Hikers have their own favorite treks, and the same goes for hiking with kids. When looking for a new hike to explore, I often turn to the book Best Hikes with Kids: Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine (Cynthia Copeland, Thomas J. Lewis, and Emily Kerr, The Mountaineers Books, 2007), which gives great details, along with tips for keeping hiking fun. Here are some favorite treks from experienced hiking parents in our region:
Baldy (a.k.a. Bald Nob) and Artists Bluff in Franconia Notch (author recommendation)
This 1.8-mile loop is a local favorite with lots of bang for your hiking buck. The hike includes Mount Baldy (with great views of Cannon Mountain and Mount Lafayette) and Artists Bluff, overlooking incredibly scenic Franconia Notch. Begin either at the Baldy trailhead, across from the Peabody parking area at Cannon Mountain, or the Artists Bluff trailhead, across from the Echo Lake parking area.
Lonesome Lake (Nancy Ritger)
Starting from the Lafayette Campground in Franconia Notch, this up-and-back hike totaling 3.4 miles brings hikers up Cannon Mountain on the opposite side from the ski area. While the trail is steep in some places, the destination is worth the huffing and puffing on the way up. Hikers will be able to dip their toes – or more – into Lonesome Lake, which is back-dropped by the majestic mountains of the Franconia Range. The AMC maintains a hut at the lake, with overnight accommodations available. (For a slightly longer hike, begin at the Basin in Franconia Notch and follow the Basin-Cascades Trail along Cascade Brook. The Basin-Cascades Trail eventually joins the Cascade Brook Trail. Round trip is 5 miles.)
Arethusa and Ripley Falls (Sara DeLucia)
Arethusa and Ripley are among several waterfalls in Crawford Notch, with Arethusa having bragging rights as the highest waterfall in New Hampshire. The 2.5-mile round trip on the Arethusa Falls trail brings hikers to the base of Arethusa Falls, which drops more than 200 feet. There are several hiking options around the falls, including spurs to Ripley Falls and Frankenstein Cliff. Stop into the nearby AMC Highland Center on Route 302 for the latest trail conditions and hiking suggestions. (The Highland Center also has a super cool outdoor play structure for some pre- or post-hike fun.)
Mud Pond Trail (Martha Wilson)
Located in Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge near the town of Jefferson, this easy 1.6-mile round-trip hike is a big hit with kids. The trail is fully accessible with a boardwalk that leads through wetlands to a wildlife viewing platform. “There’s an opening in the boardwalk built for wildlife to be able to cross to the other side of the swamp, and we imagine what animals might have crossed that way,” says Wilson. Pondicherry, a favorite for birdwatchers, includes several other walks, among them treks to Little Cherry Pond and Big Cherry Pond.
Wheeler Mountain (Terry Hoffer and Luke O’Brien)
This 2.3-mile round-trip hike in Barton offers rock scrambles and fantastic views of Lake Willoughby and both the Green and White Mountains, with plenty of excellent picnicking rocks along the way. Trailhead is on Wheeler Mountain Road. (Other hikes from Wheeler Mountain Road include the longer Moose Mountain Trail and the shorter Wheeler Pond Trail.)
Brousseau Mountain (Luke O’Brien)
Just south of the Canadian border in Norton, the 2.4-mile round-trip hike up Brousseau Mountain offers scenery and solitude. “Your back is right on the Canadian border, looking south over Little Averill Lake and the great, big, undeveloped forest,” says O’Brien. Trailhead is on Brousseau Mountain Road, off Route 114. (Please note, Brousseau is a nesting site for Peregrine Falcons, so the trail is sometimes closed before Aug. 1.)
Nulhegan Basin Wildlife Refuge (Luke O’Brien)
Located within the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (as is Pondicherry, above), this protected area near Island Pond includes a 1-mile interpretive nature trail.
Mount Pisgah, South Trail (Terry Hoffer)
This 3.4-mile round-trip hike is somewhat challenging, so better suited to older kids. The payoff is in fantastic views of long Lake Willoughby and Mount Hor across the way (another good kids’ hike). Take a short side trip about a mile into the hike to catch the lake view from Pulpit Rock, but keep the kids close, as the view is from a high ledge. Overlook areas north of the summit allow views of Willoughby and Lake Memphremagog. (Other trail options include North Trail and East Trail.) Trailhead is on Route 5A in Westmore.
Groton State Park (Terry Hoffer)
Groton State Park offers myriad hiking options. With names like Owl’s Head, Little Deer Trail, and Devil’s Hill Trail, the paths range in length from one-half mile to three and one-half miles and carry hikers through bogs and forest and past cool geological features. For more detailed information and descriptions of trails in Groton State Forest, go to www.vtstateparks.com/pdfs/groton_trails.pdf.