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There are so many cool things to do in the White Mountains of New Hampshire! This part of the Granite State is one of the most beautiful places in New England and a true four-season destination. Whether you come for hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter, leaf-peeping in the fall, or maple sugaring in the spring, you’ll find plenty of adventures here.
A lot of people think that the White Mountains is mainly about getting outside and, frankly, getting dirty. Hiking for days on end, camping, getting covered with mud and coming home in need of a shower.
But it’s WAY more than that! Did you know there’s wine tasting here? And winter zip-lining? Great breweries and distilleries, an epic pancake house, outlet shopping that will knock your socks off?
The White Mountains has it all — and that’s why so many New Englanders come here year after year.
Now it’s time for us to share our favorite places with you. Here are the best things to do in the White Mountains, NH!
White Mountains NH FAQ
Some of the all-time best things to do in the White Mountains are taking the Mount Washington Cog Railway, hiking to Artist’s Bluff, and driving the Kancamagus Highway.
There are hikes to waterfalls for kids of all ages and abilities, and young kids will love Story Land. There are some great water parks here, too.
The best fall foliage is in early October, but it’s a busy and expensive time to visit. Summer is great for hiking and winter is fun, too.
Go brewery-hopping or wine tasting, go shopping in North Conway, or hit up Jackson for a museum and puzzle shop!
Hike to Artist’s Bluff
What makes a perfect hike in the White Mountains? An energizing journey, a well-marked trail, and a fantastic view. If that sounds good to you, you’ll want to hike the Artist Bluff Trail in Franconia, where you’ll be rewarded with one of the most famous views in the White Mountains.
The 1.5-mile trail begins at a parking lot just past Echo Lake (the one in the west), where you continuously ascend before heading a bit downhill again. At one point, you can take an optional turnoff to climb Bald Mountain. We consider this trail to be moderately difficult, and doable for older kids who are experienced hikers.
Finally, when it feels like surely you must have missed it by now, there it is — the pathway to the rock ledge overlooking Franconia Notch. And what a view it is. Mountain slopes in every direction, still navy waters in Echo Lake, and endless red and orange landscapes if you happen to enough to do the hike in early October.
Keep in mind that Artist’s Bluff gets very busy during peak foliage, and you could be sharing the view with dozens of other hikers — but visit at other times of year and you might have it all to yourself. (We also think Artist’s Bluff is one of the nicest places to propose in New Hampshire!)
Drive the Kancamagus Highway
Looking for a great scenic drive in New Hampshire? Go for the most scenic drive of all — the Kancamagus Highway. This American scenic byway takes you through the White Mountain National Forest, with Lincoln at one end and Conway on the other.
It’s incredible how much there is to see along this highway. You can drive from end to end in a little under an hour, but you could easily spend the whole day here! Some of the highlights are Sabbaday Falls, a lovely waterfall a short walk from the highway; Rocky Gorge, a dynamic waterfall area leading to the Lower Falls; several scenic overlooks with panoramic views over the landscapes; the Russell-Colbath House, where a local historian will tell you spine-tingling stories; and the Albany Covered Bridge, dating back to 1857.
There are campgrounds along the Kancamagus, but no hotels, gas stations, or restaurants, so bring a full tank and a lunch!
If you’re up for a hike, hiking the Lincoln Woods Trail to Franconia Falls is a flat but long journey, while Champney Falls is more of a challenge, even taking you up to Mount Chocorua if you want to go further.
While you can safely drive the Kanc year-round, there’s nothing like driving it during peak foliage in early October. And be sure to pick up a Kancamagus Highway audio guide, which tracks you via GPS and narrates what you’re seeing.
Read More: Guide to Driving the Kancamagus Highway, NH
Ride the Mount Washington Cog Railway
If you’re looking for the most interesting way to get to the top of New England’s highest peak, you can’t do better than the Mount Washington Cog Railway! This traditional train became the world’s first mountain-climbing railway when it was built in 1868, and to this day it’s the most unique journey you can take in the White Mountains!
Hop on the vintage train and soon you’ll be chug-chug-chugging your way up to the top. You’ll pass Profile Rock, evoking the Old Man of the Mountain, and ascend the 37.41% grade Jacob’s Ladder, the second steepest mountain railway in the world. Then the mountains of the Presidential Range will appear to your left: Mount Clay, Mount Jefferson, Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson.
