White Mountains Adventure Trip- Itinerary

For the past 10 years the end of August for us has meant summer winding down, prepping for school, soccer tournaments, and getting back into a much needed routine. This year everything has been turned upside down, but lets look at the bright side, we may never have this chance to enjoy the end of summer with our kids in the same way, relaxed and unscheduled. So let’s enjoy it!

With summer vacation extended a few weeks there is still time to squeeze in a few more adventures. We’ve been taking summer trips to the White Mountains in New Hampshire since before the kids were born. In past years we camped at Glen Ellis Campground https://www.glenellisjellystone.com, spent lazy days on the Saco River, drove up Mt Washington, visited Story Land https://www.storylandnh.com/, and so much more. This year we tagged along with my sister and her family who rented a home in Intervale, NH. It was the perfect size for our two families and put us in the middle of all the activities we had planned.

With my kids now 14 and almost 12 and my nieces 10 and 8, they have outgrown Story Land and we were ready to try new things this year. I’m going to share with you our itinerary and would highly recommend heading up to NH and adding some of these things to your bucket list. The White Mountains truly has something for everyone.

Day 1: Echo Lake and Cathedral Ledge

We started out our trip with a hike up Cathedral Ledge which we accessed from Echo Lake State Park. Just FYI, I recommend you book a parking pass in advance on the website https://www.nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/echo-lakes-state-park. From the parking lot we hiked up the yellow trail that lead us to Cathedral Ledge. There were definitely some challanging and steep sections of the trail, but the views are worth it, and the swim in the lake at the end of our hike was a great reward.

https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/new-hampshire/cathedral-ledge-from-echo-lake?mobileMap=false&ref=sidebar-view-full-map

Day 2: ATV Rentals- Off Roading

Our next day brought us up to Gorham, NH about a 30 minute drive from our rental house. Renting ATV’s was a bit more expensive, but if you can splurge I think it was well worth it. You need to wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and bring eye protection (sunglasses or safety glasses), we also packed a cooler with snacks and water and attached it to the back of the ATV with a bungee cord. We listened to a short video, picked out a helmet, grabbed our maps and were Kim lead into the trails by a guide who dropped us off that the entrance to the trails for us to go explore. After talking with friends who had done this before we chose to do a 3 hour trip which I felt was the perfect amount of time. Get ready to get dirty! We honestly had a blast! It was exciting, we covered a lot of ground, and had some fantastic views. From here we headed home and went for a swim in association pool of the rental house. https://northeastsnowmobile.com/reservations/

Day 3: Downhill mountain biking at Cranmore

It’s not a summer vacation without mountain biking with my brother-in-law James. If you are into mountain biking you can follow him on youtube and instagram, JC Trails.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBaBJIAe5Pg1sJckFNi2mHg

https://www.instagram.com/jctrails/?hl=en

This year we decided to try downhill mountain biking at Cranmore Bike Park. Basically it takes a lot of the work out of mountain biking because you ride up the mountain on a ski lift that also takes your bike up. This is definitely something to check out if you are into mountain biking and have kids that love adventure. We brought our own bikes and helmets but they also rent bikes and gear at the park as well. You can take a lesson which I would recommend if you are not confident on a mountain bike. We purchased a 3 hour pass and I felt that was the perfect. For me personally it was a bit scary at first and we did have a scare when Alli went over the handlebars. Thankfully she was ok, minus scaring the hell out of her and me and leaving her with some scraps and completely covered in dust. We got a lot of runs in and I feel like it was a good way to get lots of practice with more technical skills of downhill mountain biking. You can check it out at https://www.cranmore.com/Summer-Parks/Attractions-Rates/NEW-Cranmore-Bike-Park utm_source=FiveFifty&utm_medium=Search&utm_campaign=Summer20&gclid=Cj0KCQjws536BRDTARIsANeUZ5_lPL8ZHiUGYrNCT1fqPUPl9LfU1PKFATtTkC_3tqtSYVc9_M6pw4QaAomJEALw_wcB

Day 4: Saco River Tubing

If mountain biking is a bit extreme for you and you’re looking for a more low key relaxing adventure, tubing down the Saco River is a perfect alternative. By day 4 it was exactly what we needed. Unless you are with people who know exatly where to enter and exit the river I would highly recommend going with a tubing center. There are many to choose from such as https://sacorivertubing.com With Covid-19 many people have opted for outdoor activities making it hard to book anything last minute, so do your homework. If you are planning on going I would make early reservations or purchase your own tubes before you go up. Originally we had planned to rent tubes from a local company but unfortunately everything was booked solid. Thankfully we had enough tubes and borrowed 2 blow up kayaks from a friend. Packing light is essential but make sure you have enough food and drinks for however long you plan on tubing and definitely wear water shoes. Chances are you will be walking at least a little bit in places where the river is shallow. We had a great day on the river despite some rain leaving the kiddos a bit cold for part of the trip, so check the weather before you go. Grabbing pizzas at the end of the day was clutch because we were definitely exhausted.

