The Gear You Need for a Shoulder Season Ascent of Mount Liberty

Largely below treeline but with breathtaking summit views—and a convenient location just off I-93—an ascent of Mount Liberty in Franconia Notch is one of the more popular shoulder season hikes in the Whites. Not quite winter and not yet summer, a shoulder season climb presents a handful of challenges to hikers: conditions can change quickly and yesterday’s monorail might be today’s ankle-deep mud. The best way to deal with the variable terrain and ever-changing conditions found on Mount Liberty and ensure yourself a successful summit is with the right gear.

Credit: Tim Peck

Kahtoola MICROSpikes

From the parking lot blacktop to its 4,459-foot summit, snow and ice take a long time to disappear on Mount Liberty. Nail your ascent of this Franconia Notch classic with a pair of Kahtoola MICORspikes—they can mean all the difference between slipping and sliding every step of the way and confidently speeding to the summit ridge with excellent traction on every footfall.

Oboz Sawtooth II Mid B-Dry Waterproof Hiking Boots

An ascent of Mount Liberty starts on Franconia Notch Bike Path, soon connecting with the Liberty Spring Trail, which hikers take to the summit ridge. On the Liberty Spring Trail’s initial low-angle portions, there is often snow and mud as well as several easy stream crossings. Ensure your feet stay dry in these messy shoulder season trail conditions with a good pair of mid-cut, waterproof hiking boots. The Oboz Sawtooth II Mid B-Dry Waterproof Hiking Boots (Men’s/Women’s) feature a B-Dry waterproof membrane for dealing with wet conditions while vents will keep your feet from overheating if you luck into a five-star day.

Credit: Tim Peck

Outdoor Research Performance Trucker Trail-Run Hat & Whiskey Peak Beanie

The gradual nature of the Liberty Springs trail means motivated hikers can move fast for the first few miles, and the OR Performance Trucker Trail-Run Hat is great for keeping the sun and sweat out of your eyes while doing so. Stash a traditional winter hat, like the OR Whiskey Peak Beanie, in your pack to have for warmth during rest breaks as well as for later, above treeline.

EMS Equinox Stretch Gloves & Ascent Summit Mittens

Large temperature fluctuations are a staple of shoulder season, especially when you change elevations. While being barehanded at the base of the mountain may be comfortable on some spring days, you might find yourself wishing for a light pair of gloves—like the EMS Equinox Stretch (Men’s/Women’s)—around the 2.5-mile mark as you pass Liberty Springs Tentsite. The only thing worse than not packing a pair of lightweight gloves like these is forgetting to also carry a warm pair of mittens—such as the EMS Ascent Summit (Men’s/Women’s)—in your pack for when you reach Liberty’s exposed summit.

Credit: Tim Peck

Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles

Above the Liberty Springs Tentsite, the trail begins to climb consistently. Depending on the snow conditions, this section of trail features a handful of balance-testing challenges for both ascending and descending hikers. A pair of trekking poles like the Black Diamond Trail is handy to have along to provide additional stability over the slippery rocks, ice, and deep snow you’re likely to encounter.

Two Puffy Jackets

Franconia Notch is often a wind tunnel and can feel significantly colder than the thermometer says it is. This is especially true on the summit ridge, where the Liberty Springs Trail ends and hikers follow the Franconia Ridge Trail south for 0.3 miles to Liberty’s summit. An active insulator like the EMS Vortex Jacket (Men’s/Women’s) is the perfect layer to wear while ascending the summit ridge and the EMS Feather Pack Hooded Jacket (Men’s/Women’s) is a lightweight, packable jacket to throw on for staying warm enough to soak up the 360° summit views of Loon Mountain, Cannon, Lafayette, and the Bonds once you reach the summit proper.

A Buff pairs well with a Thunderhead jacket.

Buffs

Just below Liberty’s summit, there’s a short treeless section that hikers must traverse to the top. Often windy, a Buff makes a great face covering here, protecting your face from Franconia Notch’s chilling winds. (Also, in late spring, Buffs treated with Insect Shield are a nice way to fend of the black flies frequently found around the Pemigewasset River that runs near the beginning of the trail while the UV+ versions provide extra sun protection on those sunny spring days and from reflected sunlight from the snow.)

