Saturday, June 8, 2013

5 Best Family Hikes in White Mountains, NH

New Hampshire has great hiking for kids.

Many tourists visit the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and are overwhelmed by the options of hikes, hiking guides, and maps.  Which hike should you choose?
Here is my advice for having a great hike in the Whites.

As a rule, a great family hike will offer...
1. A great view - (mountain top, waterfall, lake, etc)
2. Varying terrain - Many people think short, flat "hikes" are the best for kids, but it's boring to walk down a flat trail for 30 min.  Try a hike that incorporates some challenges.  It's exciting for a child to have a boulder to climb over or a scramble up a steep section.  Just make sure it's not too challenging.
Child enjoys view after a great hike.
3. Limited mileage-  Less than 5 miles round trip is a good rule for the family or less-experienced hiker.

Remember to bring the following:
- Lots of water (1 L or more a person)
- Extra clothing including rain gear, and a warm layer
- Toilet paper and ziplock to carry it out in (DON'T BURY!)
- Snacks and food
- First aid kit including band aids, moleskin for blisters, sunscreen, and bug spray
- AMC Maps

5 Best Hikes for Families in the White Mountains, New Hampshire
All hikes are Easy to Moderate trails.

1. Mt Willard - This is a THE BEST view for a short hike in the whites.  You can access the trail from the US 302 at the Crawford Depot.  I park at the AMC Highland Center that provides access to bathroom facilities, knowledge adventure guides, and lodging.  The hike is 3.2 miles round trip with a 900 ft elevation gain.  Bring a picnic and enjoy the view of Crawford Notch from the "summit".  The trip will take 3-4 hours.
View from Mt. Willard, Crawford Notch

2. Arethusa Falls - Arethusa falls is a wonderful hike and a chance to see the tallest waterfall in New Hampshire!  You can make this a loop hike if you take the Bemis Brook trail to the falls and return on the Arethusa Falls Trail.  Round trip it's about 2.6 miles and includes some steep parts along the Bemis brook section. There is no mountain view on this hike, but you get multiple views of serveral small waterfalls.  Parking can be found off US 302 about 6 miles south of Crawford Depot/AMC Highland Center.  There is usually a small cash fee to park in the lot.  There is no bathroom along this hike.
Arethusa Falls, Crawford Notch

3. Lonesome Lake - This is a great hike for kids because the terrain (although uphill) is graded and includes some switchbacks.  The view from Lonesome lake of far off mountains and the pristine mountain lake is a great spot for a picnic.  Kids (and parents) can use the restrooms at the AMC Lonesome Lake hut before returning to the parking lot.  This hike is 3.5 miles round trip has a 1,000 ft elevation gain.  You can access this hike from the Lafayette Campground on I-93 in Franconia Notch State Park. Take the Lonesome Lake Trail.
Lonesome Lake, Franconia Notch

4. Zealand Falls - Zealand Falls is a fantastic family friendly hike because it gives views of ponds, waterfalls, and mountains, and all with limited elevation gain although is a little longer then the previous hikes.  This trail is accessed from Zealand Road which is off US 302, about 2.3 miles east of the Twin Mountain intersection. This there-and-back hike is generally "flat" until the last .2 miles when you have a steep assent up to the hut.  Although it's more milage than I recommend for most family hikes, the gentle terrain allows this 5.6 round trip adventure to be the perfect fit for families.  Pit toilets are available at the parking lot and full amenities at the AMC Zealand Hut.
View from Zealand Falls Hut

5.  Square Ledge and Lost Pond - Square Ledge is a short and steep hike across from the popular Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and AMC Joe Dodge Lodge.  This trail is accessed along Rt 16 directly across from the visitor center.  Follow the Lost Pond Trail to the Square Ledge Trail.  Take your time on the rocks and boulders.  The hike is a steep uphill for 0.5 miles to a lookout called "Square Ledge".  Hikers enjoy a view of the notch including a clear view of Mt. Washington.  It's a great "short but sweet" hike if you are short on time or want a view of the "rockpile".  Full amenities are availble at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.  If you come down and still want more, try a quiet stroll around "Lost Pond".  This is a 1 mile loop around the pond with views of beaver damns and Mt. Washington.

View from Square Ledge, Pinkham Notch

The White Mountain Nation Forest is a wonderful place to explore and enjoy.  I hope you take a few of these hikes this summer.  They are great for families, but there are also enjoyed by experienced hikers like myself.

Please feel free to add comments or questions.  

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