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There are so many wonderful things to do in the White Mountains of New Hampshire! This region is paradise for anyone who loves being outside in nature, taking scenic drives, or delighting in lush landscape views. In the summer, you’ll discover purple fields of lupines. In the fall, you’ll drive along vistas of bright yellow and red foliage. In winter, you’ll be in awe of the tallest snow-capped peaks in the northeastern U.S. And in spring, you’ll see (and taste) the maple syrup as it starts to flow.
I went to college in New Hampshire, at Plymouth State University, located at the gateway to the White Mountains, and I’ve been exploring the state for years. Now I want to share some of the best things to do in its most magical region.
So if you’re ready to discover the best places to visit and coolest things to do in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, let’s get to adventuring!
What are the White Mountains known for?
When you hear “the White Mountains,” you might think of the renowned Mount Washington… but there’s so much more! White Mountain National Forest encompasses a large region of New Hampshire, covering nearly a quarter of the state. Stretching 87 miles across central and northern NH into a small portion of western Maine, the White Mountains are known for state parks, unforgettable small towns, scenic parkways, mountain ranges, waterfalls, hiking trails, and countless outdoor adventures.
Are the White Mountains worth visiting?
Without a doubt, the White Mountains are absolutely worth visiting. This mountain range is one of the top attractions in all of New England. And as you’ll soon see, there are many things to do in the region, in all seasons and for all types of travelers. New Hampshire’s White Mountains are a must-see, especially in the glory of fall foliage.
What is the best time of the year to go to the White Mountains?
The best time to visit the White Mountains of New Hampshire is fall. New Hampshire is famous for its fall beauty and autumn offers the perfect opportunity for all kinds of outdoor activities in the region. However, this is one of the area’s busiest times of year! Colleen Eliason of the White Mountains Attractions Association advises: “One tip I can share is for folks to start researching and planning their getaway early. Many attractions ask that visitors book online in advance and depending on the season, our lodging properties and campgrounds can sell out on weekends.”
Summer in the White Mountains is another terrific time to visit. This is when hiking may be at its best and you can explore thousands of miles of trails.
Winter also offers plenty to do; the White Mountains don’t shut down in the winter! If you’re coming to ski and snowboard, then naturally winter will be your preferred season.
The awesome White Mountains activities I’m going to share below include some from all four seasons. So get ready for some New Hampshire fun!
Fun Things to Do in the White Mountains NH
Take a scenic drive on the Kancamagus Highway
One of the most popular things to do in the White Mountains is drive the Kancamagus! (It’s also an essential New England fall road trip activity). Designated as an American Scenic Byway, the Kancamagus Highway is a 34.5-mile White Mountain scenic drive along Route 112 that will leave you speechless. This winding road cuts right through the heart of White Mountain National Forest, and no matter what time of year you drive it, your eyes are in for a feast.
In October, the “Kanc” is often considered one of the best places in the country to view some incredible fall foliage. Every bend in the road will reveal sweeping views of the White Mountains, Swift River, gorges and waterfalls, all decorated with brilliant reds, burnt oranges and golds. Traffic is a bit heavier during peak foliage season, so make sure to factor in at least 3 hours to drive the full length. In the less busy seasons, driving the Kanc usually takes about an hour, and stretches between the pretty towns of Lincoln and Conway.
Read Next: 6 Scenic Drives in New Hampshire
Ride the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
In search of some of the best views from above? You’ll want to add the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway to your list of things to do in the White Mountains.
This is the only aerial tramway in New Hampshire and was the first in North America, so it’s quite historic. In under 10 minutes, the tramway’s cable cars will carry you up Cannon Mountain, to an elevation of 4,080 ft. You’ll have stunning panoramic views over Franconia Notch State Park, and on a clear day, you may see peaks from 4 other neighboring states, and all the way to Canada!
Tramway rides are offered seasonally, from late May through mid-October. Once you reach the summit, you can explore walking trails, visit the cafe, or simply enjoy the views from way up among the White Mountains.
Wander through the Ice Castles
If you’re looking for White Mountains winter attractions, it doesn’t get much more impressive than the magnificent Ice Castles in North Woodstock! (And if you’re looking to live out your Elsa dreams, the ice castles are like Frozen come true!)
Made entirely of ice, this is a unique White Mountains thing to do in winter that will make for memories that will last a lifetime. There’s really nothing quite like making your way through an ice castle. It goes without saying, but dress warmly for your experience!
My husband and I visited several years ago, and we’d love to go again. The castle is unique each and every year, but it is always stunning.
Check out our Ice Castles NH Guide here.
