White Mountains Hiking and Waterfalls
So many options, where to start?! Our homes are in the heart of the White Mountains, and there is fantastic hiking all around. Wherever you are you can encounter the beauty of nature whether it be a shaded meadow or a sunny vista from a high ledge.
Don’t forget to take some time to simply enjoy your surroundings. This is a special area with plenty of ecological diversity. In addition, don’t forget to be prepared. Hiking, even for the day, requires planning and preparation so that you are safe and have a great time!
The most popular general areas that we recommend are Franconia Notch, Crawford Notch, Mt Washington, Zealand, and the Kancamagus – there is great hiking just about everywhere! Check out this blog post by Adventure Writer Lindsey Lapointe on some her favorite hikes when she’s staying at a Bretton Woods Vacations property with her dog and kids.
Just across 302 from the entrance to our Moose Lodge and Cabins is the Lower Falls Trail. It can be accessed from Old Cherry Mountain Road or across from the Zealand Campground. A short 1mi hike leads you to a beautiful waterfall.
Halfway up the Base Area Road (next to Fabyan’s), you can find Upper Falls just off of the road. Here a beautiful waterfall and cliff jumping draw peoples interest, not to mention the easy access.
ZEALAND AREA SUMMER ACTIVITIES
Two of our favorite trails are found in the Zealand area, just a couple of miles West on 302.
The Zealand Trail is mostly flat, and meanders through beaver ponds and very scenic woodland areas. It becomes steeper as you head towards the AMC “Zealand Hut,” and culminates in a small but very scenic waterfall. To get to the Zealand area, head to the Zealand Recreational Area, on Rt 302 between Twin Mountain and Bretton Woods, and follow the access road to the very end, where you will find a parking area. The trail is about 5.4 miles long from here to the Zealand Hut.
The other trail we frequent, in the same area, is the Sugarloaf Trail. The entrance is about half way up Zealand Road near a campground with a parking area right before a small bridge, (the trail is right after the bridge). It is more moderate hiking, but fairly short (1.2 miles each way), and the view from the top (especially Middle Sugarloaf) is breathtaking. Highly recommended with a fantastic vista to effort scenario!
HIKING MOUNT WASHINGTON
Of course, if you want something more challenging, you can head up Mt Washington. One of our favorite trails there is the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, which starts from the base of the cog railroad (just follow Base Station Road for 6 miles – there’s a big sign on 302, by Fabyan’s). This trail follows the river (the very same river that borders this property!) up the mountain, and passes a gorgeous little pond called the “Gem Pool,” with a waterfall flowing into it. It crosses several waterfalls, large boulders, and the Lake of the Clouds hut. This trail is convenient if you aren’t sure how far you want to go, as there are great landmarks throughout the trail. If you are up for a challenge you can hike all the way to the top – but be careful. The weather changes rapidly, and it can be VERY cold up top. It can snow any month of the year! If you want to hike it, be very very cautious and be prepared. This is not a hike to be taken lightly!
If you’d like to see the top of the “rockpile” but don’t want to hike, the cog rail up Mt Washington is a fun (and easy) way to get there. Another common but easy way to get up to the mountain is the Mt Washington Auto Road. However, this route is accessible from the other side of Mt. Washington, about an hour drive away.
FRANCONIA NOTCH AND MOUNT LAFAYETTE SUMMER ACTIVITIES
Another great area to visit is Franconia Notch – you probably drove through it on your way up. Head West on 302, and at the traffic light in Twin Mountain, take a left onto Rt 3 South. Some of our favorite hikes are between the Cannon Mountain ski resort, and the town of Lincoln.
- Cannon Mountain’s aerial tramway is an easy way to get to the top and soak in amazing views which on a clear day span New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and all the way into Canada.
- The flume gorge is a beautiful moss-covered gorge, with a wooden walkway that takes you around past numerous rapids and small waterfalls.
- The basin is also a very easy walk, even with little ones. The river forms a “swirl” and has carved really interesting waterslide-like formations in the granite. Very cool!
- There are also many other hikes here, all very well indicated with parking facilities. You can’t go wrong! Some of the most popular include Lonesome Lake, a moderate hike to a beautiful alpine lake, and the extremely scenic and popular Mount Lafayette, towering tall across from Cannon Mountain
LOST RIVER GORGE AND BOULDER CAVES PARK
This is a great hit with kids! Follow the trail as it meanders through small caves, huge glacial boulders, waterfalls and amazing vistas. Don’t miss the suspension bridge and the giant bird’s nest! See https://lostrivergorge.com/ for more details.
CRAWFORD NOTCH ACTIVITIES
As far as waterfalls, our favorites are in Crawford Notch – heading Eastbound on 302. There’s a couple right on the side of the road as you decend in Crawford Notch, but one of our top favorites is on the other side of the notch – Arethusa Falls. It takes about 2 hours total (roundtrip) to hike, and culminates with the tallest waterfall in NH. Worth the moderate hike! If you prefer something a bit easier, Ripley Falls, just before Arethusa, is a 0.5 mile trip each way, and also quite spectacular, especially in the late spring and early summer. In the North Conway area, Diana’s Baths on West Side Road is also always popular, and a very easy hike. Great spot for a dip in the cool mountain water, as well!
If it is a vista that you desire, the Mt. Willard Trail is not too challenging and culminates with a high-up view at the top of Crawford Notch. This trail network surrounds the AMC Highland Center where you can get maps and further information about area hikes. In this area there are also several easy pond trails just off of the road.