All Photography was provided by White Mountains New Hampshire, except where noted.
We are planning an epic White Mountains road trip for later this summer. The girls have chimed in with things they want to do. They are excited to take the cog railway up to the top of Mt. Washington. And Clint has his own favorites like hiking but I’m all about the waterfalls. I have quite a few hikes to waterfalls planned and I’m excited about them. Clint grew up going into the White Mountains for every season of the year and he definitely has his opinions on where to go and when. Some of my favorite moments we’ve spent in the White Mountains have been the impromptu stop along the side of the road because we saw wildlife, sometimes a deer other times beavers in the rivers and always the birds. New Hampshire’s White Mountains has so much to offer.
Any time of year is a great time to be in the White Mountains but for me, summer is so peaceful and enjoyable. I like hiking through the trails while we listen to the birds and see the chipmunks and squirrels scurrying about getting food and playing. The serenity of the woods is so peaceful and I think we could all use a little of that in our lives.
Table of Contents
Our itinerary for our White Mountains Adventure:
For this trip, we are focusing on the loop of Route 93 to Route 3 to Route 302, with a spin-off to Mount Washington and then back to Route 112 and finishing back at Route 93. The Ultimate route through the White Mountain National Forest.
Starting at North Woodstock, we will stop at the White Mountain Visitors Center to get our White Mountain Forest Recreation Pass ($5.00 per week) which is required for extended stays at national forest trailheads. We will also be sure to pick up the latest trails map. This is a fun stop even if you aren’t going hiking. There is a life-size stuffed moose and free coffee for those lovers of the brew in your group.
If you and your kids are the adrenaline junky type, stop in at Alpine Adventures just a few doors down from the visitors center and book a zip-line or off-road tour. I’ve gotten hooked on zip-lining ever since I tried it 2 summers ago at Killington Mountain. Check out our Killington adventure for more fun. The first time was a little scary but the second time I relaxed and really enjoyed the ride. Now I want to try zip-lining other places as well. The nice thing about Alpine Adventures is that they will allow the girls to participate with an adult. This is my choice for our first stop but I must talk the girls into it.
Whale’s Tale Waterpark
If you aren’t adrenaline junkies, you could also have a day at Whale’s Tale Waterpark which was named in the top 25 waterparks in the United States by Trip Advisor. Their attractions include many different styles and types of water slides, a little kids water area, castaway cove which is for more quieter swimming, a lazy river, as well as a wave pool. It certainly has something for everyone and is the girl’s first choice.
Franconia Notch State Park
After the zip-lining, we will continue our drive up Route 93 to Route 3 to Franconia Notch State Park and the Flume Gorge. The gorge is worth the stop even with the crowds. This flume is a natural waterfall/gorge within the granite mountains with a 2-mile nature walk along a well-maintained trail to the gorge. Mind the footing as there is moss growing along the way, especially close to the waterfall. Along the way, you will enjoy the beauty of the mountains as well as covered bridges and other waterfalls, wildlife, and views of the other mountains within the presidential range. When you reach the gorge I hope you are wowed by its beauty as I was the first time I went.
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
We plan to buy the Discovery Pass which includes entry to the flume gorge as well as a ride on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway. I can’t wait to go on this tramway. It takes you to the top of Cannon Mountain – someplace I’ve not yet skied – maybe next winter – which is a 4,080-foot summit! Since you’re so high up, on a clear day, you should be able to see mountains in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Maine, and even Canada. Wow is that far away! I’m sure the views will be spectacular! If you like views check out our Killington adventure and the views we saw from up there.
At the summit, there is an observation deck to take in all those gorgeous views along with trails to hike on, a cafe, bar, and restrooms. We plan to hike around a bit and get away from the others we took the tram up with. Being in nature by yourself is so calming and I enjoy those moments the best. If you plan to hike down you can buy a one-way tram ticket. For this trip, we will be taking the tram up and down so we can get some biking in.
Sport Thoma bike rentals
At the base of the tram, we will rent bicycles from Sport Thoma bike rentals. This will be our first time riding this bike trail so I can’t wait to see the views of the river as we ride along. I’m hoping it will be much different when we’ve driven the highway. From the bike shop, we will take their shuttle to the top of Franconia Notch Bike Path and then ride back to the shop along the Pemigewasset River, one of Clint’s favorite rivers.
Mt. Washington Hotel
Our next stop will be the Mt. Washington Hotel. We plan on having dinner in their main dining room. We’ll eat a little early so we can take in the majestic views of the mountains before the sun goes down. I hope the sunset is lovely that night. We will also take in the history of the hotel. This hotel hosted the Bretton Woods International Monetary Conference which established the World Bank after WWII. There are some amazing photographs in the lobby I want to show the girls as well as the grounds.
