Outdoors with Kids Maine, New Hampshire,  and Vermont  by Ethan Hipple and Yemaya St. Clair

Outdoors with Kids: Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont Guide Book

by Ethan Hipple and Yemaya St. Clair (Appalachian Mountain Club Books)
Outdoors with Kids Maine, New Hampshire,  and Vermont  by Ethan Hipple and Yemaya St. Clair
There are few things we love more in this world than adventuring outdoors with our children, and we’ve found that northern New England is the perfect place to do it. Where else can families scour sandy beaches for hermit crabs, pick blueberries while hiking up forested and craggy mountains, get up-close-and-personal with farm animals, jump into crystal clear swimming holes at the base of waterfalls, bike along rolling hills, and paddle idyllic lakes or free- flowing streams…all in a summer weekend? Where else are the seasons so pronounced, providing different recreational opportunities every few months? Here, in northern New England, families’ outdoor options are endless. Just when you start to think you can’t handle summer’s blackflies or winter’s bitter cold, the season changes, transforming the landscape and presenting a whole new world of opportunity.

© 2014 Ethan Hipple and Yemaya St Clair/Appalachian Mountain Club Books. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Outdoors with Kids: Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 75.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 75.

This off-road, family-friendly trail is perfect for biking, offering great views of Portland’s skyline and idyllic waterfront. The two trails described here, when combined, make for an excellent bike route that even beginners will enjoy. With plenty of rest stops along the way, picturesque views, and kid-friendly attractions (Did someone say sandy beach? Dog park? Playground? Train museum?), it’s no wonder these wide, flat trails are Portland’s most popular havens for bikers, joggers, and dog-walkers. Be prepared to share the trail.
Portland, ME - Hiking,Mountain Biking,Road Biking,Walking - Trail Length: 7.7
This is a peaceful mountain valley paddle, complete with fun riffles, deep swimming holes, and a trout-stocked river that is navigable most of summer. This tranquil river trip combines perfect conditions for lazily paddling through a beautiful mountain valley, and swims and picnics at sandy beaches along the way. The river is stocked with trout, and we’ve seen many large ones here. This section is fairly untamed: not too many houses are in sight, and you will have to watch out for “strainers” (trees that have blown down into the river) particularly when the water is high in spring or after prolonged heavy rainfall.
Tamworth, NH - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 4.75–5.25 miles
Take a scenic hike to backcountry ponds, complete with swimming and blueberry picking, in New Hampshire’s second largest state park. Bear Brook State Park is an oasis of ponds, marshes, and deep pine forests in a corner of the state that is becoming increasingly populated. As New Hampshire’s second largest state park (after the largely undeveloped Pisgah State Park), Bear Brook has something for everyone, including peaceful hiking, ponds and marshes, top-notch cross-country skiing, archery courses, fishing ponds, swimming holes, and an increasingly popular mountain bike culture.
Allenstown, NH - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 1.5
A perfect 4.1-mile loop hike that leads to the top of a small mountain with great views, hugs the shores of a serene undeveloped pond, and offers backcountry camping options. The grades of Big Deer Mountain Trail are mellow and the kids will love the great views from the summit and the chance to go for a dip in Osmore Pond. The trail is mostly flat or gradual, with short uphill bursts near the top. This fun loop hike lies within Groton State Forest, which is home to a number of easy hikes, ponds, and lakes, and sections of the Cross Vermont Bike Trail. The campground where you begin is just one of three campgrounds managed as state parks within Groton State Forest. You can turn your visit into an overnight trip by staying at New Discovery or by backcountry camping on Osmore Pond and Kettle Pond, to which you can either hike or paddle.
Peacham, VT - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.1
A great first hike for little ones, Black Cap offers fantastic views on open ledges with just a mile-long climb. Black Cap is perfect for the smallest hikers or for those short on time who want to have great views with little effort. It is a local favorite and you are sure to see others on the trail for their daily run or walk. The summit is large and open, so even on a busy Saturday, you should be able to find a quiet spot with a great view to enjoy a picnic lunch.
North Conway, NH - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
Hike to see a fire tower and some of the greatest views in the region—and explore an abandoned mica mine! This could be the perfect trip for the youngest hikers. A short trail leads to commanding views and a fun trip up a fire tower at the top. Blue Job Mountain can be very busy on weekends, so if you are looking for a more secluded experience, try visiting on a weekday afternoon after school or for an early evening supper on the summit. Always bring a headlamp if you plan to be out in the late afternoon or early evening.
