Riding the Cog to the Top of the World

At 6,288.2 feet, Mount Washington is the highest peak in New Hampshire. Ride in style to the summit on a historic cog railway that has been operating since 1869.

“The Second Greatest Show on Earth!” That’s what showman P.T. Barnum proclaimed in 1869 as he stepped down off the train and marveled at the view from Mount Washington’s rocky summit. High praise indeed from the man whose grand circus occupied the primary spot!

Today, more than 150 years later, the Mount Washington Cog Railway continues to attract passengers from all over the world for its dramatic ascent to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Cog is the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world. With an average grade of 25 percent (some sections approach nearly 38 percent), it’s also the second steepest. Motor power is primarily provided by a fleet of seven powerful biodiesel locomotives. And with a nod to its steam heritage, the railway also continues to operate a pair of coal-fired steam engines.  

Located in the heart of the majestic White Mountains region of New Hampshire, Marshfield Base Station is 6 miles east of Route 302 on the western face of Mount Washington.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The adventure begins at Marshfield Base Station, elevation 2,700 feet

Marshfield draws its name from two significant historical figures: Sylvester Marsh, the visionary who created the Cog Railway, and Darby Field, believed to be the first European mountaineer to reach the summit of Mount Washington in 1642. In his time, the mountain was known to the native Abenaki people as Agiocochook (“the place of the Great Spirit”) and Waumbik or “white rocks” to the Algonquins.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Open year-round, Marshfield Station features an interactive and informative Cog Railway Museum (admission is free), a gift shop stocked with Cog gear and local specialties, and a convenience store/food court for last-minute necessities and hot and cold snacks. A wraparound observation deck provides beautiful panoramic views of the railway and the mountain.

Related article: The Uniqueness of the White Mountains

The ticket office is on the lower level and boarding gates are just outside the door. Same-day tickets are usually available but advanced reservations are always highly recommended.

There’s always plenty of free parking at Marshfield with dedicated lots for buses and RVs.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All Aboard

15 minutes before our scheduled departure we were lined up at our gate ready to board.

The brakeman was stationed out on the front deck for the up-mountain trip to the summit. On the return trip down the mountain, the brakeman was at the brake wheels at the other end of the coach.

After a quick introduction and safety orientation, the dispatcher cleared our train for departure. The brakeman gave the engineer the “ALL CLEAR!” signal and with the blast of smoke and steam, our excursion to the top of New England was underway.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s all uphill from here

Once our train has cleared the steel bridge spanning the Ammonoosuc River, we felt a burst of acceleration as the engineer brought the locomotive up to its maximum speed—5mph! Dense forest brackets the right-of-way on either side as your train makes its way up Cold Springs Hill, the second steepest part of the railway at a grade of nearly 35 percent.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Waumbek passing loop is next, with 2,100 feet of double track governed by two solar-powered hydraulically operated switches. The second track, installed in 2000, allows as many as seven trains moving in opposing directions to operate on the mountain at the same time. Here we also saw the Waumbek Tank where our steam engine stopped briefly to top off the water level in its tenders.

Crossing the Upper Waumbek switch put the train back on single track now following a narrow ridge line. Halfway House, the elevation of 4,300 feet is on the right, and looking at the reflection of the coach in the building’s window as we passed we got a sense of just how steep the climb is here.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Old Man of the Mountain was a rock formation on the side of Cannon Mountain that had long served as the symbol of the State of New Hampshire. That formation suddenly collapsed back in 2003 taking with it part of the state’s identity and its most popular attraction. Someone noticed a remarkable facsimile of the Old Man on Mount Washington which is next to the tracks just ahead of us at this point. They installed a white background behind it to make the old man’s profile a little clear.

Related article: Smile of the Great Spirit: Lake Winnipesaukee

And just past Profile Rock, we came out onto the most impressive part of the entire railway—a high trestle known as Jacob’s Ladder.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacob’s Ladder and the Summit Cone

As the train passed Profile Rock, the mountain’s true character begins to reveal itself. The dense and rocky forest on either side drops away, the air freshens and the wind picks up, and when the weather is clear you realize that the train has been following a narrow ridge between two deep chasms—Burt’s Ravine on the left and the Ammonoosuc Ravine on the right. And then just as suddenly you’re nearly 25 feet above the surface of the mountain. Welcome to Jacob’s Ladder!

