[From the Summer 2021 issue of New England Ski Journal]
With a sense of normalcy returning this summer, people will find new ways to enjoy New England during the warm months. Whether it be quiet walks in the woods, swimming in a local pond or lake, pedaling a bike on a rail trail, ziplining through the canopy, hiking a 4,000-footer or navigating Class IV rapids, there’s plenty to keep every member of the family engaged, exercising and connected to the outdoors.
Many folks will want to strike out on their own, finding places to hike, camp, bike or paddle on trails or waterways with varying degrees of challenge. Others may find the somewhat more structured activities at a resort area more to their liking. Resorts throughout the region offer mountain coasters, ziplines, ropes courses, climbing walls, horseback riding and much more and are gearing up for an exceptionally busy summer.
“Ski areas that offer summer attractions and activities are approaching this summer season with a lot of optimism,” said Ski New Hampshire president Jessyca Keeler. “We’re hearing that tourism travel is expected to witness huge increases this year, which bodes well for the attractions and outdoor recreation industries, because people are still looking for those fresh air experiences. However, travelers should check the hours of operation in advance and/or whether you need reservations at any attractions they are planning to visit.”
For those looking for walking and hiking opportunities, the options are practically endless. Wachusett Mountain State Reservation, an easy drive from the Boston area, offers a variety of hikes, starting with the easy Echo Lake hike, a 1.5-mile round trip great for families with kids. Of moderate difficulty is the Old Indian/Semuhenna Trail, crossing Wachusett’s ski slopes and crossing the auto road and climbing to the summit.
In New Hampshire there is a plethora of hiking trails for everyone in the family, from the relatively easy ascents on Mount Kearsarge in Sutton and Warner to the venerable Mount Washington and its accompanying peaks in the Presidential Range. From the Warner side of Kearsarge, you can take an auto road to within a half-mile of the summit. From there it is an easy hike on the Rollins Trail, rising 300 feet to the top. On the Sutton side, the Winslow Trail climbs 1,100 feet over 1.1 miles, while the Barlow Trail is slightly longer at 1.7 miles. Together they make a nice loop if you want to avoid doubling back on the same trail. The summit of Kearsarge offers gorgeous 360-degree views of the White Mountains to the north, Mount Monadnock to the south and the Green Mountains ridgeline to the west. Closer in you’ll spot Ragged Mountain, Cardigan and Mount Sunapee as well as several local lakes and towns.
Further north in the White Mountains, the Pemigewasset Wilderness offers an abundance of hiking trails, from relatively easy walks along the river to steep and challenging mountain ascents. Its 45,000 acres comprise the largest wilderness area in New Hampshire. Whether you’re looking for a nice walk in the woods or a challenging climb to a high peak, you will find it here. But it is a wilderness area, so be sure you come properly prepared with water, food, good footwear and extra clothing, especially if you are tackling a higher mountain peak.
Kayaking, canoeing and rafting are other forms of recreation that can be enjoyed by all ages together. From paddling on a quiet pond or an expansive lake to a strenuous workout on a whitewater river, there are opportunities both near home and a few hours’ drive away. In western Massachusetts, Berkshire Whitewater offers float trips on the Deerfield River, which has scheduled releases from April to October with gentle rafting suitable for kids as young as 5 to exciting Class IV rapids.
While in the area you can enjoy all the activities at Berkshire East Mountain Resort. Its progression bike park, Thunder Mountain, will initiate the newbies and challenge the more experienced riders. The Aerial Adventure Park features two courses with varying degrees of difficulty. Test your mettle going from one suspended platform to another, through the trees on swings, ziplines and other obstacles. For speed and thrills, try the Mountain Coaster — part alpine slide, part roller coaster — taking you uphill then releasing you for a swooping, dropping, banking ride back down. And be sure to check out the ziplines. Three different zipline canopy tours let you choose your level of thrill, from gentle to thrilling.
