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White Mountains/ski resorts, New Hampshire

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Did You Know … ?

  • Mount Washington is the tallest mountain in the U.S. Northeast, 6,288 feet.
  • Crawford Path is America’s oldest continuously maintained hiking trail (1819).
  • The engine and passenger car on Mount Washington’s cog railway are not coupled when on the move.
  • Staircases in the Mount Washington Hotel were built with varying numbers of steps to confuse ghosts.
  • The White Mountain National Forest is within a day’s drive of 70 million people.

Hiking, skiing the Whites

The White Mountains region, in northern New Hampshire, scores well with visitors because of its dramatic beauty and the variety of choices it offers the active tourist. A large part of the mountainous area falls within the nearly 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest.

The mountains are New England’s most rugged and tallest. Forty-eight peaks rise more than 4,000 feet. The highest, Mount Washington, is part of a subgroup called the Presidential Range because many of the mountains are named for U.S. presidents.

The national forest encompasses 12,000 acres of wetlands, 4,750 miles of streams and 67 lakes, but it remains better known for its hiking and skiing opportunities. The forest has 1,200 miles of hiking trails, including 160 miles of the Appalachian Trail. There are six ski touring areas and four alpine resorts.

The White Mountains region also embraces 10 New Hampshire state parks, which offer more opportunities for boating, camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking, skiing and snowmobiling. Four offer swimming, too.

Tourists also want to be sightseers, in order to observe fascinating wild animals in their natural habitat and to enjoy the scenery, which is highlighted through designated scenic drives, plus lookout points for a little oohing and aahing.

Even areas beyond the core White Mountains region, to the north and south, boast notable ski resorts. Ski New Hampshire, a trade association, counts 33 alpine and cross-country resorts as members. New Hampshire has emphasized skiing’s significance, making it the state sport.

The state’s resorts offer, besides alpine and nordic skiing, the de rigueur additional winter sports: ice skating, sleigh rides, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Some cross-country facilities include sledding. Outfitters offer dogsledding outside the resorts.

Ski facilities work to beef up business in the off season. Golf and horseback riding are typical add-ons, but the resorts are getting creative with options like ziplines and summertime downhill slides. On-site lobster bakes and festivals bring the business, too.

Accommodations vary from charming inns to full-service facilities with general appeal. They also may be near or give quick access to traditional New England towns, and a few are within an easy drive of shopping outlets. What’s not to like?

Things to do for Venturers

  • In summer, go rock climbing or mountain biking in the White Mountains. In winter, make that ice climbing or ski mountaineering.
  • Vigorous hikers can try the 7.5-mile Great Gulf Trail in the Great Gulf Wilderness. The trail gains 5,000 vertical feet. Another option is the historic Crawford Path to the summit of Mount Pierce. Or, more ambitiously, the 160 miles of the Appalachian Trail that are within the White Mountain National Forest.
  • If you are ready for this, compete in the harp or fiddle competition — or make that the dance or pipe and drumming competition — at the September New Hampshire Highland Games at the Loon Mountain Resort. Events also include whiskey tastings.
  • Exploring the Lost River in Kinsman Notch will test your energy as it winds through glacier-formed caves and potholes. You see the sights using boardwalks, bridges and ladders, eventually reaching a remarkable rock formation called the Guillotine.
  • Try one of the zipline tours offered by several ski resorts. At Bretton Woods, participants can race each other through the sky. Gunstock Mountain Resort’s adventure uses the longest ziplines in the continental U.S.
  • Try out for a team that will compete in New Hampshire’s World Mud Bowl Championships, a mud football competition, played in knee-deep slop. It kicks off in September at North Conway’s Hog Coliseum. Or, simply come to cheer the players, and dress defensively. It’s a mess out there.

Things to do for Centrics

  • At the southern end of Franconia Notch, see the Flume, an 800-foot-long chasm with 70-to-90-foot-high granite walls and featuring a series of waterfalls, pools and rock formations. A bus takes visitors to the parking lot, then it’s a two-mile walk to the gorge to see the natural sights and two covered bridges.
  • For soft adventure, consider inn-to-inn bicycling tours into and around the mountains.
  • Hike or drive to points above the timberline on Mount Washington in order to see the East’s only alpine garden. The flowers bloom in June.
  • Learn about mountain weather at the Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center in North Conway.
  • In winter, choose the resort and mix of facilities that suit you best, then spend days on skis, snowboards and snowshoes. New Hampshire offers many choices for both downhill and cross-country skiing.
  • Take a guided or self-directed wildlife viewing excursion in the White Mountain National Forest looking for moose, wild turkeys and other of the state’s wild creatures. Seeing black bears is a possibility, too, but they are shy.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Play golf with the Presidential Mountain Range as the backdrop. Find a course at the state’s ski resorts.
  • Buy fudge at the 1790 Brick Store in Bath. The counters slant inward to accommodate hoop skirts. There are other unique shopping sites. For one, the 1851 Bartlett covered bridge is used as a gift shop. Also, set aside time for tax-free outlet shopping in North Conway.
  • Stay at the historic Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods. In summer, its top outdoor activity is golf, in winter, it is skiing — downhill and nordic. Ride up the mountain in the world’s oldest cog railway (1869). Daily property tours provide guests with more details on the hotel’s colorful history.
  • Stay at a B&B or unique country inn. Farm by the River B&B offers horseback riding, sleigh or carriage rides and snowshoeing, depending on season.
  • Visit the New England Ski Museum in Franconia. Take an overhead leaf-peeping tour from any ski lift operated in autumn.
  • Drive one of the region’s scenic byways: the Presidential Range Tour, through historic villages and four state parks, or White Mountain Trail, a 100-mile drive with rugged mountain scenery, seven covered bridges, 32 scenic outlooks and more.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development at www.visitnh.gov