Route I-93 & I-95 are the gateway highways to New Hampshire.
The White Mountains National Forest (WMNF), covering 800,000 acres in parts of New Hampshire and Maine is characterized by forests, gorges, rushing rivers, pristine lakes and ponds, boulder strewn ravines, waterfalls, U-shaped mountain passes called "notches" and dramatic alpine mountain peaks over 4,000 feet including Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, rising to 6,288 feet.
There are six Congressionally designated Wilderness Areas, about 1,200 miles of hiking and XC Ski trails (including 160 miles of the Appalachian Trail), 400 miles of snowmobile trails and a vast network of forest roads and singletrack trails. Several downhill and cross-country ski areas located within or in close proximity to the National Forest become mountain biking and outdoor centers during the warmer months. No wonder the White Mountain National Forest is one of the most visited National Parks in the United States and the premier mountain biking destination in New Hampshire.
There are 23 developed campgrounds for RV and/or tents scattered around the Forest. They range in size from seven to 176 sites. Some accept reservations through RESERVEAMERICA, others are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Some provide running water and the convenience of flush toilets and showers. Others provide a more rustic experience. Several can accommodate recreational vehicles, but none offer hook ups, dump stations, or telephones. Check with the Ranger Stations for more information, regulations and back-country camping information.
White Mountains National Forest Trail Connections
Kancamagus Scenic Byway / White Mountain Loop
The White Mountain National Forest is traversed by several major scenic byways and routes that provide access to it's system of trails. The 34-mile long Kancamagus Scenic Byway (Route 112) passes through the heart of White Mountains National Forest and traverses the flank of Mt. Kangamagus. It runs east - west from from Conway to Lincoln, NH. These end points provide a connection to the White Mountain Trail (Route 302), a designated National Scenic Byway that makes a 100-mile arced loop that offers intrepid bicyclists spectacular scenic overlooks of flumed river gorges and waterfalls, dominant views of the Presidential Mountain Range, access to historic sites, state parks, and miles of White Mountains National Forest Roads and a plethora of forest and XC Ski Center trails.
The annual "CRANK THE KANC" time trial USUALLY takes place each May on the beautiful Kancamaugus Highway, This challenging bicycle race climbs approx 21.3 miles with 2340 ft. net elevation gain. (+2426 ft./-86 ft.).
Nanamocomuck XC Ski Trail
For some backcountry mountain biking, the scenic 8.5 Upper and 19-mile Lower Nanamocomuck Trails in White Mountain National Forest are accessible from Kancamagus Highway (SR 112) west of Conway. Both trails provide easy to advanced scenic cycling along the Swift River, through beautiful cool, shaded forest environments.
The Rocky Gorge Scenic Area, located eight miles west of Conway on the Kancamagus Highway provides a large parking area with restrooms, a footbridge that leads over the Swift River Gorge to a fishing pond and access to the Nanamocomuck Trail.
Franconia Notch State Park Recreational Trail
The Franconia Notch State Park Recreational Trail is one of the most popular road biking tours in the White Mountains. The bike path parallels the Franconia Notch State Parkway and follows the Pemigewasset River for much of the way. The scenic 20 mile round trip brings riders within easy reach of park attractions which include the Flume Gorge, the Old Man of the Mountain Profile, Profile Lake, Boise Rock, the Basin, Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway and Echo Lake.
Trailhead Access: Skookumchuck Trailhead (exit 35 off 93) and the Flume Gorge Visitor Center (exit 34A).
White Mountain National Forest Mountain Bike Trails
Although mountain biking is prohibited in the Congressionally designated Wilderness Areas and on the Appalachian Trail, it is presently unrestricted in the White Mountains National Forest, unless otherwise noted. Diverse and thrilling mountain biking experiences abound. Mountain biking is permitted on almost all National Forest unpaved woods roads, old railroad grades, and most hiking and XC ski trails.
The State Parks that offer trail networks perfect for a wide range of mountain biking adventures in the White Mountains Region include: Moose Brook State Park, Crawford Notch State Park, Echo Lake & Cathedral Ledge State Park. Some even feature rockhounding opportunities and smooth flowing XC trails.
The trails vary in length, locale and degree of difficulty. The time it takes to complete a route varies on the steepness and technicality of the trail as well as your physical condition. Know your limits. Although we focus mostly on the easy to moderate and less technical rides, we have included some advanced trails that branch off or extend from our featured mountain biking routes.
Note: If you park at one of the White Mountain National Forests trailheads you will need to have one of the following: a year long parking sticker, a one week parking pass, or a ticket from the self-serve parking fee stations at some trailheads. Check the National Forest Parking Pass program for details. It's always a good idea not to leave valuables in the car and lock it before your ride.
If you are planning to bicycle on local highways, remember that summer traffic in the Whites can be extremely heavy, so be careful! Avoid busy summer weekends if possible.
Be considerate of Hikers and Pedestrians. Slow down and yield the right of way when approaching foot travelers or equestrians. To prevent resource damage, Avoid riding on muddy trails or after heavy rain. Stay on designated roads or trails, and avoid trampling vegetation.
Be Prepared: Experience The Weather
The mountains in this region demand respect. There are over 48 peaks rising to heights of over 4,000 feet. The observatory atop Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S. records temperatures at 28 degrees Farehenheight, 54 MPH hour wind gusts and visibility at 50 feet in May. That is rather the norm according to Almanac data.
In this microcosmic environment, the weather can be unpredictable. Be prepared for sudden cold, snowy, windy or rainy weather conditions. Bring warm clothing, rain gear, food, water, emergency first aid kit, bike repair tools and a good map. Let someone know where you are going and expected time of return.
Mount Washington Observatory Website: https://www.mountwashington.org
Maps: Trail descriptions and maps are available at all Ranger Stations and the Supervisor's Office. Regional bike maps of New Hampshire, including one for the White Mountains, are available free of charge at state welcome centers, rest areas and White Mountains Visitor Centers, or downloaded from NHDOT's Bureau of Transportation website.
The AMC White Mountain Guide comes with a set of maps for all the hiking trails in the White Mountains. You can also purchase them a la carte. Delorme and the USGS maps cover most of the White Mountains, but may not be as detailed or up to date as the AMC map.
The White Mountain National Forest is home to a variety of wildlife, including 184 species of birds, whitetail deer, black bear, fox, beaver, river otters, snakes, turtles and moose. Most moose sightings occur at dusk or dawn. During summer months, they eat succulent, sodium rich, aquatic vegetation in or near swamps, bogs, and wet forest edges. The Kancamagus Highway and northern-most sections of the White Mountain National Forest are well known for numerous moose sightings, though moose can be found throughout the forest.
The parks offer campground facilities, visitor centers, swimming, road bike touring, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, picnic areas, boating, scenic viewing and spectacular natural and historical features.
There are several towns in the area that offer accommodations, restaurants and shopping. Intervale, Jackson and North Conway are three of the more established towns in the area and offer access to some of the major attractions in the Mount Washington Valley. Those visitors with limited mobility can reach the top of Mt. Washington mountain via the historic Mount Washington COG Railway that leaves from a station just outside North Conway.
The Mount Washington Valley is also one of the best places in the state to visit some of New Hampshire's covered bridges.
For More Information:
White Mountain National Forest Headquarters and Supervisor's Office
Phone: (603) 536-6100
Forest Service Website: USFS White Mountains National Forest Office