I was consistently gloomy in winter. I wasn’t active, wasn’t getting my daily dose of Vitamin D, and I was counting down the days until I could visit beach, mountains, and lakes. It wasn’t until a friend asked if I wanted to go hiking in the White Mountains in the winter that I even considered hiking in snow. To me, winter hikers were hard core – they wore snowshoes and had special gear to deal with harsh conditions. I never had considered trying – let alone taking my young kids. After my first tromp through a snowy woods, I was hooked. The cool air, sunshine, and gorgeous scenery made me instantly a fan of winter hikes in the Whites. I cured my winter blues with winter sun and endorphins.
For families ready to take the plunge, there are a few safety concerns to be aware of – specifically wearing warm layers, first aid, and proper traction and footwear. My recommendations are on my previous post. It turns out winter hiking on a snowy packed trail can sometimes be easier for children than the summer months because the snow levels out rocky paths and creates a gentle terrain. My kids also enjoy “butt sliding” on the way back down.
Here are my recommendations for three snowy winter hikes in the White Mountains:
This 1.4 mile loop hike ascends through forests to reveal a gorgeous panorama of the notch, mountains, and Echo Lake. The trail is accessible from the large parking lot used for overflow of Cannon Mountain Ski Area on Profile Road. Parking is free and the trail is in the back of the parking lot. Check comments on All Trails website or app for recent posts about trail conditions. Hike with snow boots and traction like MicroSpikes or Yaktrax. I recently hiked this with my husband, 3.5 year old, and carried my 1.5 year old. Winter wonderland! This is a moderately difficult hike since although short, it has +300 feet of elevation gain.
This 1.3 mile out and back trail is located right in North Conway. The trailhead is located on West Side Road in North Conway. Bring cash since there is a $5 self service fee. An outhouse-style bathroom is located at the trailhead. This hike has a gentle and wide trail and leads to beautiful cascading waterfalls that partly freeze in winter. Simply gorgeous! Plus, although this trail is heavily trafficked in summer and fall, it’s relatively quiet in winter. Check out All Trails website or app for recent trail conditions.
This 3.1 mile loop is located in Franconia Notch. This White Mountain trail leaves from Lafayette Campground and ascends 1,000 feet to Lonesome Lake hut and shore. The loop goes around the lake and back down to the campground. Bathrooms are available at the campground base as well as the hut at top. Views of distant mountains and the lake are stunning and worth the climb. Children can definitely handle this climb. Plan ahead and be prepared with layered clothing, winter boots, and traction devices like MicroSpikes or snowshoes. Check AllTrails or a similar website for trail updates.
Try it Out
I hope you take the plunge to try a winter hike. If the hiking in the White Mountains in the winter seems too intimidating, try something on the Seacoast! My recommendations for local Seacoast nature walks are all great starts in the snow. Also, if you are hiking with a baby in a carrier, prepare by researching ways to safely winter hike with baby.