HydroFlask 20 oz. Insulated Food Jar

Speaking of summits, don’t forget your celebratory summit snack. Warm soup or cold ice cream in a HydroFlask 20 oz. insulated food jar is a great calorie boost. Packing some extra calories and a treat is a good call if you decide to go for a doubleheader—Mount Flume, another 4,000-footer, is just a little over a mile farther south on the Franconia Ridge Trail. Comparatively less traveled and not always broken in, make sure to leave enough time for the out-and-back if you decide to bag it.

EMS Thunderhead Jacket

It sometimes can seem like Franconia Notch has its own weather and the sun that was shining when you left the trailhead may become ominous clouds by the time you reach the summit a few hours later. The EMS Thunderhead Jacket (Men’s/Women’s) can protect you in the event of unexpected precipitation higher up the mountain.

Mount Liberty is one of the best shoulder-season hikes in New Hampshire and a popular place for hikers to find their legs after a long winter. Having the “right” gear along with the 10 essentials can set a positive tone to carry you through the season while showing up unprepared can suck stoke faster than a socked-in summit. Is there another piece of gear that’s a must-have for Liberty? Tell us in the comments.

Credit: Tim Peck

Opinion: When the Parking Lot is Filled, Find Somewhere Else to Play

Everybody has their “signature spot” in the White Mountains—the place they return to again and again for their dose of the great outdoors. You’ve seen it change and transform from season to season and year to year. And if you’ve been to that spot on a recent weekend or holiday, you’ve likely noticed something else: a lot more people. The Whites have gotten pretty crowded over the last few years, especially recently, as users discovering the outdoors in the wake of the pandemic are (understandably) flocking to these same destinations for the same reasons as us. Sure, New Hampshire’s motto is “live free or die,” but crowds are stressing these precious resources more than ever. It’s time to do something about it.

Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. Overflowing parking lots and cars parked along the side of the road are as common as black flies in spring and bad weather on Mount Washington. Being unable to find parking should be a sign to all of us: It might be the morning to try out something different. It’s also up to land managers to enforce parking restrictions to help control the crowds. Keeping our wilderness pristine could start with all of us recognizing that a packed parking lot means there are already too many people on the trail.

It has been the practice at Katahdin for years—Limiting the number of day hikers on the mountain is done not through a permit system, but by requiring hikers to make a reservation to park.

The idea of limiting access to popular hikes through parking is not a new solution. It has been the practice at Katahdin for years—Limiting the number of day hikers on the mountain is done not through a permit system, but by requiring hikers to make a reservation to park. But a permit system, like the one mountaineers are required to use to “reduce crowding and protect natural features” before summiting peaks like Mount St. Helens is another option. From May 15 to October 31, just 110 climbers are allowed on the mountain per day.

The recent enforcement of prohibitions on highway parking in Franconia Notch proves that parking restrictions have merit. Now, if you’re hoping to hike Franconia Ridge but the roughly 200 spaces between the north side and south side of Route 93 parking lots are full, you’ll either need to use the recently implemented shuttle or consider “bagging” these classics from a different access point.

Credit: Tim Peck

Of course, the Franconia Notch shuttle service presents its own set of issues. On one hand, the shuttle has put an end to cars parking—and people walking—along Route 93, which is a major traffic safety improvement. And it may, in theory, encourage some hikers to go elsewhere, without fully mandating it. But in reality, the shuttle has done little to reduce the steady stream of hikers going up and down super popular trails like Falling Waters, the Old Bridle Path, and Hi-Cannon.

That brings us to the heart of the overcrowding problem: our own routines. In the end, it may be up to us. Every weekend, thousands flock to the Whites for day hikes and bigger weekend-long outings. Undoubtedly, recreationists are a huge economic boon for the region, and we have no quarrel with their general presence. But when recreationists arrive at the same trailhead at the same time with the same objective, our presence leaves a mark. Crowding at trailheads stresses surrounding neighborhoods, while too-many hikers on the trails themselves result in overuse, path widening, and stress on the wildlife that call these areas home 24/7. And as places like Katahdin and Mount St. Helens have shown us, if we don’t start taking personal responsibility for how busy these places are and do our part to mitigate the crowds on our own, someone else just might—and we might not like their solution.

And as places like Katahdin and Mount St. Helens have shown us, if we don’t start taking personal responsibility for how busy these places are and do our part to mitigate the crowds on our own, someone else just might—and we might not like their solution.

