Unexpected NH: Oldest Hiking Trail in the United States

Cutting up Mount Washington, this trail is both the oldest recreational trail in the United States and one of the most uniquely challenging.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the oldest hiking trail in the US, which happens to be right in New Hampshire. While natural trails surely existed through the White Mountains long before the 1800s, the Crawford Path was the first trail designed specifically for recreation and continuously maintained year to year. The 8.5-mile scenic path that runs from Route 302 up to the summit of Mount Washington was created in 1819 by Ethan and Lucy Crawford. As owners of a homestead and hostelry (one of three in the area owned by the extended Crawford family) in what is now known as the Crawford Notch, they cut the path to aid guests in accessing the summit.

After 200 years, the path remains a narrow track, virtually unchanged since the Crawford’s cut it out of the side of the mountain. This means that it (and many of the trails throughout New England) is more challenging than those found in the south or west, which are newer and follow guidelines for grading and offer plenty of switchbacks. Hikers and climbers flock from around the world to train in the White Mountains for expeditions up some of the world’s most challenging peaks, all of which was made possible by one family looking to give their guests a beautiful excursion 200 years ago!