And finally you’ll be at the Mount Washington Summit! You’ll have enough time to take in the views, pose with the Mount Washington Summit sign, and have a nose through the Extreme Mount Washington Museum. And before you know it, it’s time to head down the mountain again.
Keep in mind that the Mount Washington Cog Railway departs from Marshfield Station in Bretton Woods — an hour’s drive from the Mount Washington Auto Road entrance on the other side of the mountain in Gorham.
Read More: Guide to Riding the Mount Washington Cog Railway
Explore the Flume Gorge
The Flume Gorge, located near Lincoln in Franconia Notch State Park, is one of the most popular places to visit in the White Mountains — and for good reason. This narrow granite gorge was originally formed more than 200 million years ago, and today you can walk along boardwalks taking you straight through it.
As you climb up the boardwalks, you’ll hear the rushing waters of Flume Brook grow louder and louder. Vegetation sprouts out of every square inch here, mosses and tiny ferns dotting the landscape, and everything is between two giant slabs of granite. The air smells incredibly fresh and lovely.
Eventually you’ll get to the top of the gorge, where Avalanche Falls greet you thunderously.
The entire gorge is one of the most photogenic places in New Hampshire, and this will be one of the places you’ll still be dreaming of long after your White Mountains trip.
Enjoy the Best Fall Foliage Of Your Life
Do you dream of getting to see real New England fall foliage once in your life? Head to the White Mountains. They will deliver a thousand times over. Even if you’re a lifelong New Englander, like many White Mountains visitors are, there’s just no comparison anywhere else in the world.
So how do you plan a trip around leaf-peeping in New Hampshire?
First of all, aim for the right time. Early October is generally your best bet for peak foliage in the White Mountains, though keep in mind this can vary from year to year. Sometimes if foliage isn’t quite hitting yet, it helps to go further north or to a higher elevation. The converse is true, too.
Secondly, book your accommodation as early as possible. Fall foliage is the busiest and most expensive time of year in the White Mountains (as well as the only time the region gets lots of international tourism), and small inns tend to book out immediately. (I made bookings in May for the Sugar Hill Inn in October, and could only get a single Wednesday night!)
Thirdly, go through our New Hampshire fall foliage guide to figure out your priorities for your visit. Choose your regions and activities and anything that needs to be booked in advance, like the Mountaineer on the Conway Scenic Railroad, book it as soon as you can!
Read More: New Hampshire Fall Foliage: Where and When to See It
Ski the White Mountains
Looking to hit the slopes this winter? There are plenty of ski resorts in the White Mountains! Whether you’re looking to learn to ski, bring the whole family, or tear down the mountain solo, there’s a resort for you.
For resorts that have something for everyone, we’re big fans of Waterville Valley and Loon Mountain Resort. These two ski areas have excellent facilities that cater to both beginners and more experienced skiers, and make particularly good options for families or mixed groups. Attitash Mountain Resort is another great option for families with young kids.
If you’re a skilled skier looking for a challenge, we recommend hitting up Cannon Mountain or Wildcat Mountain. These two resorts aren’t the fanciest ones around, but they deliver some of the most hardcore slopes in the Granite State. Olympian Bode Miller, a NH native, trained at Cannon Mountain.
No matter where you go, pick up some new gear at Lahout’s Ski Shop. This New Hampshire mainstay is the oldest ski shop in America, and you can find their shops in Lincoln and Littleton.
Read More: Best NH Ski Resorts
Enjoy North Conway
North Conway is the most popular resort town in the White Mountains — and all of New Hampshire! A true year-round travel destination, North Conway is one part quaint mountain village, one part shopping mecca, and one part launching pad into the mountains.
Don’t miss North Conway Village, the prettiest part of town with a classic New England feel. Here you can visit some of New Hampshire’s most beloved shops, like Zeb’s General Store and The Penguin toy store, and grab an inventively flavored coffee at The Met Coffee House before jumping on the Conway Scenic Railroad, anchored at its retro yellow train station.
North Conway is also home to the Settlers Green Outlets, which draw shoppers year-round (and have zero sales tax — thanks, New Hampshire!). Grab breakfast at a classic spot like Peach’s, or hit up Moat Mountain Brewery for a hearty lunch or dinner with a sampler of eight — yes, eight — beers! Take the kids on an easy hike to Diana’s Baths, or gear up to hike the Appalachian Trail nearby.