Farmington, NH - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
Hike through old forest to a seasonal pond-side nature center and scramble to a baldface summit with 360-degree views of the 100-Mile Wilderness. Borestone Mountain Audubon Sanctuary is a hidden jewel at the southern end of Maine’s celebrated 100-Mile Wilderness, a greenway running along the Appalachian Trail corridor from Moosehead Lake to Baxter Park that the Appalachian Mountain Club and its partners are tirelessly working to protect. The sanctuary’s 1,600 acres include rare old forest, sparkling ponds, exposed mountain peaks, and spectacular views.
Monson, ME - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.6–3.6 miles
Without much effort, catch great views at this popular, easy-to-access destination, the perfect place for introducing kids to hiking. If you’re looking for a mountain that even the littlest legs can climb, Bradbury Mountain is the place to start. Located just a few miles off of the highway near Freeport, this 800-acre state park is easy to access and full of amenities, including an extensive playground, a picnic area, and bathrooms at the mountain’s base near the large parking lot. You also don’t have to go far to get great views, which makes this mountain a must-do for families exploring Maine.
Pownal, ME - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.3
A moderately graded trail leads you along a brook, past an overnight shelter, and finally to open vistas. Bromley Mountain makes for an excellent hike for young hikers ready for a walk of 5.5 miles. Unlike older mountain footpaths that take the shortest (and often most challenging) route between two points, this recreational trail follows a more gradual grade that holds up better against erosion than steep slopes. Following the route of the Long Trail, the trip leads to panoramic views on top of the mountain. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the ski area runs many summer adventure activities and chairlift rides; in May or September through November, the area is less crowded. You can also opt to turn this into an overnight by staying at the new Bromley Mountain Shelter (2.3 miles).
Winhall, VT - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.5
Take a pastoral ride on dirt roads and bike paths, past farms and along the Winooski River—all right in the heart of Vermont’s largest city. You may never have imagined that you could bike through peaceful river valley farmland, along the banks of a lazily winding river, through flood-plain forests and up to a stone castle viewing tower—all in Burlington. The trip described here is actually a shortened, 8.0-mile version of the excellent 10.1-mile Cycle the City loop, jointly developed by the City of Burlington and Local Motion, a nonprofit human-powered transportation advocacy group. The 8.0-mile trip described here is 100 percent bike paths and gravel roads, whereas the official loop includes some street biking and is a couple miles longer.
Burlington, VT - Mountain Biking,Road Biking - Trail Length: 8-10 miles
Gain elevation and stunning views quickly on this relatively strenuous trail, great for kids who aren’t afraid to climb! If your kids are bored with introductory hikes and up for a little adventure, including a rocky scramble near the summit, head to Burnt Meadow Mountain. The mountain’s name comes from its tragic history. In October 1947, small, localized fires from Mount Desert Island to Waterboro morphed into one statewide disaster, burning more than 200,000 acres over a short period becoming known collectively as “the week that Maine burned.” Here, a great forest fire incinerated an estimated 85 percent of the town of Brownfield and the surrounding area, including this mountain. Today it’s hard to see evidence of the fire (or the ski area that had a short-lived run here in the 1970s), as nature has taken back its own.
Brownfield, ME - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.6
This remote, relatively unknown mountain leads you past beaver ponds, a high-mountain orchard, and a craggy summit. Hazen’s Notch is home to remote and beautiful hiking and world-class, groomed cross-country ski trails. Consider this trip for any season, though note that trail pass fees apply in winter; cross-country skis and snowshoes may be rented at the welcome center. At the trailhead, stop to check the kiosk on the right for trail updates and information about the Hazen’s Notch Association, which manages this land. Started in 1994, the association is a prime example of a community-based land trust formed to preserve habitat and recreational activities. NOTICE: A 200-acre area on Burnt Mountain has been posted against trespassing by the landowner. There is no access to trails beyond the High Meadow (www.hazensnotch.org). Ensure continued landowner generosity for public access by obeying the posted rules.
Montgomery, VT - Hiking,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 4.8
Close to nature and free from motorized vehicles, Acadia’s wide, broken-stone roads traverse impressive granite bridges and blend with the landscape, highlighting the stunning scenery. When biking on this or other carriage roads in the park, hybrid or mountain bikes are recommended. Also, keep in mind that the carriage roads are not one-way streets; feel free to turn around and retrace your steps at any point.
