There are few things in life as satisfying as a fall hike in New England. This September, I was lucky enough to hike up Red Hill Trail, an easy hike in New Hampshire near Lake Winnipesaukee.
There is something magical in the scent of the pines, dirt, and the unique smell of deciduous leaves bursting into color. It reminds me of childhood days spent jumping into leaf piles. Of the start of a new school year. Of going for walks in the woods with my high school boyfriend.
As a native New Englander, there is something in my soul which sings when September rolls around. There’s no denying I love a good fall hike in New England.
If you’re looking for easy hiking trails near Lake Winnipesaukee, I recommend visiting the Red Hill Trail. While it isn’t especially long, steep, or difficult, the view at the top is the real reward of this little jaunt. It’s a short 3.5 mile walk total, absolutely doable in a morning or an afternoon.
All About the Red Hill Trail in New Hampshire
The best thing about this hiking trail near Lake Winnipesaukee is the view from the top. But the trail also has an interesting origin story worth mentioning.
Long ago, there were a group of families that struggled to maintain farms on this rocky slope. Red Hill Trail was first built to serve as a road leading up to these houses. Keep your eye out as you hike up the trail and you might find the remaining foundations from one of their root cellars.
Later, the trail was a converted into a jeep road providing access to the fire tower that sits atop of Red Hill. Today, the path is only a hiking trail. But because it was once a road, the trail isn’t particularly steep, though you’ll still feel your heart beating as you walk up the slope.
The trail cuts through 2,000 acres of protected land. The land is protected by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust and covers the towns of Moultonborough and Sandwich. Aside from being a nice place to go for an afternoon hike, this land is also home to a surprisingly wide array of wildlife, including moose, bear, deer, woodcock, songbirds, and ruffed goose.
Named Red Hill for its color in the fall, this trail is an exceptionally good hike in New Hampshire for taking in the fall foliage. Even when I hiked it in mid-September, the trees at the top were beginning to burst into color.
Just a word of warning: camping, overnight use, fishing, and wheeled vehicles are not allowed on Red Hill.
Trail Report of Red Hill Trail
Red Hill Trail is only one of a few trails that crisscross Red Hill. It is also probably the most popular, with the somewhat more challenging Eagle Cliff Trail coming in second.
This short hike near Lake Winnipesaukee is only 1.7 miles in one direction, 3.5 miles total. The trail climbs a total of 1,370 feet. So while the trail isn’t steep, you’ll still gain a bit of elevation.
Beginning from the parking lot, the trail meanders through a new growth forest along the bottom of the hill. Cross the fire road and then the ascent begins. The slope is consistent and you’ll be walking uphill the entire way.
As you ascend, you’ll pass through beautiful deciduous forests. Eagle-eyed hikers may be able to spot some wildlife, especially in the early morning or late afternoon. The day that I hiked it, my friend and I heard some rustling in the underbrush but weren’t able to see anything for ourselves.
Near the top, you’ll see a sign for the Eagle Cliff Trail, the second most popular hiking trail on Red Hill. From there, you’re nearly to the top of the hill. Just a bit further on, you’ll pass a wooden shed and you’ve arrived.
Climb up to the platform of the fire tower to take in the breathtaking views from the top of Red Hill. You’ll see Lake Winnipesaukee to the southeast, Lake Squam in the west, to the north is the Sandwich Range, and further afield the Ossipee Range and Franconia Notch are to the east.
I happily spent about 30 minutes up there snapping pictures and basking in the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.
When you’ve had your fill of the view, head back down the way you came to finish off your 3.5-mile hike near Lake Winnipesaukee. All told it took us about 2.5 to 3 hours.
How to Get to Red Hill Trail
To get to Red Hill Trail from Center Harbor head down Route 25. Just 0.1 miles east of the junction with 25B, turn north into Bean Road at the traffic light. Follow Bean Road for 1.4 miles then make a right only Sibley Road. Follow Sibley Road for 1.1 miles, until it meets Old Red Hill Road. Make a left, and continue down Old Red Hill Road for about 0.25 miles. The parking lot will be on your right and is marked with a small sign.
It took us a comically long time to find the trailhead but it really is very easy to find. I absolutely loved this trail, not too difficult, but not so easy as to feel like a walk in the park. The view from the top was one of the best views I’ve seen in awhile. If you’re in the Lake Region of New Hampshire and you’re looking for an easy hiking trail near Lake Winnipesaukee, I encourage you to check out the Red Hill Trail.
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