Winter is finally in full swing around where I live in MA. A snowstorm has brought a nice coating of snow and colder temperatures, at least for a bit. The forecast is saying that it will warm up again later this week. To be honest, I’m pretty disappointed about that. I love winter. It is perhaps my favorite season. The cold doesn’t bother me (when I’m dressed properly) and I love all the snow sports that I’ve tried so far: downhill skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, and most recently winter hiking!
What perfect timing, then, that I am finally catching up to my first adventure of 2018 – a winter trip to New Hampshire’s White Mountains in January with Mike. This trip was full of sightseeing, food, and a few easy winter nature walks! We had great weather, a bit cloudy at times, but no major storms. The Whites already had their thick blanket of snow and ice, giving beauty to the simplest of things.
On Saturday morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at White Mountain Bagel Co. before heading out to drive the length of the Kancamagus Highway. Normally crowded in the summer and fall, the driving was easy on this beautiful winter day – we just had to get through the half hour of stopped traffic around Loon and we were good to go.
Our first stop on the Kanc, as it’s lovingly referred to by the locals and White Mountain frequent visitors, was the Lincoln Woods parking lot, where we paid the day use fee for the highway (required if you’re planning on parking in any of the lots and hiking) and took a quick walk across the river.
We continued along the highway, enjoying the sunshine and clear roads, pulling off at the scenic overlook lots that were plowed (not all of them are plowed out in the winter). We also stopped at the Rocky Gorge. The lot isn’t plowed at Rocky Gorge, but they did plow a little bit of the road in to the lot, so we parked here to walk the short way to the bridge over the gorge.
Once we made it to the end of the Kancamagus, we turned north and headed to Diana’s Baths in Bartlett. The walk to Diana’s Baths is nice and flat, and the snow was already well packed when we were there. It does get slippery by the falls and I found myself wishing I had my spikes with me!
We headed back to North Conway to find lunch. We ended up eating at the Stairway Cafe. It was an adorable, cozy, and tasty top floor cafe right on Route 302. We also stopped at Zeb’s General Store, because no trip to North Conway is complete without one!
Next we continued north on Route 16, then west on Route 2, before heading south again on 93 through Franconia Notch – making a big loop around the Presidential Region and ending up back in Lincoln in time for dinner. We ate dinner at The Common Man, a popular New Hampshire chain restaurant. It was very busy, but we munched on the free cheese and crackers while sitting by the massive fireplace as we waited for our table. The food was very tasty – perfect warm, comfort food for a chilly White Mountains night.
Our Saturday was not over after dinner, though. Once nighttime fell, the ice castle was lit up and ready to explore! I’d been wanting to visit the New Hampshire ice castle ever since it was brought to NH. I finally visited on this trip and was not disappointed! The ice castle was fun to explore, fun to photograph, and fun to people watch (lots of slipping and sliding around here!). When we visited, the ice castle was in Lincoln, but this year (2019) it has moved one town west to Woodstock. One word of advice – make sure you buy your tickets in advanced because they do sell out and you will be turned away at the door!
The next day, we continued our winter explorations in Franconia Notch State Park. We started at the Flume Gorge, which is technically closed in the winter. Well, the visitor center is closed, and the trails are not monitored. But that doesn’t mean you can’t walk to the Flume! And one perk of visiting in the winter is that there is no entry fee! This spot is popular with ice climbers, so keep your eyes peeled and you may see one!
Next up we went to see the Basin, but didn’t make it all the way – mainly because it was getting really cold and we had no idea if we were on the correct trail. We did make it to Baby Flume, though, which wasn’t quite as impressive as what we had just seen at the Flume Gorge. It was still pretty, though!
After Franconia, we popped over to Crawford Notch and began our southern trip home, stopping at the Mount Washington scenic view pull off across from the Mount Washington Hotel. The peak of Washington was still in the clouds, but we enjoyed the red rooftop of the hotel at the base of the mountain before being coaxed back in to the warmth of the car and heading home.
It was an amazing weekend in the Whites and left me hungry for more White Mountain adventures! There are so many things to do in the winter in the Whites and many of the popular attractions are much less crowded than in the summer and fall. So put on your winter boots, a warm coat, some mittens and a hat and get out there! Just because it’s cold and snowy doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the outdoors! Just make sure you’re prepared!
Happy Winter Adventures!