Explore Flume Gorge
It seems like everything in New Hampshire reminds me of something from fantasy, because Flume Gorge was like walking into Tolkien’s Rivendell!
Flume Gorge is a natural gorge extending 800 feet from the base of Mount Liberty. Visitors can traverse a 2-mile nature trail through the gorge, admiring glistening waterfalls, the towering granite walls, and other cool features of the chasm.
Flume Gorge is unique and beautiful and I’d definitely recommend it as one of the top things to do in New Hampshire, not just in the White Mountains. You should know, however, that it can get busy during the fall foliage season, so allow extra time, plan ahead, and most importantly, book in advance, as this is one White Mountains attraction that requires tickets!
Hike Artist’s Bluff
Hiking Artist’s Bluff is one of the top things to do in the White Mountains region. With its unparalleled views over Echo Lake, it really is a great addition to your trip.
Starting at the large dirt parking lot off Rt 18, just across from Cannon Mountain Ski Resort, the hike leads you steeply uphill. While the trail is relatively short, it’s robust and can be rocky in some spots.
As you ascend, you’ll feel a bit breathless, but your efforts will be richly rewarded once you reach the viewpoint.. The vista from Artist’s Bluff is simply breathtaking, offering a panoramic tableau of the surrounding landscape.
Many experienced hikers recommend tackling the trail in a clockwise direction, initially heading towards Bald Mountain. This approach not only offers a more enjoyable hike but can also help you avoid the crowds that often head straight up to the lookout counterclockwise, especially during the busy fall season.
Tackle even more White Mountains hikes
Artists Bluff is one of the most popular hikes in New Hampshire, especially in the fall. But there are literally hundreds of other options. There are so many mountain ranges in the White Mountains to hike and explore. The Presidential Range alone, made up of NH’s highest peaks, includes 13 mountains to hike! Other notable ranges are the Kinsman Mountain Range and Franconia Mountain Range.
There are also some amazing loop trails in White Mountain National Forest, great for those in search of a nice day hike in the area.
Diana’s Baths out-and-back loop is a beloved, easy hike with refreshing pools to splash around in. Welch-Dickey Loop is a gorgeous, somewhat challenging 4.3-mile trail with constant vista views. And recommended for experienced adventurers is the 8.6-mile Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop, which features a lovely waterfall.
Explore Mount Washington
Ah, Mount Washington. The pride and joy of New Hampshire! This 6288’ mountain is the tallest peak in the Northeast and home to the fastest wind gust ever recorded on earth, at 231 mph. It’s also the muse for the famous “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker.
There are two spectacular ways to explore Mount Washington (besides just hiking it!). The first is how you can earn the aforementioned bumper sticker! The Mount Washington Auto Road is a scenic White Mountain drive that starts at the base and takes you along a winding path up to the summit. This historic drive is a 7.6-mile ascent that takes roughly 30 minutes, and every bend in the road will offer a unique view of the White Mountains. Take it slow to give your car a rest now and again, and to take in the breathtaking views along the way.
The other option for summitting Mount Washington is by train. Take the historical Mount Washington Cog Railway for an unforgettable train ride to the summit. The Cog has been taking passengers up the mountain for over 150 years now. In less than an hour, this thrilling ride will bring you to the summit, where you can get out and take pictures or just enjoy the sights.
These two non-hiking options are definitely recommended. Not just because they are unique and fun experiences, but because Mount Washington is notorious as a very dangerous mountain, particularly for inexperienced hikers. The location of the mountain sits at the convergence of weather systems, meaning the peak is subject to some insane weather—and often with sudden, unexpected changes. Winds have reached up to 231 mph and the lowest recorded temperature on the peak was −50 °F. Some The possibility of these conditions, combined with the demands of the hike and the need for extreme preparation, has unfortunately resulted in more than 160 deaths on the peak since 1849.
Sorry to be a downer! All this to say, if you choose to hike Mount Washington, make sure you are an experienced hiker, well-prepared and equipped for the task.
Go chasing waterfalls
Would it surprise you to know there are over 100 waterfalls in the White Mountains? That’s enough to last you years of exploration!
For an easy trek with a beautiful waterfall, beginner hikers can visit Sabbaday Falls. This can be accessed from along the Kancamagus Highway. Another option is the 3-mile hike to Arethusa Falls at Crawford Notch. Or embark on the moderate, 4.7-mile out-and-back hike at Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail in Jefferson, which features the incredible Ammonoosuc Ravine waterfalls.
Read our list of great waterfalls in NH for more inspiration!
