White Mountains, NH
Mt. Washington or Bust!
The first order of business? Checking out the amazing view from atop Mt. Washington, the northeast's highest peak (6,288 feet). On a clear day, you can see the Atlantic, the Adirondacks in upstate New York, and the Canadian province of Quebec. There are four ways to get to the summit. Pick the one that matches your family's stamina and attention span:
Mount Washington Observatory
at Summit, copyright Mt.
Washington Auto Road
- Mt. Washington Auto Road. Like navigating switchback turns on steep grades? You'll love the 8-mile drive up this twisty road. Plan on 35-45 minutes roundtrip, including time for picture-taking. If it's a yucky day (but not raining), go anyway. Your kids will feel like they're flying through the clouds. Plus, you'll earn the right to affix one of those "This car climbed Mt. Washington" bumper stickers to the car.
- Mt. Washington Auto Road Stages. Leave the driving to someone else. "Stages" are vans navigated by well-informed guides, who spout facts and figures on mountain wildlife, weather, and terrain, as well as the history of the road, which opened in 1861 as a carriage route. The round trip takes 1.5 hours, including a few picture-taking stops and a 30-minute stay at the summit.
Cog Railroad at Bretton Woods,
copyright Mt. Washington VCC
- Mount Washington Cog Railway. It's like a slow-motion roller coaster ride headed straight for the clouds, complete with noise and soot. Be forewarned: Young children may squirm on this three-hour round trip excursion.
- Hiking. In-shape families with older kids and lots of hiking experience will want to conquer Mt. Washington on foot. Most popular is the 4.5-mile Tuckerman Ravine Trail, which begins at the Appalachian Mountain Club's (AMC) Pinkham Notch Visitor Center (2,032 feet). Start your climb early in the day -- it takes 4-5 hours to get to the top and 2-3 to get down. Talk to experts at the visitor center about weather conditions, appropriate gear, and safety issues before embarking on this adventure. As the sign says, "The area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died there from exposure, even in the summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad."