest peak, 4,170 feet (1,270 m) Old Speck Mountain, is the fourth-highest peak in Maine. Substantial parts of the range are publicly owned as parts of the National Park Service Appalachian Trail corridor and Grafton Notch State Park in Maine.

The Appalachian Trail traverses the main ridge of the Mahoosucs between Shelburne, New Hampshire and Grafton Notch in Maine. Mahoosuc Notch, considered one of the most difficult sections of the Appalachian Trail, cuts a deep cleft in the middle of the range between Mahoosuc Mountain and Fulling Mill Mountain.

Mount Cilley

Mount Cilley is 2,227-foot (679 m) peak in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The wooded mountain is in the town of Woodstock, west of the Pemigewasset River and northeast of Elbow Pond. It was named for General Joseph Cilley.

Mount Crawford (New Hampshire)

Mount Crawford is a mountain located in Coos County, New Hampshire, in the United States. The mountain is on a spur of Montalban Ridge within the White Mountains and overlooks Crawford Notch. It is accessible via the Davis Path, which climbs from Crawford Notch near the Notchland Inn. The Davis Path continues north up Montalban Ridge to Mount Washington.

Mount Crawford is in the Presidential Range–Dry River Wilderness. It is within the Saco River watershed, with the northern slopes draining to Sleeper Brook, the southern slopes draining to Raxor Brook, and the western slopes draining directly to the Saco. To the east is the connecting ridge to Mount Resolution on the crest of Montalban Ridge.

The Davis Path is named after its creator, Nathaniel T. P. Davis, who was the husband of Hannah Crawford. The couple lived at the time with Hannah's father, Abel Crawford, who owned the Crawford House inn at Hart's Location. Davis managed the inn for some time.

Mount Davis (New Hampshire)

Mount Davis is a mountain located in Coos County, New Hampshire. The mountain is located along Montalban Ridge, a series of summits extending south from Mount Washington in the White Mountains.

Mount Davis is named after the Davis family of Massachusetts, a political dynasty whose members, over 220 years, have held at least 20 federal and state elected offices throughout New England.

Mount Franklin (New Hampshire)

Mount Franklin is a mountain in Coös County, New Hampshire, United States. The mountain is named after Benjamin Franklin and is part of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. Note that Ben Franklin was not a president. Mount Franklin is flanked to the northeast by Mount Monroe, and to the southwest by Mount Eisenhower.

Mt. Franklin drains on the northwest side into the Ammonoosuc River, thence into the Connecticut River and into Long Island Sound in Connecticut. On the southeast side, Franklin drains into the Dry River, thence into the Saco River, and into the Gulf of Maine in Maine.

The Appalachian Trail, a 2,170-mile (3,490 km) National Scenic Trail from Georgia to Maine, crosses Mt. Franklin as it traverses the main ridge of the Presidentials from Crawford Notch to the summit of Mount Washington. Franklin stands on the northwest side of the Dry River Wilderness.

Although well over 4,000 feet (1,200 m) in height, the Appalachian Mountain Club doesn't consider Franklin a "four-thousand footer" because it stands no more than 65 feet (20 m) above the col on the ridge from Mount Monroe, making it a secondary summit of that peak.

Mount Isolation

Mount Isolation is a mountain located in Coos County, New Hampshire. The mountain is part of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. Mt. Isolation is the highest peak on the Montalban Ridge which extends south from Boott Spur.

Isolation is in the Presidential Range–Dry River Wilderness, and as its name implies, is one of the most remote White Mountain peaks. Isolation just qualifies as one of the Appalachian Mountain Club's "Four-thousand footers", having the requisite 4,000 feet (1,219 m) of elevation and 200 feet (61 m) of prominence.

Mount Jackson (New Hampshire)

Mount Jackson is a mountain located in Coos County, New Hampshire. The mountain is named after Charles Thomas Jackson, New Hampshire's state geologist in the 19th century, and is part of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. Mount Jackson is flanked to the north by Mount Pierce, and to the southwest by Mount Webster.

The Appalachian Trail, a 2,170-mile (3,500-km) National Scenic Trail from Georgia to Maine, crosses the summit of Mount Jackson as it traverses the main ridge of the Presidentials from Crawford Notch to the summit of Mount Washington. Jackson stands on the west side of the Presidential – Dry River Wilderness.

Mount Jefferson (New Hampshire)

Mount Jefferson is located in Coos County, New Hampshire, and is the third highest mountain in the state. The mountain is named after Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, and is part of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. Mount Jefferson is flanked by Mount Adams (to the northeast) and Mount Clay (to the south).

The mountain has several interesting features, making it a popular hike. Two distinct ridges lead to its summit: Ridge of the Caps and Castle Ridge. The mountain is surrounded by the three dramatic glacial cirques of Jefferson Ravine, Castle Ravine, and the Great Gulf. Finally, Monticello Lawn is a large expanse of alpine sedge and rush near the otherwise talus-covered summit cone. When viewed from the Mount Washington Auto Road, Jefferson features an arrow-shaped bald patch pointing to its summit.

Mount Jefferson has a direct ascent along the Caps Ridge Trail, whose base, Jefferson Notch, is the highest point of any public road in New Hampshire at 3,009 feet (917 m). This route, gaining only 2,700 feet (823 m) vertically to the summit, results in it having the least distance of ascent of any Presidential mountain (about 2.5 miles). However, climbing over the "caps" involves some exposed scrambling and can be steep and challenging at times.