Stay in a rustic cabin
One of the best ways to experience the White Mountains up close is by staying in a rustic, one-of-a-kind cabin! Some are deep in the woods at remote locations, where you can be truly immersed in nature and others are conveniently located in towns like North Conway, Lincoln, and Franconia. But it doesn’t matter; regardless of what level of seclusion you pick, the White Mountains are well within reach.
Check out our curated list of cozy White Mountains cabin rentals for some inspiration!
Shop, dine, and play in North Conway
North Conway is one of the most popular places to visit in the White Mountains, and one of the towns that has a lot to see and do.
I love North Conway and have been visiting it since college, when my friends and I would come up here just to shop at Zeb’s General Store!
Zeb’s General Store is one must-visit stop in North Conway; a classic, old-fashioned general store bursting with gourmet foods, hand-made soaps, and countless other products, all which are 100% made in New England.
Zeb’s is right along the main stretch of North Conway’s downtown, so after you head there you can pop into all of the other great shops lining the road and stop for lunch at one of many yummy restaurants.
Read my entire guide to see all the cool things to do in North Conway!
Play at Loon Mountain Resort
Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln, open year-round, offers so many spectacular outdoor adventures in the White Mountains. The resort really comes to life in the winter, when people from all over flock to shred its four beautiful peaks. You can take skiing or snowboarding lessons, or turn your visit into a full on winter vacation and stay at their lodge. But in every season, there are plenty of options. The resort has its own zipline, Aerial Forest swing, mountain bike trails, and golf course.
But one of the best things to do in the White Mountains is Loon’s gondola ride. As New Hampshire’s longest scenic skyride, the 4-person gondola will take you on a 1.3-mile ascent from the base to the summit of Loon Peak. Savor that fresh alpine air at the top!
And you don’t just have to ride back down; there are lots of things to do at the summit, including a disc golf course (New Hampshire’s highest of course), a cafe with gorgeous views, and the glacial caves, which kids especially love to explore. This is all included with your gondola ticket.
Read more about my favorite things to do in Lincoln!
Go on a Moose Safari
Yes, you can totally add spotting a moose to your White Mountains NH bucket list! While there are lots of moose roaming the woods (and road signs alerting you to their presence) chances are still slim you’ll stumble across a moose during your trip to New Hampshire. For a better chance of getting a good look at a moose, take a moose tour! There are several great moose safari companies in the White Mountains to choose from, including Pemi Valley Moose Tours in Lincoln, North Conway Moose Safari in North Conway, and Dan’s Scenic Tours Moose Tours in North Conway, Gorham, and Jackson.
Any of those moose tours would be a great addition to a White Mountains vacation as they are some of the best moose tours in New Hampshire, but remember to keep a sharp eye out for moose as you drive the White Mountains roads at any time; moose are LARGE and in charge and if you run into one in your car, your car will take the brunt of the damage, not the moose!
Peep some covered bridges
Could any trip to New England be complete without seeing a few covered bridges? I think not! Luckily, you don’t have to travel far to see a selection of covered bridges right here in the White Mountains.
One of the most iconic is the Honeymoon Covered Bridge. This bright red bridge, in the charming town of Jackson, is very photogenic and even appeared in a recent Hallmark Christmas movie!
Other covered bridges in the White Mountains worth seeing include:
- The Flume Bridge (pictured above) – Lincoln, NH
- Albany Covered Bridge – Albany, NH
- Bartlett Covered Bridge – Bartlett, NH
- Saco River Covered Bridge – Conway, NH
If you’re wanting to see a lot of bridges in a short time, you can get a lot of “bang for your buck” south of Woodstock near Plymouth and Campton. Here are several covered bridges all within a short drive, including Blair Covered Bridge, the Smith Covered Bridge, and the one I found particularly pretty, the Bump Covered Bridge (pictured below).
Get out on the water with North Woods Rafting
If you’re looking for adventurous things to do in the White Mountains in summer, you’ve got to check out North Woods Rafting! Offering water activities for every skill and comfort level, there are many ways to get out and enjoy the gorgeous fresh water of the White Mountains!
Canoeing, kayaking, white water rafting, there’s sure to be something there that appeals to you! Their season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so if you’re visiting the White Mountains in the warm weather months, check them out.
Take a ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad
The Conway Scenic Railroad is one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of the Mount Washington Valley, especially in the autumn!
Departing from the charming yellow 1874 Station in North Conway, you’ll have a choice between several train journeys. If you want the crème de la crème opt for the Mountaineer aka the Notch Train Ride. This epic 5.5-hour trip to Crawford Notch, winds its way through the landscape, complete with stunning vistas, rocky outcrops and open valleys. For a fall foliage train ride this is *Chef’s Kiss*.