Wondering how you can play your part? Well, Mike De Socio offered one option in his recent goEast piece, “Why I Hike on Weekdays.” But even if you primarily recreate on weekends, there are still things you can do. For instance, consider starting your activity at off-hours, i.e., earlier or later in the day or even recreating at night. Another way to mitigate the crowds is to visit some of the Whites’ less-traveled regions—for example, these three White Mountain 4,000 footers everyone avoids.

We hate crowds as much as anyone, but looking at bumper-to-bumper trail traffic means that we’re a part of the crowds we despise. If we all don’t start finding new places in the Whites to play, we might find ourselves shut out altogether.

Credit: Tim Peck

Ski Area Profile: Ragged Mountain, NH

New Hampshire’s reputation for skiing is growing—North Conway was recently named “Best Ski Town in North America” by USA Today. The ski areas in the Mount Washington Valley may steal the spotlight, but there are plenty of other great, lesser-known places to schuss in the Granite State. Lacking the size and the notoriety of the state’s big-name resorts, these smaller ski areas are unrivaled when it comes to stoke and community. One such gem is Danbury’s Ragged Mountain.

Whether it’s the terrain, welcoming atmosphere, proximity to southern New England, affordability, or epic views, there are a lot of reasons to love Ragged Mountain.

The Reggae Glades. | Credit: Tim Peck

Why Skiers Love Ragged: The Terrain

Ragged isn’t a “big” mountain, but it isn’t small either and it has plenty of terrain for every type of skier on its two peaks, Ragged Mountain and Spear Mountain. Ragged’s 57 trails are spread evenly across skill levels and its 1,250 feet of vertical is just enough that even seasoned skiers “feel the burn” toward the end of a run.

Beginner trails like Blueberry Patch, Lower Easy Winder, and Cardigan are mellow, wide, and always well-groomed, making them the perfect place for newer skiers and riders to build the confidence needed to tackle more challenging terrain. Intermediate runs like Exhibition and Flying Yankee are favorites of both seasoned and less-experienced skiers alike, thanks to their initial steep pitch and mellow runouts. Those looking for the steep stuff will love expert runs such as Sweepstakes and Showboat.

For a moderately sized mountain, Ragged is big on glades—it has 17. Skiers new to playing in the woods will love the widely spaced Reggae Glades and the lower-angle trees of Moose Alley. Options abound for skiers all about getting feisty in the forest—favorites include Rags to Riches and Pel’s Pass, both of which take advantage of the gladed terrain between the two peaks. There’s even a handful of double-black-diamond glades like Not Too Shabby, which delivers plenty of pitch and face-smackingly tight trees.

The Summit Six Express. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Welcoming Atmosphere

Ragged Mountain is easy to navigate—its trails are well marked and all of them lead to a shared base area that allows easy access to both peaks. This lets families or groups of disparate abilities break up to ski different trails and explore different terrain, then easily regroup between runs or at pre-arranged intervals. There is rarely a long wait for either of the mountain’s two primary lifts—the Summit Six and Spear Mountain Express—and both lifts provide a speedy ride to the top.

In non-COVID times, Ragged’s base lodge is a hub of activity. The lower level of the Elmwood Lodge (or Red Barn) is home to the Harvest Café and has an abundance of room for families to spread out. On the second level, visitors will find the Stone Hearth Bar and more open space for getting ready for, or kicking back after, a long day on the slopes. (If you do visit the bar, don’t forget to grab an aptly named Rags To Riches IPA.) Skiers looking for something more substantial than a hot chocolate from the café or a pint from the pub can find sit-down dining in the Birches Mountain Restaurant.

For those interested in chilling outside, there are a number of picnic tables and Adirondack chairs scattered across a stone patio in front of the Elmwood Lodge along with a fire pit for warming up frozen digits. With the current restrictions in the lodge due to COVID-19, Ragged has had a robust parking lot scene this year, with set-ups ranging from simple camp chairs and coolers to more involved arrangements with grills, portable heaters, and awnings.

Blueberry Patch. | Credit: Tim Peck

Proximity to Southern New England

Ragged is a pretty easy day trip from southern New England, especially when compared to ski destinations like North Conway. It is about an hour from New Hampshire’s two largest cities (Manchester and Nashua) and a little under two hours from Boston, which makes it a reasonable day trip for many. Good thing, too—there are limited lodging and food options near the mountain. Tilton (a little over 30 minutes away) is the closest town to offer a variety of hotel and dining options. Many love stopping at the Tilt’n Diner on the way home.