Whether you stay in one of North Conway’s classic B&Bs or a cabin in the woods nearby, you’ll soon see why thousands of New Englanders return to North Conway every year.
Read More: 31 Fun Things to Do in North Conway, NH
Imagine waking up to the calmness of the White Mountains, the scent of evergreen trees filling the air. Imagine winding down your day with a campfire and a s’more or two before heading to bed, crickets chirping around you. The White Mountains are an enormously popular camping destination, and for good reason.
Whether you prefer to camp by tent, camper, or RV, there are plenty of campgrounds in the White Mountains with generously wooded sites.
We’re big fans of White Lake State Park in Tamworth, which has excellent swimming, and Lafayette Place Campground is a popular spot near Cannon Mountain. The Kancamagus Highway is home to several campsites within the White Mountain National Forest, including Passaconaway Campground and Blueberry Crossing Campground.
Not much of a camper yet? We recommend checking out Huttopia White Mountains in Albany, close to North Conway and the end of the Kancamagus Highway, where they have a camp of fully equipped tents already set up, steps from Iona Lake. Some of the nicer tents even have private bathrooms in them. It’s the perfect way to try out camping if you don’t have any equipment!
Breweries of the White Mountains
We love the brewery scene in New Hampshire! Across the Granite State, there are so many innovative breweries churning out far more than just New England IPAs!
We have several favorite breweries in the White Mountains that are worth visiting. Rek-Lis Brewing in Bethlehem is the ideal place to celebrate a successful hike, with lots of unusual beers on tap, plus delicious burgers and poutine in a convivial setting.
Ledge Brewing Company, just north of North Conway, delivers plenty of tasty home-brewed goodness — along with a tap made out of a giant slab of granite.
And Schilling Beer Company in Littleton is justifiably famous as one of New Hampshire’s best breweries, with a rotating slate of European-style beers you’ll struggle to find at other places in the Granite State.
Read More: The Best New Hampshire Breweries
Ride the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
Feel like taking a ride to the top of the White Mountains? Head straight to the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway in Franconia, where you can take a gondola to the top of Cannon Mountain. This was America’s first aerial tramway and is still the only one in New Hampshire.
From the top, you have sweeping views through Franconia Notch, as well as the Green Mountains in Vermont. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Maine, New York, and Canada!
At the top of the mountain are walking paths through the pine-scented forest that lead you to more viewpoints. We especially love coming here during fall foliage when oranges light up the mountains. You can also connect to hiking paths taking you down the mountain and beyond.
Once you’re back at the bottom, visit the Old Man of the Mountain museum on site, head next door to the free New England Ski Museum or head downhill to pay tribute to the Old Man of the Mountain at the memorial that re-creates the profile-shaped rock following its 2003 collapse.
Hit Up an Indoor Water Park
Yeah, it’s chilly in the White Mountains for most of the year — so we have some indoor water parks! You can enjoy yourself year-round, even if it’s snowing outside.
Kahuna Laguna Water Park is located at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort in North Conway. Open to resort guests only, this water park is a fun-filled family resort with wave pools, water slides, and more! (January 2023 update: Kahuna Laguna has been temporarily closed due to a massive fire at the resort in 2022, and we hope they will rebuild and reopen again soon.)
Alternatively, the Hampton Inn and Suites North Conway has a small water park on the premises, with two waterslides emptying out into a pool, plus a splash area. Sometimes that’s all you need for a great time! It’s open exclusively to hotel guests.
And if you’re up for an outdoor water park during the summer months, hit up Whale’s Tale Waterpark in Lincoln! It’s just a stone’s throw from Franconia Notch State Park and full of family-friendly rides and activities. And while it’s way more than just a water park, Santa’s Village in Jefferson hosts lots of water rides (one favorite: Ho Ho H2O) and places to cool off!
Read More: Best Outdoor and Indoor Water Parks in New Hampshire
Have a Festive Christmas Season in the White Mountains
Ever thought of coming to the White Mountains in late November or December? These months are a bit of a quiet time, as it’s past foliage time but before the ski resorts really get going. And lots of Christmas activities take place!
The Rocks in Bethlehem is one of our favorite Christmas tree farms in New Hampshire, thanks to their Christmas Memory Package. You can visit, harvest your own Christmas tree, enjoy a sleigh ride, and stay at a nearby hotel overnight.
