Waterville Valley Resort, like many “ski towns," has year-round offerings – but the difference with this resort town in New Hampshire's White Mountains was a summer destination for almost a century before anyone started skiing there.
Thanks to the White Mountain National Forest, Waterville Valley is home to the oldest network of hiking trails in America. Hikers have been exploring Waterville Valley's outdoors since the 1800s, when a group of guests at Greeley's Hotel formed the Waterville Athletic and Improvement Association. The association, also known as WVAIA, is still in existence today and continues to oversee the valley's 100+ miles of hiking trails, which range from easy walking paths to heart-thumping ascents. In the forest, trails lead to boulders, waterfalls, sweeping vistas, and ponds. Waterville Valley has one of the oldest public hiking networks in America.
WVAIA has a four-season hiking program, concentrated in the southwest corner of the White Mountain National Forest, including the Sandwich Range, Moosilauke area, Franconia Notch, routes off the Kancamagus Highway as well as other destinations. They also specialize in backcountry excursions on old logging roads, streambeds; bushwhacking trail-less peaks to out of the way destinations with special features, such as waterfalls, cliff faces and old logging sites, not to mention spectacular views. There is no charge for WVAIA members. Guests are asked to make a small donation.
The easy trails don’t tend to be high gain, low pain and usually are not more than 3 miles round-trip. An example is the Mad River Trail. The moderate hikes/walks are typically 4 to 6 miles round-trip, and take a few hours, with sustained climbs, but with nothing too too steep. The famed Welch-Dickey trail is in this category. And its views are among the best in the Whites. On the more difficult trails (5 to 9 miles long), there are long periods of steady climb, with relatively short steep sections, more challenging water-crossings and significant overall mileage that will keep you on the trail. This would be the hike to the peaks of Tripyramid.
It’s a matter of knowing your skill level and choosing the right trail for you. In Waterville Valley there’s a trail for everyone and no matter the location, there’s always a view.