It’s official. We’re just not ready for winter to end!
Sure, we don’t mind the weather getting warmer. We don’t mind not having to drive in snow (though that hasn’t been much of an issue this winter!) But we’re definitely going to miss the stunning panoramas of snow-covered New England mountains that are among some of the most beautiful of the entire year.
So, as a follow-up to our Photo Essay of Winter in the White Mountains, and to offer one final goodbye to winter, we decided to offer you a brief how-to guide to our Top 5 Favorite Snow Shoe Routes in New Hampshire’s White Mountains! Each of these could be completed in a day, most within just a few hours.
1.) Mt. Willard
Mt. Willard is our recommendation for most bang for your buck. This moderate hike climbs 900 feet at a mostly gradual, sometimes steep, grade for most of its 1.6 miles to the summit. Once there, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Crawford Notch, with the cliffs of Mt. Webster to the east. Head back down the way you came, winding gently through dense forest of spruce and fir trees. Heavy snowfall in this area makes Mt. Willard a winter wonderland for snow shoeing and cross-country skiing.
Distance: 3.2 miles out and back. Allow 2.5 hours to hike in snow.
Parking: Small lot located at Crawford Depot, just past the AMC Highland Center along US 302
2.) Zealand Falls
If you’re looking for a great overnight trip, the Zealand Falls trip is perfect for you. Start your adventure by heading along the Spruce Goose trail, which will eventually connect briefly with Zealand Road before merging with the Zealand Trail. Crash for the night at the AMC Zealand Falls Hut right next to Zealand Pond. The hike to the Hut is a moderate grade, while coming down is much easier. The view from the Hut is stunning, especially looking down into the valley. Be sure to schedule reservations at the Hut several months in advance.
Parking: Located at the sign for “Zealand Winter Trails” along US 302, just east of the town of Twin Mountain. Parking lot located along north/west-bound side of highway.
3.) Lonesome Lake
This is our favorite snow shoe route in the Whites. Although the trail is quite steep, it is only 3.2 miles round-trip. Follow the Lonesome Lake Trail as it climbs from the LaFayette Campground up through Franconia Notch. Don’t forget to turn around often as you climb this switchback-filled trail to check out the gorgeous views of the Franconia Ridge — Mts. LaFayette, Lincoln, and Haystack. When you reach the eastern shore of the lake (the first time you’ll encounter the lake), take a left to continue along the Cascade Brook Trail. This will walk you along the eastern shore.During the height of winter, whlie the lake is still well-frozen, many hikers simply cross the lake. At the next junction, continue along the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail. Head up the steep, but short hill to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) Lonesome Lake Hut. Relax, warm up, have some lunch, and enjoy the view before heading back down. You can also stay overnight at the Hut, but reservations must be made several weeks in advance, and you’ll want to bring warm clothing and sleeping bags.
Distance: 3.2 miles, allow 3 hours total hiking time, with at least 30 minutes to enjoy the view at the Hut
Parking: LaFayette Campground parking lot, along the southbound side of I-93 (Franconia Ridge Parkway)
4.) Arethusa Falls
This very moderate hike winds you through dense, snow-covered forest in Crawford Notch to reach New Hampshire’s highest waterfall — 200 ft. Arethusa Falls. During winter, the falls are mostly frozen, though if you’re quiet, you can hear water flowing behind the thick inches of frozen ice. On most winter weekends, you’re sure to find ice climbers tacking the challenge and finding new routes up the frozen falls. You can either head out and back along the Arethusa Falls Trail to see just the falls, or continue on along the Frankenstein Cliff Trail for a longer route back to the car.
Distance: 3.0 miles out and back to the falls; 6.2 mile loop to falls and Frankenstein Cliff. Heading to the falls, allow 2.5 hours out and back, 4 or more for Cliff loop.
Parking: Parking lot located 6 miles south of AMC Highland Center along the west side of US 302.
5.) Tuckerman Ravine (Mt. Washington)
We’ve always wanted to tackle Mt. Washington in the winter. Unfortunately, we don’t have the proper equipment or expertise to do so just yet … but that didn’t stop us from hiking up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the Hermit Lake Shelter, in the bowl of Tuckerman Ravine. This is one of the most dramatic views in the White Mountains, as you’re staring straight at the Headwall. The climb up, while not technical, is quite steep. Be prepared to climb for about 2.5 miles. You’ll have great views of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range as you climb, and if you turn around, you’ll see Wildcat Mountain ski area. If you’re planning to head up toward Mt. Washington, be sure you come prepared — dress properly and take extra supplies. The weather is notoriously unpredictable and temperatures can change dramatically.
Distance: 5 miles round trip (appx.) Allow 3-4 hours hiking time depending on your fitness level
Parking: AMC Pinkham Notch Visitors Center, southbound side of NH 16, south of Gorham
To make reservations at any of the Huts mentioned above, contact the Appalachian Mountain Club.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your trax, your snow shoes, your cross-country skis and take advantage of these great winter adventures — while there’s still some snow left!