Jackson puts on the Jingle Bell Chocolate Tour in November and December, where you travel by Austrian sleigh to different small businesses around town and receive chocolate treasures from each of the owners. It’s a festive way to get to know Jackson in style! Plus, CHOCOLATE.
The town of Littleton puts on a Christmas parade the Friday after Thanksgiving. And of course, Santa’s Village, the popular kids’ theme park in Jefferson, is popular throughout the summer and is also open on December weekends. Both the Conway Scenic Railroad and the Hobo Railroad offer Christmas trains.
And did you know that you can actually cut down your own Christmas tree in the White Mountain National Forest? We were floored to learn this! All you need is a permit that costs $5. The rules are strict, so be sure to follow them.
Read More: Christmas Events in New Hampshire
Squeeze Into Caves at Lost River Gorge
At first glance, Lost River Gorge in North Woodstock looks like another Flume Gorge — only privately owned, rather than part of Franconia Notch State Park. Indeed, there are many similarities, like the wooden boardwalks that take you through the gorge, moist air and lush greenery surrounding you.
But Lost River Gorge has something else — boulder caves! There are tons of these caves along the trail, from the Bear Crawl to the Judgement Hall of Pluto — and some of happen to be perfectly kid-sized, like the Lemon Squeezer. Your kids will delight in discovering secret hideaways where adults can’t fit!
(Not a cave fan? No worries. Every single cave is optional and you can skip them entirely while staying on the trail.)
For more cave fun, be sure to visit the Polar Caves in Rumney. Either place is fun for an afternoon of scrambling through the woods.
Stay in a Cozy B&B
The White Mountains are home to so many wonderful bed and breakfasts — they make a wonderful weekend getaway. North Conway alone is home to some of the best bed and breakfasts in New Hampshire, though if you look carefully, you’ll find them hidden into nooks and crannies in the White Mountains.
So which B&Bs are worth a special stay? In North Conway, we’re big fans of the Cranmore Inn, an excellent luxury B&B with rich furnishings just a two-minute walk from North Conway Village. You can enjoy their hot tub and heated pool, as well as many fireplaces.
Jackson is another excellent B&B destination, and we love how it feels like a quieter, more adult-oriented getaway from North Conway. The Christmas Farm Inn is one of our favorites in Jackson, boasting an excellent restaurant and spa among its amenities.
In the western mountains, the Adair Country Inn has some of the most glorious grounds we’ve seen, and spacious rooms with jacuzzi tubs, and an excellent restaurant on site.
And if you love small historic inns with character, we’ll recommend the Sugar Hill Inn, which while quirky (super creaky floors!), has loads of charm and serves a fantastic breakfast.
Read More: Best Bed and Breakfasts in North Conway
See a Moose in the Wild
Ever seen a moose in the wild? New Hampshire is a great place to go on a moose safari! From May through September, you can go searching for moose in the wilderness, thanks to a specially outfitted bus and guides that live for tracking them down!
You should know that there are a few different companies that offer New Hampshire moose tours, and while they’re all based in the White Mountains, they drive up into the Great North Woods, where you’re far likelier to see moose.
For that reasons, we at New Hampshire Way recommend Gorham Moose Tours. Being based in Gorham rather than North Conway or Lincoln, they’re far closer to the action and you’ll spend less time on the way to Moose Country. (To put things in perspective, we saw our first moose in the wild by Umbagog Lake close to the Maine border, about an hour’s drive from Gorham, but 90 minutes from North Conway and nearly two hours from Lincoln.)
There’s nothing like seeing a moose in the wild. They are majestic creatures and so peaceful. But as soon as you see the actual size of them in real life — especially if you spot a beefy male with antlers — you’ll realize why there are BRAKE FOR MOOSE signs all over the White Mountains!
Go Wine Tasting at Seven Birches Winery
Wineries in the White Mountains? 20 years ago, decent wineries in New Hampshire, period, would have been unthinkable. But today you can find wineries in all 50 states, and sometimes in improbable locations!
Seven Birches Winery is located at the Riverwalk Resort at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, and they offer a popular wine tasting experience. On this tour, you’ll chat with local winemakers, learn about what goes into making wines in this unorthodox environment, and then do some tasting — both young wines and finished wines.
Stick around after the tour to enjoy another glass and beautiful views over the landscape.
Hike to a Waterfall
The White Mountains are full of gorgeous waterfalls! And there are tons of hikes leading to them.
