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5 Must-Do Adventures On Your Winter Road Trip Through New England

Escape the city and hit the road.

By: Chris Mongeau + Save to a List

Winter in New England can be brutal, and while this year hasn’t exactly been the worst, it’s still early March and there’s a very good chance we could get hit with more snow and cold spells again. Most people from New England would probably not think of driving around the region for fun in the midst of inclement weather, but if it’s your kind of thing (it’s definitely mine) and you’ve got some decent tires, don’t be afraid to hit the road even if it’s snowing.

I recently did a short loop through some of my favorite spots not far from home and one thing I love the most about winter is the increased feeling of isolation when outdoors. The northeast is a really small place, and unfortunately, even our more remote areas aren’t much more than a few miles from some sort of sign of civilization. In the winter, there’s no one on the trails, the roads are usually empty, and you can definitely count on empty beaches on the coast to watch a sunset. Plus, a good snowfall is worth enduring the cold if you’re into taking photos outdoors.

1. Explore Portland Head Light

Photo: Chris Mongeau

Portland Head Light is a great spot to spend a winter afternoon in Maine and catch the sunset. Located on Cape Elizabeth, Portland Head Light is a short 15-minute drive from downtown Portland. There’s a trail that goes along the cliffs here and you can climb down to a rocky beach area when the tide is lower. It can get pretty windy here during every season, so definitely dress warm even if it doesn’t seem cold out. Afterwards, head back into town for an incredible burger and some beers at The Great Lost Bear in Portland. Learn more.

2. Explore the Basin in Franconia Notch SP

Photo: Chris Mongeau

The Basin is an enormous, granite pothole that has been eroded by the Pemigewasset River over 15,000 years. Located just off I-93, there are a few hiking trails here that are maintained throughout the winter. Often times during cold spells, parts of the cascading river will freeze, which makes for really stunning photographs. The trail to the basin itself is mostly flat with a few slight grades and if you’re into hiking longer distances in the snow, you can even take the 2.5 mile trail Cascade Brook Trail all the way to Lonesome Lake. Learn more.

3. Hike the Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch SP

Photo: Chris Mongeau

The Flume Gorge is located just two miles south of the Basin on I-93. In the wintertime, the Flume Gorge is technically closed for the season, but you can still walk the trails leading up to the boardwalk inside of the gorge. With the boardwalk removed, you can’t hike through the whole gorge, but you can get some really breathtaking views of icy cliff sides and the picturesque covered bridge over the Pemigewasset River. Learn more.

4. Drive Around Newfound Lake

Photo: Chris Mongeau

Newfound Lake is my favorite of New Hampshire’s Lake Region. Located in central New Hampshire, Newfound Lake is about an hour south of Franconia State Park and directly on the way to points north off I-93. I spent many summers and winters on this lake as a kid, and it used to freeze during the wintertime (great for snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing and cross country skiing), but it doesn’t seem to as often anymore. Newfound Lake in the winter is quiet and peaceful. The road that loops around the lake is well worth a drive to catch views of snowy mountains in the distance and quaint lakeside cabins. Learn more.

5. Hike the Coffeehouse Loop in Douglas State Forest

Photo: Chris Mongeau

Douglas State Forest is located in central Massachusetts in the Blackstone River Valley corridor. This state forest is home to Wallum Lake, where there are a few hiking trails that are great in the wintertime. My personal favorite is the Coffeehouse Loop Trail, which is a 2-mile loop that goes by the site of an old saw and grist mill. You can also hop on the Southern New England Trunkline Trail from here, which is open to walkers, cross-country skiers, cyclists and equestrians. The 22-mile trail passes through Douglas, Uxbridge, Millville, Blackstone, Bellingham, and Franklin, and is one of the longest trails in southern Massachusetts. Learn more.

Cover photo: Chris Mongeau

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