Although Ragged isn’t that far from southern New England, it does have a bit of a “can’t get there from here” vibe, as there are a bunch of ways to get to the mountain, but none of them are particularly direct. It is near both I-93 and I-89, but plan on driving between 20 and 30 minutes on backroads no matter which way you come.

Mount Cardigan from the Reggae Glades. | Credit: Tim Peck

It’s Affordable

Another perk of avoiding New Hampshire’s bigger-name mountains is avoiding their big-ticket prices. Ragged Mountain’s “Mission Affordable” season pass is one of the best deals going—it’s under $500 if you buy it early enough. If you’re interested in visiting Ragged this winter, find yourself a season ticket holder; They get four buddy tickets with their season pass, which are valid for a $49 lift ticket with no blackout dates.

Going deep on Flying Yankee. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Views

The views are big at this mid-sized mountain. From the summit of Ragged Mountain, visitors are treated to a fantastic perspective of the White Mountains, including the peaks of Franconia Ridge, the Bonds, and the often snow-capped Presidentials. From the top of Spear Mountain, skiers are treated to an excellent perspective of Mount Cardigan.

If you want the terrain and soul of one of New Hampshire’s big-name ski resorts, but are looking to get off the beaten path, put Ragged Mountain on your must-visit list this winter.


Joshua Huntington: A Winter on Mount Washington

To stand on Mount Washington’s summit in winter is to know the sheer cruelty of nature. The frozen landscape, biting cold, and ferocious wind all serve as a reminder that this is not a place for habitation. Yet, in the winter of 1870 and 1871, an expedition party of six—led by geologists Charles Hitchcock (New Hampshire’s state geologist) and Joshua Huntington (Huntington Ravine’s namesake)—spent the season here. In the process, they established the first high-mountain weather observatory in the United States and laid the groundwork for the Mount Washington Observatory. This winter marks the 150th anniversary of their feat.

A Scientific Quest

According to the book, The Worst Weather on Earth: A History of the Mount Washington Observatory, “Hitchcock’s effort to establish a year-round, mountaintop meteorological observatory was the first sustained scientific operation of its type in the world.” However, the idea wasn’t entirely new; In 1853, one of the builders of the Mount Washington Carriage Road urged Congress to construct a full-time observatory on the summit of the mountain to monitor Washington’s unique weather conditions.

As far back as 1856, Huntington, then a college student, was contemplating spending a winter on Mount Washington, going so far as to write a letter to the Smithsonian in search of funds for an expedition. Hitchcock soon learned of Huntington’s plans, beginning a decade of correspondence between the two men as they looked to turn the dream into a reality.

But anyone who has stood on the summit of the Rockpile during the winter understands the audacity of Hitchcock’s and Huntington’s aspiration. This was especially true in 1870—at that point, the summit’s hotels, open since the 1850s, closed every winter because the weather conditions made supplying food and materials too challenging. Moreover, by 1870 there had been just two recorded successful winter ascents of the mountain and “failure was universally predicted” of the expedition. As Hitchcock later remarked in Mount Washington in Winter, Or The Experiences of a Scientific Expedition, “fear of accident has prevented most people from attempting to climb Mount Washington in winter.”

Telegraphing from the Top

While many doubted the expedition’s chances of success, it did pique the interest of the United States Signal Service, a precursor to the National Weather Service. To support the expedition, the Signal Service sent Hitchcock and Huntington instruments, three miles of insulated telegraph wire to run from the summit to the Cog Railway’s base station, and an experienced telegrapher and meteorologist named Sergeant Theodore Smith. With the support of the Signal Service, the expedition now had the means to send weather reports from the summit of the mountain down to the railroad’s base station. But they also needed a place to stay.

Originally, Hitchcock and Huntington had hoped to reside in Tip Top House, a hotel built on Washington’s summit in 1853. However, their request was denied on multiple occasions. Instead, they ended up in the summit depot of the fledgling Mount Washington Railway Company, which had just opened the Cog Railway one year before. In October 1870, some of the party, with the assistance of a local carpenter spent “several days…upon the summit in preparing the building for occupation,” partitioning a room, setting up a stove to heat it, and laying double-floors to insulate it. The room was about 20 feet long, 11 feet wide, and eight feet high, with “[e]very inch of space…utilized” once the party arrived.