One of our favorite New Hampshire waterfall hikes is to Arethusa Falls, a 2.8-mile out-and-back moderate hike that makes an excellent afternoon excursion. Another option is Franconia Falls, a longer but mostly flat 6.8-mile out-and-back hike with a natural swimming hole that is beautifully framed by fall foliage in early October.
If you’re looking for an easy, family-friendly hike to a waterfall, we suggest the 15-minute walk to Sabbaday Falls along the Kancamagus Highway, or perhaps a visit to Diana’s Baths in Bartlett, an area full of waterfalls and pools where you can actually climb in!
Want an even easier option? Glen Ellis Falls is just a 10-minute walk from the parking lot, and the Silver Cascade is right on Route 302 in Crawford Notch, and it has a parking lot right across the street. Couldn’t be easier!
Spend a Day in Downtown Littleton
New Hampshire is no stranger to picture-perfect downtown areas, from Keene to Portsmouth. But our favorite downtown area in the White Mountains is the town of Littleton. With a population of just under 6,000, Littleton packs art, nature, and a lot of fun into its downtown!
Find your way to Littleton and check out all the interesting shops and restaurants on offer. We’re big fans of the Little Village Toy and Book Shop, with tons to browse for both kids and adults; Chutters Candy Shop is home to the Guinness record-breaking longest candy shop in the world, and Schilling Beer Company brews up fantastic European-style beers.
Take in the Riverwalk Bridge and the views along the Ammonoosuc River, and if you’re staying for longer, you can’t beat a nice meal at Tim-Bir Alley or fresh pancakes at the Littleton Diner the next morning! This is the kind of small town that people don’t think exists anymore — so go and enjoy it!
Read More: 23 Fun Things to Do in Littleton, NH
Have a Picnic at Echo Lake State Park
First off: there are two Echo Lakes in the White Mountains! One is in Franconia, the one you see from Artist Bluff, but Echo Lake State Park is located in Bartlett. This park has a lovely lake with a beach and lots of park benches. We think it makes a great spot for a picnic during your time around North Conway.
You can spend a day at the lake, which is a gorgeous shade of green, but we think it makes more sense as a shorter stop during a day of adventuring. You have an excellent view of Cathedral Ledge rising above the lake, and reflecting perfectly if it happens to be a still day.
Side note: if you have very young kids (think toddlers or young preschoolers), Echo Lake might be a good first hike ever to take them on. It takes adults about 10 minutes to walk around the lake, so perhaps 20-30 for your group, and it’s a flat trail.
Take the Kids to Story Land
If you have young kids and are visiting the White Mountains, you must take them to Story Land! Located in Glen, just north of North Conway, Story Land is a small amusement park with a fairy tale theme that has been welcoming guests for more than 65 years.
Story Land is more for young kids than older kids — we recommend it for toddlers through elementary school-aged kids. Here you can enjoy more than 30 rides and attractions, from the Great Balloon Chase to the Roar-O-Saurus Coaster, from Cinderella’s Castle (with the glass slipper on display!) to Mother Goose Manor.
You can take a ride in a pumpkin coach, sit with Humpty Dumpty, or climb into the shoe where the old woman lived.
Speaking personally — hi, editor Kate here! — as a kid who traveled to the White Mountains every summer, Story Land was always the highlight of my year. We at New Hampshire Way know your kids will enjoy it just as much.
Eat All the Pancakes at Polly’s Pancake Parlor
The town of Sugar Hill, next door to Franconia, is one of the most beautiful rural towns in the White Mountains. You’ll constantly want to stop the car and photograph a barn set against the mountains, a quaint white church, the old-fashioned red fire truck in the town center.
But the absolute must-do in Sugar Hill is to stop at Polly’s Pancake Parlor, where they’ve been dishing up pancakes from scratch for more than 75 years. Served with real New Hampshire maple syrup, of course!
Today you can try all kinds of pancakes — oatmeal, cornmeal, buttermilk, gingerbread, pancakes, topped with blueberries or chocolate chips or coconut! They make gluten-friendly rice pancakes, and you can even get a pancake sampler if you want to try a few different ones! It’s the perfect fuel for a day of mountain exploration.
To avoid the peak crowds, we recommend hitting up Polly’s for lunch rather than breakfast, ideally on a weekday. After all, who doesn’t love having breakfast all day?
Hike the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire
The Appalachian Trail runs 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine, but many Appalachian Trail hikers share that the White Mountains are the most beautiful (and most challenging!) part of the epic trail. And they’re not wrong!
