mt. washington valley new hampshire swim, canoe, kayak, raft, or fish, here in the valley, rivers...
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MT. WASHINGTON VALLEY New Hampshire
LOVING THE AcTIVE LIfE IN THE VALLEY
All Mt. Washington Valley visitors get to see our scenic beauty from the front porch or the front seat, but if you are lucky enough to get out and about, dive deep into the forests, rivers and streams and enjoy an experience like none other in New England. The Valley has an adventure for any and all activity levels, just grab some gear and get outside!
Living the active life in the White Mountains, traveling in and out and around the valley there is adventure below the falls, across the tree tops, in the rivers, on the trails, even above the mountain tops. National Geographic Adventure even named North Conway among the top 30 action packed regions in America, going as far as giving our little town the distinction of being one of only six outdoor Meccas.
If you really want to experience all of the fun in the Valley you’ll need to spend a year, or plan to come back in every season. Here
are few ideas for both soft and hard adventure and they are all within the Valley borders and the White Mountain National Forest. If you’re the adventurous type, you’re gonna need more than just a few days.
If you are not the adventurous type, or if
MT. WASHINGTON VALLEY New Hampshire
Anything is Possible
Above: White water rafting, courtesy of Raft NH.com Cover: Sled dogs at the Mt Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods, courtesy of Muddy Paws
you are concerned about accessibility, don’t worry. Go ahead and plan a day or two, even a week to enjoy the scenic beauty from inside the woods, there are less strenuous and easily accessible experiences for everyone.
dAY ONE – IN THE WATEr We live in the water year round in the Valley so let’s start there. Spring, summer and fall, if you have designated only one “water” day and it is an absolutely brilliant one you will need to be at a river - any river, the Saco, the Ellis, the Swift, East or Rocky Branch, or the Androscoggin. When was the last time you stood in a river up to your waist and could still see your feet? Valley rivers are crystal clear, rocky and sandy bottomed and refreshingly cool. In spring, catch the whitewater in a kayak, there are many spots and tours guided for the beginner or travel north for a one-day or weeklong class IV kayak or rafting expedition.
July is lazy river time and my favorite way to spend the day is tubing down the Saco, armed a floating cooler of sandwiches and “cold ones”
and a few good friends. Follow that up with lobsters on the BBQ and I am what you would call “a happy camper”. If you have more time, rent a canoe and tent and enjoy your lobsters under the full moon on the beach.
New Hampshire’s river and streams trout season lasts into October and the
Left: Spring kayaking is not for the timid © Karen Stancik Photography Above: Fly fishing in Pinkham Notchm © Karen Stancik Photography
Saco and the Ellis are considered to be two of the best fly-fishing rivers in the east.
Swim, canoe, kayak, raft, or fish, here in the Valley, Rivers “R” Us.
In winter the water is of the frozen nature. The fact that so many valley residents live for winter means this “white” water offers a whole lot of adventure. If you skied, boarded or cross- country skied at every area in the valley you would need to be here for over two weeks. So choose your terrain from beginner trails to crazy people black diamond slopes. The best views are offered
on those blue-sky days when the air is crisp and the views from the mountaintops go for mile after mile.
If you have a need for speed, there are hundreds of miles of snowmobiling trails or try something new like snow kiting or take a ride on a dogsled.
For me…I take winter slow. From December through March, you’ll find me in the woods, lunch strapped to my back and snowshoes to my feet. I am off the beaten trail, winter hiking up a mountain stream to a sunny boulder with my Labrador Retriever.
Top: Spring skiing in Tuckerman Ravine is a spectator sport © Karen Stancik Photography Right: Alpine skiing, courtesy of Bretton Woods
dAY TWO – TAkE THE LOW rOAd On day two, you best spend the day getting your land legs in shape for the higher elevations, while still exerting a bit of energy and enthusiasm! Enjoy the back roads and green spaces that undulate through the valley countryside. How to get the best experience the terrain has to offer – golf, ride, bike, or hike.
