White Mountains Trail National Scenic Byway
Group Itinerary ~ Full Day Tour
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The White Mountains have long been known for natural splendor, cultural richness, historical charm and stimulating recreation as well as some of the most beautiful scenery in the eastern United States. The White Mountains Trail, designated a National Scenic Byway in 1998, encompasses all these aspects over the course of its 100-mile route. The Trail is a loop tour that winds through sections of the 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest and past many of the region's most popular attractions. It can be driven in a day or can be the object of an entire vacation's worth of relaxation, exploration, and discovery.
First: The White Mountains Trail begins at the White Mountains Visitor Center in North Woodstock. The friendly staff is ready with free brochures, maps, and tips on all the best things to see and do. Learn about the area through various displays and audio-visual presentations. Take a few minutes to browse the Gift Shop and check out the White Mountains National Forest Information Desk and Interpretive Center located in the authentic post and beam barn. You’ll learn about everything from area wildlife to building stone walls and the gilded era of Grand Hotels to the multi-uses of the Forest today. The Visitor Center is open 7 days a week, year-round.
Next: Drive the Kancamagus Highway. The “Kanc” stretches 34.5 miles across the White Mountains from Lincoln to Conway. This scenic road climbs to nearly 3,000 feet as it traverses the flank of Mt. Kancamagus at the height of land in Lincoln, and offers outstanding opportunities for distant mountain views, and native flora and fauna. The Kancamagus Highway was dedicated as the first of the National Scenic Byways in the northeastern United States in 1996 for its recreational opportunities and aesthetic, cultural and historic values. The road is open year-round.
Motorcoach-friendly suggested stops include Pemigewasset Overlook, CL Graham Wangan Overlook, Rocky Gorge Scenic Area, and/or Albany Covered Bridge.
Then: Arrive in North Conway Village for shopping and lunch on your own. North Conway features a classic village green, known as Schouler Park, which is a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch or do some people-watching against a mountain backdrop. Observe trains come and go from the beautifully restored 1874 Victorian station of the Conway Scenic Railroad. Explore local shops and art galleries, plus partake in a delicious lunch at one of the many cafes, fine restaurants, and fun pubs.
Shops not to be missed include the Bavarian Chocolate Haus, Eastern Slope Branch of the New England Ski Museum (free admission), League of NH Craftsmen Fine Craft Gallery, North Conway Five & Ten, and Zeb’s General Store.
After that: Travel through Crawford Notch State Park and Crawford Notch. Along this stretch of road, you’ll encounter the trailheads for some of the most popular hikes in the White Mountains, the site of the historic Willey Slide, beautiful waterfalls, and several scenic overlooks.
Motorcoach-friendly suggested stops include Willey House Historic Site & Pond, Silver Cascade, and/or Mt. Washington Hotel & Resort Scenic Overlook (site of the 1944 World Monetary Conference). Then travel through Bretton Woods and Twin Mountain to make your way to Franconia Notch State Park.
Finally: End the day with a stop in Franconia Notch State Park at The Basin, a large pothole in the Pemigewasset River. This granite feature had its beginning some 25,000 years ago. As the Ice Age ended, water flowed from the melting glacier that filled Franconia Notch and eroded the solid bedrock. During the thousands of years that followed sand and stones were whirled around by the force of the river causing a boring action that left the sidewalls smooth. This stop includes about a 10-minute walk to and from the waterfall with a handicapped overlook available for those who are unable to complete the walk.
- Shop at top outlet brands, stroll public art and gardens, and eat lunch on your own at Settler’s Green.
- Enjoy a scenic ride to the summit of Loon Peak in Loon Mountain Resort’s White Mountains Express Gondola Skyride.
- Take a personally conducted tour of Fadden’s Sugarhouse, including a maple syrup sample, and a self-guided tour of the general store and maple museum.