The New Hampshire portion of the trail runs 161 miles, a journey that takes most hikers around two weeks. But you don’t need to hike the trail in its entirety — there are plenty of day hikes on the Appalachian Trail that are beautiful, fun, and let you head home for the night before heading out again.
Some of our favorite NH Appalachian Trail day hikes include Zealand Falls and Thoreau Falls; North Kinsman via Lonesome Lake; and Franconia Ridge. Hikes are available for all levels of fitness.
Keep an eye out for the white blazes on the trees, a staple of the Appalachian Trail throughout the US, and consider being a “trail angel,” offering encouragement to any bedraggled thru-hikers you see. This place is all about the community!
Read More: Hiking the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire
Ride the Conway Scenic Railroad
You can’t miss the station in the heart of North Conway Village — it’s pale yellow, built in a “Russian Victorian” style in 1874, and holding court on Schouler Park. This is home to another famous scenic train ride in the White Mountains: the Conway Scenic Railroad.
There are three kinds of train rides: the one-hour Conway Valley Train, two-hour Sawyer River Valley Train, and four-hour Mountaineer Train. You should know that the Conway Valley Train and Sawyer River Valley Train are not the most scenic of rides — they tend to be more historic rides with occasional glimpses of beautiful scenery. These tend to be more suited for train enthusiasts.
The REALLY beautiful ride, however, is the Mountaineer, taking you all the way up into Crawford Notch through some of the most spectacular White Mountain scenery you’ll ever see, especially if you go during peak foliage. Yes, it’s a four-hour train ride — but if you want to see beautiful scenery, this is the train you take!
Read More: Is the Conway Scenic Railroad Worth It?
Go Ziplining with Alpine Adventures
Forget hiking up mountains — wouldn’t it be more fun to fly between them? That’s certainly the case at Alpine Adventures in Lincoln, who deliver a number of adrenaline-fueled adventures in the White Mountains.
Alpine Adventures has zipline courses up in the White Mountains — and they operate them year-round, including a winter zipline. They also offer off-road tours, a giant slide, and Thrillsville, a self-guided adventure course located right at their headquarters in downtown Lincoln.
It’s popular for first-time Alpine Adventures visitors to say, “I have to come back and do this for foliage season.” Absolutely! As fun as ziplining is, there’s nothing like doing it underneath the red, orange, and yellow colors of New Hampshire fall foliage!
Read More: 27 Epic Things to Do in Lincoln, NH
Have a Winter Getaway in Jackson
Located just 10 minutes from North Conway, Jackson is often cited as a small-town alternative to its busy neighbor down the road. We love experiencing Jackson’s small-town charm any time of year — Jackson Falls, the Museum of White Mountain Art, White Mountain Puzzles — but we especially love visiting this White Mountain town in the winter.
Jackson is home to the most extensive collection of cross-country skiing trails in the Granite State, making it a bucket list item for cross country enthusiasts! At Nestlenook Farm, you can go on sleigh rides, go ice-skating, or try your hand at snowshoeing the trails.
For downhill skiing, Black Mountain is right in town, or you can head up Route 16 to Wildcat Mountain, one of the more challenging New Hampshire ski resorts.
We especially love the bed and breakfasts in Jackson, which know how to bring the romance for a winter getaway. We’re especially fans of the Christmas Farm Inn, with a wonderful restaurant and a spa on site; and the Inn at Thorn Hill, a luxurious option with decadent suites, restaurants, a tavern, and its own spa.
Read More: 16 Best Things to Do in Jackson, NH
Try Local Spirits at White Mountains Distilleries
Distilleries have been popping up all over the Granite State in recent years, and we love how there are so many new spirits to try! They make fantastic gifts, too — especially their quintessential New England blends.
One place worth visiting in the White Mountains is Cathedral Ledge Distillery in North Conway, which happens to be New Hampshire’s only organic distillery. They offer tastings of their spirits (we especially love their horseradish vodka and maple liqueur) and they offer distillery tours if you book in advance.
Another spot on the southern edge of the White Mountains is Tamworth Distilling in Tamworth. This distillery offers tastings and the entire facility is a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. Take a look at their extensive selection of bar accessories and gifts. We especially love their Old Man of the Mountain Bourbon and Deer Slayer Venison-Flavored Whiskey.