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

300 feet long and curving to the left, the train is now climbing at a 37.41-degree grade—that’s a 37-foot elevation change for every 100 feet of forwarding movement. Jacob’s is the steepest section of the Cog Railway and the steepest railroad trestle anywhere in the world.

Once across the trestle, we passed Frog Rock, a brightly painted boulder used by train crews as a location marker in bad weather. We were now at a tree line roughly 5,000 feet above sea level and climbing along the side of the summit cone toward an area known as Skyline. As the tracks turned to the southeast and began to level out on the left we saw the Northern Presidentials: Mounts Clay, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison and beyond the mountains of western Maine.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking is a popular pastime in the White Mountains and on either side of the train we saw piles of rocks or cairns marking various trails. Running parallel to the tracks on the left is the Gulfside Trail, the local stretch of the much longer Appalachian Trail (AT). The AT runs nearly 2,200 miles up the east coast from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in northern Maine.

Ahead on the right but still several hundred feet higher is our destination: the Sherman Adams Visitor Center on the summit of Mount Washington.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is Mount Washington State Park, a 60.3-acre parcel perched on the summit of the Northeast’s highest peak and surrounded by the extensive 750,000-acre White Mountain National Forest.

After a routine safety stop at the summit switch followed by the “all clear” signal from the Brakeman, our train slowly came up over the final slope and then leveled out at the platform.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With conditions at the top quite different than those at the base station we were glad we’d brought warm jackets. Leaving the coach we noticed that it was much windier than it was at the Base Station. After all, the subarctic tundra up here is similar to that of far northern Canada and hurricane-force wind gusts occur on the summit an average of 110 days per year.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trains layover at the summit for approximately one hour, plenty of time to explore the Sherman Adams Visitor Center and its rooftop observation deck, Extreme Mount Washington (an interactive weather exhibit), a cafeteria, and two gift shops. You can send a card to friends and family with a unique Mount Washington postmark from the summit Post Office.

Related article: Central Vermont: Montpelier, Burlington & Barre

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Home of the World’s Worst Weather!

Much has changed since Henry David Thoreau wrote about Mount Washington’s dramatic and unpredictable weather in 1839 but the weather certainly hasn’t. On a clear day, visitors enjoy spectacular panoramic views from Quebec to the Atlantic Ocean or they may experience a taste of the “World’s Worst Weather”—it can snow on the summit even in summer. Weather is the story on this mountain.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first weather station on the summit was operated by the U.S. Signal Service from 1870–1892. The modern observatory was founded in 1932 and on April 12, 1934, the highest surface wind speed ever directly observed by man was recorded at the summit: 231 mph! The highest temperature ever recorded at the summit is 72 degrees F and the lowest not including wind chill was -47 degrees.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Downbound Train: Return to Marshfield

Upon reboarding the train we noticed that the seats had been flipped back to face down the mountain. The locomotive was now at the lead end of the train and the Brakeman was inside at the brake wheels.

While the route down the mountain is the same, the vista seemed wider. We could appreciate the ruggedness and vast expanse of this sub-arctic terrain as it all unfolded in front of and around us. 

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the tracks curved to the left and pitched over onto Long Trestle and Jacob’s Ladder the entire length of the railway could be seen ahead and below—Halfway House, the Waumbek passing loop, and Marshfield Station. We could follow the line of Base Station Road out to Route 302, the red roofs of the Omni Mount Washington Resort, and the ski slopes and gondolas at Bretton Woods.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter comes early

Winter comes early to the higher elevations of the White Mountains and by the first week of October, the summit usually sees a frosting of feathery rime ice (frozen fog) and snow. Columbus Day weekend marks the end of the season for Mount Washington State Park as well as the Mount Washington Auto Road.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shortly after the State Park summit facilities shut down for the winter, the Cog Railway summit operations cease as well. Weather permitting through the end of October and then again in the early spring, they may run trains up as high as Skyline but the primary destination throughout the winter is Waumbek Station (elevation 4,000 feet).

Related article: Boston Freedom Trail

Note: Plan to arrive 45 MINUTES before departure time to allow plenty of time for ticketing and restroom visits. All trains board 15 minutes before departure time.

