For those visitors looking to take a midweek getaway, you will find that some of our legendary attractions have special days and hours this season (with many closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Don't be discouraged though! There are still several ways to enjoy some time in the White Mountains.
Whatever your reason is for joining us midweek this summer, here are 7 natural wonders of the White Mountains that you need to experience.
#1: GET NEARER TO NATURE AT SQUAM LAKES NATURAL SCIENCE CENTER
Nature, but make it approachable for all. We're down! The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Ashland, NH is the perfect place to start your journey through NH's natural world. The Science Center is just a quick drive east from I-93 (making it a super convenient stop if you're headed north towards the White Mountains from points south) and boasts boardwalks meandering through all manner of the forest, marsh, and meadow habitat. Along the way, visitors will encounter a series of expansive enclosures that showcase NH's wild and rescued/rehabilitated animals in their natural habitat.
One of our favorite things about this stop is the variety of engaging exhibits for kids of all ages, as well as the Science Center's small fleet of wheelchairs and strollers to ensure the whole family can discover the wonders of nature, all together.
If you plan on visiting before September 30, be on the lookout for the Giant Insects exhibit which can be found throughout the trail system. Each animatronic insect includes an informative sign which discusses each fascinating insect in-depth.
For more information on accessibility, hours, and special exhibits, visit the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center website.
#2: HIKE TO A WATERFALL
Go chase those White Mountains waterfalls! But start your journey at Arethusa Falls in Crawford Notch. This captivating 160' waterfall is named after the Arethusa of Greek mythology, a nymph who turned into a fountain. Today, the feeling of palpable magic at the base of this cascade has made it one of the most popular waterfalls in all of the White Mountains.
To reach Arethusa, pack your hiking shoes, snacks, and water, and park at the large trailhead lot. You have 1.5 miles of rocky, rooty walking to get to the waterfall, but the woods are wonderful this time of year, and Arethusa awaits. If you're with little ones, make a game out of spotting chipmunks, wildflowers, and other interesting outdoorsy things along the way; your hike will fly by in a haze of happy summer memories.
Ready to see some more cascades? Read up on 5 Quick Waterfall Hikes in the White Mountains!
#3: VISIT A GHOST TOWN
Let's get outside, but with a side of spooky!
Located on Sawyer River Road, about 4 miles from Bartlett Village on Route 302, is the ghost town of Livermore. An approximate 1.5-mile trek up the old dirt road will lead you to the overgrown remnants of an old logging town. You may spot some cellar holes from homes that are long gone, the chimney from the sawmill, or a rusted-out safe. Explore carefully, and take only pictures at this spot, no matter how tempting any old artifacts might be.
If you are looking to continue on the trail, continue approximately 2 miles past Livermore to Sawyer Pond, which offers scenic views, tent platforms, and an outhouse along its shore. This is one of the many short hikes in the White Mountains that we would recommend for adventurous families.
#4: EXPLORE THE DISCOVERY TRAIL INTERPRETIVE SITE
The Kancamagus Highway is exhilaratingly scenic, but we still like to stretch our legs a few times during the drive. The Discovery Trail Interpretive Site is an easy option located on the eastern side of the Kanc, just 6.2 miles off Exit 32 in Lincoln, NH. Pay special attention to the interpretive panels interspersed along the 1.4-mile loop path for some fresh perspectives on the ecology and history of the White Mountains.
#5: TAKE A BIKE RIDE
There are many places to ride a bike in the White Mountains, but the 9-mile (one-way) Franconia Recreation Path located in the heart of Franconia Notch gives you a mix of uphill, downhill, and breathtaking views. Book a bike rental through Sport Thoma or Rodgers Ski & Sport in nearby Lincoln, NH, or you bring your own! Also, if you're down for a bit of hiking alongside your peddling, take a 1-mile roundtrip walk to The Basin, a gorgeous glacial pothole waterfall.
To access the trail from the south, park at the Flume Gorge. To access the trail from the north, park at Echo Lake or Cannon Mountain. Please note, that all parking areas can be full during the busy summer months. Another option? Utilize Sport Thoma's summertime shuttle service after securing your bike rental.
#6: CLIMB AN ELEPHANT'S HEAD
Located in Crawford Notch, this rock face is aptly named as it bears a strong resemblance to an elephant’s head and trunk! This easy .3-mile hike will only take you about 30 minutes to complete and offers stunning views for minimal effort.
Ready for more interesting formations? Rock your socks off with a hiking/driving tour of the White Mountain's best geologic features.
#7: DRIVE THE WHITE MOUNTAINS TRAIL
If you are looking to soak in the scenery, consider taking a drive on this 100-mile loop. The trail begins in North Woodstock and brings you through Franconia Notch, Bretton Woods, North Conway, and into Lincoln. There are many scenic vistas, trails, and shops to explore along the way and you just might see a moose or two.
Our favorite way to tackle the White Mountains Trail is to add in the other stops from this blog or pull inspiration from these Trip Ideas and make it a nature-centric extravaganza.
We'll see you out in the woods, nature lovers!