The Live Free or Die Route
A New Hampshire thru-hiking route
This route traces a contiguous path from the border of Massachusetts to the northern tip of New Hampshire and the headwaters of the Connecticut River. (New Hampshire's state motto is Live Free or Die, hence the name.)
Not a new idea in the least, a number of hikers through the years have pieced together S-N (or N-S) routes through New Hampshire. As far as I know, nobody has attempted to do this quickly in one contiguous push, or justify a particular route.
I have chosen this particular route, which is described below because it is straightforward, uses iconic New Hampshire trails and travels over some of the major highlights of hiking in New Hampshire without adding tons of extra miles, road walks bushwhacking, seasonal trails and confusing directions. It also passes a few optimal resupply points.
- From Mass border near Royalston Falls, take the NH Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (NHMMT) to Mt. Monadnock. (~17.6 miles)
- Monadnock Sunapee Greenway Trail (MSGT) to Mt. Sunapee. (~47.3 miles)
- Sunapee Ragged Kearsarge Greenway (SRKG) clockwise to junction of Hog Hill and Stony Brook Road (~16.7 miles)
- Connector 1 - FLEXIBLE - from here to Enfield, some creative license is permitted. The hiker just needs to get to the Moose Mountain Ridge Trailhead in Enfield. However the route provided in the GPX is probably the most direct and uses as much trail and dirt road as possible. (Stony Brook Road > NH 10 > Eastman Road > Eastman Lake Trail > Hilltop Place > Cole Pond Road > Connector > Butternut Trail > Goodhue Road > NH Route 4A > Shaker Road > Livingston Lodge Road > High Street > NH Route 4 > Trailhead Moose Mountain Ridge Trail) (~ 17.9 miles)
- Moose Mountain Ridge Trail to AT (~5.5 miles)
- Appalachian Trail to Zealand Trail (~ 72.1 miles)
- Connector 2 - Zealand Trail (N) > Zealand Road > US 302 > Lower Falls Road > Old Cherry Mountain Road/Cohos Trail Jct (~7.5 miles)
- Cohos Trail to border and headwaters of CT River (~133 miles)
There’s legitimate camping and shelters throughout the journey, except for the section from Mt. Sunapee to Enfield to the hiker will need to be creative, stay in a town and possibly use a campground such as Sunapee that’s a bit off route.
For a fastpacker, logical resupply points are Enfield and Jefferson but other options exist as well.
Hopefully others will follow this route which travels through small towns, past farmland, lakes, forests, across iconic peaks such as Mt. Monadnock and Mt. Sunapee, traverses some of the most stunning parts of the Whites including Mt. Moosilauke, the Franconia Range and South Twin. It crosses lesser known peaks such as Mt. Martha and the Percy Peaks, crosses the stunning Dixville Notch and ends up traveling through the far north country ending at the 4th Connecticut Lake, where the mighty Connecticut River Begins.
The route is about 75% on trail, with much of the remaining miles on beautiful rural dirt roads.
This route connects with the New England National Scenic Trail for a contiguous path from Guilford, CT on the Long Island Sound to Canada.
Others may feel that different route choices are preferable. There are options, especially in the middle section of the route, yet personally I feel this route is ideal for the aforementioned reasons.