Worth Pondering…

What New England is, is a state of mind, a place where dry humor and perpetual disappointment blend to produce an ironic pessimism that folks from away find most perplexing.

—Willem Lange

Smile of the Great Spirit: Lake Winnipesaukee

Lake Winnipesaukee is located in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire at the foothills of the White Mountains and is the largest lake in the state at 72 square miles

Lake Winnipesaukee is New Hampshire’s summertime playground where travelers come to enjoy lake life. It’s a great family-friendly destination but also works well as a trip for just adults.

Many of the top things to do in Lake Winnipesaukee are about enjoying the lake in the summer. There are lake cruises, jet-ski rentals, and plenty of beaches to relax on. But you’ll also find plenty of museums, breweries, wineries, and shops to enjoy.

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the heart of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region between Manchester and the White Mountains, Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire and the third-largest lake in New England after Lake Champlain and Moosehead Lake. Surrounded by three mountain ranges, the wooded shoreline and crystal clear water of this spring-fed lake make it a popular resort and a place to rest and relax in beautiful surroundings and enjoy water sports of all sorts.

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The lake is 69 square miles altogether—21 miles long (northwest-southeast) and from one to nine miles wide (northeast-southwest). It is home to at least 264 islands, half of which are less than a quarter-acre in size, and is indented by several peninsulas yielding a total shoreline of approximately 288 miles.

In short, this lake is massive. Additionally, there are some inhabited islands like Bear Island and Governors Island.

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors may explore the numerous villages on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee by boat or by car. Each one offers something unique. Weirs Beach has arcades and boardwalks, waterslides, a public beach, and an activity center. Meredith is a restored mill village where you can browse through antiques, art, and craft galleries. Wolfeboro is a picture-perfect village right down to its historic Main Street. Center Harbor, Moultonborough, Tuftonboro, Alton, Gilford, and Laconia all have their special flavor. All communities have public parks and docks and feature varied activities such as fireworks displays, and band concerts throughout the year.

Related Article: The Uniqueness of the White Mountains

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Story of Lake Winnipesaukee

Many moons ago on the northern shores of this beautiful lake there lived a great chief, Wonton, renowned for his great courage in war and the beauty of this fair daughter, Mineola. She had many suitors but refused them all. One day, Adiwando, the young chief of a hostile tribe to the south hearing so much of the fair Mineola, paddled over the lake and fearlessly entered the village of his enemies. Her father happened to be away at the time and admiring Adiwando’s courage the rest of the Indians did not harm him. Before long, he and the Indian maid were desperately in love with each other.

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On his return, Wonton was exceedingly wroth to find the chief of the enemy in his camp and a suitor for the hand of his daughter; so much so, that he immediately raised his tomahawk and started to kill him.

Mineola, rushing in between them, pleaded with her father for the life of her lover and finally succeeded in reconciling them. After the wedding ceremony, the whole tribe accompanied the two lovers in their canoes halfway across the lake. When they started the sky was overcast and the waters black but just as they were about to turn and leave them the sun came out and the waters sparkled around the canoe of Mineola and Adiwando.

“This is a good omen,” said Wonton, “and hereafter these waters shall be called Winnipesaukee, or The Smile of the Great Spirit.”

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Things to Do in Lake Winnipesaukee

Whether you want a relaxing boat ride or the adrenaline rush of driving a jet-ski, want to peruse local handicrafts or dive into history, or want to spend the afternoon wine-tasting or enjoying an ice cream, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Lake Winnipesaukee.

Let’s run down some favorites.

Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Public Boat Launches

Lake Winnipesaukee is all about boating and there are numerous places to launch a boat and cruise around Lake Winnipesaukee. Launch your boat at one of the many launch sites on the Lake. If you don’t own a boat, you can rent one, charter one, or take a cruise on one of the many excursion boats on the Lake.

Laconia’s boat rental locations include East Coast Flightcraft, Irwin Marine, North Water Marine, and Winnisquam Marine. In Gilford, there is Fay’s Boatyard, Wolfeboro is home to Goodhue Boat Company, and Alton Bay has Lakeside Boat Rentals. Located in Meredith is Melvin Village Marina. Finally, in Moultonborough, there is Trexler’s Marina.