Arethusa Falls Trail
We will get up early the next day because we plan to get in a short morning hike on the Arethusa Falls Trail from Crawford Notch before heading over for a day at Story Land. This trail is a 2.9-mile round trip hike with the prize at the end being seeing the beautiful waterfall. Since it’s just a short hike we can do it in a little over an hour’s time, a perfect way to start off our day. I’m sure the falls will be spectacular since it’s been a rainy spring and the mountains had a lot of snow this year, all the better to view that waterfall. I can’t wait.
Story Land a classic amusement park with lots of fairy-tale themed rides, shows, and games. This year I plan to get the whole family on the flume ride. I’ve yet to convince Evelyn to go on one. Hopefully, this will be the year she agrees to try it so I can get a funny picture of us as we fly down the flume ride. The lazy river ride is also a great ride to go on. Just be prepared you will get wet, no matter where you sit in the raft because they have plenty of waterfalls and sprays to ensure that. Another ride not to be missed is driving the old-time cars along the track. This is always a favorite for our kids. It will certainly be a fun day.
After Story Land, we’ll go north on Route 16, our spin-off from the loop, toward Mt. Washington. Before we get to Mt. Washington though we will take a few quick hikes. The first will be to Glen Ellis Falls. It’s only a little more than a quarter of a mile and more of a walk than a hike but the view of this 64-foot waterfall will be well worth the stop. Our second hike of the day will be another short one. Thompson Falls is only .7 miles one way so it’s quite doable. We will make sure we have our bathing suits on so we can take a dip in the swimming hole to cool off. If plans change and we hike the whole day we will add this hike between the others. Hall’s Ledge Trail which is 3.2-miles one way and hence has amazing views of Mt. Washington.
Cog Railway and Mt. Washington
We plan to take the cog railway to the top of Mt. Washington. It’s about an hour to the top and I’m hoping the views will be amazing. I’ve only been to the top once, after hiking the Ammonoosuc River Trail with the 10th Mountain Division alumni. The army division my father-in-law was in during WWII. However, on that trip, it was very cloudy the day we made it to the top. Hopefully, we will have better weather on this trip.
I can’t wait to show the girls the photographs and history in the museum Extreme Mt. Washington. The weather center on the top has recorded winds as high as 231 miles per hour. Pretty incredible! Since Mt. Washington is the highest peak on the east coast, on a clear day, you should be able to see all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. At 6,288 feet it doesn’t matter when you go, you will still have snow at the summit. In other words, the nights are always cold that high up.
No trip to the White Mountains, for me at least, is complete without a stop in the perfect mountain town of North Conway. It’s a shoppers dream, from little trinket shops and a general store to the LL Bean outlet. There is a store for everyone. my first stop will be to LL Bean because I love their shoes for the girls. Don’t forget to get penny candy for the kiddos as a treat for all the hiking they’ve done on this trip.
Conway Scenic Railroad
We also plan to take a ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad on the ‘Notch Train’ which goes through Crawford Notch. The railroad was originally built in the 1870s and travels through some of the most spectacular scenery on the east coast. We’ll see breathtaking mountain views, past rivers, across Frankenstein Trestle and Willey Brook Bridge and stop at Crawford and Fabyan stations. The train stops at Crawford Station for you to have lunch. We’ll bring a pizza for Evelyn from Flatbread Pizza in North Conway, but most likely go to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Center for the rest of us. They have a cafeteria-style menu that offers soup, sandwiches, and salads.
While we are in North Conway, I’d also like to go to the Mt. Washington Weather Discovery Center. This is a fun and interactive science museum where you can explore all about the weather and climate. Hands-on museums are always my favorite type of museum. Consequently, the girls actually learn something about the subject and have fun while learning. There are even exhibits that will bring out the kid in adults. A win, win.
Our last day will be a drive along the Kancamagus Highway. I can’t wait to take in the scenery. We’ll definitely stop at Sabbaday Falls and hike to the falls. This is a bit longer hike, 4.8 miles one way so we will be sure to pack plenty of water and food. Afterward, there are a few scenic overlooks we will be sure to stop at and take pictures. Since there are a total of 4 overlooks and we will make a game-day decision where to stop. The four are CL Graham Wangan Grounds Overlook, Hancock, Pemi or Pemigawasset and Sugar Hill.
Our last stop will be the Lincoln Woods Visitors Center. We’ll see what the energy level is before heading out for another hike. I choose the Lincoln Woods Trail to the Franconia Falls Trail but energy levels will dictate. It’s a very easy hike but 3.5 miles one-way. The falls at the end are beautiful and well worth the hike. Even if we don’t get this last hike in we will take pictures of everyone on the suspension bridge.
We plan to take a week for this trip so we can enjoy each activity. Are you planning a trip to the White Mountains as well? I hope this has inspired you to get out into the White Mountains of New Hampshire and explore.
What’s your favorite hike or place to explore in the White Mountains?