The BEST things to do in the White Mountains in New Hampshire (+ where to stay, itineraries, & more!)

New Hampshire’s White Mountains are one of the most stunning regions of New England. In this guide we’re sharing tips, where to stay, and the best things to do in the White Mountains.

One of the areas we were most excited to visit while on our New England fall road trip was New Hampshire’s White Mountains. While we love the charming towns and coastal views that New England is known for, our favorite type of scenery and adventures always include the mountains.

And with rugged peaks, rocky gorges and notches, waterfalls, endless hiking trails, scenic drives, and mountain views all condensed into one area, the White Mountains checked every single box on our dream destination list. But for many years, we had no idea these mountains even existed and if you had shown us photos of this area, we wouldn’t have believed that it was in New Hampshire!

Check out our fall road trip through the White Mountains and our experience hiking the Franconia Ridge Loop in New Hampshire! 

While we typically prefer to travel out West, mostly due to the epic mountains and abundance of national parks, our time in the White Mountains proved that the East has equally stunning scenery. During our week working and road tripping around the White Mountains, we tried to explore as much of the area as possible and fell madly in love. We never wanted to leave!

In this guide we’re not only sharing the best things to do in the White Mountains, but also helpful information to help you plan your own adventure, such as when to visit, where to stay, things to know beforehand, places to eat, and some itinerary options. We hope that you enjoy this region as much as we did. 

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About the White Mountains

Franconia Ridge Loop

The White Mountains cover about 25% of New Hampshire, plus part of Western Maine, and feature some of the most rugged mountains in all of New England. The range is a part of the Appalachian Mountains, with a high point of 6,288 feet, the highest point in the northeast.

In this area you can find small towns, waterfalls, ski resorts, state parks, unique activities, and tons of mountain peaks, including the majority of the state’s 48 4,000 footers, which are peaks over 4,000 feet tall and with a prominence of at least 200 feet. 

While well known and loved by New Englanders, this region is an underrated gem in the United States. If you have never considered visiting New Hampshire, the White Mountains WILL have you planning a trip as soon as possible!

Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!

These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors. 

How to get to the White Mountains

The White Mountains are located in the north-central part of New Hampshire. While not super close to any major US cities, the area isn’t too difficult to get to and once there, there are tons of smaller towns to enjoy, which all offer places to stay, restaurants, shops, and anything else you’ll need for your trip.

Here’s how to get to the White Mountains depending on if you fly or drive!

Crawford Notch State Park | Things to do in the White Mountains New Hampshire

Flying to the White Mountains

The best airport to fly into to visit the White Mountains is the Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), which is a massive airport that is serviced by all major airlines and offers nonstop flights from many destinations in the United States. The drive from Boston to the White Mountains is between 2-3 hours, depending on where you’re going.

Driving to the White Mountains

The White Mountains make for an epic New England road trip destination. If you are driving to the White Mountains, here is how long you can expect to drive to the area (using Lincoln, NH as the destination) from some various cities nearby. 

Stowe, VT: 1 hour, 45 minutes (90 miles)
Portsmouth, NH: 2 hours (122 miles)
Burlington, VT: 2 hours, 15 minutes (101 miles)
Portland, ME: 2 hours, 20 minutes (95 miles)
Acadia National Park: 4 hours, 45 minutes (242 miles)

Note: some of the roads and times above include driving tolls. If you want to avoid paying for tolls, make sure to turn off tolls on your Google Maps settings.

How to get around the White Mountains

Driving the Kancamagus Highway New Hampshire

You’ll definitely need to rent a car or drive your own to fully enjoy all of the best things to do in the White Mountains. Public transportation, outside of a couple trail shuttles (more on that below), isn’t really an option between all of the towns without hiring a tour guide.

Assuming you’re visiting in the summer or fall, any type of vehicle will work just fine on a road trip around the White Mountains, as none of these stops require 4×4 to get to.

Our Sprinter van was able to navigate New Hampshire easily and we didn’t run into many issues parking a larger vehicle, but there was one spot (the Mount Washington Auto Toll Road) where our van was too large, so keep that in mind if driving an oversized vehicle. 

Trail Shuttles

There are two trail shuttles in the area, one run by Franconia Notch State Park and the other run by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).

