White Mountain National Forest

Around the Forest
Lake in White Mountain National Forest
Lake in White Mountain National Forest (Corel)

Not much more than 100 miles from Boston and an easy day's drive from New York or Montreal, the White Mountain National Forest seems dangerously close to civilization—a tourist trap waiting to happen.

But while it's true that some of the most outstanding natural wonders in the Forest are not the best place to go to get away from it all (witness the snack bar and gift shop at the summit of Mount Washington, for example), there is more—much more—to this great North Country wilderness than the famous rock formations.

The White Mountains

The virtually endless stretches of great granite mountain ranges are without a doubt the most spectacular feature of the 770,000-acre Forest (47,000 acres lie in Maine; the rest are in New Hampshire). With 60 4,000-plus-foot peaks within its boundaries, the Forest is home to the highest mountains in the northeastern United States—Mount Washington topping them all at 6,288 feet.

Things to Do

The Presidential Range, which includes Mount Jefferson, Mount Adams, Mount Madison, and Mount Washington, is the Forest's most dramatic region and a favorite spot for hiking. The Appalachian Trail runs through the Presidentials and across the Forest to its western edge. Along the way, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) has erected eight mountain huts that offer perhaps the most luxurious camping available without electricity.

With so many mountains, it's not surprising that there are also some great places to go mountain biking in the Forest. Old woods roads, once crawling with logging trucks, don't see much traffic anymore besides that of the waffle-print variety. At this writing, most hiking trails are still open to bikers as well; to be sure, check with Forest rangers beforehand about specific trails.

In winter, skiing in the Forest is tough to beat. Besides some of the better known downhill resorts like Waterville Valley and Bretton Woods, the Forest Service maintains plenty of cross-country trails. Most revered of all, though, is Tuckerman's Ravine, a giant backcountry headwall that you can reach only on foot.

Any time of year is a good time to explore the Forest in search of wildlife. Over the course of a year 184 species of birds call the Forest home, as do moose, black bears, and deer. The fishing here is also plentiful, with Eastern Brook Trout and Atlantic Salmon the major native species.

If your time is limited but you still want to experience the full grandeur of the White Mountain National Forest, you can't beat the scenic driving on Kancamagus National Scenic Highway, which extends almost the entire width of the Forest. If you can, at least try to stop for the night at one of the campgrounds along the way. The stunning vistas throughout the Forest are certainly one reason to visit, but the Forest also plays host to a wealth of natural beauty that can only be appreciated up close.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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