The Saco River, which goes from Bartlett, N.H., all the way into Maine, is a wonderful place for family canoe, kayak and float trips. Averaging only 3 feet deep in most places, and mostly gentle with a few small rapids, the Saco is great for families with young kids to enjoy a relaxing paddle with sandy beaches along the way to stop and picnic or swim. You might even come across a few rope swings to play on. Watercraft can be rented, or bring your own and enjoy the river with its backdrop of Mount Washington and shores lined with wildflowers.
Purity Spring Resort in Madison, N.H., offers waterskiing, wakeboarding and kneeboarding on Purity Lake, as well as kayak, canoe, fishing and sailing options.
Silver Lake State Park in Barnard, Vt., is another spot for quiet recreation. Located on the shoreline of 84-acre Silver Lake, it is ideal for camping, swimming, paddling and fishing. Its proximity to the picturesque town of Woodstock gives visitors the opportunity to also avail themselves of the other local recreational opportunities, such as hiking, golf and horseback riding. The nearby Billings Farm & Museum gives a look into Vermont’s rural past. The Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee offers hands-on exposure to the natural world through educational programs.
Many of your favorite ski resorts have a multitude of activities in the summer. Ziplining, mountain biking, disc golf, ropes courses, mini-golf, scenic chairlift or gondola rides and hiking are just some of the fun you can experience when the snow has melted.
Gunstock in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region has an array of family-friendly activities and attractions, including the Adventure Park, Aerial Treetop Adventures, Mountain Coaster, E-Bike tours, ziplines, Segways, scenic lift rides, hiking, biking and fishing. The coaster takes riders uphill through the forest before the cart disengages and gravity takes over. The downhill track is designed with swooping turns, banked corners, rolling drops and 360-degree turns.
Have you ever wanted to try your hand at fly-fishing, but not sure where to start? Head up to Bretton Woods, N.H., for on-river beginner clinics. Team up with an experienced guide who will take you on the Ammonoosuc River to learn the basics of fly-casting, proper fly selection and how to navigate the river for best fishing spots. These two-hour clinics are for one to three guests ages 13 and older. While you are there you can take advantage of the other activities the area has to offer. A unique offering is the West Wall Rock Climb. Previous rock-climbing experience is not required. However, it’s fun and challenging for all abilities. There are several routes of varying degrees of difficulty, and your guide, who can take up to three people, will choose the appropriate one for your group. Of course, all safety measures are in place and all necessary technical equipment is provided.
If you have done the West Wall, or are an experienced climber, Bretton Woods’ guides are available to lead you on a one-on-one climb on some of the other notable routes in the White Mountains. This experience will be tailored to your ability and preferences.
Channel your inner explorer in the nine granite caves — with names like the “Polar Pinch” and “The Lemon Squeeze” — at Polar Caves in Rumney, N.H., which also features a unique Animal Park. The Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves, located in New Hampshire’s Kinsman Notch, is a self-guided adventure along the 1-mile wooden boardwalk trail among jagged rock walls, glacial boulder caves and cascading waterfalls.
Clark’s Bears in Lincoln, N.H., features trained bears and the White Mountain Central Railroad, a 30-minute steam-powered train ride. Other attractions include Water Blaster Boats, the Old Man Climbing Tower and Anaconda Escape water raft ride.
Located in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, Castle in the Clouds is a historic estate dating back to the early 20th century. The original 6,300-acre property, which was owned and developed by Tom Plant, was home to stables, a golf course and a boathouse on Lake Winnipesaukee, among other features. Today, the estate is a major destination, with a week’s worth of activities to keep guests busy. Visitors are welcome to take tours of the mansion, walk along the network of hiking trails, learn about the estate through exhibits, go on a horseback ride and have a snack at Cafe in the Clouds.
Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch is a legendary alpine peak in winter but a diverse summer playground, boasting area attractions such as Echo Lake Beach, the Flume Gorge and the Tramway. Canoes, kayaks and pedal boats are available for rent at Echo Lake.
Adam White, spokesperson for Vail Resorts’ seven properties in Vermont and New Hampshire, sums up the outlook for the coming summer this way: “After a summer off last year due to the pandemic, warm-weather fun is back at our ski resorts in Vermont and New Hampshire. A lot of the activities and offerings that were suspended last summer are back in action, and we’re starting to fill in events calendars again, which is a great feeling.”