Related Article: Everything You Need for Lake Camping

If you’d rather be closer to the water, Jet Ski rentals on Lake Winnipesaukee can be found at Wolfeboro Jet Ski Rentals, Weirs Beach Jet Ski Rentals, and numerous other places.

Wolfeboro on Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mailboat Cruise on the M/V Sophie C

Lake Winnipesaukee is home to a truly unique lake cruise: the M/V Sophie C, an actual working mailboat and the “oldest floating post office in the country”. The boat travels from Weirs Beach to the islands of Lake Winnipesaukee delivering mail to their residents. And passengers can join for the ride.

Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On a cruise, you’ll visit a handful of islands and drop off and pick up the mail. Passengers can also fill out postcards, write letters, and mail them with a collectible stamp during the cruise.

This cruise is one of the most unique activities in New Hampshire.

The Mailboat Cruise costs $40 a person and lasts two hours. It only runs during the summer months.

Boarding M/S Washington for Scenic Lake Winnipesaukee Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Narrated Scenic Tours on the M/S Mount Washington

Experience the beauty of Lake Winnipesaukee during a narrated scenic tour aboard the historic M/S Mount Washington. Learn about the history of the region and local folklore surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in New England.

With daily departures from Weirs Beach and departures from Wolfeboro and Alton Bay on select days, it’s easy to fit a cruise on “the Mount” into your travel plans.

The 2½ hour cruise costs $42 (+$3.50 fuel surcharge).

Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other available cruises offered by Mount Washington Cruises include:

  • Sunset Dinner Cruise on the M/S Mount Washington
  • Sunday Brunch Cruise on the M/S Mount Washington
  • Summer Cocktail Cruise on the M/S Winnipesaukee Spirit
Castle in the Clouds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit Castle in the Clouds

Castle in the Clouds is a 1913 mountaintop mansion in Moultonborough and one of Lake Winnipesaukee’s most popular attractions. It’s a great example of Arts and Crafts architecture in New England and has an aesthetic of living in harmony with nature. The mansion has 16 rooms and modern amenities for its time. It’s a beautiful house with gorgeous views of Lake Winnipesaukee from above.

Lake Winnipesaukee from Castle in the Clouds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And it’s way more than just a historic home to visit. There are over 5,000 acres of land with stunning views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the Ossipee Mountains, miles of hiking, and even an on-site restaurant. The estate also hosts weddings and other private events. 

Related Article: 4 Epic Places to Watch the Leaves Change

Self-guided tours of the mansion cost $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 5 to 17, and $15 for seniors ages 65+. Visitors can tour the first and second floors of the mansion.

Castle in the Clouds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Guided tours of the basement cost $25 per person and include self-guided tours of floors 1 and 2. The basement tour shows guests where the servants lived who ran the mansion and they had the most interesting stories of all.

Note: Trolleys are the only means of access to the mansion. Trolleys depart the Carriage House every 15 minutes until 4:15 pm.

Castle in the Clouds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Old Country Store in Moultonborough

The Old Country Store in Moultonborough is one of the oldest continuously operated stores in the United States and has been in business since 1781. In addition to selling goods to the community, it’s served as a hub for town meetings, a library, and a post office.

Today, the iconic yellow building serves as a vintage shopping experience for travelers in the area. You can find locally made goods, antiques, and unusual souvenirs. They even have penny candy (not quite a penny a piece anymore, but still quite reasonable prices).

The Old Country Store is around the corner from Castle in the Clouds and makes a nice stop for after your visit.

Loon Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Loon Preservation Center and Marcus Wildlife Sanctuary 

The Frederick and Paula Anna Markus Wildlife Sanctuary is comprised of 200 acres of upland forests, marshes, ponds, clear-running streams, and over 5,000 feet of pristine shoreline on Lake Winnipesaukee, one of the largest remaining areas of natural shoreline on the lake. These diverse habitats make this sanctuary home to a wide host of plant and animal species. Two walking trails wind their way through the Sanctuary.

Loon Center on Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Loon Center, located on the north shore of Lake Winnipesaukee on the Markus Wildlife Sanctuary in Moultonborough was built as the new headquarters of the Loon Preservation Committee in 1993. In addition to staff offices, public meeting rooms, and a research laboratory, the Loon Center houses exhibits, displays, and the Loon’s Feather Gift Shop. The interpretive exhibits, presentations, and nature trails give over 10,000 yearly visitors an introduction to the natural environment of New Hampshire and promote a greater understanding of loons and the natural world.