Or take a shorter journey on the Sawyer River Excursion, a 21-mile roundtrip journey that takes around 2 hours to complete and passes over scenic rivers on a historic ride.
If you’re exploring the White Mountains with kids, especially young ones, the third option might be best: The Conway Valley Train. On a recent visit to the region with my toddler son, we went on one of these 1 hour Conway Valley Train journeys. The train didn’t take us far, but my son LOVED riding in the vintage train car (the Gertrude Emma), watching the pretty fall leaves fly by out the open windows, and especially hearing the train toot toot it’s horn!
See the basin & explore Franconia Notch State Park
Franconia Notch State Park is a world all its own. Directly in the heart of White Mountain National Forest, this park has so much to do. Some of its top attractions I’ve already covered, like the Flume Gorge, but that is just scratching the surface.
Franconia Notch is a breathtaking mountain pass that can be traversed by driving down the winding I-93, which extends from Flume Gorge to Echo Lake. The famous ‘Old Man of the Mountain’ memorial site is located here, as well as the Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges, the New England Ski Museum, the Recreational Trail for bike riding, Cannon Cliff for climbing, and the Appalachian Trail. Seriously, you’ll never want to leave Franconia Notch State Park.
One site I recommend seeing is The Basin. Yes, technically this is called a “pothole” but even Henry David Thoreau admitted, “this pothole is perhaps the most remarkable curiosity of its kind in New England.”
The Basin is a natural formation at the bottom of a waterfall. Thought to be 15,000-25,000 years old, the slow progress of glacial melt formed this smooth, bowl-shaped cavern 30 feet in diameter and 15 feet deep. It is easy to access right off I93 and definitely worth a peek; I think the basin is remarkably pretty!
Eat an epic breakfast
I’m not sure what it is about New England and breakfast, but the morning meal is AMAZING here. New Hampshire is no exception. There are numerous delicious breakfast restaurants scattered throughout the White Mountains, and I recommend trying some, or all of them!
My favorite breakfast spot in the White Mountains is Peach’s Restaurant in North Conway. This small restaurant/cafe serves breakfast and lunch 7 days a week in a cozy space that feels a little like your grandmother’s kitchen. It’s adorable. And definitely delicious! Some guests (especially kids) have left little notes and compliments on the restaurant’s napkins. These are proudly displayed beneath the table top (see below).
Pro tip: get there EARLY. My son and I arrived a little after 8am, which is when they open, and we still had to wait about 20 minutes for our table. By the time we finished breakfast, there were loads of people waiting. It’s a testament to how yummy Peach’s is!
If you don’t dine at Peach’s, here are some other beloved White Mountains breakfast and brunch spots:
- Polly’s Pancake Parlor – Sugar Hill, NH
- White Mountain Bagel Co. – Lincoln, NH
- The Sunrise Shack – Glen, NH
Check out some breweries, wineries, and local spirits
Toast to your amazing New Hampshire adventure at one of these local spots. There are numerous local breweries in the region, plus a few wineries, and even distilleries! There are some great places to cheers.
Moat Mountain Brewing Company in North Conway is a great brewery and restaurant. They’ve been brewing since 2000 and offer lots of seasonal options plus regularly rotating drafts.
In North Woodstock, the beloved Woodstock Inn Brewery is always hoppin’. The onsite brewery on-site now boasts both a seven-barrel system and a cutting-edge 30-barrel brewing system. I don’t exactly know what this means, but I do know it is an impressive setup dedicated to crafting distinctly New Hampshire beer! Woodstock Inn Brewery has more than a dozen beers on tap, including cherished year-round classics, enticing seasonal selections, and exciting new releases.
Fancy yourself more of a wine connoisseur? Seven Birches Winery is located at the Riverwalk Resort at Loon Mountain and offers a lovely, relaxed wine tasting room as well as a Meet the Winemakers Tour twice per week.
Alpine Garden is a unique combination of winery and glamping site! You can stay in a treehouse, glamping cabin, or even a “hobbit home,” or just stop by to sample their innovative natural wines and ciders.
Pop Down to Plymouth
I mentioned at the start of this travel guide that I attended college in Plymouth. Well, it’s more than just a college town! There is a very cute, Gilmore Girls-style downtown worth visiting.
Head down south just out of the White Mountains proper and spend some time exploring Plymouth. The downtown has an array of unique shops and restaurants. I definitely recommend grabbing coffee at Cafe Monte Alto (located inside Chase Street Market). You can also grab some gourmet goods from the market.
Visit gift shop New Berry’s on the Common for local goods and vintage finds; lots of New Hampshire-inspired stuff in there! For lunch, don’t miss Biederman’s Deli & Pub, home to epic sandwiches (get yours balboa-style, trust me).