Marvel at the Ice Castles
Each year, ice sculptors come to the White Mountains to build a wonderland made of snow and ice. This is Ice Castles — a celebration with locations throughout the United States, but every year they come back to North Woodstock, just west of Lincoln.
The structures at Ice Castles include ice slides and snow tunnels (perfectly sized for both kids and adults), ice caverns and mazes, the Mystic Forest Light Walk and Winter Fairy Forest, and snow tubing and sleigh rides.
We recommend timing your trip just before sunset so you can see how the Ice Castles look in both light and darkness. It’s a wonderful winter outing for the whole family — especially if you top it off with a hot chocolate afterward!
No kids in your party? Hit up the Polar Pub for a boozy beverage that gives new meaning to the expression “on the rocks.”
Read More: 26 Things to Do in New Hampshire in the Winter
Stay in a Cozy Cabin with a Hot Tub
There’s nothing like staying at a cabin in the heart of the White Mountains. But what’s even better? Staying in a cabin with a hot tub! There are plenty of cabins with hot tubs in the White Mountains, most of them clustered around North Conway and Jackson.
We went through the complete list of New Hampshire cabins with hot tubs and realized that a lot of rentals claim a bathtub with jets is a hot tub. NOT REMOTELY TRUE! For that reason, we went through the list with a fine-tooth comb and picked out the cabins that actually have real hot tubs.
Whether you ward off cool fall White Mountain breezes with a dip into the tub, or get out and roll in the snow during a winter visit (you do you!), getting away to a White Mountains cabin with a hot tub will give you a vacation you’ll remember forever.
Read More: 27 New Hampshire Cabins with Hot Tubs
Drive the Mount Washington Auto Road
The Mount Washington Cog Railway might be one of the most unique journeys in New Hampshire, but if you’re looking for a more badass way to get to the top of Mount Washington, check out the Mount Washington Auto Road! This is actually one of the oldest attractions in the White Mountains, dating back more than 150 years when horse-drawn carriages made the journey.
The Mount Washington Auto Road is a 7.6-mile journey, taking about 30 minutes to get to the summit, and around 30-45 to get down (it’s smart to take a few breaks to enjoy the scenery and give your car a rest). As you drive upward, it’s fascinating watching the scenery change, from thick forests to short scraggly trees to a moon-like barren landscape!
Once you’re at the summit, get that photo in front of the Mount Washington sign and take in the views. That is, if you’re lucky enough to have a (somewhat rare) clear day up there!
And, of course, once you’ve done this, you get one of the ubiquitous “This Car Climbed Mount Washington” stickers that you see throughout New England. Put it on your bumper or keep it at home — you definitely earned it.
Keep in mind that the Mount Washington Auto Road entrance is off Route 16 in Pinkham Notch, just south of Gorham — an hour’s drive from where the Mount Washington Cog Railway departs near Bretton Woods. Don’t get those two mixed up!
Read More: Guide to Driving the Mount Washington Auto Road
Conquer the NH 48
You’ve already done a few hikes in the White Mountains. You’re ready to take on a few of the harder ones. But why not go a bit further? The NH 48 is the ultimate challenge for New Hampshire hikers — climbing all 48 of the Granite State’s 4000-footers!
At the beginning of your journey, you can start with easier peaks like Mount Tecumseh, the shortest of the 4000-footers, or Mount Pierce, an easy hike with a beautiful view as payoff.
As you get better, prepare to tackle the harder hikes, like Mounts Adams, Jefferson, Isolation, and Lafayette. Finish with Mount Washington if you’d like — though many NH 48 finishers tend to do it a bit earlier in their journey!
If you’ve finished the NH 48, you can consider yourself in an elite club in the state of New Hampshire!
Read More: Guide to Conquering the NH 48
How Much Time Do You Need in the White Mountains?
It depends entirely on how much you want to do — but generally, we find that people don’t spend long enough here. There are many travelers who plan a big all-of-New-England road trip, and when they do that, they only give a day or two to the White Mountains. Which is a shame!
Realistically, if you’re planning a big trip, we recommend spending a week or longer in the White Mountains. That will allow you to do a few of the most popular activities (Mount Washington Cog Railway, Flume Gorge, time in Littleton, time in North Conway, an epic hike or two) and have time to do your own thing as well.
And if that’s not an option, you can have a really great long weekend getaway here. Plenty of New Englanders have the White Mountains as their regular weekend getaway destination!
