Trails in the western part of New Hampshire’s White Mountains provide numerous opportunities for snowshoeing and enjoying the scenery without too much effort. Most of the following are rated as easy outings, though we have tossed in a couple more challenging routes. Some are loops, some out-and back. So consider this area for family outings as well as solo treks.
In the Lincoln area are five possibilities, four of them rated as easy. North End Loop close to Waterville Valley; Greeley Ponds Trail near the tiny town of Tripoli Mills; and three Lincoln-area trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Lincoln Woods/Pemi East Side Road Trails and the Flume Trail.
Trails in the area of Franconia Notch include Around-Lonesome-Lake Trail, a trek rated More Difficult for those looking for a challenge, and Bald Mountain and Artist’s Bluff Trail, an easy loop that involves a gradual ascent up Bald Mountain.
North End Loop
This Waterville Valley trail is a good area for beginners. Mostly flat, the route goes around a frozen pond where you may spot a moose, and you will definitely see several of New Hampshire’s 4,000-plus foot peaks towering in the distance. It runs 3 miles and is double tracked with a skate lane for those speedy skate skiers.
Greeley Ponds Trail
Running through Mad River Notch, this is one of the oldest favorites in New Hampshire, an easy, out-and-back relatively flat trail that takes in the beautiful Greeley ponds as well as views of Mount Osceola and Mount Kancamagus. You’ll also see the steep side cliffs of Mad River Notch. Nearby Lincoln is a good area to get maps and rent equipment. If you are staying in the area for a bit you can get a meal and catch a few winks here.
Lincoln Woods Trail
Access this popular trail off the Kancamagus Highway, but stick to winter; it’s tourist-clogged in summer and fall. Rated easy and running 5.8 total miles, this out-and-back route takes you along the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River to icy ponds and frozen waterfalls. You will have cross-country skiers for company, but there is space for all. You can also access other trails leading into the Pemigewasset Wilderness, one of the largest roadless areas in the eastern United States. Want to try winter camping? As this trail enters the Wilderness it becomes the Wilderness Trail and there are some good sites along this area for winter camping.
Lincoln Woods/Pemi East Side Road Trails
Rated easiest-to-most-difficult because of the distance, this area comprises about 8 miles of trails maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. They are tracked and packed after heavy snow falls and run on opposite sides of the Pemigewasset River, double tracked with a center lane for snowshoers. Total mileage is 11 and elevation gain minimal, making this loop a good choice for beginners as well as athletes.
The Flume Trail
Want to get the adrenaline flowing? Try this easy, 2-mile loop for the views of ice climbers chopping their way up the frozen waterfalls at the Plume in Franconia Notch State Park. When they are up there, seen from the Flume Trail they look tiny, hanging way up there on the gleaming heights. But even if the climbers are not doing their thing the day you take this trail, you can still see several pristine frozen falls.
This 3.2-mile route to the shores of Lonesome Lake in Franconia Notch State Park is rated more difficult and not groomed. The loop scenery is magnificent, with the lake settled in the midst of towering 4,293-foot North Kinsman and 4,358-foot South Kinsman, and views of the stunning frozen lake, with Franconia Ridge and surrounding ravines falling away.
This Franconia Notch State Park loop route does go up Bald Mountain and around Artists’ Bluff, but the ascent is gradual and short, with a total gain of just 340 feet, so it’s rated easy and runs 1.5 total miles. There can be some bare spots up on the rocky ledges, which can be icy, but the views up here are worth it even if you don’t make it all the way up in your snowshoes. If you are looking for some downhill skiing, take in nearby Cannon Mountain, one of New Hampshire’s long-time favorites.