There is so much to see in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. From hiking trails to covered bridges to waterfalls and kayaking or tubing down the river, you will not run out of things to see when visiting this region. It’s actually the perfect covid trip since there is so much to do outside in the fresh air where it’s safer than indoors and so much wide open space making it easy to social distance.
On my first full day of my trip to New Hampshire last month, I visited Franconia Notch State Park. I started the day visiting the Flume Gorge. If you have limited time in this area, this is a great place to visit to get a taste of quite a few of the highlights of the area. While visiting the Flume Gorge, you can see the gorge itself as well as a couple of covered bridges, a waterfall and beautiful mountain views. It’s suitable for families, but some of the uphill parts may be difficult if you aren’t in the best shape. Even though I run all the time, parts of it had me out of breath.
The first site you will come to is The Flume Covered Bridge. It was built in 1886, making it one of the oldest covered bridges in the state. It stretches across the Pemigewasset River. This was an easier part of the walk, as you started high above and made your way down to the bridge.
You then make your way up into the gorge. The gorge is absolutely beautiful and makes life seem small while walking thru with the 70-90 foot tall granite walls along side you.
Once you make it to the top, you will reach Avalanche Falls. Spend some time listening to these relaxing falls.
As you make your way down, you will come to the Sentinel Pine Bridge and Pool. The Pool was formed at the end of the Ice Age some 14,000 years ago. by a stream flowing thru a glacier.
It’s a great experience to walk thru the covered bridge and look down at the pool below.
There were definitely some gorgeous views on this hike thru the flume gorge.
After the Flume Gorge, I decided to take a short hike nearby. I hiked up the Artist Bluff Trail and the views were just amazing! It was just a 1.5 mile hike with only 390 feet elevation gain. Hiking this trail reminded me of how much I miss traveling. I started talking to a guy on the trail who had been making the best of the bad situation that is 2020, he was from California and had been laid off and decided to take a solo road trip across the country. It was interesting to hear his experience and it reminded me what I absolutely love about solo travel – meeting new people and hearing their travel experiences!
The trail was a little more strenuous than I thought it would be since it was pretty rocky. The whole way up I imagined my clumsy self slipping on the rocks on the way down. Luckily I made it down in one piece without falling and boy were those views worth it!
When I was a child we spent many summer vacations in New Hampshire and one of the highlights of the ride there was to stop and see the Old Man of the Mountain. The rocks at the top of this mountain jut out in a way that it looked like the profile of a man and it was a big tourist spot right off the highway. Sadly in May of 2003, the rocks collapsed and the old man was no more. They have since created a memorial to the Old Man and have these steel profilers that if you stand behind them it makes it look like the old man is back on the mountain. Definitely needed to visit this for nostalgia purposes.
The next day I headed east over to North Conway. North Conway is located not far from the New Hampshire-Main border and is a busy town with lots of restaurants and shops. The Saco River flows thru here and is a great place to go tubing, kayaking and canoeing. There were so many groups of people out tubing together. Since I was alone, I decided to take a 5 mile kayak trip. It started off as a beautiful day but a little over halfway thru, it started pouring so hard I had to go to shore and get out of the kayak because I could not see! After about 20 minutes of trying to take cover under a tree (which didn’t really help much), the rain stopped and the sun came back out. The ironic thing about this is that according to the weather app on my phone, this was the one day there wasn’t a chance of rain on my trip and the only day I got stuck outside in it! It was a great kayaking experience but even though it poured during it, there has been a lack of rain this summer and the already shallow Saco River was even more shallow. There were parts I had to get out of the kayak and push it down river to deeper water. But it was a lot of fun and after I had a late lunch and did some shopping at the outlet mall.
My last day of the trip, I headed over to Echo Lake State Park. This beautiful park has a picnic area, swimming and kayaking in the lake and hiking. There was a beautiful easy hike around the lake. There was also other more difficult trails that went off of the lake trail. I took one of these up to Cathedral Ledge and it was so nice to hang out by the lake in the picnic area after the hike to relax and have something to eat.
The Cathedral Ledge Hike was 2.8 miles round trip and had 669 feet elevation. Every time I do these hikes, I wonder how I ever managed hikes that were in the 1000s of feet since these ones in the 100s make me feel so out of shape! I guess things were easier when I was younger.
It was really a beautiful hike and the views from the top definitely made it worth it. I could have sat up there all day taking in these views!
On my way back to the hotel I stopped in Crawford Notch State Park to hike up to Ripley Falls. This hike was just 1.1 miles roundtrip with 308 feet elevation gain. It was definitely well worth it! The falls were beautiful and the hike wasn’t too bad. It started by crossing some train tracks which had me thinking of the movie, Stand By Me, which I ended up watching this weekend for the first time in forever and I had forgotten what a great movie it is!
Although summer is a beautiful time to visit the White Mountains, I wish I could head up there in the fall as well to see all the colorful leaves. But even though it was only August, there were definitely some signs of fall already.
Thankfully the leaves get beautiful here in Boston as well so I’ll still get some beautiful fall views just without the mountains.
I hope you enjoyed my few posts on New Hampshire, this is just a few of the many things to do in this wonderful state. There is so much more to see! If you are ever planning a trip here, remember Beyond the Miles Travel is here to help you plan that perfect New England getaway. http://www.beyondthemilestravel.com