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About the White Mountains and the Mt. Washington Valley

The White Mountains

Boy playing in the snow in Mt. Washington ValleyThe White Mountains were named by 19th-century sailors, for their snow-capped peaks visible at sea.

Tourism has been the #1 industry of the White Mountains since Ethan Allen Crawford opened his lodging to travelers in the early 19th century. The first tourists came from Massachusetts, and included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Later in the 1800's, seasonal residents included Hudson River School landscape painters like Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt and George Inness, all of whom worked in and around North Conway.

Today, the White Mountains are within a day's drive of more than 70 million people, and receive nearly two million international visitors annually.

White Mountain National Forest

White Mountains New Hampshire topographic mapEnabled by the Weeks Act (named for Congressman, later Senator and Secretary of war John Weeks), the first acquisition of public land in New Hampshire by the US Government was 7000 acres in the town of Benton, purchased in 1911 for $13 an acre.

The White Mountain National Forest is now the largest acreage of public land in New England, with 780,000 acres, of which 735,000 lie in New Hampshire (more than 11% of all land in NH).

More people visit the White Mountain National Forest annually than visit Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks combined.

The National Forest stretches 87 miles north from near the intersection of Routes 3 and 93 near Squam Lake to Route 110 between Berlin and the Connecticut River. Elevation ranges from 440 feet to 6,228 feet. Among other features, it contains:

  • Four mountain ranges: Presidential, Franconia, Kinsman, Carter-Moriah and Sandwich
  • Five wilderness areas (created following the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964): Pemigewasset Wilderness, Dry River Wilderness, Great Gulf Wilderness, Sandwich Range Wilderness, Caribou-Speckled Wilderness
  • Ten major downhill ski areas
  • More than a dozen cross-country ski areas
  • More than 100 miles of automobile roads
  • 1200 miles of hiking trails, including northernmost part of Appalachian Trail
  • 50 lakes and ponds
  • 750 miles of fishable streams
  • 43 peaks over 4000 feet in elevation
  • 237 species of birds (The National Forest is listed as one of the 500 most important bird areas in the United States by the American Bird Conservancy.)

Mt. Washington Valley

Summer activities in the Mount Washington Valley include hiking, canoeing, swimming and tax-free outlet shopping. The North Conway Country Club, a beautiful 18-hole PGA golf course, is just steps from your door. In the winter, you can enjoy a host of outdoor activities in the snow, including downhill skiing at Cranmore Mountain just minutes away. Year-round, indulge yourself in some of the finest tax-free boutique and factory outlet shopping in the Northeast.


About North Conway: “The Capital of the Mt. Washington Valley”

White Mountain National Forest: everything about the National Forest, from the USDA Forest Service

Appalachian Mountain Club: publishers of the definitive White Mountain Guide Online

Everything about weather in the White Mountains, from the Mount Washington Observatory

An enthusiast's site dedicated to outdoors in the White Mountains, by David Metsky

Official NH tourism information from the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development

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