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Gliders, a fly-in, and the great outdoorsGliders, a fly-in, and the great outdoors

Summer in the White Mountains, New HampshireSummer in the White Mountains, New Hampshire

The White Mountains of New Hampshire offer wonderful skiing in winter, yet the region first became popular as a summertime escape. Visit the White Mountains this summer for endless outdoor adventure plus a fun fly-in at one airport, and sailplane instruction and scenic rides at another airport.

  • Summer in the White Mountains is perfect for hiking and so much more. Here in Franconia Notch State Park, hikers walk up to Artists Bluff for great views of Echo Lake and the Cannon Mountain ski area. Photo courtesy NH Div. of Travel & Tourism.
  • Mount Washington Regional Airport lies just 12 nautical miles northwest of Mount Washington’s 6,288-foot elevation peak. Use caution for possible mountain wave action or turbulence when winds aloft exceed 25 knots. An early arrival is the best way to beat possible summer afternoon thunderstorms. Photo courtesy Mount Washington Regional Airport.
  • The grand prize for the poker run during the June fly-in is a full day of rally racing lessons at Team O’Neil Rally Sports. Winners will be announced at the Lobster Dinner at 5:30 p.m. Each pilot of an airplane flying in on Saturday, June 23, may draw two playing cards when they register before 5 p.m.—one for their departure airport and one for arriving at Mount Washington Regional. Pilots may draw one additional card for each airport they visit along the way—if they share an identifying photo of their airplane at that airport. Pilots receive one bonus card if they post their photos to the airport Facebook page and mention that they are on the way to the fly-in. Photo courtesy Team O’Neil Rally Sports.
  • Less than 5 miles from Mount Washington Regional Airport, the Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa is the quintessential New England luxury retreat. Dine in the 1865 Wine Cellar, indulge in spa treatments, hike, or play golf. Photo courtesy Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa.
  • The Mountain View Golf Course is open to resort guests and the public. Named one of the best 25 courses in New England by "Links" magazine, this picturesque course features beautiful views and natural terrain. Photo courtesy Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa.
  • Dog sledding without snow is no problem for the folks at Muddy Paw, who have rigged up a sled on wheels. Guests are encouraged to interact with the friendly dogs, many of which were “rescue sled dogs” that have found new, happy lives at Muddy Paw. Photo courtesy Muddy Paw.
  • From Littleton’s Schilling Brew Co., you can walk across the covered bridge to see the historic grist mill and shops. Photo by Donnie King.
  • The statue of Pollyanna, the eternally optimistic orphan girl whose very name has become a term for those who tend to see the bright side of things, stands outside the public library in Littleton, New Hampshire. Each summer, Littleton hosts a festival known as "The Official Pollyanna Glad Day." Photo by Davey Nin.
  • Ian and Marlaina in front of their Rek'•lis Brewing Company, the small-town brewery that makes huge beers and serves them in a fun, friendly atmosphere. Photo courtesy Rek'•lis Brewing Company.
  • Horseback riding is among the many activities available at the Franconia Inn, right across from the Franconia Airport. Photo courtesy Franconia Inn.
  • The Flume Gorge is a natural, 800-foot-deep gorge at the base of Mount Liberty in Franconia Notch State Park. Photo by Rob Karosis.
  • Hike the spectacular Franconia Notch Trail for panoramic views of the White Mountains. Up here, the growing season is so short and winter winds so fierce that the old pine trees are still tiny. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • Hike quietly in the White Mountains and you’re likely to see a deer. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • These woods are full of moose. In summer, they love to graze on underwater plants that grow in the lakes. The plants provide sodium that is essential for their health and otherwise scarce. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.
  • You probably won’t see any black bears, but they’re out there, filling up on berries and moths, laying in fat for their upcoming hibernation. Photo by Jackie Robidoux, @j_robidoux.

In summer, pilots flying to the White Mountains have two airports to choose from: Mount Washington Regional, a 4,000-foot paved runway, and Franconia, a 2,300-foot grass runway. See caption below right for MOA info. Mount Washington Regional has fuel and a new agreement with North Country Ford to provide rental cars any day of the week if reservations are made ahead of time Monday through Friday. Enterprise can bring a car to Franconia.

