By Lindsey Lapointe, New Hampshire outdoor adventure writer, blogger, and content creator.
The White Mountains of New Hampshire has some of the best hiking in New England. Waterfalls, mountain vistas, trickling streams, and dreamy forest make it the perfect place to getaway for some time in nature. However, some of these hikes can be very steep, technical, or even dangerous for families to tackle. So how do you know where to go? Here are the best White Mountain hikes with kids and dogs.
Arethusa Falls is New Hampshire’s largest waterfall and the perfect hike to take the whole family – including your family pet. This hike is a 3.0 mile out-and-back trail that is rated as moderate. The trail has some rocks and roots and a total elevation gain of about 900 feet. This family-friendly trail is accessed on Route 302 on the southern end of Crawford Notch State Park. Park on Arethusa Falls Road in Harts Location. There is a prominent trailhead sign right on Route 302. There are two parking lots – upper and lower. Your kids and dog will love this White Mountain hike!
Just down the road from Arethusa Falls is the family-friendly Mt. Willard. This 3.2 mile out-and-back hike is a steady climb of around 900 ft to an open precipice that
will take your breath away. So, if you’re looking for a top-notch mountain view for just a moderate effort, Mt Willard is a ton of bang for your buck. Best of all, your pups and kids will be able to tackle this small peak. To access this hike, park at the Crawford Depot on Route 302 in Crawford Notch State Park. After your hike, your kids will enjoy playing on the naturescape playground at the adjacent AMC Highland Center. Take note that this hike has a steep drop off at the summit, so keep little ones and furry pals away from the edge.
Middle Sugarloaf Mountain
This 2.6 mile out-and-back trail climbs around 900 feet to the summit of Middle Sugarloaf Mountain which provides open views of the surrounding peaks. The short mileage helps make this one of the best White Mountain hikes with kids. There is one steep slab but it has a staircase built in so kids and dogs can easily manage. This hike borders the towns of Carroll and Bethlehem, New Hampshire. To access, take Zealand Road on the west side of Route 302, just north of Crawford Notch. The trailhead is about a mile down on the right.
This 3.1 mile loop hike is the perfect length for a family. Its rewarding views for moderate difficulty make it one of the best White Mountain hikes with kids and dogs. The kids will love walking through the boulder field and everyone will appreciate the expansive views from the cliff top. The trailhead to Boulder Loop is located on Passaconaway Road in Albany. Access this trail by taking the Kancamagus Highway to the Covered Bridge Campground. Drive through the covered bridge and the trail parking lot will be on the right. In winter, the main trail parking is closed but hikers can park right before the bridge and walk in. Boulder Loop has a total of 900 feet elevation gain with multiple scenic viewpoints along the way.
Kids and dogs love water – so what better White Mountain family hike than to Lonesome Lake. This 3.1 mile lollipop hike (straight trail with a loop at the end) is a moderately challenging climb of 1,000 feet elevation gain. The trailhead to this hike is located in Lafayette Campground on I-93 in Franconia Notch State Park. If the parking lot at the campground is full, park on the north side at the Falling Waters Trailhead and take the under-highway tunnel to the campground. For the full experience, take the Lonesome Lake Trail to the Around Lonesome Lake Trail. Enjoy a break at the platform/beach area below the AMC Lonesome Lake Hut. Here, you’ll be rewarded with views of the Franconia Ridge peaks beyond and crystal clear water of the alpine lake. Don’t forget to visit the hut for a cookie or cup of hot chocolate (and possible bathroom break) before continuing around the lake and returning to your car.
Things to keep in mind when hiking with kids and dogs
When hiking the White Mountains with kids and dogs, there’s a couple things to keep in mind. Before heading out on the trail, make sure the group have the 10 essentials for an emergency. Stock the first aid kit with kid-medicines and bandages that will work on your family pet. In addition, pack extra water, snacks, and treats – and don’t forget a bowl to help your pup access the water. Lastly, it’s important to practice Leave No Trace. This includes not leaving trash or waste behind on the trail so plan to pick up after kids and pets. The best White Mountain family hikes are ones where everyone is safe, happy, and relaxed. It’s always okay to turn around if the hike is too much effort or the weather is not optimal. The White Mountains are the perfect spot to vacation with the whole family, so plan to stay and enjoy this amazing region.