An All-weather Playground
I still remember the hike that triggered my exploration of the White Mountains—in part because I had trouble walking for the next 3 days. We went up the Beaver Brook Trail, which climbs 3,100 feet (930m) in less than four miles, with some sections exceptionally steep. But all the scrambling we did was worth it—the areas along the cascades are incredibly beautiful as are the mountain flowers and the views. At the bottom of the trail, on the way out, I saw a sign that read, “This trail is difficult and should only be undertaken by experienced hikers in excellent physical condition.” No wonder I was so sore.
Since then I have explored other parts of the White Mountains on foot, including portions of the Appalachian Trail. The hiking routes are endless and the lush woods and mountain top views are fantastic. Some hikes are tougher than others, while some can be done in flip-flops (though I don’t recommend this). In particular, I like Mount Washington, which at almost 6,300 feet (1,890m), is the highest peak in the northeast. Hiking should be limited on this mountain to summer months. Though there are plenty of modern day amenities and perks—cog railway, an Appalachian Mountain Club mountain hut, the Mt. Washington Auto Road, and a visitor center—people have died on this mountain, often in sudden storms.
Summer in New Hampshire opens up opportunities to explore the region by raft and kayak, too. The Pemigewasset River in the Lincoln area has some heart-stopping stretches, but the sections around Woodstock are much easier to navigate. Stretches on the Ammonoosuc River near Berlin fall somewhere in the middle. Kayak rentals are available from Outback Kayaks in Lincoln ( 603/745-2002; www.outbackkayak.org).
In the winter, heading out on snowshoes and cross-country skis is a wonderful way to explore the region. Franconia Notch State Park (www.nhstateparks.org) is particularly beautiful; one of the nicest snowshoeing trips is a bit more than three miles around Lonesome Lake. The Falling Water Trail at Mittersill, at 51⁄2 miles (nearly 9km) round-trip, takes you to a picture postcard view of a frozen cascade approximately 75 feet (23m) high. Excellent snowshoeing and cross country skiing can be done in an around Bartlett, Lincoln, North Conway, among other White Mountain towns.
There is so much to do in the White Mountains that you can’t do it all in a lifetime. There are eight ski areas, including Loon Mountain, Cannon Mountain, and Waterville Valley. (Learn to ski these when the slopes are “hard” and you can ski at any ski area in the world.) There are now several great ziplines, including the one at Wildcat Ski Area. You can go rock climbing in the Mt. Washington Valley, mountain bike throughout the White Mountain National Forest, and for the less outdoorsy adventure-inclined, shopping and antiquing are popular pastimes throughout the region. And, if you’ve never seen the fall foliage in the White Mountains, put it on your bucket list. Just remember not to go without hotel reservations if you plan to be there several days and don’t want to sleep in a tent or your car. —LF
New Hampshire Tourism ( 800/FUN-IN-NH [386-4664]; www.visitnh.gov). New Hampshire.com (www.newhampshire.com/explore-nh/white-mountain.aspx).
When to Go: Anytime.
$$ Mount Washington Resort Hotel, Rte. 302, Bretton Woods ( 800/314-1752 or 603/278-1000; www.mountwashingtonresort.com).