Franconia Notch Shuttle
If you want to hike some of the trails in Franconia Notch State Park, the park offers a hikers shuttle, which will take hikers from the “Peabody Big Lot” at Cannon Mountain to the Lafayette Campground, which is by a handful of trails. 

There are four shuttle vans that run on Saturdays and Sundays 8:30 AM to 8 PM. The shuttle costs $5 roundtrip per hiker, cash only, and you’ll pay the driver and they will give you a ticket. Be sure to hang on to this ticket during your hike because you will need it for your return trip.

The last shuttle leaves at 8 PM, so don’t miss it! You can use your ticket the next day if you’re staying overnight, but only if the shuttle is running. You can also take your well mannered dog onto the shuttle. For more information about the shuttle, check out the state park website.

AMC Shuttle
AMC offers a shuttle that can take you to a wider variety of trailheads in the White Mountains, but it’s more intended for those who plan to do long hikes in the area and need a way back to their car. It costs $20 (AMC members) or $24 (non members) for a one way ride and you can see the stops and schedule here

When to visit the White Mountains

One of the best things about the White Mountains is that it is a year round destination. However, for this guide we’ll be mostly focusing on summer and fall activities, since that is around the timeframe we visited and are the most knowledgeable on. But here is what to expect during every season!

Winter 

The White Mountains receive on average 70+ inches of snow per year, with Mount Washington, the highest point in the state receiving 23 FEET! If you enjoy snowy adventures, you’ll love the White Mountains.

In the winter there are multiple ski resorts to enjoy and you can even hike the many 4,000 footers, with some people hiking all 4,000 footers in the winter. Just make sure to pack the right winter gear, like snowshoes or microspikes!

Spring 

The spring is known as “mud season” in New Hampshire, which is when the snow starts to melt, creating wet and muddy trails. If you want to beat the crowds, visiting in the late spring, before the summer rush, will be a good time to have some solitude. Make sure to read trail reports beforehand and bring microspikes just in case there is still snow though!

Summer 

Summer is a gorgeous time to visit the area, but it is also the busiest, so prepare to encounter more people. The trees will be nice and green, making the views extra pretty, and the weather should be perfect, with sunnier skies and highs in the 70s or 80s. It will feel colder on the mountain tops though, so make sure to still pack layers!

Fall

We visited the White Mountains in early October, close to peak foliage for the area, and it was incredible to see the fall colors everywhere! Fall foliage varies year to year and we found this website to be helpful to find out about the current conditions.

While the summer is the busiest season overall, peak foliage in the fall can be insanely busy, especially on the weekends, with many visitors trying to capture the colorful leaves. If you plan to visit for the fall foliage, be prepared to encounter more people.

As for weather in the fall, during our visit it varied a bit. We had a few days of nonstop rain, followed by some sunny days, so be prepared to experience a variety of conditions and pack layers.

Best days and time to explore

Activities and attractions can get VERY busy, especially during the summer, peak fall foliage, and on the weekends. We suggest hiking and sightseeing on weekdays if possible and starting before sunrise or hiking close to sunset.

We were able to beat most crowds by doing everything during the week and early in the morning or late in the day. By 9 or 10 AM, trails and attractions start to get very crowded. 

Where to Stay in the White Mountains

There are many options when it comes to where to stay in the White Mountains, including the type of lodging, as well as location. The area has multiple smaller towns, which range from very tiny to more bustling and there truly isn’t a bad spot to pick. 

For this guide, we recommend looking into the following towns, which we have marked on the map above and will provide lodging suggestions for below!

Littleton Area

Littleton, New Hampshire is close to the Vermont border and has a historic downtown area, both local and chain restaurants, a small Walmart (it doesn’t have produce, just FYI), and is close to many spots on the west side of the White Mountains.

For the lodging suggestions below, we are including the small towns of Bethlehem and Franconia too, which are all under 10 minutes away from Littleton.

Hotels

Hampton Inn Littleton 

Airbnbs

Dream A-Frame (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom): This dreamy A-frame is nestled in the New Hampshire woods, beautifully decorated, has an equipped kitchen, fireplace, and a cozy upstairs loft. 

Bear Ridge Lodge (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms): This epic log cabin lodge sleeps 8, so it would be perfect for a group or big family. It has everything you’ll need for a comfortable stay, especially the beautiful fireplace in the large living area and covered front and back patio with beautiful mountain views. 

