Quite simply, the White Mountains of New Hampshire are the premier
mountain range of the eastern United States. Katahdin may be more awesome
than any single White Mountain peak, the Southern Appalachians may be higher, and the Adirondacks may be wilder and more rugged, but the White Mountains alone have the combination of height, ruggedness, scenery, and especially extent that makes them the premier range of mountains east of the Rockies.
The most compelling attraction of the White Mountains is their large
areas that lie above timberline. While high peaks in the Adirondacks, in
Maine, and even Vermont poke through the trees to varying extents, only in the Presidential and Franconia Ranges of the White Mountains will you find huge, wide-open areas of ridgetop above the dense canopy of trees that blankets virtually all other mountains east of the Mississippi. The relatively low timberline in the Whites, about 4800 feet or so, is due to a combination of altitude and latitude; all higher Appalachian summits are further south, giving the Whites the highest timberline-to-summit differential in the east.
The Presidential Range, featuring famed Mount Washington, is hands down the highest, most scenic, most visited, and most famous of the many ranges that make up the White Mountains, but the Franconia Region is not far behind, conceding only in the category of acreage above timberline. Surrounding these two central areas are peripheral ranges that, while lower and less interesting than the Presidentials or Franconia area, are still extremely worthwhile in the context of eastern mountains. The Carter Range, for example, would be the dominant mountain group in Vermont if it were to be moved west fifty miles.
The White Mountains are a popular vacation destination for millions. Most are content to use the campgrounds on the scenic Kancamangus Highway, ride the cog railway or drive up Mt. Washington, marvel at the geologic wonders of Franconia notch, or visit the Story Land and Six-Gun City theme parks, but the backcountry is still more crowded than most of the rest of New England. Camping regulations are strict, and a chain of eight mountain huts operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club is wildly popular with those who don't bring their own tent, sleeping bag, or food.