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Easy Hikes In The White Mountains of New Hampshire
Towering Glaciated Peaks
The White Mountains of New Hampshire consist of a series of spectacular mountain ranges that extend through northern New Hampshire into western Maine. The high peaks abound with rugged trails that give ambitious hikers a strenuous workout, while leading to rocky summits with commanding views. The high peaks provide exhilarating outdoor experiences for the adventuresome hiker, yet those, who are just out to enjoy an easy afternoon stroll will also find plenty of rewarding countryside to explore. For beneath the windswept crags, there awaits numerous waterfalls, rivers, lakes, brooks, bogs, high cliffs and forests for anyone, who wishes to take in the quieter side of nature. Following are a few suggestions for the casual walker.
View from the Lowlands
Crawford Notch Region
West of North Conway and the Mount Washington is the Crawford Notch region of the White Mountains. Here NH State Highway 302 climbs steeply through the picturesque notch to the train depot at Crawford Notch. Hikers can use the renovated depot building as a jumping off spot for an easy 900 foot climb up Mt. Willard. Mt. Willard is not really a summit just a high cliff that overlooks the Crawford Notch Valley. This climb makes for a good winter ramble on snowshoes, just be sure to keep an eye on the weather.
From Pinkham Notch
At Pinkham Notch there is a popular visitor center run by the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club). Good food is available here, along with places to stay and a terrific 3-D map of the area. Hikers have all kinds of choices with trails that depart the popular meeting spot. Many will enjoy a walk up to Lowe's Bald Spot, where a excellent view into the Great Gulf waits. This walk includes a 900 foot climb that crosses the Mount Washington Auto Road and ends at the rocky outlook. Also in the area are quiet walking paths to Lost Pond and several waterfalls.
The White Mountain National Forest contains most of the White Mountains. This federal entity also includes a small portion of Maine, known as the Evans Notch section. Many outdoor enthusiasts come here to escape the more crowded New Hampshire portion. Hikes of all skill levels are available from Maine Highway 113, which proceeds north from Fryeburg through the notch. One of the easier trails in the region is the climb over Deer Hill. This walk has a few steep sections, but yields a stunning view without having to put forth much effort. A round trip can be made from the Rte. 113 trail junction.
Near North Conway
North Conway is one of the most visited towns of the White Mountain region. Accented by the unusual mountain silhouette of Moat Mtn. in the west, the long sprawling town is filled with restaurants, motels, outlet stores and outfitters. Nonetheless within several miles of the main strip, there exist several fascinating walks, accented by intriguing rock formations. Diana's Bath consists of a cool mountain stream passing over slick slabs of hard granite. Nearby are two more outstanding rock formations that are very popular with rock climbers. They are called Cathedral Ledge and White Horse Ledge. Hikers will enjoy the trail up either promontory, which overlooks beautiful Echo lake and supplies a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside..
The Old Man Is Gone
The Old Man of the Mountains has gone. Time and gravity have removed the natural rock sculpture that was once the icon of the White Mountains. Nonetheless hikers will enjoy a walk around Profile Lake, which was so named because of the excellent view of the rock face pictured above. This is an easy, 1/2 mile loop on a paved surface that also provides some bird watching opportunities. Profile Lake is located in the Franconia Notch State Park near Cannon Mt. Ski Area.
Off The Kanc
The Kancamagus Highway is a wilderness trail all in itself, as the scenic road follows the Swift River, rises to Kancamagus Pass and then drops sharply by Loon Mountain Ski area to the town of Lincoln. On hot summer days the river is filled with swimmers. Hikers will find that the highway is a great access to all sorts of wilderness trails. There is an easy walk that will take you to Greeley Ponds, which lie at the base of Mt. Osceola. The trailhead can be found just west of the pass. The trail is about three miles one way with a 500 foot elevation change.