A busy day on the Saco River.

Day 5 : Mountain Biking an Shopping

Day 5 was our last day but we couldn’t leave without one last adventure. We headed to the Marshall Conservation Area to hit a couple more mountain bike trails. We took the Lucille trail up and took T-bone around. I would definitely recommend taking Shumway trail down which was a super flowy fun trail. You can check out the trail map here.

https://www.mtbproject.com/directory/8014144/marshall-conservation-area

We packed up the bikes and headed over to Settlers Green Outlets to get in a little back to school shopping before hitting the road. New sneakers- check! https://www.settlersgreen.com

This trip was some of the most jam pack 5 days filled with all sorts of crazy adventures mentioned above and some down time at some local swimming holes and sitting by the firepit at night. The White Mountains never disappoint. A big shout out to my sister and brother-in-law, Melissa and James, for including us on this trip! We still have a few weeks left of summer and I need some ideas. Where are your go to spots within driving distance to Boston? What should I add to the bucket list?

Hope you’re all having some great adventures this summer. Thanks for reading.

Heather

Pat’s Peak & Mt. Monadnock- quick winter getaway

Over Christmas break we always look for a quick winter getaway.  We look for something that’s within driving distance.  After the craziness of Christmas we are in need of a change of scenery, some outside time, and most importantly, time to unplug.  We don’t like to book anything too much in advance because the weather is so unpredictable.  Ski lift tickets seem to be getting more and more expensive and who wants to spend that kind of money, especially after the expense of the holidays, if there is no snow, if it is raining, or worse yet someone isn’t feeling well.  This year we chose Pat’s Peak and although we hadn’t planned on it, the weather ending up being perfect for a winter hike up Mt. Monadnock.  Here’s what I thought about both.

PatsPeakTrailMap1415

I am constantly searching the internet, reading blogs, reviewing comments on tripadvisor.com,  and talking to friends and family to get ideas for new places to visit.  My sister had recommended a great deal on a ski & stay at the Hampton Inn/Bow, NH.  https://hamptoninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-hampshire/hampton-inn-concord-bow-CCDNHHX/index.html  For a little under $400 we booked a two night stay, Friday-Sunday, which included four anytime ski tickets to Pats Peak and a buffet breakfast for the four of us each morning .  Although we usually prefer to stay somewhere with a kitchen and separate sleeping areas, during Christmas week this type of lodging tends to be way overpriced.  So we made do with the hotel room.  My only negative comment would be that the room was a little warm, but I tend to like sleeping in arctic temperatures.  I would say the beds were very comfortable though. We checked in on Friday afternoon and took the kids to the indoor pool, which was clean but very small.  There were many options for dinner in downtown Concord, NH, about 10 minutes away, and we chose Margaritas.  I wasn’t the best Mexican we’ve had but there was no wait for a table and it was inexpensive.  Actually, the hotel front desk gave us a list of area restaurants and a 10% off voucher which was a nice bonus. After a good nights sleep we headed to breakfast buffet  which was great,  there was plenty of options and we left for skiing full and ready for the day.https://www.patspeak.com

Pat’s peak was an easy 16 mile drive from the hotel.  We were a little nervous on the ride over as it had rained the day before and there wasn’t any natural snow on the ground.  We had read on their website that “Pat’s Peak has one the the largest snowmaking systems per acre in the state of NH” and we were pleasantly surprised by how much snow was on the mountain.  We were on the slopes by 9:30, and we did not wait in any lines all day which was awesome considering it was a Saturday of a school vacation week.  Every trail, except the glades area, of the mountain was open.  The mountain has 11 lifts which were all up and running, but we ended up using the same four lifts that took us to the top of the mountain.  As a family I feel that we are intermediate to advanced skiers.  We really enjoyed the black diamond trail Cyclone and double black Tornado, and although they were marked black diamond, I would compare them to a blue trail of larger mountain.  We were able to ski all of the trails with no difficulty, and made a full day of it skiing from 9:30-4:00 with two short breaks.

We enjoyed the day very much but I feel that in one day at Pat’s Peak we covered every trail that we wanted multiple times and feel like our family would have been board if we spent multiple days there.  Overall I would recommend Pat’s Peak for a day of skiing.  There is great snow making and groomed trails.  I wasn’t crowded and there was no wait time for lifts.  The lodges were clean and it’s one of the closest mountains to us that live south of Boston.

