Summer Activities in the White Mountains
Looking for the best things to do in the White Mountains in the summer? Our area is filled with fun and adventurous summer activities you’re going to love. Spend the morning hiking and chasing waterfalls, dine at our favorite restaurants, spend a day on the links, or even take a canopy tour through the treetops. See below for the best White Mountains summer activities in Bretton Woods, Franconia, Bethlehem and surrounding areas.
Hiking and Waterfalls
So many options, where to start?! The house is 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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Fishing and Swimming
The White Mountains are home to a myriad of pristine lakes and river. The Ammonoosuc River, which runs through Bretton Woods, Twin Mountain and down towards Bethlehem and Littleton, is a very popular river for both fishing and swimming. Keep in mind, permits are required for fishing! Visit https://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/licensing/3ways.html to find out where you can get one.
Swimming options range from water parks and pools to natural swimming holes and lakes. Among our favorites:
Swimming Pools and Water Parks
- Town of Bethlehem Swimming Pool: https://www.bethlehemrecreation.com/pool
- Colonel Town Community Pool in Lancaster: https://coloneltownnh.myrec.com/info/facilities/details.aspx?FacilityID=14123
- The water park at Santa’s Village
- The indoor water park at Kahuna Laguna, North Conway
- Whale’s Tale Water Park in Franconia Notch
Swimming Holes and Lakes:
- Upper Falls and Lower Falls in Bretton Woods
- Echo Lake Beach in Franconia Notch
- Forest Lake State Park in Whitefield/Dalton
- South Pond in Stark, NH
Visiting Mt Washington Summit – the “rockpile”
Home of the worst weather in the world, the summit of Mount Washington is the centerpiece of this whole region. Many travel to its peak while traversing the Appalachian Trail. At the summit you can enjoy a museum covering this unique mountain as well as a recreation of the old hotel that was built at the summit in 1852.
You can access the summit via various hikes. But if you prefer an easier path up, the Cog Railway is a common favorite. It’s one hour each way (the train ride is half the fun!), and then you get an hour up top to visit the observatory. It’s a lot of fun and very entertaining for kids and adults alike! Another option is the Mt. Washington Auto Road which leaves from the opposite side of the mountain. To get there you can drive east on 302 to Glen Junction in Bartlett, and turn left onto RT 16. Drive through Pinkham Notch (also very beautiful!) and past the Wildcat Ski Area. The entrance will be on your left (can’t miss it!).
The Kancamagus Highway that connects Lincoln to North Conway is a famous road known for its scenic vistas and beautiful mountain trails. There are various places to stop for a hike, a view, or just enjoy the ride. You can easily do a loop from Bear Notch Road in Bartlett to Lincoln, or do the whole ride from North Conway to Lincoln.
Amusement Parks and Family Fun
Storyland in Bartlett and Santa’s Village in Jefferson are SURE to please! Both are about 20-25 minutes away. These parks cater to a younger crowd.
For water parks, there is an outdoor park called “Whale’s Tale” in Lincoln and an indoor park at the Red Jacket in North Conway.
North Conway also offers an arcade and several mini-golfing options for more family fun!
The Scenic Railroads often delights visitors displaying magnificent views of the area. There are themed trips, dinner cars, foliage tours, and more!
- Conway Scenic Railroad – North Conway
- Café Lafayette Dinner Train – North Woodstock
- Hobo Railroad – Lincoln
Bretton Woods offers a number of summer activities; you can find an up to date list on their website, at www.brettonwoods.com. Current activities include:
- Canopy Tour, Scenic Lift Rides, Horseback Riding, Fly Fishing, Guided Adventures, Tennis, Golf, Archery, Mountain Biking, River Tubing and more!
Attitash Ski Area also includes a fantastic zip line and array of summer activities, about 20 minutes East on 302. It hosts, currently, the tallest zipline in the US! They also have a number of other activities for adults and kids alike, and a very convenient all-day pass. Get more information at www.attitash.com
- Mountain coaster, Mountain slide, mountain biking, horseback riding and more!
Spa and Relaxation
If relaxation is what you need (and the peace and quiet of the house isn’t quite enough) you can head to the Mount Washington Hotel which offers a wide array of spa services.
WANT MORE IDEAS? Visit https://www.visitwhitemountains.com/