“An Excitement Found Nowhere Else”

Rounding out the six-member expedition party were observer S.A. Nelson and photographers A.F. Clough and Howard Kimball. Due to the parties’ various responsibilities, they all arrived on the mountain at different times. Huntington was the first—on November 12, 1870, he ascended to the summit and, the next day, recorded the expedition’s first weather observations. He remained there alone until November 30th, when Clough and Kimball arrived with two visitors. Smith arrived on December 4th. Hitchcock arrived on December 21st, the first day of winter.

Day-to-day life on the mountain offered “an excitement found nowhere else.” The party regularly observed “gorgeous” sunrises and “glorious” sunsets, “throwing a flood of light across a sea of clouds.” They also observed all the weather phenomena and fury the mountain had to offer, diligently recording their observations in their journals, then telegraphing them to the “lower regions.”

As noted in the book, Mount Washington: A Handbook for Travelers, “Full reports of the weather encountered were telegraphed daily, and the public interest in the enterprise was wide-spread and keen.” One notable measurement occurred on February 5, 1871, when they recorded a lowest temperature of minus 59°F. Using a hand-held anemometer, the peak wind gust they recorded that winter was 105 mph.

When not observing, the party spent time exploring the mountain, repairing their quarters, taking and developing photographs to give “those who cannot visit such places a chance to see the wonders and beauties,” receiving visitors, and mending the telegraph wire, a process that required traveling down the Cog to find the break, repairing the break, and then devising new ways to protect the wire from the elements. Some members also regularly returned to the valley floor for days at a time. Only Huntington, Nelson, and Smith spent every night that winter on the mountain.

After full days on the mountain, the group gathered around a stove which was “prized very highly on account of its marvelous heating properties.” There, they recorded their observations and wrote in their journals, the latter of which provide incredible insight into what life was like for the men.

Working in shifts over the course of the winter, their observations continued until May 12, 1871, when they departed the mountain.

The Aftermath

The Signal Service continued conducting weather observations atop Mount Washington until 1892, making the summit station the first of its kind in the world. Forty years later, another audacious group—led by Charles Brooks, a professor of Meteorology at Harvard, and Joe Dodge, the legendary AMC high hut manager—would carry on the early work of the Signal Services and resume recording the weather at the top of New England, laying the foundation for the Mount Washington Observatory as we know it today.

Four men manned the next-generation mountaintop weather station—Bob Monahan, Sal Pagliuca, Alex McKenzie, and Joe Dodge—working without pay or time off, but not without reward. Just two years later, on April 12, 1934, the Observatory recorded the world’s fastest surface wind speed ever observed by man: 231 mph. It would be almost a half century until that wind speed was even close to being attained again on Mount Washington—the second-fastest wind record at the observatory was 182 mph in 1980.

Today

The Mountain Washington Observatory is now one of the several permanently staffed mountaintop weather stations in the world and its forecasts are critical to outdoor endeavors across the region. It even hosts visitors—in non-COVID times, the EMS Climbing School leads overnights at the MWOBS—providing a glimpse into what life was like at the top of New England for the six men who spent the winter of 1870-1871 there.


The Dos and Don’ts of Winter Hiking

The pandemic encouraged a lot of people to take up hiking this year. If you’re planning to continue your mountain adventures even as the temperatures drop and the snow accumulates, keep reading for some tips on how to stay safe while winter hiking this season.

Credit: Tim Peck

Winter Hiking “Dos”

Tell a friend: Spending an unplanned night out in the mountains of the Northeast is potentially deadly, even during the mildest months. Leave an itinerary and a return time with a responsible friend or relative. If you fail to get back by the prearranged time, they can direct help to you, speeding up the rescue effort.

Save yourself: Self-sufficiency is something every hiker should strive for, especially right now when rescuers and resources in busy regions like the White Mountains are so stressed due to added demand. Having extra layers, an emergency bivy, sleeping bag, and/or pad in your pack can make all the difference in the event of an accident or unplanned overnight.

Plan for shorter days: Winter days are a lot shorter. Starting early is a good strategy for maximizing daylight, and a headlamp is a nice safety net if you’re running behind schedule while winter hiking. Keep in mind it’s not only harder to navigate after the sun sets, it also gets significantly colder.

Stay hydrated: Sweat evaporates quickly and we lose more fluids through respiration in winter’s cold, dry air. Also, our body’s thirst response is diminished by up to 40% in the cold! Make sure to sip every time you stop and to protect your water from freezing by using an insulated bottle or by adding some sports drink to your water (the sugar and salt in it lowers the freezing point). Even better—bring a thermos of hot chocolate or sugary tea for some mid-route warmth and hydration.