Campgrounds

Lafayette Place Campground 
This campground is located across the street from the Franconia Ridge Loop hike. It is open mid May to early October with 97 tent sites, 88 of them can be reserved, and 7 are first-come, first-served. All sites are $25/night and pets are not allowed. 

Twin Mountain/Mt. Washington KOA
We stayed here for a few nights during some nonstop rain when first reaching the White Mountains, since we knew having enough power would be a struggle. This campground is super nice, although pricey, and we really enjoyed it!

FREE Boondocking

During our time in the White Mountains we found two FREE camping areas near Littleton, one along Haystack Road and one along Gale River Road. For both of these areas you must camp in designated sites, so you cannot just pull off and find a spot.

We had tried Gale River Road first and had no luck, but thankfully found a spot on Haystack Road. We camped in one of the first spots and had a tiny bit of cell service to work, but be prepared to be mostly off grid here.

You can also sleep overnight at the Walmart in Littleton, which we did for a night or two as well! This Walmart is small and doesn’t offer produce, but it’s right next to a grocery store.

Artist Bluff White Mountains New Hampshire

Lincoln

Lincoln (+ North Woodstock just across the highway) is one of the most popular towns on the western side of the White Mountains. It is the starting point for the Kancamagus Highway, making it a good spot to stay if you plan to spend a lot of time along this road. There are many dining options and lodging options here as well!

Hotels

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Lincoln
InnSeason Resorts Pollard Brook

Airbnbs

The Lil’ Red Caboose (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom): How can you pass up a stay in a caboose?! It has a bathroom inside, which isn’t something you always see in unique stays like this, and you can even sleep in the cupola! 

Luxury Riverside White Mountains Resort (Studio, 1 bathroom): This condo is located right by the town of Lincoln and the Kancamagus Highway, making it a great homebase to some of the best spots the area has to offer!

Relaxing Resort Getaway (Studio, 1 bathroom): This bright and airy studio has everything you need for a comfortable stay in a perfect location.

Campgrounds

Hancock Campground
This campground is located at the western end of the Kancamagus Highway, just east of Lincoln, NH. The campground offers 56 tent sites at $25/night and are first-come, first served.

Big Rock Campground 
This campground is also located at the western end of the Kancamagus Highway, just east of Lincoln, NH. The campground offers 28 tent sites at $25/night and some are first-come, first served.

North Conway

North Conway is located on the east side of the White Mountains and is definitely the most bustling option, with an REI and many other well known stores, tons of restaurants, a nice downtown area, hotel chains, and close proximity to Crawford Notch, Mount Washington, and the Kancamagus Highway.

Hotels

Hampton Inn & Suites North Conway
Residence Inn North Conway
Home2 Suites North Conway
White Mountain Hotel and Resort

Airbnbs

North Conway Cabin (2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom): This cabin sleeps 4 and is a great location to Conway and North Conway’s shops and restaurants.

The Overlook (2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms): This house would be perfect for a group or family, with plenty of space to hang out inside and outdoors, with a great kitchen, a fire pit, and a hot tub. It also has the perfect wooden, modern cabin vibe!

Mountain Chic New Hampshire Family Getaway (3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom): This gorgeous house is super bright and well designed, with huge windows! 

Campgrounds

Covered Bridge Campground
This campground is located on the eastern end of the Kancamagus Highway, near Conway, and has 49 sites, which cost $25/night.

Crawford Notch State Park 
This park offers 36 wooded sites, including some tent only sites, as well as lean-tos. These sites do not have hookups and cost $25/night. 

What to bring with you to the White Mountains

Franconia Ridge Loop

Since most of the best things to do in the White Mountains include outdoor activities, you’ll want to bring plenty of outdoor gear and clothing. To see everything we take hiking, as well as our favorite clothing, check out our hiking gear, as well as our guide about how to make a 10 essentials kit. 

How much time do you need in the White Mountains?

You could spend months in the White Mountains and not hike every trail or visit every attraction, but for those looking to experience the major highlights of the area, we suggest at least 3-5 days. This will give you enough time to do scenic drives, go for shorter and longer hikes, and visit some of the paid attractions.

We will include a few itinerary options at the end of this guide to help you figure out how to organize your time in the area!