Mount Liberty (New Hampshire)

Mount Liberty is a 4,459-foot-high (1,359 m) mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Overlooking Franconia Notch, it is part of Franconia Ridge, the second highest mountain group in the Whites after the Presidential Range. It lies southwest of Mount Lafayette, the highest summit along the ridge, and is listed among the Appalachian Mountain Club's "four-thousand footers".

Mount Webster

Mount Webster is a mountain located on the border between Coos County and Carroll County, New Hampshire. The mountain, formerly called Notch Mountain, is named after Daniel Webster (1782–1852), and is the southwesternmost of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. Mount Webster is flanked to the northeast by Mount Jackson; to the southwest it faces Mount Willey across Crawford Notch.

The west face of Mount Webster drains directly into the Saco River, thence into the Gulf of Maine at Saco, Maine. The north and southeast faces drain into the Saco via Silver Cascade and Webster Brook respectively.

Mount Webster is on the western boundary of the Presidential Range - Dry River Wilderness. The Appalachian Trail, a 2,170-mile (3,500-km) National Scenic Trail from Georgia to Maine, runs along the ridge of the Presidentials, across the summit of Webster.

Mount Zealand

Mount Zealand, or Zealand Mountain, is a mountain located in the White Mountains, in Grafton County, New Hampshire. Zealand stands on a spur ridge northeast of Mount Guyot, and facing Whitewall Mountain to the east across Zealand Notch.

Zealand's south and northeast sides drain into the North Fork Pemigewasset River, thence into the Pemigewasset and Merrimack rivers, reaching the Gulf of Maine in Massachusetts. The west side drains into the Little River, thence into the Ammonoosuc and Connecticut rivers, reaching Long Island Sound in Connecticut.

The Twinway, a section of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,186-mile (3,518-km) National Scenic Trail from Georgia to Maine, crosses Zealand. Zealand is a popular hiking destination, with attractions including the Zeacliffs, on the eastern end of its ridgeline, just off the Appalachian Trail, offering dramatic views across Zealand Notch, to the Presidential and Willey Ranges and to Mount Carrigain, as well as Zealand Falls, for which a neighboring Appalachian Mountain Club hut is named, also along the Appalachian Trail, near the notch and downhill to the north from Zeacliffs.

New River (New Hampshire)

The New River is a 2.2-mile (3.5 km) long stream in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the United States. It is a tributary of the Ellis River, part of the Saco River watershed flowing to the Atlantic Ocean in Maine. The river is within the townships of Sargent's Purchase and Pinkham's Grant in Coos County.

The New River rises in the Gulf of Slides, a small glacial cirque at the foot of Boott Spur, a southern extension of Mount Washington. Flowing northeast, the stream drops rapidly down the western slopes of Pinkham Notch, joining the Ellis River in the floor of the notch at the Route 16 crossing, just south of the notch's height of land.

Old Speck Mountain

Old Speck Mountain, also known as Old Speckle Mountain, is a mountain located in Oxford County, Maine, United States. The mountain, the fourth-highest in the state, is the northeasternmost and highest of the Mahoosuc Range, the northeasternmost part of the White Mountains. Old Speck is flanked to the southwest by Mahoosuc Arm, and faces Baldpate Mountain to the northeast across Grafton Notch.

Old Speck is within the watershed of the Androscoggin River, which drains into Merrymeeting Bay, the estuary of the Kennebec River, and then into the Gulf of Maine. The north and east faces of Old Speck drain into the Bear River, then into the Androscoggin. The southeast and southwest faces drain into the Bull Branch of Goose Eye Brook, then into the Sunday River and the Androscoggin. The northwest face drains into Silver Stream, then into Chickwolnepy Stream and the Androscoggin.

The summit of Old Speck is on the southern boundary of Grafton Notch State Park. The Appalachian Trail, a 2,170-mile (3,490 km) National Scenic Trail from Georgia to Maine, runs along the Mahoosuc Range, 0.3 miles (0.5 km) west of the summit of Old Speck. A short side trail runs from the Appalachian Trail to the summit of the mountain. Speck Pond is located below the mountain's summit, at 3,400 feet (1,000 m), it is stocked with brook trout. The Appalachian Trail descends 1.1 miles (1.8 km) from a location near the summit of Old Speck Mountain to the pond.

Sandwich Range

The Sandwich Range is located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the United States, north of the Lakes Region and south of the Kancamagus Highway. Although the range is not outstanding for its elevation, it is very rugged and has excellent views of the surrounding lakes, mountains, and forests.

The Sandwich Range extends east-west about 30 miles from Conway, New Hampshire on the Saco River to Campton on the Pemigewasset River. The Kancamagus Highway runs along the north side of the mountains, from Conway to North Woodstock. The highest peak in the range is Mount Tripyramid, with an elevation of 4,170 feet (1,270 m).The east part of the range drains by various streams into the Saco River and thence into the Atlantic Ocean at Saco, Maine. The west part drains into the East Branch Pemigewasset River and Mad River, thence into the Pemigewasset, Merrimack and into the sea at Newburyport, Massachusetts.

The range shares its name with the town of Sandwich, situated at the range's western end.

Twin Range

The Twin Range is a mountain range within the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Belknap Mountains
Ossipee Mountains
Wapack Range
White Mountains
Longfellow Mountains
White Mountains
Baxter State Park
High Peaks
Bigelow Range
Eastern White Mountains
Northern ranges
Carter-Moriah Range
Presidential Range
Crawford Notch area
Twin Range
Pemigewasset Wilderness
Sandwich Range
Franconia Range
Western White Mountains
Green Mountains
Saco River watershed


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