Bar Harbor, ME - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 3.3–10.0 miles
Perfect on a hot summer day, this pleasant walk cuts through the woods to a string of some of the state’s finest swimming holes. There are many brooks named Cascade Brook in New Hampshire, but on a hot summer day, this is the best one. This short hike leads to a string of swimming holes and rock waterslides. Plan for plenty of time to relax and swim—you won’t want to leave!
Waterville Valley, NH - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.1–3.6 miles
A short and easy paddle on the Connecticut River leads to an idyllic island complete with camping, a rope swing, and great wildlife viewing. The mighty Connecticut River flows 410 miles from its headwaters near the Canadian border, along the border of New Hampshire and Vermont, through Massachusetts and Connecticut, and eventually into Long Island Sound. In the Upper Valley, the river is serene, flat, and dotted with campsites, making this section perfect for families.
Lebanon, NH - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 2
A gem of a bike trip meets a paddle to a secluded island nature preserve. Enjoy plenty of wildlife viewing and a public beach, too! The beautiful little town of Wolfeboro, its three lakes, its countless ponds, and its mountainous backdrop have attracted vacationers to its lakeshores for centuries. Biking the scenic Cotton Valley Rail Trail gives you the full Lakes Region experience as it takes you past (and sometimes across) Lake Winnipesaukee (the largest lake in New Hampshire), Back Bay (an inlet of Winnipesaukee), Crescent Lake, and 3,000-acre Lake Wentworth.
Wolfeboro, NH - Mountain Biking,Rail-Trails,Road Biking,Walking - Trail Length: 3.8-12 miles
This 12.74-mile section of the 90-mile Cross Vermont Trail passes delightful campgrounds and several lakes on its route through peaceful woods. Imagine biking on a smooth, old railroad bed through the peaceful farmland and forests of Vermont, swimming in lakes, eating tasty treats, and camping along the way. This is all possible on the Cross Vermont Trail. This multiuse, 90-mile trail crosses the state from Burlington to Wells River following the peaceful grades of the Winooski and Wells river valleys. Much of the trail is situated on old railroad beds with an average grade of under 2 percent, which makes it an excellent path for biking, large-wheeled jogging strollers, and wheelchairs alike. This trip covers one particularly scenic 12.75-mile section of the trail from Groton to Marshfield, but you can bike and camp all the way to Burlington for an epic family adventure! For more information about planning an extended trip, consult the Cross Vermont Trail Association’s website.
Groton, VT - Hiking,Road Biking - Trail Length: Up to 25.5 miles
With nearby ponds and nature trails galore, this campground offers the perfect base camp for families exploring Baxter State Park. Maine’s wilderness is nearly synonymous with Baxter State Park: you can’t rightly say you’ve explored the state’s wild areas without a trip to this unique park. The 200,000-acre area encompassing its own mountain range, including Katahdin, was a gift to the people of Maine from Percival P. Baxter, former state governor. While the state’s largest mountain is the park’s jewel, drawing climbers from far afield who summit the 5,269-foot peak, there are myriad family-friendly areas to explore below treeline.
Millinocket, ME - Fishing,Hiking - Trail Length:
An easy climb brings you up to open ledges with excellent views over Peacham Bog and Groton State Forest. This easy hike is perfect when the toddlers are ready to try some hiking on their own. You will be rewarded with a pleasant walk through the woods on wide trails to a fine lookout. This easy hike is perfect when the toddlers are ready to try some hiking on their own. You will be rewarded with a pleasant walk through the woods on wide trails to a fine lookout. Devils Hill lies within the Groton State Forest, a Central Vermont treasure. There are three campgrounds managed as state parks within the State Forest boundary: New Discovery, Big Deer, and Stillwater. Chock-full of easy hikes, ponds and lakes for swimming and paddling, and even a multiuse recreational path that stretches across Vermont, you can spend a weekend or a week here exploring all of the nooks and crannies.
Peacham, VT - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
A stone observation tower from the 1920s offers great views toward the White Mountains and Sebago Lake. A large boulder on the Douglas Mountain summit bears the inscription non sibi sed omnibus, a Latin motto meaning “not for one, but for all.” This 169-acre preserve was deeded to the town of Sebago by The Nature Conservancy in 1996. The 16-foot stone observation tower at the top adds an enticing feature to this family-friendly hike, which is less than an hour’s drive from downtown Portland. Note that hunting is allowed on Douglas Mountain in season. Wear blaze orange from October through December to ensure that you are seen.
Sebago, ME - Hiking,Snowshoeing - Trail Length: 1.25