Things to know before visiting the White Mountains

Franconia Ridge Loop

Book in advance

If you plan to visit during the peak season, make sure to book rental cars, lodging, and activities in advance. Some attractions, like the Flume Gorge, require reservations in advance and can sell out during very busy times.

Dogs are mostly allowed

Dogs are allowed on most trails in the White Mountains, since the majority of them are in the National Forest. However, there are some trails that may not be good for dogs due to their steep and rocky nature, as well as some attractions, like the Flume Gorge, aerial tramway, and beaches, that do not allow dogs.

Learn how we travel with a dog and what we do with Kona when she cannot join us on our adventures.

Download offline maps

There were a few areas where we didn’t have the best cell phone service, which can be tricky if you’re trying to figure out where to go, both on the road or on the trail. We highly recommend downloading offline AllTrails Maps and offline Google Maps so you can navigate without cell phone service and don’t get lost!

Kancamagus Highway New Hampshire

Fees

Some areas in the White Mountains have day use fees, including specific areas of the state parks, as well as in the National Forest. Make sure to bring some cash just in case you find yourself needing to pay for parking.

For any fees in the National Forest areas, the America the Beautiful pass, which is $80 per year, will get you in for free.

Drones

New Hampshire has stricter drone laws than other states we visited and we ended up not flying ours while in the state. According to the Forest Service, drones are allowed in the White Mountain National Forest “as long as the landing of the drone does not occur within 1/4 miles of a Forest Protection Area, alpine zone, or area otherwise listed in Exhibit B of Forest Order R9-22-19-01.”

Additionally, drones are not allowed in state parks, wilderness areas, or within ¼ of a mile of the Kancamagus Highway. You have likely seen many fall drone shots from the Kanc, but there are signs all over the Kanc saying no drones within ¼ mile of the road. Unfortunately people are constantly breaking this rule…please don’t be one of those people. 🙂 

The Best Things to do in the White Mountains

There is no shortage of things to do in the White Mountains! But assuming you’re like us and have limited time in the area, here are the hikes and sights we’d suggest prioritizing if it’s your first visit. 

See the sunrise from Artist Bluff

Artist Bluff White Mountains New Hampshire

Artist Bluff is a short, 1.5 mile trail that takes you to an overlook of Echo Lake and part of Franconia Notch. Because of its short distance (although it is pretty steep and rocky at the end) and beautiful view, it is a very popular spot. We suggest arriving around sunrise for the best chance of some solitude, however, don’t expect to be alone. 

We went for sunrise on a cloudy weekday morning and there were many more people than we are used to seeing so early, but there is thankfully a good amount of space to spread out, as well as a huge parking lot. When we saw the overlook mid-day while driving by another day, it was packed. 

Flume Gorge

Flume Gorge is a natural gorge that extends 800 feet and has Conway granite walls that are between 70-90 ft tall and 12-20 feet apart. You take a 2 mile loop trail, including some stairs and boardwalks, around and through the gorge, seeing a covered bridge, waterfalls, the river, and mountain views along the way.

It is one of our absolute favorite things we did in the White Mountains, but we almost skipped it! And a big reason why was the price. At the time of our visit in October 2021, it was $18 per adult, which seemed a bit steep for an activity out in nature. 

However, we are so glad we splurged on this. The gorge is magical and feels like walking in a fairytale, with tall, mossy rock walls towering over you. 

A few things to know before you visit: 

  • Make sure to make a reservation for a time slot in advance, as it can get busy and certain times may fill up. We recommend going for the first time slot, as it will be less busy (although there will still be people).
  • Dogs are not allowed in the Flume Gorge, so make sure they have a safe place to be.
  • The gorge closes in mid to late October and while part of the park is accessible in the winter, the actual gorge is not (they remove the walkways).

Another gorge option in the area is the Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves. Similar to the Flume Gorge, you’ll walk along wooden walkways through the gorge, but one advantage is that it also offers 11 boulder caves you can go in (some can be tight for adults). It costs $22 per adult when booked in advance, which is highly recommended. We hope to visit here next time! 