Loon Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For most people, the call of the loon is their first introduction to the species. Loon calls have a distinct, haunting quality that has enchanted humans for centuries. In popular culture, these calls have become a symbol of the wilderness. Loons are most vocal from mid-May to mid-June. They have four main calls which they use to communicate with their families and other loons. Each call has a distinct meaning and serves a unique function.

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best Time to Visit Lake Winnipesaukee

The best time to visit Lake Winnipesaukee is in the summer months from June through August. This is when the lake is busiest and at its most expensive but when else can you swim, relax on the beach, and go boating underneath the bright sunshine?

The busiest time of year is mid-June when bikers from around the country descend on the lake for Laconia Motorcycle Week. This can be a fun time to visit the lake but know that it will be very crowded with lots of motorcycles roaring.

Wolfeboro on Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall can be another wonderful time to visit Lake Winnipesaukee with beautiful fall foliage surrounding the lake. And we enjoyed visiting Lake Winnipesaukee in late-September, a warm yet uncrowded time as most kids are back in school.

Winter is a very different trip, but hey, there’s a reason why Lake Winnipesaukee is a favorite New England winter getaways. Lake Winnipesaukee is an ice fishing mecca with competitions taking place in February. This can be a great time to enjoy bargain-basement accommodation rates—with a side of ice skating. There is also a sled dog race held in February.

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Winnipesaukee Stats

Elevation: 504 feet above sea level

Maximum depth: 180 feet

Average depth: 43 feet

Volume: 625 billion gallons

Wolfeboro on Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Length: Approximately 25 miles

Width: Approximately 15 miles at widest point

Water Surface: 72 square miles

Distance around the lake: 182 miles

Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shoreline excluding islands: 178 miles

Islands: 244

Island shoreline: 100½ miles

Worth Pondering…

How still it is here in the woods. The trees
Stand motionless, as if they did not dare
To stir, lest it should break the spell. The air
Hangs quiet as spaces in a marble frieze.
Even this little brook, that runs at ease,
Whispering and gurgling in its knotted bed,
Seems but to deepen with its curling thread
Of sound the shadowy sun-pierced silences.

—Archibald Lampman (1861-1899)

The Uniqueness of the White Mountains

General stores, snowy peaks, and tons of maple syrup to pour on award-winning pancakes

State nicknames say a lot about a place and when it comes to New England, nature reigns supreme. Maine is the Pine Tree State, Massachusetts is the Bay State, Vermont is the Green Mountain State. Although New Hampshire’s is known as the Granite State, a lesser-known but equally as important moniker is the White Mountain State. The latter speaks to its arguably most visit-worthy area.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The White Mountains—home to Mount Washington, the tallest peak in the Northeast—offers up the staples that travelers come to New England for: general stores, maple syrup, rolling landscapes.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Head to Mount Washington for a scenic ride aboard a legendary cog railway followed by general store hopping to stock up on local cheese, fudge, and booze. Whatever you choose to do during your time in the White Mountains, you’ll always be surrounded by glorious peaks that give the region its name.

Hot tip: New Hampshire has no sales tax, so stop at the various NH Liquor and Wine Outlets hugging the highway. When in New Hampshire!

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ride up Mount Washington

Sure, seeing the mountain with the tallest peak in the Northeast is cool, but stepping foot on it? Bragging rights granted.

Mount Washington is one of 13 mountains that makes up the Presidential Range with more than half its peaks named after US presidents. Being the tallest of them all, Mount Washington is equipped with a cog railway built in 1868 that brings passengers up the mountain. While the summit isn’t reachable in the winter due to weather conditions, a train can get you to Waumbek Station, located at an elevation of 4,000 feet (about two-thirds up the way).

Related: 10 Amazing Places to RV in August

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you prefer to drive, Marshfield Station is a fully accessible stop that stays open to visitors all year round, situated at an elevation of 2,700 feet. You’ll still get some pretty snappable views, plus you can pop into the Cog Railway Museum for a quick history lesson and refreshing bevvy.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the opposite (Pinkham Notch) side of the mountain, you can drive up the six-and-a-quarter-mile-long Mount Washington Auto Road or ride a van operated from Great Glen Trails. Climbers have the choice of several trails but should be aware of the mountain’s unpredictable and sudden weather changes.

