Outdoor Adventures in The Upper Valley
Located along the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, the picturesque Upper Valley is ripe with opportunities to get outside. With abundant natural beauty and views of the Connecticut River Valley, hiking here will make for an outdoor adventure you won’t soon forget. And better yet, there are options here for all ages and abilities:
This is an easier hike through the beautiful scenery of Vermont. Located near Norwich, this 1.4-mile trail leads you up almost 400 feet of the mountain – an excellent hike for beginners or those just getting the lay of the land. You’ll take in the sights which include blooming wildflowers in summer and the fire tower at the top. The relative ease of the hike makes it perfect for families with younger children. You’re also welcome to bring your dog to enjoy the outing -just make sure to keep him on a leash. The trailhead is located just off Upper Turnpike Road, and ample parking is available in a lot nearby.
This popular New Hampshire trail is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Beginning in Hanover, the Velvet Rocks trail is considered an easy day hike, comprising a 3.7 mile loop. It also holds some historical significance that makes it an important part of the town of Hanover – Velvet Rocks was the first protected area of land in the Appalachian Trail. The trail takes its name from the smooth, moss-covered rocks and thick vegetation that lines your path.
Want to conquer part of the Appalachian Trail? Check out Smarts Mountain, a 7.6-mile hike that will take you 3,240 feet up to the summit. The hike takes about five hours and can be joined from the town of Lyme. While the hike up Smarts Mountain is fairly challenging, you’ll be rewarded at the peak with sweeping views of the countryside, as well as an old fire tower and ranger cabin to explore. The trail itself is quite wild, so you will enjoy the beautiful vegetation and trees on your hike up.
Another Appalachian Trail highlight in the Upper Valley is Mount Cube, located near Orford. At the northern edge of the South Moose Mountains, it forms the eastern edge of the Connecticut River Valley. Mount Cube offers a 6.8-mile ‘out and back’ day hike that’s rated at moderate difficulty. Known for its quartzite summit, the mountain is a pink-gray color. If you visit on a warm spring day, make sure to bring a picnic as the summit ledges offer spots to sit down, relax, and take in sweeping views of Hanover, Mount Moosilauke, and the White Mountains.
If you’re looking for a hiking area that offers a variety of trails for hikers of all experience levels, French’s Ledges in Plainfield, New Hampshire is a great option. For a serious hike with an incredible view, follow the red marked trail which will take you up 1,310 feet. Note that the trail is steep and zig-zagging at points, and the last section of this trail becomes quite steep and narrow, but it is definitely worth it for the view. The summit looks out over Croydon and Grantham Mountains, as well as Mount Ascutney and the town of Meridien. For something a little less strenuous, the yellow and blue marked trails are shorter, alternate routes that are family-friendly. Parking is available at Plainfield Elementary School where a trail map is located at the edge of the woods.
Home to Vermont’s first mountain-hiking trail (created in 1825,) Mount Ascutney in Windsor, Vermont is one of the most unique hiking experiences in the Upper Valley. The mountain was once a 20,000-foot volcano, and igneous and metamorphic rock still lies beneath the surface. Today, of course, it’s known as a popular Vermont outdoor recreation spot.
Choose from four trails that will take you up to the summit, which is 3,130 feet high. These trails include Weathersfield, Windsor, Brownsville, and Futures, each of them offering stunning views. The longest is Futures, stretching for 4.6 miles beginning at the Mount Ascutney State Park campground. This trail will take you right up to the summit along interesting sights like Bare Rock Vista and the Steam Donkey, a steam-powered cable logging machine from the early 1900s. The shortest trail is Windsor, which spans 2.7 miles from the trailhead to the mountain’s summit; along the way, you can view Gerry’s Falls, Castle Rock, and Brownsville Rock. If you’re not sure that you want to head up to the summit, try the half-mile hike that takes you up to the picnic table, where you can enjoy beautiful countryside views. While dogs are permitted in the park, they must be always on a leash.
We’ve been full-time residents here for 28 years (and Rick grew up here in the summers,) and we still love living here. The lifestyle is incomparable. If you’re curious about local real estate and you’d like to take a look at homes for sale in Hanover, Lyme, Norwich, and Woodstock, or any of the other great small towns that complete the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire, contact us. Additionally, you can view our current listings here.