Franconia Notch State Park

White Mountains New Hampshire

Franconia Notch is an insane mountain pass between towering peaks and driving through it is bound to make your jaw drop. However, in addition to being a scenic drive, it’s also home to a state park, with a handful of trails and attractions, including Artist Bluff and Flume Gorge that we mentioned above. But beyond the spots we already shared, there’s a lot more to see! 

Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway

Cannon Mountain was the site of the first passenger aerial tramway in North America, which opened in 1938 and served over 7 million passengers, before being replaced.

Today, the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway can hold up to 80 people per car and goes 2,180 feet up to the top of Cannon Mountain, where you can walk around and enjoy the views from the top. It costs $25 per adult and is open late May to mid October for the summer season, but is also used in the winter for skiing.

Enjoy Echo Lake

Echo Lake is a gorgeous lake surrounded by mountains and is a great place to lay out in the summer, swim, fish, or go kayaking or paddle boating (they have rentals at the park).

It costs $4 per adult to visit the lake and parking can fill up, so it’s recommended that you book your spot in advance

Franconia Ridge Loop

Trails

There are a variety of trails in Franconia Notch State Park, including:

However, in our opinion, the best hike to do in Franconia Notch State Park is the Franconia Ridge Loop, which is 9.3 miles and gains 3,809 feet of elevation as it takes you to the top of Little Haystack, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Lafayette.

This hike has been rated the #1 trail on AllTrails for New Hampshire and is said to have some of the best views in New England. While we still need to hike more in New England to confirm that, we can say that the views on this hike are INCREDIBLE!

Read our hiking guide for the Franconia Ridge Loop to learn more about the trail and what to expect!

Hike in the White Mountain National Forest

Hancock Overlook Kancamagus Highway New Hampshire

In addition to the hikes in the state parks in the White Mountains, the White Mountain National Forest has tons of trails too! It would be hard to list every single trail in the national forest, but here are some popular ones to check out. 

Welch-Dickey Loop Trail
4.4 miles | 1,778 feet of elevation gain

This hike takes you to the top of Welch Mountain (2,605 feet) and Dickey Mountain (2,733 feet), with views of the Waterville Valley. It’s a great shorter hike option in the area!

Beaver Brook Trail to Mount Moosilauke
7.9 miles | 3,185 feet of elevation gain

Mount Moosilauke is one of New Hampshire’s 4,000 footers and while there are a handful of ways to get to the top, this route has a gorgeous waterfall along the way.

Hancock Trail
9.1 miles | 2,631 feet of elevation gain

The Hancock Trail starts on the Kancamagus Highway (more on that in a bit!) and offers views from two summits, although there are some trees, so you’ll need to walk down a bit to a more open view. Parts of the trail have a lot of loose rock, so make sure that you have sturdy shoes!

Mount Garfield Trail
9.6 miles | 2,988 feet of elevation gain

The hike up to Mount Garfield is a steady climb and once at the top, you’ll have sweeping views of the surrounding peaks!

Backpack the Presidential Traverse

Franconia Ridge Loop

For backpackers, the Presidential Traverse, which is 20.4 miles and has 8,211 feet of elevation gain, is an epic White Mountains experience! This trail takes you to the top of 10 summits in the Presidential Range, with most named after US presidents, including the highest point in New Hampshire, Mount Washington.

This hike is NOT for the inexperienced hiker. It is TOUGH, steep, and rugged, with sometimes unpredictable weather. This route is typically hiked from North to South and is suggested as a 2-3 day backpacking trip, with different camping areas along the way, as well as huts you can stop at for snacks and drinks (or stay the night in). 

To complete this, you will need to either take the AMC Shuttle back to your car, as it is not a loop trail, or have someone drop you off and pick you up.

Drive the Kancamagus Highway

Read our ultimate guide to driving the Kancamagus Highway to learn much more about the drive and the best stops to make!

Driving the scenic Kancamagus Highway (Kanc-ah-mah-gus), also known as the Kanc, is one of the top things to do in the White Mountains. This 34.5 mile scenic drive is named after Chief Kancamagus, who was a Native American known as the “Fearless One” and ruled Southern New Hampshire in the 17th century. 

The road started as two separate, unconnected roads, one road from Lincoln and one in Conway, and in the 30s, the CCC worked to connect the two roads, which took 25 years to finish.