Credit: Tim Peck

Dress in layers: Having a variety of different layers allows you to adjust to both the weather and your level of exertion, minimizing sweating and keeping you dry and comfortable.

Remember your puffy at rest breaks: Leaving your puffy in the pack is a recipe for a rapid cooldown any time you stop for more than a minute or two. Putting it on while you’re standing still is a great way to maintain some of that warmth you’ve built up.

Feed the furnace: Studies show that exercising in cold weather like winter hiking burns more calories than exercising in warm weather. Eat regularly and pack cold-weather friendly foods that won’t freeze—PB&J, trail mix, and leftover pizza are all excellent options.

Study trail conditions: Reading trip reports from people who’ve recently hiked the same peak you’re planning to summit is a good way to get information about what you’ll be getting into. Pay close attention to information about deep snow and downed trees, two things that can really slow you down. If there are no recent trail reports, anticipate that you’ll likely be breaking trail from car to summit.

Credit: Tim Peck

And “Don’ts”

Underestimate the challenge: Shorter days, harder terrain, and less forgiving weather all conspire to make winter hiking more demanding. That June hike that you finished with time to spare might end in the dark during December.

Tackle too-big objectives: If you’re just getting into cold-weather hiking, start small with hikes you are familiar with and know you can accomplish in the time you’ve allotted. Consider a guided trip if you have a bucket-list winter hike in mind, like Mount Washington, but are unsure of your abilities.

Go barefoot: Wading through deep snow is slow and exhausting, and ice is outright dangerous; consequently, it’s essential to have the appropriate flotation/traction device—whether it’s snowshoes, crampons, or Ice Talons/MICROspikes. Remember, the clear conditions you encounter at the trailhead don’t always reflect what you’ll come across at higher elevations.

Get fixed on a single objective: Learn to take what the weather gives you. If there are high winds above the treeline, audible to a more protected objective. If you make a last-minute pivot in your plan before losing cell service, make sure to update the person you left your itinerary with.

Credit: Tim Peck

Fly blind: Know what weather you’re in for—and what type of hike to tackle— by checking Higher Summits Forecast (if you’re hiking near the Whites) before your trip. Remember the forecasted weather for the nearest town might be different from the surrounding summits.

Wear cotton: “Cotton kills” is a favorite saying of outdoorsy people. Cotton retains moisture (unlike synthetic and wool layers, which dry more quickly), nullifying its insulation properties—leaving you feeling cold and putting you on the path to hypothermia.

Start your hike too warm: Your body generates a lot of heat when hiking, especially in the mountains. Hitting the trail a little chilled and letting your excursion warm you up helps avoid soaking through critical layers early in your trip.

Think it can’t happen to you: Even if you’re with an experienced group, accidents happen; Sliding falls, fast-moving weather, and navigational issues are realities for even the most seasoned hikers. Being prepared for an unfortunate situation like this—both in terms of equipment and training—may make all the difference.

Lastly, whatever hiking trips you take this winter, DO remember to have fun and stay safe!

Credit: Tim Peck

Crotched Mountain: "Out-of-this-World" Skiing

New Hampshire has a storied ski history. It was the first state in the nation to cut dedicated downhill ski trails and to have overhead wire-rope ski tows, a gondola, and an aerial tramway. It’s also home to the first downhill ski race in the U.S., a route you can still ski today. Still, almost a century and a half after the founding of the nation’s oldest continuously operating ski club, New Hampshire remains passionate about its skiing.

Small ski resorts across the Granite State keep the ski stoke high winter after winter. These ski areas might not compete with their bigger brethren in acreage, vertical, or glitz, but they are unrivaled when it comes to passion, thanks to their accessibility, comparative affordability, and community atmospheres. One such ski hill is Bennington’s Crotched Mountain.

Credit: Tim Peck

Why Skiers Love Crotched Mountain

The reason skiers love Crotched Mountain is simple: the skiing. From trees to steeps to parks to cruisers, there’s terrain for everyone at the mountain—and thanks to the single, small base area, groups can split up, take the trail that most appeals to them, and reconvene to ride the lift back up together. The mountain’s out-of-the-way location ensures that the crowds are typically thin and long lift lines are abnormal.

Crotched also has an amazing community. Before the lifts even start spinning, it’s common to see groups of skiers uphilling together, a practice that continues throughout the day thanks to the mountain’s liberal uphill travel policy. There is also a strong contingent of telemark skiers, and Crotched has even hosted the U.S. Telemark National Championships. It’s not uncommon on nice days to see families and groups gathered together in the parking lot cooking on portable grills or sharing brown bag lunches.

