Family Vacations to Jackson and the Mount Washington Region, New Hampshire

Mt. Washington Jackson, New Hampshire
Mt. Washington (courtesy, White Mountains AVB)

Jackson and the Mount Washington Region Highlights

  • Hike through cool and shady forests.
  • Ride a train to the summit of the highest mountain peak in the Northeast.
  • Look for moose along woodland trails that lead to waterfalls.
  • Drive scenic routes through the White Mountains.
  • Meet fairytale characters at Story Land.

Jackson and the Mount Washington region—comprising North Conway, Bartlett, and Waterville Valley—in the heart of New Hampshire's White Mountains, offer a splendid array of family activities. In winter, the skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes of Waterville Valley, Attitash Bear Peak, and Wildcat, while cross-country skiers glide along Jackson's trails. In fall, the woods fill with brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows, and in summer, paths take you through forests and to clear streams for fishing.

With more than 250 trails in the White Mountain National Forest's nearly 800,000 acres in northeastern New Hampshire and western Maine, there are walks for all ability levels. The Winniweta Falls Trail, a nearly two-mile round-trip hike, begins about three miles north of Jackson's covered bridge. The trail crosses Ellis River and meadows blooming with wildflowers, before ascending for the last 15 minutes toward the 40-foot falls, where moose frequently gather. The Crystal Cascade Trail, a 0.8-mile round trip, starts from the Appalachian Mountain Club, Pinkham Notch Camp north of Jackson, and leads to the waterfall. The three-mile Boulder Loop, located off the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, is a moderately difficult trek through forests and overlooks of the Swift River. Families new to hiking should consider a guided day trip or overnight trek led by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

With young kids and those who enjoy limited hikes, take scenic drives and train rides. For eight miles the Mount Washington Auto Road (also known as Route 16), winds to the 6,288-foot summit, the highest in the northeastern U.S. On a clear day you can see six states. The Mount Washington Cog Railway, an 1869 steam-powered train operating out of Bretton Woods, also carries you to the top of the peak. The track, the second steepest in the world, climbs from 2,700 feet to 6,288 feet in three miles. The Conway Scenic Railroad, North Conway, offers three round trips: a 55-minute trip to Conway; an hour-and-45-minute trip to Bartlett; and a five-hour ride past rocky bluffs, ravines, and streams to Crawford Notch.

Another well-known scenic route is the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, a 26.5-mile drive through the White Mountains between Conway and Lincoln. The Wildcat Mountain Gondola, Pinkham Notch, provides yet another way to climb the White Mountains without hiking boots. This 15-minute ride brings you to the top of 4,062-foot Wildcat Mountain for a sweeping view. Bring a bag lunch for a summit picnic, explore the surrounding trails, then ride back down.

At Story Land in Glen, best suited for ages two to ten, kids ride in an antique car and a pumpkin coach, get squirted at the Oceans of Fun Sprayground, and play in kid-size Mother Goose buildings, meeting familiar characters such as the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.

Tip: Avoid hiking in the woods during black fly season, generally from late May to mid-June.

Recommended Side Trips: Concord, Manchester, Portsmouth's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 23 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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