Along the drive there are overlooks, waterfalls, trailheads, and more! We share more stops and things to know about the road in this guide, but some of our must-visit stops are:

Overlooks

There are many overlooks on the first half of the drive (when coming from Lincoln) and each one offers different views, so they are all worth stopping at!

Sabbaday Falls

We LOVED this stop and it was the best surprise! This quick, 0.7 mile round trip hike takes you to what looked like a miniature version of the Flume Gorge, with viewing platforms to see the water rushing through, as well as a gorgeous waterfall. 

Champney Falls

This 3 mile round trip hike takes you to Champney Falls, which falls over various levels, as well as Pitcher Falls. Pitcher Falls is tucked away and accessed from the lower part of Champney Falls and is a waterfall that flows down the side of a cliff. It’s very unique and was the highlight of the trail for us!

Rocky Gorge

Rocky Gorge is a quick, roadside stop that offers views of a…you guessed it…rocky gorge! This narrow gorge was carved by and has part of the river running through it. It can be viewed from the rocks along the river if the water level is low and also from a bridge.

Lower Falls

Lower Falls is another quick stop on the Kanc and features a river rushing over granite rocks, creating small waterfalls and swimming holes, which is great in the summertime!

Albany Covered Bridge

The Albany Covered Bridge was first constructed in 1858 and has been restored over time. You can either drive across this bridge if you’re in a small car or walk across. It makes for a fun photo opportunity and there are nice views of the river from the bridge.

Crawford Notch State Park

Crawford Notch State Park | Things to do in the White Mountains New Hampshire

We made a last minute decision to visit Crawford Notch State Park and we are SO glad we did! Similar to Franconia Notch, Crawford Notch is another pass with towering peaks and is gorgeous to drive through, but also has different hikes and sights to see!

Willey House

Back in the fall of 1825, the Willey family moved to the area and moved into a small house in Crawford Notch. The family expanded and renovated the house to turn it into an inn for guests driving through the area. But in June, heavy rains tore through the area and caused a landslide across the valley from the house, causing the Willeys to build a cave above the house just in case their side of the valley ever had danger.

In August, the area flooded and after the storm, and while the house itself was hardly touched and stayed in good condition due to being sheltered by a ledge, the bodies of the majority of the Willey family were found crushed by a landslide (three children were never found). It isn’t fully known what happened to the Willeys, but the story brought many more tourists to the area.

Today, the house is a visitor center and gift shop that you can visit to learn more of its history.

Crawford Notch State Park | Things to do in the White Mountains New Hampshire

Saco Lake

Saco Lake is a small roadside lake in the park with great views of the mountains around. You can walk around the lake along the 0.5 mile Saco Lake Trail or go for a quick hike up the 0.6 mile trail to Elephant Head.

Hikes

Similar to other areas of the White Mountains, there are many great hikes that start in Crawford Notch State Park!

Mount Willard
3.1 miles | 895 feet of elevation gain

This hike is a MUST, especially during fall foliage and at sunset. While the hike itself is just through the forest, the views at the top are incredible, with views of the valley below and mountains off in the distance. It was one of the best surprises of our time in the area! We started the hike before sunset and saw many people coming down, but had the top to ourselves (or shared with one other person), which was unexpected!

Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliffs
4.9 miles | 1,637 feet of elevation gain

This hike takes you to some smaller waterfalls, as well as the tallest waterfall in New Hampshire (Arethusa Falls) at 140 feet tall. While you can do this hike as an out and back trail, if you do the loop linked above you’ll get to hike to Frankenstein Cliffs for a great view too!

Mount Eisenhower, Pierce, Jackson, and Webster
12.1 miles | 4,104 feet of elevation gain

This is a long hike, but gives you the chance to summit four of the Presidential peaks in the White Mountains, three of which are 4,000 footers. You can also do one or two of these summits by themselves instead of in this large loop for a shorter hike. 

Ride a train

If you want to see some of the White Mountains in a unique way, ride a train! The White Mountains are home to two trains, the Conway Scenic Railway and the Hobo Railroad. Both offer a variety of excursions any time of year.

While we haven’t been on either, we rode a historic train in Durango, Colorado and loved the experience! If we had to pick between the two, we’d suggest doing the Mountaineer trip on the Conway Scenic Railroad, which takes you into the mountains in Crawford Notch. This excursion runs from mid June-early November.