Credit: Tim Peck

Finding the Best Terrain

The crown jewel of Crotched Mountain is “the Rocket,” a high-speed, detachable quad that carries skiers to the resort’s 2,066-foot summit. From the top of the Rocket, skiers can access all of the mountain’s 100 acres of trails, plus the overwhelming majority of its glades. New skiers need to know that there is no novice trail from the summit; The easiest descent is via Moon Walk, a blue square.

Crotched Mountain has four other lifts besides the Rocket—a quad, a triple, a double, and a surface lift—but this high-speed four-seater remains the favorite for its efficiency and accessibility. In 2018, Vermont skier Scott Howard made the most of the Rocket’s speed, ticking 143 runs and 130,900 vertical feet in a single day at the mountain while on his way to set the record for most vertical feet skied in a season.

Credit: Tim Peck

Something For Everyone

Skiers of all abilities will find a trail to test their limits at Crotched Mountain—28% of the mountain’s trails are rated as novice terrain, 40% intermediate, and 32% expert. In general, the steepest trails are close to the Rocket, where Pluto’s Plunge and Jupiter’s Storm offer plenty of pitch for steep-skiing aficionados. Another expert-level favorite is UFO, which often features natural or manmade bumps. Trails on the ski area’s outer edges—Galaxy and Super Nova—offer more mellow descents.

In addition to groomers, Crotched Mountain has 80 acres of glades. Seasoned tree skiers will love the Darkstar Glade’s steep pitch and tight trees while those just getting accustomed to skiing in the woods will love the lower angle and widely spaced trees of the Final Frontier Glade.

Crotched Mountain also has a variety of parks to play in. The typical park progression for Crotched Mountain riders is to go from the NCC-1701 park to the Zero-G park to the CM Terrain Park. The NCC-1701 is a favorite with newer park riders thanks to its relaxed slope angle, small jumps, and relatively low-consequence rails, while the biggest, rowdiest jumps and features are in the CM Terrain Park.

Credit: Tim Peck

Under-the-Radar Runs

Like most small ski areas, much of Crotched Mountain’s skiable terrain is visible from the lifts, but there are few hidden gems too. A powder-day favorite is Big Dipper, which is tricky to connect with other steep trails and generally involves skating or shuffling back to the Rocket—both of which keep the crowds at bay and freshies untracked. The mountain is also home to a fair number of unmarked glades, so keep your eyes peeled for tracks leading into the woods or loosen the lips of a local with a beer at the Onset Pub & Lounge. (We suggest ordering a Rocket Fuel, which is brewed just down the road, especially for Crotched Mountain, by Henniker Brewing.)

Midnight Madness

Crotched Mountain’s defining event is Midnight Madness, which takes place every Friday and Saturday night. The mountain’s lifts spin until 1:00 AM—later than any other mountain in New England—during Midnight Madness, and the festivities include live music, bonfires, and other events.

Credit: Tim Peck

Getting There

Directions to Crotched Mountain elicit the classic New England response, you can’t get there from here. Although Bennington—home to Crotched Mountain—is located in south-central New Hampshire and just 70-odd miles from Boston, getting there is a bit of an adventure for the uninitiated. Unlike many of the state’s big-name ski areas, Crotched Mountain isn’t close to any major highway and requires travel on single-lane rural roads through small, unfamiliar towns.

Upon arrival in Bennington, you’ll find typical ski town amenities in short supply. The town does have a small general store downtown and a handful of local eateries, but those looking to venture outside of the mountain’s cafeteria and pub will generally want to head toward places like Peterborough, Hillsborough, or Manchester, all of which are about a half-hour away. But if this is what you’re coming for, you’re missing the point—Crotched is for skiing.

If you haven’t visited Crotched Mountain before, put a trip to it on your winter to-do list, as this small mountain delivers big smiles.


Doc Benton and the Haunting of Mount Moosilauke

Mount Moosilauke, a favorite of New England hikers, is no exception to the ghost stories that haunt the White Mountains. The story of the sinister Doctor Thomas Benton is well-known thanks to the enthusiastic raconteurs of Dartmouth College Outing Club, who have been telling this spooky tale to first-year students since the 1920s. Like many of the best campfire tales, the story of Doc Benton has evolved over the years, with each teller adding their own flourish to a tale about a man seeking eternal life. Consequently, while the broad strokes of this legend of terror remain the same, the demonic details attributed to Benton grow in every telling.

