Get Out There! Painting and Hiking Among the White Mountains: A Quick Guide

"Mount Willard, Summer," 20x40 inch oil on canvas.

The White Mountain National Forest is a hiker's paradise, with stunning views and plenty of challenging trails to explore. For landscape painters who want to make the leap from simply painting roadside to going into the wilds, it offers thousands of sweet painting spots. Plus, taking to the trails with your painting kit is a great way to work out not only your creative muscles but your legs and lungs, too! 

Here are a few tips for plein air painting while hiking here in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Maine:

  1. Choose the right time of year. The best time to hike in the White Mountains is during the summer, when the weather is milder and the trails are clear (or in early autumn when the bugs are gone!). However, it's important to be aware of the weather forecast before you go, as the mountains can be unpredictable.
  2. Pack the essentials. In addition to your painting supplies, be sure to pack plenty of water, food, sunscreen, and a first-aid kit. You should carry the "Ten Essentials," a list of essential gear that every hiker should have in case of an emergency (I will share them below).
  3. Choose easy hikes for your first few times out. There are plenty of resources on the web to find “short easy hikes in the White Mountains.” Remember you’ll have to calculate both the amount of time you’d like to be painting combined with the time it will take to hike to and from your chosen spot.
  4. Speaking of time: there's no need to rush when you're painting in the mountains. Take your time to find the perfect spot, set up your easel, and really soak in the beauty of the landscape. Even if you only accomplish a few sketches or one rough block-in of a painting, you’ll still have collected plenty of inspiration.
  5. Be respectful of the environment. When you're finished painting, be sure to pack up everything you brought with you and leave no trace.

With a little planning and preparation, you can easily combine hiking and painting to create beautiful small pieces and sketches that will capture your visits to the White Mountains.

Hiker Safety

When hiking in the White Mountains, it's important to be aware of the potential dangers and take steps to stay safe. Here are a few tips:

  • Be aware of the weather forecast and dress accordingly. The weather in the mountains can change quickly, so it's important to be prepared for all types of conditions.
  • Tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back. This is especially important if you're hiking alone. Cell service is often spotty or non-existent, so if you get in trouble you may not be able to reach anyone. If someone knows in advance where you’re going and you don’t return in good time, it is easier for them to call for help on your behalf if they know where you went.
  • Bring the proper gear. In addition to your painting supplies, be sure to pack plenty of water, food, sunscreen, a first-aid kit, a map and compass. You should also carry a headlamp or flashlight in case you get caught in the dark.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to the terrain and be aware of potential hazards, such as loose rocks, slippery surfaces, and steep drop-offs.
  • Hike within your limits. Don't push yourself too hard, and be sure to take breaks when you need them.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. If you do get injured or lost, be sure to stay calm.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your hike in the White Mountains is safe and enjoyable.

The Ten Essentials

The Ten Essentials are a list of essential gear that every hiker should carry in case of an emergency. These items include:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Sun protection - sunblock, sunglasses and a hat
  • First-aid kit
  • Map and compass - which you should know how to use!
  • Extra clothing layers - especially rain gear and things to keep you warm
  • Flashlight or headlamp - make sure the batteries are good
  • Knife
  • Fire starter
  • Shelter - tent, bivy sack, or tarp

By carrying the Ten Essentials, you can increase your chances of surviving an emergency in the wilderness.


Landscape painting while hiking in the White Mountains is a great way to combine your love of the outdoors with your creative side. By following these tips, you can help ensure that your hike is safe and enjoyable. And who knows, you might just come home with a few beautiful paintings, sketches, and a new-found obsession with painting out on the trails.