Go to the top of Mount Washington

User: (WT-shared) Jtesla16 at wts wikivoyage, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Mount Washington is the tallest mountain in New Hampshire at 6,288 ft tall. It is known for having some of the most insane wind at the top, with the highest recorded being 231 MPH in 1934, the second highest wind speed ever recorded on earth. And it still has hurricane force winds about once every three days, which means you never really know what you’ll get at the top!

There are a few ways to visit Mount Washington, ranging in price and difficulty. 

Drive the Mount Washington Auto Road

The easiest way to get to the top of Mount Washington is to drive the Mount Washington Auto Road. This 7.6 mile road has pull outs to enjoy the views, before reaching the summit, where you can stay for as long as you’d like.

The road costs between $39-$45 for the car and driver, with additional fees for passengers ($14-$20), children ($9), and motorcycles ($45). So while not a cheap experience, it makes for a memorable drive!

There are vehicle restrictions though and our van was not allowed to drive this road. Make sure you know the rules beforehand so you don’t have to find out the hard way when arriving. 

If you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself or have the wrong vehicle, you can take a 2 hour guided tour where you can sit back and enjoy the views, without being behind the wheel.

Ride the Cog Railway

The Cog Railway is a unique way to get to the top of the Mount Washington summit! This was the world’s first mountain cog railway, created in the 1860s, and on the 3 hour ride you will get to experience history and see amazing views. There is also a museum at the base, where you can learn more about the history of the cog railway.

This experience is not cheap, which is why we skipped it, although it did look like a blast. Pricing does vary based on the type of train and you can see rates and the schedule here.

Hike to the top

The cheapest way, but most difficult way to get to the top of Mount Washington is to hike! However, if you plan to attempt this, make sure you have some hiking experience and plan for a clear day, as the weather can be dangerous at the top.

There are multiple ways to get to the top, but when we originally hoped to hike to the summit, we planned to hike Mount Washington via Jewell Trail, Gulfside Trail, and Crawford Path, which is 9.3 miles and 4,235 feet of elevation gain. This route takes you to the Lake of the Clouds hut, which has bunks if you want to stay overnight, meals for overnight guests, and snacks to buy for day hikers. This route also summits Mount Monroe too!

Visit a Ski Resort

Skiing is popular in the White Mountains and while this guide is focused on visiting in the summer and fall, the ski resorts in the area do offer things to do during the non-snowy seasons as well!

The major ski areas in the White Mountains are Cannon Mountain Ski Area, Loon Mountain, Bretton Woods Mountain Resort, and Attitash Mountain Resort. Each one offers scenic gondola or chairlift rides in the summer, with some offering additional activities, like Loon Mountain’s zipline and Attitash’s alpine slide, which is the longest in North America. 

Where to eat in the White Mountains

Looking for somewhere to eat while exploring the White Mountains? Here are some suggestions for the different larger towns around the area!

Littleton Area

The Coffee Pot Restaurant (Littleton)
Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton)
Polly’s Pancake Parlor (Franconia): This is said to be THE PLACE to get breakfast in the White Mountains. We weren’t able to squeeze it in, but it’s high on our list for next time.
Rek-Lis Brewing Company (Bethlehem)

Lincoln Area

Black Mtn. Burger Co. (Lincoln)
The Common Man (Lincoln)
White Mountain Bagel Co (Lincoln)

North Conway Area

Cheese Louise (Conway): We LOVED their grilled cheeses and the location is really cool, at the end of the Kanc!
Wicked Fresh Craft Burgers (North Conway): These burgers are SOLID! We loved the Wicked Hangry, as well as the herb fries with Wicked truffle sauce.
Flatbread Company (North Conway)
Peach’s Restaurant (North Conway)
Frontside Coffee Roasters (North Conway)

White Mountain Itinerary Options

Not that you know of many things to do in the White Mountains, it’s time to figure out what you want to do and how to organize your time. Here are some sample itineraries for 3-5 days to help get you started!

3 Day Itinerary

Day 1

  1. Start your time in the White Mountains with Artist Bluff for sunrise.
  2. Grab breakfast at Polly’s Pancake Parlor.
  3. Visit the Flume Gorge.
  4. Travel up Mount Washington either by car or cog railway. We suggest packing a lunch to enjoy at the top or on the way. If you want to hike to the top, we suggest dedicating a whole day to this.
  5. Have dinner at one of the restaurants we listed on this guide.

