Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Boulder Loop Trail - A Perfect Family Hike in the Whites

Fall View from Overlook on Boulder Loop Trail, White Mountains, NH

Now that I have a little one, I find myself trading out some of my 4000-footer hikes for shorter, less strenuous climbs.  My one-year-old son has been "hiking" since he was a week old, but understandably, after a few hours on the trail, he gets restless. As a result, I've tried hikes that are less than 5 miles with little to no technical climbing involved.  Most of the hikes have already been written about on this blog such as: Mount Major in Alton, White Ledge in Albany, Blue Job in Farmington, and Mount Willard in Crawford Notch.  I was searching my blog to see if there are any I should add and I realized I had not written about one of my favorite family-friendly loop hikes in the Whites - Boulder Loop off the Kancamagus Highway!

This 3 mile easy-to-moderately difficulty hike is perfect for a taste of the Whites.  It provides excellent views, moderate strain, and is easily accessible with a parking lot and bathrooms near the Covered Bridge Campground.  I especially enjoyed it this fall when I took my parents who were visiting from Oregon to see the fall foliage.

Here's how to recreate this adventure:
Trail Sign

Adventure: Boulder Loop Trail in Albany, New Hampshire

Getting there:  The trailhead is easily accessible just off the Kancamagus Highway.  From Conway, New Hampshire, take the Kancamagus Highway (Rt 112) about 6 miles to Dugaway Rd on the right.  You should see signs for Covered Bridge Campground.

There are two parking options.  In the off season (winter and early spring), I park in the parking lot on the right before the bridge.  Then walk across the bridge and follow signs to the trailhead.  In summer and fall, you can cross the covered bridge and park in the Boulder Loop parking area on the right of the road.  The trailhead is across this road from the parking lot.  Since it is National Forest, you need to pay a parking fee (cash or check) at the kiosk or have a WMNF parking permit.

Boulder Loop Trail
Trail: The trail is well signed.  Start by going 0.2 miles to the loop.  You can go either clockwise or counter clockwise (I always go counter but I'm not sure why).  If you go counter-clockwise (to the right), there is 1.3 miles of gradual uphill ascent.  It is continuous but not strenuous.  About half way up the trail veers left and has a steeper ascent (still moderate) until you get to a spur trail (marked) for the outlook.  Take the 0.1 mile spur to a series of viewpoints and ledges.  In fall, these views are spectacular.  Nestled in the hardwood zone, you get a superb view of the foliage.  

I usually enjoy a break or snack at the ledges before heading back to the loop.  Continuing on, the trail descends at a moderate difficulty, weaving a little back and forth for 1.1 miles before reaching the spur trail again.  

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate - By White Mountain standards this trail is on the easier side, however, it does involve some large boulder steps.  To preserve my knees, I always bring trekking poles on White Mountain hikes since it's a guarantee that it will be rocky and in some places steep.  It's shorter length makes it a great option for families or anyone wanting a shorter peak but still great views.  

Distance: About 2.8 - 3.5 miles depending how far you explore the spur trail/overlook.
Beautiful Fall Leaves


- This is on White Mountain National Forest Land so you need to pay a cash or check fee in the parking lot.  Don't forget your money - exact change ($3 when written).

- There are privey bathroom facilities available near the trailhead.

- This hike is very popular in the summer and can get crowded.  Consider trying it in early spring, winter, or fall!

- Dogs are allowed on leash.

- Careful at the overlook ledges - there are steep dropoffs.  Watch children and pets.  Do not throw rocks or items over the edge as their could be rock climbers below.

I enjoy Boulder Loop Trail with my mom and son
I've enjoyed this hike at least twice this year and will probably visit it again this summer.  It's long enough to be worth the drive, but short enough that my little one won't be too bored in the pack.  Happy hiking!