Fall is finally upon us. Cool weather is cutting through the haze and humidity of summer. Soon the leaves will change and the infamous New England foliage will draw thousands to the area. Most will drive through the numerous forests, commenting and photographing what little they can on their way to their final destination. The slightly more adventurous, however, will have other plans.
Mount Washington Valley and, more specifically, the White Mountain National Forest is home to more than 1,200 miles of scenic trails. The best way to experience New England in the fall is to hike them. Here are a few that I’d highly recommend!
1 mile – Easy
Lovequist Loop is more of a leisurely stroll than a rigorous hike. The trail “loops” around Falls Pond while offering stunning views of the Rocky Gorge Scenic Area. Lovequist is perfect for families with small children, senior citizens, or anyone else in search of an easy way to enjoy all that the White Mountain National Forest has to offer. Access it Kancamagus Scenic Byway.
1.8 miles – Difficult
While the hike itself isn’t particularly long, Winniwetta Falls can be tricky to find. This trail features plenty of forks thanks to its location within the Jackson Cross Country Trail Network, as well as a small stream that you must traverse sans bridge. The falls themselves aren’t located directly off the trail so you’ll need to listen for the rushing water to find them but I assure you the view is worth the trek. Make sure to keep track of your path for the return trip!
Black Cap Mountain
2 miles – Easy
Black Cap Mountain trail is a relatively easy out-and-back hike. It is well-marked and guides you through unforgettable views of the White Mountains and Presidential Range. Wildflowers are plentiful along the trail, as are activities designed to keep hikers of all ages engaged. Feel free to bring your canine friend along for the walk but be sure to keep him on a leash. You can access the Black Cap Mountain trail near North Conway, New Hampshire.
2 miles – Easy
Mountain Pond is a relatively flat trail which makes it ideal for nature-lovers seeking a longer hike without excessive strain. The pond loop sits squarely underneath the Doublehead Mountains so photo opportunities are abundant. I strongly recommend this loop for individuals interested in catching a glimpse of the diverse wildlife calling New Hampshire home. Owls and Loons can often be found near Mountain Pond.
The Imp Face
|4.4 miles (out and back) OR 6.3 miles (loop) – Intermediate
Height enthusiasts and viewfinders alike love The Imp Face, a rocky outcropping located approximately halfway around the loo, as it offers impressive views of the valley below. Adventurers will enjoy the ascending the numerous stairs, crossing Imp Brook, and climbing the wooden ladder required to make it to the cliff face. Much of the trail is uphill so be prepared for a cardio workout on your way to the top. You can access the trail from Route 16.
Mt. Kearsage North
5.7 miles – Difficult
This particular trail is meant for experienced hikers only. It gains over 2,500 feet in elevation and covers more than five (5) miles of mountain terrain. The atmosphere is primarily forested but that won’t stop you from encountering traffic. Mt. Kearsage North is a popular trail for hiking, snowshoeing, and trail running. Expect the heaviest usage between April and October.
This trail is best navigated on dry days, as previous hikers warn of slippery tree roots and rocks in damp or wet weather. You can access the trailhead near Bartlett, New Hampshire.
10 miles – Difficult
Even though it’s the tallest mountain in the Carter-Moriah Mountain range, Carter Dome itself isn’t as alluring as the beautiful 10 mile trail that incorporates several other White Mountain attractions. If you plan ahead, you’ll be able to see better views from the neighboring Mount Height, hike part of the Appalachian Trail, and stop for snacks at Carter Notch. This hike can be long, and is listed as difficult in most trail guides so use caution.
For convenient access to most of the White Mountain National Forest trails, try staying at Topo Pino. They offer a retreat-like atmosphere and are ideally located on scenic property near the National Forest. If you’d really like to experience all the New England foliage has to offer, ask Topo Pino about their Tentrr glamping site!