Day 2

  1. Spend the day doing a longer hike in the White Mountains! We suggest the Franconia Ridge Loop, but any of the longer hikes on this guide would be great!
  2. Enjoy a post-hike meal at one of the restaurants we listed on this guide and relax for the rest of the day.

Day 3

  1. Drive the Kancamagus Highway. We suggest starting right before sunrise so you can see the sunrise at the Hancock Overlook. This will also help you beat the crowds. Plan to spend half a day driving and stopping.
  2. Grab lunch at Cheese Louise, just at the end of the Kanc. 
  3. Spend the rest of the day at Crawford Notch State Park. We suggest hiking up Mount Willard close to sunset!
  4. Have dinner at Wicked Fresh Craft Burgers or Flatbread Company.

4 Day Itinerary

Day 1

  1. Start your time in the White Mountains with Artist Bluff for sunrise.
  2. Grab breakfast at Polly’s Pancake Parlor.
  3. Visit the Flume Gorge. 
  4. Travel up Mount Washington either by car or cog railway. We suggest packing a lunch to enjoy at the top or on the way. If you want to hike to the top, we suggest dedicating a whole day to this.
  5. Have dinner at one of the restaurants we listed on this guide.

Day 2

  1. Spend the day doing a longer hike in the White Mountains! We suggest the Franconia Ridge Loop, but any of the longer hikes on this guide would be great!
  2. Enjoy a post-hike meal at one of the restaurants we listed on this guide and relax for the rest of the day.

Day 3

  1. Drive the Kancamagus Highway. We suggest starting right before sunrise so you can see the sunrise at the Hancock Overlook. This will also help you beat the crowds. Plan to spend half a day driving and stopping.
  2. Grab lunch at Cheese Louise, just at the end of the Kanc. 
  3. Spend the rest of the day at Crawford Notch State Park. We suggest hiking up Mount Willard close to sunset!
  4. Have dinner at Wicked Fresh Craft Burgers or Flatbread Company.

Day 4

  1. Either spend the day doing another longer hike in the White Mountains or ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad.
  2. Enjoy a post-adventure meal at one of the restaurants we listed on this guide.

5 Day Itinerary

Day 1

  1. Start your time in the White Mountains with Artist Bluff for sunrise.
  2. Grab breakfast at Polly’s Pancake Parlor.
  3. Visit the Flume Gorge. 
  4. Travel up Mount Washington either by car or cog railway. We suggest packing a lunch to enjoy at the top or on the way. If you want to hike to the top, we suggest dedicating a whole day to this.
  5. Have dinner at one of the restaurants we listed on this guide.

Day 2

  1. Spend the day doing a longer hike in the White Mountains! We suggest the Franconia Ridge Loop, but any of the longer hikes on this guide would be great!
  2. Enjoy a post-hike meal at one of the restaurants we listed on this guide and relax for the rest of the day.

Day 3

  1. Drive the Kancamagus Highway. We suggest starting right before sunrise so you can see the sunrise at the Hancock Overlook. This will also help you beat the crowds. Plan to spend half a day driving and stopping.
  2. Grab lunch at Cheese Louise, just at the end of the Kanc. 
  3. Spend the rest of the day at Crawford Notch State Park. We suggest hiking up Mount Willard close to sunset!
  4. Have dinner at Wicked Fresh Craft Burgers or Flatbread Company.

Day 4

  1. Spend the day doing another longer hike in the White Mountains!
  2. Enjoy a post-hike meal at one of the restaurants we listed on this guide and relax for the rest of the day.

Day 5

  1. Grab breakfast at either The Coffee Pot, White Mountain Bagel Co., or Peach’s Restaurant depending on where you’re staying.
  2. Enjoy one of the fun activities in the White Mountains, such as the Conway Scenic Railroad, a zipline or alpine slide, or the Aerial Tramway.
  3. If you have more time, do one of the shorter hikes listed on this guide, such as Lonesome Lake, Mount Pemigewasset, or the Welch-Dickey Loop! 
  4. Have a final dinner at one of the restaurants we listed on this guide.

Ready to visit the White Mountains?

Pin this list of things to do in the White Mountains to help plan your trip!

about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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