Things to Do in the White Mountains With Kids
Wander through Story Land
Looking for the perfect thing to do with little kids in the White Mountains? Spend a day at Story Land, New Hampshire’s favorite kid play place! Located in Glen, you’ll find over 30 fairy-tale-themed, kid-friendly rides and attractions at this amusement park. Story Land is such a cute spot for young kids, and has been a major part of many family vacations in the White Mountains for over 65 years!
Learn at Living Shores Aquarium
For kids (and their adults!) who love aquariums, Living Shores Aquarium is right next door to Story Land, with fun interactive experiences like tide pools and touch tanks! Open year round, this is a great place for kids to interact with rays, laugh at the silly river otters, and learn about marine life. Toddlers will enjoy playing in the sand table, which has soft, sparkling sand and plenty of digging tools.
Zipline through the mountains at Alpine Adventures
If you’re an outdoor adventure seeker, Alpine Adventures in Lincoln is the place for you and your adventures teens/older kids.
This adventure company operates within 300 private acres of pristine nature in White Mountains National Forest. On the longest, highest, and fastest zipline canopy tour in New England, you can climb across obstacle rope courses and zipline through the sky. They also offer off-roading, tower climbing tours, and more. Check out their website if you’re looking for adventurous White Mountains things to do!
Meet the animals at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center
Have a festive adventure at Santa’s Village
Though I haven’t yet experienced Santa’s Village with my son, I visited a few years ago with my much younger siblings and we all had a blast! Santa’s Village is terrific–both for kids and for adults who love whimsy and wonder. After all, what could be better than a Christmas-themed amusement park?!
While they go all out for the holidays, Santa’s Village is super fun throughout the year. In summer, don’t forget to bring your bathing suits, so you can take advantage of their refreshing water park! Santas Village is open on select days throughout the year, be sure to check their calendar and buy your tickets online!
Go apple picking in the fall
If you’re visiting the White Mountains in the fall, especially with kids, apple picking is an essential activity. In fact, a visit to a fall farm is a must! Windy Ridge Orchard is a great option for the season. Located in North Haverhill, NH, Windy Ridge has apple picking, apple cider donuts, pumpkins, goats, and a few fun outdoor toys. It’s also in a gorgeous scenic location: the drive is beautiful. On my recent fall trip, the foliage colors along Route 112 were incredible–better even than the Kancamagus.
Take a trail ride at Bretton Woods Stables
Want to experience the beautiful scenery of the White Mountains from a different perspective? How about from the back of a horse!? Bretton Woods Stables has trail rides and pony rides for guests of all levels and ages. This would be a perfect thing to do with the whole family.
In the winter, you can opt instead for a horse-drawn sleigh ride. How magical that would be!
Explore Lost River Gorge & Boulder Cabes
Flume Gorge isn’t the only gorge to explore in the region. Consider a visit to Lost River Gorge, which offers a similar boardwalk trail, but also offers several caves to explore! They have some additional kids activities here, including a scavenger hunt and gem panning, so definitely add it to your list.
Where to Stay in the White Mountains
Lumen Nature Retreat
In search of a quiet, beautiful place to stay in nature? I found it! I recently stayed at the Lumen Nature Retreat. This glamping resort is only a couple years old but it’s already gotten very popular–for good reason! Their beautiful cabins and glamping tents are set in a perfect environment and offer all the little touches of luxury guests love.
Pull up a chair, start up a fire, and relax in this peaceful North Woodstock location.
Christmas Inn Farm and Spa
This lovely White Mountains inn and spa is one of the best spa getaway destinations in New England, and the idyllic location in Jackson is just icing on the cake! With a full service Aveda spa offering scrubs, polishes, wraps, massages, and more, you’ll be sure to get that zen level stress relief that only the best spas can provide. The indoor heated pool and hot tub are swell amenities, too!
Christmas Farm Inn and Spa is an especially great place to stay in the White Mountains around Christmas–shocking, I know–and it’s less than an hours drive up the road to Santa’s Village, so if you’re looking for holiday family fun in the White Mountains, Christmas Farm Inn and Spa could be the perfect home base!
Omni Mount Washington Resort
If you’re looking for a bucket list type of stay in the White Mountains, the Omni Mount Washington Resort is calling your name. This is an iconic hotel in the region. I mean, just look at it!
The historic luxury hotel has played hosts to such famous guests as Babe Ruth, Thomas Edison, and Joan Crawford. You could be their next VIP!
In a beautiful Bretton Woods location, this hotel has everything you need for an amazing stay.
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