New Hampshire has lots of great places, state parks and national forests. The White Mountains is one of the best well-known destinations on the East Coast, and for a good reason! The area is majestically beautiful and it has something for everyone!
Traveling with kids, especially with toddlers, is challenging. You cannot hit longer trails, you need to plan ahead and you will likely have to change those plans as you go.
We have been to New Hampshire a lot, but the White Mountains absolutely stole our hearts. We had only one weekend to spend there, and we brought kids with us, so challenging trails were out of the question. So we had to be creative. And the area didn’t disappoint!
If you have just a couple of days to spend in the White Mountains, and
1. Ride The Mount Washington Cog Railway
Best time to visit: September-October (if you are into foliage!)
Mount Washington is the highest peak in New Hampshire as well as in the whole Northeastern United States. It is definitely the most famous peak in the White Mountains. And there are trails to climb it if you are brave enough. You can also drive your car up and down, but from what I read, the way down is treacherous. It is narrow, unprotected, foggy and heavy in traffic.
We didn’t want to take the risk, especially being with kids.
So we ended up opting for a train rude up the Mount Washington!
Yes, this option really exists. You heard me right.
It is the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world climbing to 6288′ in approximately 45 minutes.
The round trip to the summit and back is just under 3 hours.
There are two types of trains: The coal-operated (which was the original train back in 1869 when the railway was launched) and the biodiesel-operated ones (which are easier to book, a bit cheaper and – what’s more important – much more eco-friendly).
We booked the biodiesel train, and it didn’t disappoint. Less smoke, same gorgeous views on your ascend.
When you start at the base, you have no idea what awaits you at the summit. We were met with 0 visibility, icy-cold wind and snow, even though it was gorgeous weather at the base.
We loved the experience because it was so adventurous! Mount Washington once held a record as the windiest place on Earth, and we certainly felt it!
We didn’t see any views at the summit but we left with lots of memories. Kids enjoyed it a lot!
Tips if you decide to take the mountain-climbing train in the White Mountain National Forest:
- Try and book the first or the last row in the train: You’ll see gorgeous views! You’ll have the same seats on your way up and down!
- If you cannot book the coal-operated train, don’t let it prevent you from going! The biodiesel trains are as much fun as coal-operated ones, only it’s less smoke and better for the environment.
- Dress in layers. Regardless of what the weather looks like at the base, it will be cold and windy on the top!
2. Hike the Flume George
The Flume Gorge is a gorgeous place in NH that offers great views and lots of fun for kids.
The hike is easy. We had a five-year old with us and she did fine. We were short of time, so we did the whole hike in under an hour, but plan to spend there at least a couple of hours to really enjoy it!
The best time to visit is spring or early fall: The waterfalls will be gushing!
Tips if you decide to hike the Flume George:
- Plan to spend at least two hours there, especially if you have kids hiking with you
- There is no swimming in the river
- There are a few caves along the hike and kids have lots of fun climbing them!
- Be careful: The trail is often wet because of all the water. Have proper footwear ready. Here’s what we use:
3. Drive around!
When we arrived to the White Mountain National Forest, we didn’t have much luck with the weather, which is very common in the area. It was rainy and misty, and not quite the hiking weather. But the drives are gorgeous there!
Make sure to make lots of stops when driving the White Mountain National Forest:
- Willy’s House is a great place to pick up some park information and souvenirs. Cross the street for awesome views of the river!
- Crawford Notch Scenic parking area offers great views of the surrounding mountains
- Elephant Rock is another great parking area with great views. A very short and easy hike (0.3 miles) offers stunning views!
- Silver Cascade Falls is one of the most beautiful roadside attractions you’ll see. It doesn’t require any hiking to see and you can spend some time at the base!
We spent two days on the area, so we will be back because there’s so much more! But even if you have one or two days, take some time to enjoy great views and local attractions!