Nothing feels better than getting to the entrance of a general store knowing that on the other side, shelves of jarred jams, homemade fudge, maple sweets, and every trinket you could imagine await you. That’s exactly what you’ll get at Zeb’s General Store in North Conway where maple syrup greets you at the door.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Speaking of maple syrup, Fadden’s General Store and Maple Warehouse in North Woodstock makes the good stuff in their very own backyard. Harman’s Cheese & Country Store in Sugar Hill produces their own cheese including their famous “really-aged cheddar” that, as the name suggests, has been aged for a really long time: more than two years. Locals eat this stuff up.

And remember, no *clap* sales *clap* tax.

White Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eat award-winning pancakes, syrup, and other goodies. The syrup talk is not over, my friends (it never is when you’re in New Hampshire), especially when there’s still pancakes to discuss—and in the White Mountains, that means Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill. This spot isn’t just good: Polly’s won a James Beard Foundation Award in 2006. Go big with a fluffy stack of pancakes drizzled in maple syrup and don’t forget a dollop of their homemade maple spread.

White Mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another place to get your breakfast fix: Benton’s Sugar Shack in Thornton which serves the perfect plate of face-sized pancakes and crispy bacon alongside their homemade maple syrup (so you can buy your syrup and eat it, too).

Related: 10 Amazing Places to RV in July

Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Switching forms of sugar, the next stop is Chutters in Littleton, home to the world’s longest candy counter of 112 feet with over 500 varieties to choose from.

And, if you’re making your way to Lincoln, pop by Moon Café & Bakery for some of their warm, gooey brownies that pair perfectly with a cup of hot cocoa.

Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the Omni Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods is tucked away from the main drag, it’s almost impossible to miss it with Mount Washington hovering over like a halo. Once you walk into the lobby, you’re transported back to 1902 when the hotel first opened. It’s even rumored that the owner’s wife, Carolyn, still lives in the hotel (don’t worry, a friendly tenant), and ghost aficionados jump at the opportunity to book her old quarters in Room 314.

Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For unwinding, there are two heated pools (one indoor, one outdoor), hot tubs, a spa, and outdoor fire pits for s’more-making. Grab dinner at the Main Dining Room which underwent renovations last year. And when you’re starting to itch for adventure again, you can book an onsite activity like a canopy zip line.

Castle in the Clouds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seventy miles south of Bretton Woods, Castle in the Clouds is home to Lucknow, an Arts and Crafts-style 16-room mansion built in the Ossipee Mountains in 1914. The 135-acre estate provides one of the most stunning views of Lake Winnipesauke, surrounding mountains, and over 5,500 acres of conserved land.

Castle in the Clouds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy self-guided tours of the mansion and guided tours of its basement. The on-site Carriage House offers dining in its highly-acclaimed restaurant in vintage horse stalls and amidst panoramic lakeside views on the terrace. You can also spend time walking or hiking along 28 miles of trail managed by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust taking in the beauty while weaving along brooks and streams and exploring seven different waterfalls. For those that prefer horseback, Riding in the Clouds offers trail rides, carriage rides, and pony rides.

Lake Winnipesaukee Cruise © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The largest lake in New Hampshire, Lake Winnipesaukee is the focal point of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region which also includes nearby—and far less developed—Squam Lake and Newfound Lake. Winnipesaukee is a beehive of summer activity surrounded by water parks, beaches, fast food, and family-oriented attractions.

Weirs Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The west side of the lake is the most developed especially around kid-friendly Weirs Beach and more trendy Meredith while the eastern resort town of Wolfeboro is quieter. Water sports are abundant with sailboats, kayaks, and motorboats vying for water space with the historic cruise boat, M/S Mount Washington.

Related: Ultimate Checklist: 20 Summer Experiences

Loon Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Loon Center and Markus Wildlife Sanctuary in Moultonborough protects breeding waters of these treasured birds and offers visitors a chance to learn about them. Nature and wildlife is also the focus of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center which operates nature cruises on this well-protected lake that was the setting for On Golden Pond.

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs