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The White Mountains are a mountain range that covers about a quarter of the state of New Hampshiremarker and a small portion of western Mainemarker in the United Statesmarker. Part of the Appalachian Mountainsmarker, they are considered the most rugged mountains in New Englandmarker. The range is heavily visited due to its proximity to Bostonmarker and (to a lesser extent) New York Citymarker.

Most of the area is public land, including the White Mountain National Forestmarker as well as a number of state parks. Its most famous peak is Mount Washingtonmarker, which at is the highest mountain in the Northeastern U.S. and home to the fastest winds ( , over 100 m/s, in 1934) measured on the surface of the earth. Mount Washington is one of a line of summits called the Presidential Rangemarker, many of which are named after U.S. presidents and other prominent Americans.

In addition, the White Mountains include several smaller groups including the Franconia Rangemarker, Sandwich Range, Carter-Moriah Rangemarker, Kinsman Range and Pilot Range.

The Whites are known for their system of alpine huts for hikers, operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club. The Appalachian Trail crosses the area from southwest to northeast.

Origin of name

There has been much discussion of the origin of the name "White Mountains". This name and similar ones such as "White Hills" or "Wine Hills" are found in literature from colonial times. According to tradition, the mountains were first sighted from shipboard off the coast near the Piscataqua estuary. The highest peaks would often be snow-capped. An alternate theory is that the mica-laden granite of the summits looked "white" to observers.

Geology and physiography

Map of the main regions of the northeast Appalachians.
The White Mountains are a physiographic section of the larger New England province, which in turn is part of the larger Appalachianmarker physiographic division.

The magma intrusions forming the White Mountains today were created 124 to 100 million years ago as the North American Plate moved westward over the New England hotspot.

Widespread evidence of glaciation may be seen in the U-shaped form of various notches, or mountain passes. Glacial cirques form the heads of Tuckerman Ravinemarker on Mt. Washington and King Ravine on Mt.marker Adamsmarker. Glacial striations are visible at numerous locations, including on the exposed rocks at the summit of Pine Mountain in Gorhammarker.


The White Mountains included the Old Man of the Mountainmarker, a rock formation on Cannon Mountainmarker that, when viewed from a certain angle, resembled the distinct craggy profile of a man's face until it fell in May of 2003. It remains the state symbol of New Hampshire. The range also includes a natural feature dubbed "The Basin", consisting of a granite bowl, in diameter, fed by a waterfall, worn smooth by the Pemigewasset Rivermarker. The areas around The Basin are popular spots for swimming in the ice-cold mountain-fed water.

The range is crossed by two north-south highway routes (U.S. Route 3 and Interstate 93 through Franconia Notchmarker, and New Hampshire Route 16 through Pinkham Notchmarker), and two east-west roads (the Kancamagus Highway, part of New Hampshire Route 112, through Kancamagus Pass, and U.S. Route 302 through Crawford Notchmarker).


Main article: White Mountain art
As the most ruggedly picturesque area in the northeast U.S., the White Mountains drew hundreds of painters during the 19th century. This group of artists is sometimes referred to as belonging to the "White Mountain school" of art. Others dispute the notion that these painters were a "school", since they did not all paint in the same style as, for example, those artists of the Hudson River School.


Nathaniel Hawthorne chose the White Mountains as the setting for his short story, "The Great Carbuncle". Other White Mountain tales by Hawthorne include "The Ambitious Guest", "Sketches from Memory" and "The Great Stone Face". The White Mountain region also figures prominently in the writings of Louisa May Alcott, including the novel Eight Cousins and its sequel, Rose in Bloom.

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