On the eastern side of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, opportunities for snowshoeing are almost limitless and if it is a good snow year, the stuff lasts well. Near the little towns of Conway, Albany and Bartlett you will find beautiful trails ranging from easy to difficult and scenery that can’t be beat.
In the Conway area you can choose Champney Falls Trail, Echo Lake Trail or Peaked Mountain Trail and encounter everything from frozen waterfalls and cascades to lakeside runs to stunning mountain vistas.
Trails near Albany, Bartlett and Notchland (Crawford Notch State Park) provide a wide range of terrain, including glacial boulders left from the great glacial retreat of 50,000 years ago. Incredible mountain vistas, backwoods trails, wild rivers, you name it and it’s there.
Champney Falls Trail
This trail in the White Mountain National Forest is well-marked and rated easy to more difficult, running 2.8 miles, making it a good half-day trek through snowy woods and up a gentle incline, gaining 520 feet. Your reward is the stark winter view of the cascades and waterfalls. This is an out-and-back ungroomed route; allow time to gape at the frozen falls.
Echo Lake Trail
It’s a flat one-mile loop along the edge of the frozen lake, but don’t let that fool you. Rated easiest, with minimal elevation you will come upon striking views of Mount Kearsage North and its climbing ledges, White Horse and Cathedral, where rock climbers revel in summer. What you will see is ice climbers doing their scary thing on those ledges. You’ll encounter walkers and their dogs, now and then a slow-moving snowmobile, but if the pond ice is solid you can also snowshoe directly along the perimeter. The trail is ungroomed but usually packed.
Peaked Mountain Trail
This relatively short 4.2 mile loop lies close off Route 16 just south of North Conway and is a good choice to combine an easy to more difficult outing with views of the lofty mountain peaks and deep snowy valleys. You will climb gradually 1,100 feet to the bare summit of Peaked Mountain, where on a clear day you’ll be able to see Mount Washington, Middle Mountain, Black Cap and Cranmore. Many trails cross each other in this area and lead to the major peaks. Ungroomed surface.
ALBANY, BARTLETT AND NOTCHLAND
Lower Nanamocomuck Ski Trail
Want to do a point-to-point outing? Try this 6.9-mile trail that follows the Swift River, providing lots of trail options and tons of the stunning vistas the White Mountains are famous for. You’ll be in and out of the forest, back out to the water’s edge. At Rocky Gorge, choose between the shores along Falls Pond or cross a bridge to see the roiling waters in the river’s gorge. Another option here is the 0.7-mile Lovequist Loop that goes around the Falls Pond. Surface is ungroomed, skier tracked.
Boulder Loop Trail
This 3.0-mile loop rated easiest is worth taking in for the spectacular vistas above the Passaconaway Valley. Also, left in the path of the ancient glaciers are large granite boulders that in winter turn into huge icy jewels. There is one 100-foot slab you can actually trek under and feel like you are in a cave. This surface is ungroomed.
Upper Saco River Loop
Originally a family property belonging to two Bartlett-area brothers, this property has grown to a network of some 40 miles of ski trails, 10 miles of which are dedicated to snowshoers. There is a tiny, rustic touring center and the 4.7-mile loop is rated more difficult. Beginners and intermediates can snowshoe along the western part of the network for the easiest effort, while veterans can venture farther afield. Stunning views straight up at Crawford Notch to the west and Attitash Bear Peak ski area to the east make this a great outing, with Mount Carrigain towering against the river.
Arethusa Falls Trail
For scenery alone this trail is a bonanza. You’re in Crawford Notch, mobbed in summer with hikers, but in winter, it’s special. Over the relatively easy 2.6-mile out-and-back three-hour trek you’ll see New Hampshire’s tallest waterfall frozen into crystal cascades, blazing on a sunny day. You may also glimpse ice climbers attacking these falls, as well as nearby Ripley Falls and the Frankenstein Cliff, which you can access by connecting trail.