Great Family Getaways in New Hampshire
For our family, summertime offers the opportunity to do some hiking, swimming and camping. As a result, we’ve spent many of the past years looking for new places to explore within reasonable driving distance from Montreal. The White Mountains of New Hampshire offer a great combination of these activities, along with plenty of other family attractions, great tax-free shopping and a wide range of accommodations for those times when sleeping outdoors is not an option.
The big draw for our family is Mount Washington. As the highest peak in the U.S. northeast (6,288 feet above sea level), it appeals to tourists and outdoors enthusiasts from all over. Some of the most severe weather in the world has been recorded at its summit weather observatory, including the world wind speed record of 231 mph. Before you hike Mount Washington, you must always check weather advisories and plan accordingly, even during the summer.
The mountain is surrounded by a 52-acre state park with trails and campgrounds. If you decide to go hiking, be aware that from the base of the mountain there is a steady upward gain in elevation through pleasant forest surroundings. But as you near the top, however, your hike turns into a scramble over giant boulders that are not suitable for young children. For the less adventurous, there are the more comfortable options of the Auto Road (formerly known as the Carriage Road) and the famous Cog Railway. Views from the top are spectacular on a clear day, but be warned that the summit is often called the “city of clouds” for good reason! Check out the website for more information on trails, conditions and attractions: www.mountwashington.com
Another favourite destination is the town of North Conway, which offers fabulous shopping at its many factory outlets and shops. You can also rent a canoe, play mini-golf, go up in a glider, take out an all terrain vehicule, go fishing or rock climbing and play golf. And all of this with the scenic backdrop of more than 700,000 acres of protected national forest.
The Franconia Notch area is also known for its panoramic views and attractions. Even though the mountaintop’s spectacular natural rock formation of the Old Man on the Mountain is no longer there (it crumbled to the grounds a few years ago), you can still admire the Indian Head and Old Man’s Foot formations. The Appalachian Trail crosses through this area as well. Families looking for a very accessible hike should not miss the Flume, an 800-foot-long gorge that for decades has enthralled visitors with its beauty and offers a gentle shady hike on a looped trail over covered bridges. The Flume Visitors’ Centre also offers a lot of interesting information and displays about the area. Visit www.franconianotch.org/index.html for more information.
Another outdoor spot to recommend is The Basin and The Cascades. The Basin is a large pothole, with a diameter of 22 feet, in the Pemigawasset River, carved thousands of years ago by the melting of glacial waters. A small waterfall pours into the Basin and swirls around its granite walls before passing over the Old Man’s Foot, a rock formation at the start of the rapid river.
A short way through the woods along the Basin-Cascade Path is a long series of cascades and open ledges leading to Kinsman Falls. These are well worth the slight extra effort and time to visit.
When you’re ready to go in from the great outdoors (or escape the occasional rain shower), the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort and Spa in North Conway features the 40,000-square-foot indoor Kahuna Laguna Water Park. Kids of all ages will love the slides, wave pool and water cannons. A separate area is designated for the youngest members of your family, so they can splash around safely. www.redjacketresorts.com.
Additional resources on attractions and accommodations are available at the following websites. You can order a vacation guide and learn all about the White Mountain area by calling (800) 346-3687 or at www.visitwhitemountains.com
The Mount Washington Auto Road at Great Glen offers historical information, pictures, directions and information about rates. www.mtwashingtonautoroad.com
For more information on accommodation options in the White Mountains, Mt. Washington Valley Accommodations covers the variety of condos and hotel facilities offered. www.mtwashingtonaccomodations.com
Red Jacket Mountain View Resort and Spa and Fox Ridge Resort (North Conway). Includes the Kahuna Laguna Water Park. www.redjacketresorts.com
Mount Washington Resort www.brettonwoods.com
The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel www.thebalsams.com
Whale's Tale Water Park
Lincoln • (603) 745-8810 • www.whalestalewaterpark.net
Six Gun City and Fort Splash Water Park
Route 2, Jefferson • (603) 586-4592 • www.sixguncity.com
Wet and Wild Fun Indoor Water Park
at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort & Spa and Fox Ridge Resort
North Conway • (800) 752-2538 • www.redjacketresorts.com