Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: January 2019
The White Mountains is one of our favourite places in New England. There is always something to do regardless of the season. And let’s be real, the views of the mountains never gets old. With mild temperatures on the forecast for the weekend, we decided to head north and enjoy some winter hiking and cross-country skiing in the Whites (“whites” indeed as there certainly was no shortage of snow).
Day 1: Winter Hiking in Franconia Notch
Franconia Notch is easily one of the most scenic areas in the White Mountains. And it in the winter it transforms into a wintry wonderland. While we’ve hiked in this area during the fall a couple of years ago, this would mark our first winter hike in the Whites.
We left Boston a bit late in the morning and made a few pit stops along the drive up to New Hampshire. By the time we arrived in Franconia Notch State Park it was just after 1p.m. We started our afternoon of winter hiking at the Flume Gorge, a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty.
Flume Gorge is technically open from mid May to mid October. However, during off-season, visitors can still access much of the trails. And the best part about visiting off-season is that it’s free (otherwise it’s $16 …per adult).
We didn’t have snowshoes, which would have been ideal. However, it is still a popular hike even in the winter and a path was already clearly forged. We layered on our snow pants and away we frolicked in the snow.
There were a few sections of the trail that were closed off for the winter for safety concerns. Nevertheless, we felt we managed to see a decent part of the gorge. The trail also provided a few good viewpoints overlooking the White Mountains.
After our hike we drove a couple of kilometres to The Basin. We followed the short path down to this natural formation that resembles a basin. Along the way are a series of smaller waterfalls and nice viewpoints. We were cutting our hike a little bit close in terms of timing. By the time we returned to our car it was starting to get dark.
We checked into our hotel, got changed, and then headed back out for dinner. But first, we stopped at the Seven Birches winery tasting room. There’s nothing like a good glass of wine after a long day of hiking. Besides, five samples for $10 was too good of a deal to pass up. The lady serving us even provided two bonus samples (probably because we are such charming Canadians). It was a very lovely experience. And luckily the restaurant we were planning to go for dinner was located right around the corner from the winery tasting room. When in Rome (or rather New Hampshire!).
Day 2: Cross-Country Skiing in Bretton Woods
Today we traded in our winter boots for cross-country skis. We actually learned how to cross-country ski in Jackson, New Hampshire two years ago, so it was nice to return to the White Mountains.
Located about 20 minutes north-east of Franconia Notch State lies the Bretton Woods Nordic Center, which boasts of being one of the largest cross-country ski areas on the East Coast. There are over 100 kilometres of groomed trails through open fields and wooded areas, all the while with fabulous views of the mountains in the background.
The trails here are relatively flat or have a gentle incline (and corresponding decline). We spent the first half of our morning skiing towards the warming cabin. Even though it wasn’t a particularly cold day (we had our jackets open for much of the morning, or at least during the uphill sections), it was still nice to take our skis off and sit down in the heated cabin for a bit.
The return journey to the nordic centre was relatively easy-going (mostly because it involved gliding downhill). We wrapped up by the mid afternoon and then made our way back down to Boston.