Taking the kids along for a summer or fall weekend getaway in the mountains is a great way to spend time together. My wife and I enjoy hiking, and every so often we like to have the kids come along and enjoy it with us. But picking out the best trail is not a spur-of-the-moment kind of job. It takes planning to make sure the trail is not too long or too steep, has a sweet view at the summit, and leaves the kiddos with a feeling that they just might be able to do this again – even if there isn’t WiFi at the summit.
If you have tried to introduce your kids to hiking in the White Mountains, you probably have heard of Mount Willard. Starting from the AMC Crawford Notch Visitor Center, it’s a great hike and affords a great view for the amount of effort that you put into the climb. We did it last year, and other than the large number of hikers using the trail, it went well. We needed something new this time though, and so we came across the Sugarloaf Trail, located three miles north of Bretton Woods on Rte 302. Use the entrance for Zealand and Sugarloaf Campgrounds and follow the road until you come to the parking area. The Sugarloaf trail totals 1.3 miles to the summit of Middle Sugarloaf. The pitch is moderate, and most physically able kids ages 9+ should be able to handle the terrain. Once at the top, you can enjoy 270 degree views as you unpack lunch. There is plenty of room to walk around on the rocks at the summit, and even some blueberry bushes to pick from in late summer. Just beware that some of the dropoffs are steep, so keep an eye on the really little ones.
You should be able to get off trail early and head back to the campground, hotel, or home with plenty of time and energy to spare. But if you’re looking to stay out a bit longer and grab some grub, then a cheap and decent pizza can be gotten at the Irving Gas Station in Bretton Woods. They have a few picnic tables outside. Or take a free ride on the quad chairlift (mid June – Columbus Day) to Latitude 44 slope side restaurant for grill fare, and a beer for the parents.
Remember that in the end, its about getting your children outdoors and enjoying some of the things that you enjoy. Don’t crush them with a grueling climb up the rock piles on Tuckerman’s if they aren’t ready for it. The Sugarloaf Trail should keep the whole family happy and ready for greater summits in the future.