The Mt Washington Valley is home to twelve golf courses with over 200 fairways and greens. Take a cart if you like to see the views from the front seat or if you are resting up for day three’s vistas from the mountaintops.
If you are up for a ride and trails are your terrain, horseback riding is the day’s pursuit. Meandering riverside and forest trails traverse the valley offering views not experienced from that front seat or hightail it through the pasture if that is your preference.
Perhaps you prefer wheels to hoofs, then bike. Amble the back roads paved or not or crank through the notches gaining elevation and losing breathe! There are many resources in the valley for guided rides or multi-day excursions. Contact the MWV Velo Club or pick up the White Mountain Ride Guide to get you started.
Top: Passaconaway Road is one of many great biking roads, Conway © Karen Stancik Photography Right: Prepare to straddle a few mountain streams © Karen Stancik Photography
dAY THrEE – ON THE HIGH rOAd You know how they say it’s not the destination, it’s the journey? Well, when the destination is White Mountain elevation I can’t always agree. There are few experiences more exhilarating than sitting on a mountaintop above tree line and enjoying the vast expanse of national forest set out in front of you and thinking to yourself, “Wow, look at where I am, at this majestic place, where not everyone gets the privilege of being.”
If for any number of reasons, you need some assistance to get there, you can still go. Everyone is welcome regardless of his or her mode of transportation. If you’d rather ride, all of the seven ski areas are happy to oblige. Take the gondola or the chairlift up above the treetops, have lunch at the top and soak in the sunshine and the view. You can ride down or take a quiet hike across the well- marked mountain trails. Want a bit more excitement on the way down. Ride the mountain coasters or rent a mountain bike at the mountain. The staff will throw it on the lift with you and you can bounce and fly back down on two wheels. You can get to the top of Mt Washington via your own car, an auto road coach or even halfway up in winter via the snow coach.
Top: Hiking Eisenhower and Pierce is a great experience for everyone © Karen Stancik Photography Bottom: Resting and enjoying the view from Osceola off the Kanc Hwy © Karen Stancik Photography
Top: Hiking Eisenhower and Pierce is a great experience for everyone © Karen Stancik Photography Bottom: Puddin’ Pond from Peaked, an easy impact hike © Karen Stancik Photography
Need for even more speed, rent a motorcycle or ATV for the day and seriously cover a few miles.
Me – no surprise, I am in the woods year round hiking whether I have an hour or a week. All of the innkeepers in
the Valley have their favorite hikes from short and flat to long and crazy hard that they are happy to share. Or stop by the Appalachian Mountain Club or the White Mountains National Forest Service Center (there is one at both ends of the Valley) or pick up a trail map at any convenience store. Ask the locals, preferable those with calluses on their feet and a smile on their face. Easiest walk – Diana’s Bath, but it will be crowded for good reason so go early. Locals can be seen leaving the Bath before breakfast. Puddin’ Pond is also a favorite easy walk.
Woods. It is high, fast, long and SAFE! What a feeling of success and accomplishment. You’ve got to do it twice. The first time you may find yourself holding
back just a bit, looking straight ahead, clinging a bit to your guide’s sleeve… The second time you take the ride – your confidence will allow you to actually yahoo down the line, lean out to enjoy the view, look down into the canopy and fly through the sky. Plan for most of the day to experience 1000 feet of elevation, nine tree top zip lines, suspension bridges and repels. Getting to them via short easy trails, you don’t need to be an ironman to do this. They strap you in and set you off!
Feel the need to go the distance – glide.
Top: The Wildcat Zip line offers the best views of Mt Washington © Karen Stancik Photography Bottom: Nancy and Karen at Bretton Woods Canopy Tour © Karen Stancik Photography
How about all of those other mountains – you know the ones without chairlifts. There are over a zillion hiking trails in the White Mountain National Forest. Add to that the hundreds of easier shorter paths to local waterfalls and scenic vistas and there is an excursion for every ability level. Pick up a copy of the Appalachian MountainClub’s White Mountain Guide. In its 28th edition, it gives trail descriptions, mileage, distances, elevations and trip times for hikes for all