Exploring the USA's White Mountains
Featured destinations: New England
Published 24 November 2016
The White Mountains are a heavily forested mountain range found within the state of New Hampshire. With quaint towns full of New England charm and a rugged mountain backdrop, the peaks offer a fantastic escape from the fast-moving-city pace of Boston, less than three hours away by car.
White Mountains viewpoint image: Lucy Tolley
Drive the Kancamagus Highway
When arriving in the White Mountains National Forest it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the place. One of the very best ways to take in the scenery is from the comfort of your own car via the Kancamagus Highway, the main road dissecting the White Mountains. Climbing through beautiful peaks, it offers breath-taking views across the range. With regular viewing points along the way, this 34-mile stretch of road is a relaxing drive and is well known as one of the best fall foliage viewing areas of the country. I went in September when the colours were just changing; the reds and yellows of the maple leaves spread out into the distance creating a beautiful collage of colour.
Top tip: Whilst this is a beautiful place at any time of the year, save your visit for the autumn to see the changing colours of the fall.
Lucy's bagel at Bagels Plus image: Lucy Tolley
Of the various towns located within the White Mountain National Forest, North Conway is one of the biggest. It offers historic buildings, quaint antique shops, delicious smelling bakeries and old world charm, next to new world bargains. Shopping is definitely not normally on my to-do list when I go on holiday, but North Conway has a guilty secret: it has an outlet centre with a selection of over 60 tax-free stores. Open into the evening, they provide loads of choice for shoppers; the only downside for me was not taking a bigger suitcase to bring home more!
Talking of shopping, the one thing that you cannot leave New England without is Maple Syrup. This area produces some of the world’s best – have it on your pancakes, your bacon and your waffles, just don’t forget to take some of this liquid gold home.
Top tip: At the northern end of the North Conway, stop by the incredible Bagels Plus for a homemade bagel and fresh morning coffee; you won’t be disappointed.
Lucy at Crawford Notch, White Mountains image: Lucy Tolley
There are miles of hiking trails within the White Mountains, ranging from leisurely strolls along the meandering river to short spurts to see gushing waterfalls, or steeper, more challenging hikes for the more adventurous. The climbs uphill might be hard work, but the views when you get to a high view point are simply amazing.
Top tip: Walk the trail within Crawford Notch that begins at the Railway Station. It’s a 3-mile round-trip, but the view point from the top of the trail is well worth the aching legs; it’s simply stunning.
I really, really love nature and wildlife! I especially love spotting wildlife that we don’t have in the UK. The White Mountains are home to various mammals and bird species so whether you are on your own two feet or driving about, keep your eyes peeled for any of the creatures that live there. Naughty racoons are best spotted at campsites raiding rubbish bins and keep your eyes peeled for moose at dawn and dusk, as well as deer and many small mammals, such as cute little chipmunks and stripy skunks. Black Bears are also found in these parts and we were lucky enough to see one for ourselves! Despite being only a fleeting spotting, it was the highlight for all of us and so exciting to see one of these majestic wild creatures with our very own eyes.
Top tip: Take binoculars for prime wildlife spotting.
Mount Washington Cog Railway
On clear days going to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England, is a must. There are a variety of ways in reach the summit:
Drive yourself: If you are feeling adventurous why not drive yourself up the AutoRoad? It’s a steep climb with some sheer drops, so it isn’t for the faint-hearted, but the views along the way are definitely worth it.
Guided Tour: For those who fancy a little luxury, there are guided tours to the top, where you can travel in comfort and let someone else do the hard work!
Walk: The summit sits at 1,917m, so it is a bit of a climb, but for those adventurous folk out there, it is something to tick off the bucket list. A word of warning: Mount Washington has a reputation for having ‘the world’s worst weather’ so be prepared for any season.
Cog Railway: The most alternative way to get to the summit is by the Cog Railway. This was the world’s first mountain-climbing train, and the vintage steam-powered coaches are still in operation.Lucy in the White Mountains image: Lucy Tolley
The White Mountains offer something all year round, from camping in the summer months to skiing in the winter. A well-kept secret, not many people have heard of the White Mountains and the majority of the tourists there are American. Take my advice and go now, before the rest of the world finds out about this magnificent forest.
Visit the White Mountains with Round the World Experts' New England Encompassed holiday, which includes a night in Jackson, a great base for exploring the peaks.