What New Hampshire lacks in acreage it makes up in personality: the Granite State was the first to break away from the British; it holds the first presidential primary; and the state motto is, audaciously, “Live Free or Die”. The state’s soul resides in the White Mountain National Forest, more than 750,000 acres of rugged trails and backcountry, including the Presidential Range and Mount Washington, home to some of highest recorded wind gusts on the Earth’s surface. It’s also a fine place to hike, as we did in our story about the huts of the White Mountains. Want a more comprehensive education? Consider picking up one of these books.
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AMC White Mountain Guide, 29th Edition
Best Trail Guide: First published in 1907 as the Guide to Paths and Camps in the White Mountains, today the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide is the definitive resource for hiking in the region. Though it’s small enough to throw in a crowded daypack, the 650-page book contains descriptions of more than 500 trails, pull-out maps, route suggestions, lodging details and safety information. If you’re heading into the Whites, this is the one book you need.
Not Without Peril
Most Harrowing Tale: We first came across a signed copy of this book while eating a piece of homemade coffee cake at Galehead Hut. The subtitle, “150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire”, gives you a pretty good idea of what’s to come, which is Howe’s account of hiking-gone-terribly wrong in the Whites. The culprit was — and continues to be today — violent weather wreaking havoc on unprepared hikers.
The Great Stone Face and Other Tales of the White Hills
Best Literary Account: Most know Nathaniel Hawthorne from grappling with The Scarlet Letter in high school (though we personally recommend his short story “Young Goodman Brown”). Among his lesser-known works is a collection of four short stories set in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and compiled in The Great Stone Face (also sold as Tales of the White Mountains).
Lucy Crawford’s History of the White Mountains
Best Historical Account: Those familiar with New Hampshire will recognize the name Crawford from Crawford Notch, a major pass in the White Mountains. The Crawfords were among the early settlers of the Whites, building roads, providing shelter to travelers and guiding visitors up Mount Washington. Lucy’s account tells the story of her family with a focus on her husband, Ethan Allen Crawford.
A History of Cannon Mountain
Editor’s Pick: Skiers from the West generally snub their noses at ski mountains of the East, but Cannon has a favorable reputation, and not just because it was the site of the Old Man of the Mountain before it collapsed in 2003. Cannon is home to many firsts in skiing — first downhill trail, first aerial tramway, first professional ski patrol — and it’s where alpine legend Bode Miller grew up skiing. Journalist and ski coach Meghan McCarthy McPhaul documents the complete history in this book.
Builder of Men: Life in CCC Camps of New Hampshire
Bonus: Though not strictly about the White Mountains, this book includes stories from men who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps projects in New Hampshire. As part of the New Deal, the CCC was a work relief program for young men and focused on conservation and the development of natural resources. Cannon Mountain and Waterville Valley (another ski resort) were both sites of CCC camps in NH.