Winter Hiking in Crawford Notch and Franconia Notch’s Flume Gorge

dsc_0776This almost snowless winter has been challenging for us as Innkeepers helping guests find alternatives to snowshoeing here at Bear Mountain Lodge. Normally we measure our snow in feet and our onsite trails are awesome, but with only a couple inches on the ground Michael and I decided to head out this week and find trails for guests for the upcoming busy February weekends. Not a tough assignment for us as we love to be outdoors together in the Winter.

Our first stop on Wednesday was the Crawford Connector which to our great surprise had plenty of snow to snowshoe. The Trail involves a slow easy climb through evergreens and birch trees and an easy bridge over the running brook. After a 15 minute trek we came upon another bridge that would have taken us to Crawford Path. Instead, we decided to try out Crawford Cliff Spur which took us up to “The Pool,” a lookout over Gibbs Brook. The next section was shear ice but we decided the view would be worth it so up we went on a steep, steady climb. However, we didn’t get to make the summit as the trail soon became a cliff covered in more ice than we could handle without spikes. But the day was glorious, the trail covered in plenty of snow and we were out snowshoeing so it was a good day.

Thursday brought us over to The Flume Gorge, one of New Hampshire’s most beautiful treasures. Having never done The Gorge in the winter, we decided not to let the lack of deep snow stop us. We left the snowshoes behind, taking just our poles, and had the best 3 miles of winter hiking ever. After crossing the iconic Pemi Covered Bridge, one of NH’s oldest built back in 1886, we began our hike to the Gorge which included stops along the way for some fabulous photos of ice cliffs and Table Rock – we didn’t pass another soul as midweek is quiet and a great time to get out without the crowds.

When you reach the Gorge, your suddenly struck by how beautiful a group of rocks can be. Rising nearly 90′ high with walls 12-20′ apart, the Gorge is made of granite and in the summer the boardwalks go completely through it. However in the winter, they fold up the boardwalks so you can only venture so far. After a great stop at the top of the Gorge, we headed down the path to Sentinel Bridge and Pool. In the Hurricane of 1938 a huge pine tree was blown down across the Pool and later a beautiful covered bridge, Sentinel Bridge, was built on top of that pine. It’s still there today and the bridge offers a great view of the Pool. I learned from one of the historical markers that a gentleman built a crude boat and used to take people for rides in the Pool, talk about an entrepreneur.

Our walk back from Sentinel Bridge to the Visitor’s Center brought us down a path lined with huge glacial boulders, many weighing over 300 tons. Just as we were heading out, we passed a couple ice climbers heading up to the Gorge to meet some students from a local school for an ice climbing lesson. They asked us if the floor of the Gorge was frozen and we told them it wasn’t, there was plenty of running water. To which they replied, “Well someone’s falling in today no doubt.” Why I’m sure ice climbing is awesome, Michael and I are planning to stick to snowshoeing and hiking and will never forget our wonderful day at Flume Gorge!