As always, it depends on how much you want to do. But adding on an extra day or two wouldn’t do much harm!
Best Time to Visit the White Mountains
While we say that the White Mountains of New Hampshire are a year-round travel destination, it’s really more of a three-season destination. Summer brings hikers, campers, and lots and lots of families. Fall brings leaf-peepers and international visitors, and this is the busiest and most expensive time of year to visit the White Mountains. Winter brings skiers and adults looking for cozy getaways. (Spring is mud season. Welcome to Northern New England!)
You can visit the White Mountains at any time of year and have a great time, but be realistic about what you want to do. If hiking is a priority, we highly recommend coming during the summer, especially if you’re from a warmer climate. It gets pretty cold in the White Mountains at night, even during the summer.
We will reiterate that the best time for fall foliage in the White Mountains is in early October — though sometimes Mother Nature is fickle and this can vary. It’s imperative to plan a fall trip as early as possible, because everything books up fast. You can learn more in our fall foliage guide here.
How to Get to the White Mountains
If you’re flying in, the closest airport to the White Mountains is Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, NH. Manchester is about a two-hour drive from North Conway and a 75-minute drive from Lincoln.
However, Logan Airport in Boston isn’t much further away and gets many more flights, especially international flights. It might be significantly cheaper or easier for you to fly into Logan. Boston is a 2.5-hour drive from North Conway and a two-hour drive from Lincoln.
If you’re visiting the eastern side of the White Mountains, like North Conway, flying to Portland, Maine, is closest of all (90 minutes from North Conway).
The White Mountains are best seen by car. As much as we wish that there were decent public transportation in the White Mountains, it barely exists.
Where to Stay in the White Mountains
There are so many different places to stay in the White Mountains — so much that it could (and soon will be) its own post.
The two most popular places to stay in the White Mountains are North Conway and Lincoln, the two big hubs. They both make good places to stay, but there are a few other places we love, like Jackson (10 minutes north of North Conway) and the Franconia area (Franconia, Sugar Hill, Bethlehem, Littleton, 30 minutes north of Lincoln).
Where to Stay in North Conway
- Luxury: Cranmore Inn — Super-nice B&B, well worth the splurge
- Mid-Range: Kearsarge Inn — Really nice and welcoming but not as painfully expensive
- Budget: Colonial Motel — It’s a motel but quite decent; has some jacuzzis in the main room!
- See our full North Conway hotels guide here
Where to Stay in Lincoln
- Luxury: RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain — Super luxe and modern; don’t miss the winery tour on site
- Mid-Range: Woodwards White Mountain Resort — Quiet and set-back, with a pool
- Budget: Riverbank Motel & Cabins — Great value cabins and awesome staff
- See our full Lincoln hotels guide here
Other Places to Stay in the White Mountains
- Thayers Inn — Historic inn in the heart of downtown Littleton, the best town in the White Mountains with the best brewery in the state
- Sugar Hill Inn — Quirky, historic inn with small rooms and creaky floors, and a GREAT restaurant
- Huttopia White Mountains — Easy done-for-you camping in Albany, near North Conway, some tents with bathrooms inside them
- New Hampshire Cabins with Hot Tubs — The best of the best, right here!
Find deals on places to stay in the White Mountains here.
Are the White Mountains Worth It?
If you’ve gone through this entire post and still aren’t sure whether the White Mountains are for you, let me assure you once more — this is a very, very special destination. The White Mountains are absolutely gorgeous, full of adventure, and have something for every kind of traveler.
Come to the White Mountains! You’re going to love it here.
More White Mountains Town Guides:
- 31 Fun Things to Do in North Conway, NH
- 27 Epic Things to Do in Lincoln, NH
- 16 Best Things to Do in Jackson, NH
- 23 Fun Things to Do in Littleton, NH
More on the White Mountains:
- A Guide to Driving the Kancamagus Highway
- A Guide to Glen Ellis Falls, NH
- A Guide to Jackson Falls, NH
- A Guide to the Mount Washington Cog Railway
- Hiking the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire
- Snow and Ice Climbing in the White Mountains, NH
- A Guide to Driving the Mount Washington Auto Road
Best of New Hampshire:
- 50+ Best Things to Do in New Hampshire
- 13 Best Beaches in New Hampshire
- New Hampshire’s Best Breweries
- New Hampshire Fall Foliage Guide
What’s your favorite thing to do in the White Mountains? Share away!