Jul 182010

     With only three days to visit the Mount Washington Valley, there were a lot of wonderful attractions and experiences that we had to defer to our next visit.   In particular, we hope to return soon to ride the Mount Washington Cog Railwayto the top of Mount Washington, kayak or tube on the Saco river and check out the glacial caves and canyons at the Polar Caves, the Flume Gorge or the Lost River Gorge.

Cog Railroad, courtesy Bretton Woods Resort, NH

     Like the ride up the Mount Washington Auto Road, the Cog Railway is a classic New England experience.    They both take you to the summit of Mount Washington, but that is where the similarities end.  Opened in 1869 the Cog hauls riders up the mountain using  a rack-and-pinion rail system running on an average 25% grade (and as steep as 37% in some sections) to reach the summit.    The original steam train ran using wood fuel until it was converted to coal in about 1910.  In 2009, the majority of the engines were converted to bio-diesel, improving the air quality but eliminating the classic ash laden smokestack steam trail seen for miles across the Valley.  The historic steam engines still run first thing in the morning and more often on busy days.

Tubing the Saco River, courtesy Bob Grant

  Further down in the Valley, the Saco River originates at Saco Lake in Crawford Notch, flows through the Valley,  along the New Hampshire – Maine border,  and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean.  The stretch near Swan’s Falls and the southern end of North Conway is shallow and clear, with many small sandy beaches and lends itself to tubing, kayaking and canoes.  A number of different outfitters such as Saco River Tubing, Northern Extremes, and Saco Bound offer a wealth of options from short rentals to all day and even overnight trips.  Most put you in the water at their own private put-ins then  haul out the boat and transport you back to your car from another private landing downstream when you are finished.

     We also wished we had been able to explore some of the region’s geologic wonders such as scrambling through the Polar Caves, walking the 2-mile Flume Gorge trail to see a waterfall near Cannon Mountain or scampering across the bridges and trails of the granite strewn Lost River Gorge.   As described by the Polar Caves web site,  “about fifty thousand years ago the third continental glacier descended over New Hampshire’s White Mountains. When the ice retreated, it left behind an amazing series of caves and passageways for visitors to explore”.  All of three of these sites are testimony to the power of Mother Nature.

      We were thrilled to see that all three of these natural wonders, along with the Cog Railway, are covered by the White Mountains Attractions pass.  The White Mountains Attractions pass program provides discounted one-time access to 16 major area attractions including the Mount Washington Auto Road, Attitash Summer Attractions and the Wildcat Mountain Express Gondola Skyride.

Thanks Again

     One last time, we want to thank the the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce for organizing our weekend of activities and providing us with the opportunity to conduct our in depth review series.  Travel with Teens and Tweens retained full control over everything we wrote about our trip and all opinions are truly our own.

     To find links to all our Mount Washington Valley Summer 2010 reviews check out the links on our Mount Washington Valley Top 10 – Summer Edition landing page.

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