New Hampshire Scenic Drive: White Mountain Trail

Highlights of White Mountain Trail

Mount Washington towers above White Mountain Trail.
Mount Washington towers above White Mountain Trail.

The White Mountain Trail winds around mountains and along rivers, offering views of some of the most beautiful scenery in the East. Mount Washington is on the north side of the byway. This is the tallest mountain in the Northeast and is home to some of the world's worst weather.

Notches are unique geographic features found only in New Hampshire and Maine (there are only six total notches). Both Crawford Notch and Franconia Notch are spectacular. Franconia Notch was once home to the Old Man of the Mountain, a profile of a man carved into the stone by glaciers high atop a mountain. This profile was a recognized wonder since the time of the Native Americans who imbued it with spiritual powers. Sadly, the formation succumbed to erosion in May 2003, and its rugged profile was irrevocably damaged.

Rambling through the White Mountains National Forest and connecting at each end of the Kancamagus Scenic Highway, the White Mountain Trail has an abundance of things to see and do, a few of which are highlighted below.

lark's Trading Post: For more than 70 years, the Clark family has entertained visitors at Clark's Trading Post. At this site they have a museum, a fire station, a steam locomotive, and trained black bears.

Franconia Notch State Park: Franconia Notch State Park is home of Old Man of the Mountain Historic Site, Cannon Mountain, New England Ski Museum, and Flume Gorge. Also in the park are the Basin waterfall, the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tram taking visitors to the 4,180-foot summit of the mountain, recreation trails, and Lafayette campground. Be sure to stop by the visitor center at Flume Gorge for a 15-minute film, maps, and interpretive exhibits.

The Rocks Estate: Located off Route 302, The Rocks Estate just outside Bethlehem is a historic working Christmas tree farm owned and operated by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Picnic areas, six miles of self-guided scenic and educational trails, and 55,000 Christmas trees make this a unique place to visit year-round.

Mount Washington Cog Railway: For a truly unforgettable way to ascend Mount Washington, try the world's first mountain-climbing cog railway. On especially clear days the vista from the summit allows for glimpses of four states, the Canadian province of Quebec, and the Atlantic Ocean. A round trip on the historic railway takes about three hours and allows for a 20-minute stop at the summit. Bring a jacket, as it can be considerably cooler at the summit than at the base of the mountain. The Mount Washington Cog Railway is located off Route 302 in Bretton Woods.

Mount Washington Observatory and Museum: Mount Washington Observatory and Museum, located at the summit of the mountain, is accessible by the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the Mount Washington Auto Road, or via several trails in the area. Definitely a must-see, the museum features displays about the brutal meteorological conditions on Mount Washington, exhibits on the geological history of the Presidential Range, and a unique presentation of alpine flowers that have been preserved in synthetic resin. New to the museum is the Weather Discovery Room, which helps observers explore the weather phenomena of Mount Washington.

Glen: The village of Glen has two attractions side-by-side geared to families with young children. Story Land, a vintage theme park, opened in 1954 with a fairy-tale theme. Those who visited as children in the early days of the park are now returning with their kids and grandkids and still finding the theme park as enchanting as they remembered. Heritage-New Hampshire opened in time for the U.S. Bicentennial Celebration in 1976 and takes visitors on a multimedia walk through time with 25 theatrical sets, special effects, live characters, and guides.

Conway Scenic Railroad: To view the beautiful White Mountains National Forest from another vantage point, try the Conway Scenic Railroad. Nostalgic trips in historic rail cars on the Valley Train allow guests to travel through the valley past fields and woodlands, rivers and glens, enjoying the ambiance of period wicker seating and rich mahogany woodwork. Or try their Notch Train and travel through Crawford Notch past sheer bluffs, abrupt ravines, babbling brooks and streams, panoramic mountain vistas, and across the Frankenstein Trestle and Willey Brook Bridge. On-board guides tell the history and folklore of the railroad and area, as well as points of interest.

White Mountain Trail offers many reasons to stop along the way -- and the distances between its many attractions are short, and along scenic roads worth the drive.

Find more useful information related to New Hampshire's White Mountain Trail:

  • New Hampshire Scenic Drives: White Mountain Trail is just one of the scenic byways in New Hampshire. Check out the others.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond New Hampshire? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.