Fly to Mount Washington in June (June 23 and 24 in 2018) for the airport's big Fly-In & Airport Days celebration. This year's planned activities include a poker run, and the best hand wins a full day of Rally School at Team O’Neil Rally Sports (a $1,400 value). Dear readers: I drive a Mitsubishi Evo VIII rally car and agree with the folks at Team O’Neil when they say this is the most fun you can have on four wheels! The other prize is a dinner/theatre package at the Inn at Whitefield and Weathervane Theatre. See photo caption for details. There is also an aerial photo contest; primitive camping at the airport will be permitted during the fly-in.

Sailplanes rest at the Franconia airstrip. Both the Franconia and Mount Washington Regional airports lie beneath the Yankee 1 MOA, which begins at 9,000 feet msl, up to FL180. Remaining beneath it shouldn’t be a problem, but use caution when flying to Franconia, as it lies just a mile or so north of the Yankee 1&2 MOAs, which together run from 100 feet agl up to FL180. Contact Boston Center on 135.7 for advisories. Photo courtesy Franconia Inn.

You don’t have to camp, of course; the area has fabulous accommodations, including the Adair Country Inn, with its wonderful restaurant serving gourmet breakfast, lunch, and dinner—plus an elegant afternoon tea for hotel guests. Summer meals are sweet out on the deck, and summer packages can include golf at the Bethlehem Country Club or a summertime rolling dog sled adventure. The lavish Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa, less than five miles from the airport, has its own golf course and provides stellar dining, including in the amply stocked wine cellar.

Nearby small towns offer charm and fun breweries, including the brand-new Copper Pig in Lancaster, where you can enjoy your beer by the Israel River. Pick up fresh bread and pastries at the also-new Polish Princess Bakery (closes at 2 p.m.). In Littleton, Schilling Beer Co. is the place for Belgian- and Scandinavian-inspired strong ales and wood-fired pizzas. Sit beside the Ammonoosuc River and then walk across the covered bridge to the Renaissance Mill, built in 1797, before exploring the friendly village where the classic children’s novel Pollyanna was written. In Bethlehem, the award-winning Rek'•lis Brewing Company offers artisan brews and burgers across from the historic Colonial Theatre’s movies and live entertainment.

This sign sits outside the Dog Chapel at Dog Mountain. Built by Stephen Huneck, author of “Even Bad Dogs go to Heaven,” the Dog Chapel celebrates the joy of living and the bond between dogs and their owners, even as it creates a sacred space for people to mourn their lost canine friends. Photo courtesy Stephen Huneck Gallery.

Littleton and Bethlehem are close to Franconia, where you can land on the grass airstrip, open mid-May to mid-October. There’s no fuel; note the right pattern for Runway 36, and remember that gliders have the right-of-way. The Franconia Soaring Association offers scenic rides, flight instruction, and glider rentals and towing. The lovely, colonial-style Franconia Inn is right across from the airstrip and provides complimentary bikes for guests. Ride into town to visit the home (now a museum) of poet Robert Frost. Or, play on the inn’s 107 acres: Activities include swimming, tennis, badminton, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and horseback riding. The on-site restaurant serves breakfast and dinner and can pack you a lunch, too. Rent a car from Enterprise in Littleton to explore further.

Take the Franconia Notch Parkway to exit 34A, where you can stop at the Franconia Notch State Park visitor center for info and then take the two-mile loop to Flume Gorge. For great views, exit the parkway at 34B and ride the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tram to the 4,080-foot summit. Near the tram’s base, you can walk or bike the Franconia Notch Recreation Path or visit the Old Man of the Mountain Historic Site and Museum. Exit 34C takes you to Echo Lake, where you can rent a pedal boat, kayak, or canoe; swim; fish for trout; or hike to Artists Bluff. Keep an eye out for deer, moose, and black bears.

If you brought Fido and want to hike with him off-leash, visit Dog Mountain, outside St. Johnsbury on the New Hampshire/Vermont border, 30 miles west of Mount Washington Regional (and northwest of Franconia). They even have a Dog Chapel and free concerts Sunday nights all summer—dogs welcome, of course! Don’t leave St. Johnsbury without visiting Maple Grove Farms to see how they’ve collected and processed maple since 1915. Sample some maple candies and pick up a few to take home—here’s betting you’ll soon be back for more!

 The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tram will get you to the summit lickety-split, so you can enjoy views that stretch into Canada. Photo courtesy New Hampshire State Parks.

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Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel

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