Originally when we headed up for the weekend our plan was to  go night ski on Sunday at nearby Crotched Mt., but unfortunately they are not open for night skiing on Sunday nights so we went to plan B.  It was a beautiful sunny day in the 30’s and I went online to look for a close area to go for a hike.  Although it wasn’t exactly on our route home we chose Mt. Monadnock and I’m so glad we did.  We were greeted at the gate by a friendly park employee who assisted us by giving us a map and recommending a trail to climb.  We paid the $14 fee for entrance, parked, and headed up the white dot trail which was easy to find and is the most direct route to the summit.  The park ranger said we should allow 2 hours  for the 2 mile hike to the summit.  We decided that our legs were pretty tired from skiing the day before and the ranger told us there would be a clearing a little before half way up, which was above the tree line and had a good view, so we thought that would be a good end point.  The hike stared at a steady incline that became steeper and more rocky the higher up we climbed.  We had dressed in multiple layers and were all sweating when we reach the tree line even though it was only about 35 degrees.  There were a few scattered people along the way up but we were mostly by ourselves and it was peaceful and beautiful.  Fortunately it was a clear day and view from the clearing at the tree line was amazing.  The climb down went smooth even though our legs were jello after skiing and the climb up.  We can’t wait to go back and make it to the summit!

fullsizeoutput_3240

Mt. Monadnock – December 30, 2018 – White Dot Trail

Winter is long and just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy being outside.  I don’t think our family would make it if we were cooped up all winter, so we go out as often as we can.  Winter can be beautiful and fun. Just bundle up and get out there.  What are your plans for outdoor fun this winter?

Heather

Baby it’s cold outside.

ed6b12fdae46df7cc2c11f3723d7e20a2e12fc12e65972dc68fdf9011cfd1a99

Where is spring?  It was here two weeks ago.  Oh. . . wait. . . .we live in New England where you cannot, I repeat, cannot, make any outdoor plans in advance.  Not knowing what crazy weather we will have means figuring out our next adventure at the last-minute.  Will we be breaking out the tee shirts and bikes or maybe squeezing in one more ski trip before the season is over?

So lets talk skiing.  It’s something my family and I look forward to every year.  Both of my kids started skiing at age 3. To say it was difficult to teach them is an understatement, but we got through it, and now at ages 8 & 10 they are better than I am.  It certainly takes lots of patience and now that I look back on it, I’m wondering why I didn’t just put them in ski school.

I think one of the main things that keeps people from skiing with their families is the expense.  It is generally a pretty pricey activity between the equipment, lift tickets, and  lodging if you are skiing multiple days.  I try to think of it as a learning experience and something all of us can do together, and that’s priceless.  Right!?!

IMG_0211
My husband Jon and our kids at Waterville Vally.  December 2016

The majority of our ski trips have been to New Hampshire and specifically to the White Mountains area. Typically I plan ski trips to the mountains that are offering the best deals, because let’s face it SKIING IS EXPENSIVE.  I thought I would share with you my Top 10 ways to save money skiing in New England.

#1  Get good, warm, ski gear.  There is nothing worse than buying a lift ticket and only skiing a few runs because the kids are cold. Hand warmers and toe warmers are a must too.

#2 If you are renting skis & boots for your kids think about leasing them for a season.  Check out countryski.com, who this past year leased used kids skis starting at $140 for the season, but as an added bonus you got a seasons pass to Bretton Woods.

#3 Buying skis is a great option too if you plan on skiing a lot or have kids to hand the skis & boots down to. My advice is to get measured at a ski shop and then check out Evo.com.  We bought 3 sets of skis from them in the past that we  are currently using and are very happy with.

#4  Use Liftopia.com.  If we know in advance where we are going to ski we usually buy tickets from this website and generally save about 30-40% off the ticket window price.

#5  In New Hampshire most mountains offer free lift tickets to kids under 5.  This is one of my favorites.  Who doesn’t like free.

#6 Check out Skinh.com and click on the Deals section in the Menu bar. Each mountain is listed with the deals that they run through the year. Everything is listed in one place so that saves you a lot of time too.

#7 Skiing midweek and non-holiday periods can save a bundle.  Play hookie for the day, and be the cool parent that lets the kids skip school.  Not only will you save money but they’ll probably remember that day forever.

#8 Pack your lunch and snacks.  Overpriced burgers are not worth it. Save your money for Apres Ski (and if you don’t know what that is you’re missing out.)

#9 Check Groupon.com and Livingsocial.com for deals on lodging near the mountain that you are planning on skiing at.  Just make sure to read the fine print.

#10 Lots of places have deals on Spring skiing.  For example, you can buy tickets at Waterville Vally or Cranmore  on St. Patricks Day for $17.00.

So whether you love the snow or hate it, we need to live with it.  There’s a saying that goes something like, “When you can’t change the things around you change your attitude.” Anyone want to go skiing next weekend?  We’ll meet you there.

Thanks for reading, and happy skiing.

Heather