If you’re visiting the Mt Washington area in the White Mountains and looking for easier hikes or you’re recovering from climbing Washington on the previous day, here are four easy hikes that are near to the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center and feature great views or excellent waterfalls and swimming holes to help you chill. All of these hikes are good for kids as well as adults. For directions and more information, see The White Mountain Guide.
Thompson Falls – Waterfalls and Swimming Hole
Thompson Falls is located at the Wildcat Ski Area, just beyond the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center at the base of Mt Washington on Rt 16. Park in the big lot out front, cross the bridge over the Ellis River, and follow “The Way of the Wildcat” sign, a nature trail that leads to the Thompson Falls Trail. Just 0.7 miles long, the Thompson Trail leads to a nice waterfall and swimming hole where brook trout can be seen darting between the rocks. More waterfalls can be viewed by hiking higher up the trail a short distance although the footing becomes a bit tricky with slippery rocks and tree roots.
Distance: 0.7 miles, with 200 feet of elevation gain
The Winneweta Falls Trail runs besides many swimming holes and cascades. It’s located off Rt 16, 3 miles north of Jackson, NH. Look for the sign (above) and gravel pull-off at the trailhead. While the trail is 0.9 miles in length, the first waterfalls and swimming holes appear at about 0.5 miles and continue as you hike up the trail. Pick one you like and jump in!
There is a shallow stream crossing required near the parking area, so be sure to bring sandals or shoes that you don’t mind getting soaked. It’s wide enough that you won’t be able to hop from rock to rock from one bank to the other. The river is reasonably shallow and refreshing to walk though, with a riverbed made up of small stones that is easy to cross.
Distance: 0.9 miles with 350 ft of elevation gain
Square Ledge Trail
Located directly across Rt 16 from the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center at the base of Mt Washington, Square Ledge has excellent views of Mt Washington and Huntington Ravine. Cross Rt 16 and the wooden bridge leading to Lost Pond. A sign for the trail will be on your right heading uphill.
The trail climbs uphill through an easy to navigate maze of rocks, before climbing steeply on rock stairs to an open ledge overlooking Mt Washington and its adjacent glacial ravines. This short trail provides a big bang for the buck with a very modest level of effort, especially good for small tikes who’d never made it up the big mountain across the street.
Distance: 0.5 miles with 400 feet of elevation gain.
The Ledge Trail is near the Dolly Copp Campground just north of the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center on Rt 16. Turn onto the campground road from Rt 16 and continue past the campground entrance. When you come to a fork in the road, bear left and follow Dolly Cop Road (also called Pinkham B) up to the Pine Mountain parking area and trailhead.
Follow the tree covered gravel road (foot traffic only) 0.9 miles to the sign for the Ledge Trail. Turn right and hike 0.6 miles to the wide open ledges that provide vast views of Mt Washington, the Northern Presidentials, and Carter Notch. Hike up the trail behind the ledges to visit the old fire tower foundations on top of Pine Mountain and other fine views to the north.
Distance: 0.6 miles with 600 feet of elevation gain (1.5 miles including easy road walk)