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Fall Foliage Trips Kids Love

by Barbara Rogers

Sep 4, 2018

© Jon Bilous | Dreamstime.com


While parents may revel in the brilliant foliage arching overhead on country roads and framing views of fall-painted mountains, kids not so much. Once they’ve collected a handful of bright leaves, little kids are likely to tire and older ones tune out. So why not combine leaf peeping with some cool rides and mountaintop adventures. Not only will the kids be happy, but the driver can look at the scenery instead of the road.


New Hampshire’s White Mountains seem to have a monopoly on interesting — even historic —  mountain rides. Most of these were built as ski lifts, but, in the summer, they take passengers to lofty summits where they can see miles of colored forests and mountainsides. For kids, the rides themselves are the attraction, although some of the mountaintops offer fun of their own.


Loon Mountain Gondola

Close to Interstate 93 in Lincoln, Loon Mountain’s gondola reveals views of the great White Mountain National Forest as it rises to the summit. At the top is an observation tower, a panoramic lunch room and a natural fun park of fantastically tumbled boulders, some the size of a house. Walkways and steps lead through these and kids can squeeze through the caves they form. In the process they can learn a bit about the mile-deep glaciers that dropped these as they melted.


Wildcat Mountain Gondola

Wildcat, on the east side of Pinkham Notch in Gorham, is taller, at 4,062 feet, and the view from its summit is less panoramic. But it makes up for it by standing directly opposite the summit of Mt Washington, bringing you face to face with the highest peak in the northern Appalachians. You’re so close kids can pick out individual climbers as they make their way up Mt. Washington’s rocky trails. Older kids will like the zip line course that parallels the gondola route.


Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway © Stillman Rogers

Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway

Ride with a bit of history, on North America’s first passenger aerial tramway, carrying foliage viewers to the 4,080-foot summit since 1938. The large cars carry many more passengers than the family-sized ski gondolas, and it can get crowded in the fall. But people are nice about making room for children at the front so they can see the valley recede far below. At the top, follow the scenic Rim Trail (but hang onto little kids at the viewpoints, which drop straight into Franconia Notch). Cars look like ants crawling along the narrow line of highway at the bottom. There’s a tower at the top with a 360-degree view that stretches across Vermont and New Hampshire into New York and Canada. Signs help identify mountains and other landmarks. Before descending, stop for the famous pretzels at the tramway station.


Mt. Washington Cog Railway

The most exciting of all the mountain rides never leaves the ground — unless you count the part where the little train seems suspended in thin air as it chugs across the tall trestle called Jacob’s Ladder. For more than 100 years this railway has taken tourists to the highest summit in the Northeast. Be sure to take pictures of the kids standing at a 45-degree angle to the train as it climbs the steepest parts. And be prepared for cold winds at the summit, which records some of the most severe weather in the world. You can learn about it at the museum at the summit and take pictures with the altitude sign at the top.


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