Looking for a quick outdoor getaway? New Hampshire’s White Mountains offers year-round activities for people of all ages. Some of the most scenic landscapes that New England has to offer are only a short 2.5 hour drive from Boston. From an early age, I loved what the White Mountains had to offer and as an adult, its offerings only expanded. I’d like to talk about some of my favorite and convenient activities that I have found while visiting the north. Pro-tip 1: Try to avoid peak summer holidays and weekends, as traffic can get particularly bad, especially traveling home on a Sunday afternoon. Pro-tip 2: As you’re driving through the mountains, make sure to pull off at some of the scenic vistas. Most offer stunning views of the surrounding areas. There are several scattered along the Kancamagus Highway (route 112) and Bear Notch road (closed in the winter).
1. Hiking - Lonesome Lake Trail
(Park at the Lafayette Place Campground trailhead on I-93)
I choose this hike because of its short distance with a satisfying reward. At about 3 miles round-trip, this trail is great for beginners and intermediates due to its switchback style. The trail leads to Lonesome Lake, a mountain lake with great views of Franconia Ridge.
Feel free to stop in at the hiker-friendly Lonesome Lake hut as well before heading back down.
One of the 4,000-footers in the White Mountains, Mt. Pierce offers spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding presidential range. It's a moderate hike, but its views are worth the effort. I recommend hiking up Mt. Pierce via Crawford Path, which would total a round trip of just over 6 miles. After about 0.5 miles up Crawford Path, make sure to take the small detour to see Gibbs Falls.
After another 2.5 miles, turn right on the Webster Cliff Trail and the summit is just a few steps away. Follow the same path down to return to your car.
With each summit being just a mile or two away, it 's possible to continue your hike to either Mt. Eisenhower or Mt. Jackson, both of which are 4,000 footers. I highly recommend purchasing a set of the AMC White Mountain Trail Maps to assist in planning an appropriate route.
Lower Falls. Located on the Kancamagus Highway (route 112) just 7 miles from Conway. Look for the "Lower Falls Scenic Area" sign.
There's no better way to escape the summer heat than by cooling off in a refreshing mountain river. If you don't mind the crowds, Lower Falls has a great swimming area complete with a parking lot, bathrooms and charcoal grills. There are large flat rocks along the river to sit on, with a rocky, shallow area above the falls and a swimming hole below.
This is a convenient but also popular swimming area. If you would rather a little more privacy, you may have to head off the beaten path a bit, which may require a little exploration.
Crawford Notch Campground. 1138 U.S. 302, Hart's Location, NH.
Located off route 302 near Crawford Notch State Park, this campground is centrally located in the heart of the White Mountains. Many of the sites are private as well as spacious and usually one can always be found, even in the peak season. I find myself returning here to camp every season. It's in a great location, has a bath house with hot showers and beautiful river front sites.
The campground also has a general store with a great staff, firewood, food, beer and many other items you may have forgotten to bring along.
Reserve a single or tandem style kayak at one of the numerous rental locations off route 302 in North Conway.
Experience is not necessary for this activity. Spend the day floating down the Saco River as it winds through the mountain valleys.
Many rental companies allow you to choose how long you would like to kayak by picking a predetermined trip. I recommend something around 5-10 miles, which would take about 2-6 hours, filling a good portion of the day. Make sure to pack a lunch and stop along your way at one of the natural beaches to enjoy the scenery and even go for a swim.
Certain areas of the river can get shallow and you may be required to pull your kayak a bit, but overall the journey is easy.
EXPLORE ON YOUR OWN
I hope this guide helps with choosing an exciting day trip or weekend getaway. The White Mountains offers countless areas to explore and I've just barely scraped the surface in this guide. From hiking to snowshoeing, there's something to do any time of the year. If you don't mind the short drive up north, there's no better place to enjoy the outdoors than New Hampshire's White Mountains.