The Rise of Thomas Benton

The story begins in Benton, New Hampshire, a village in the shadow of Mount Moosilauke. The only child of a poor family, Benton developed a reputation for his quiet demeanor and extraordinary academic skill at an early age. The village needed a doctor and, recognizing Tom’s aptitude, raised money to send him to medical school in Germany.

At the University of Heidelberg, Tom excelled in the classroom but failed to connect with his German-born peers. His only friend was an eccentric professor, with whom he shared an interest in medicine, science, theology, and, most tellingly, the quest for eternal life. The two spent long nights theorizing and conducting experiments. Shortly before graduation, the professor passed away, leaving Tom his research, a collection of arcane books, and a locked chest, which followed Tom back to Benton when he returned to fulfill his duty as the village doctor.

The Fall of Doctor Thomas Benton

In every rendition of this ghost story, Benton’s downfall begins when he returns to the New Hampshire village of his youth. The details for why vary greatly. In some versions, he becomes distraught soon after arriving, learning that his parents died while he was in Germany. In others, he first establishes a renowned medical practice, marries, and has a child, only to be devastated when his wife and child die from contagious disease.

These details aside, every telling of this legend has Benton responding to the loss by withdrawing from the community and retreating to a small shack on the side of Mount Moosilauke. The only possessions he took with him were the books and small chest left to him by his professor. After moving to the cabin, Doctor Benton returned to town occasionally to resupply, but as time went on, his visits became less frequent. Eventually, younger townspeople knew of Doctor Benton as only the strange person—his appearance having shifted from prosperous young doctor to long-haired, crazed-looking hermit—living in the woods.

The Legend of Doc Benton

Many speculate that Benton resumed his search for eternal life while alone on the mountainside. Furthering suspicions, local livestock started showing up dead, the only sign of injury to the animals a small wound behind their ears. The strange happenings escalated when the dead body of a young man was stolen from the undertaker, only to reappear later with a small wound behind his ear as well.

Villagers began to speculate about what Benton was doing in the woods—some thinking he discovered the secret to eternal life but at the cost of his sanity, others believing he simply went mad with grief following the tragic loss of his family. Many were willing to look past the doctor’s peculiar behavior, until finally things took a turn.

One winter evening in the 1820s, a small girl named Mary did not come inside when called for dinner. When Mary’s mother went to get her, she saw a set of adult footprints in the snow leading out of town toward Mount Moosilauke. She summoned the townspeople and together they followed the trail of footprints to Tunnel Brook Ravine. There they observed a shadowy figure in a dark cloak with a long grey beard, recognized by some as Doctor Benton.

With the snow intensifying, the villagers closed in, pushing the doctor toward the steep-walled canyon. Seemingly trapped, Benton, with Mary under his arm, is said to have climbed one of the near-vertical cliffs boxing him in to elude capture. Atop the cliff, the villagers observed Benton throw Mary to her death, before disappearing forever into the escalating snowstorm. When the townspeople collected Mary’s dead body, they observed the tell-tale wound behind her ear.

The Legend Lives On

Although Doc Benton disappeared that fateful evening, he was not gone for good. In 1860, a missing logger on Mount Moosilauke was found dead, the only observable injury a wound behind his ear. Some 40 years later, a railroad worker in the area was found dead, also with a similar mark behind his ear.

Some say that Benton continued to frequent the area thereafter. Mysteriously creaky floors, open windows, and food disappearing from the cupboards at the Prospect House—a stone structure built on Moosilauke’s summit in 1860—have all been attributed to him. Others claimed to see a dark-cloaked figure fleeing the summit, darting behind the large cairns marking the trail trying to avoid detection.

In the 1970s, a search party was deployed when a solo hiker didn’t return from a trip to the remote Jobildunk Ravine. When the hiker was found, he was covered in bumps and bruises, and in shock, but otherwise uninjured. Once safely away from the mountain, the hiker confessed that a hand pushed him while he was climbing on an exposed ledge.

We can only wonder how many people have caught glimpses of Doc Benton over the years—a hand disappearing behind a tree, the tail of a dark cloak moving behind a cairn, and the glimpse of a long grey beard quickly vanishing into the thick forest—only to write them off as tricks of the imagination. Similarly, our minds wander to the question: Ss it Doctor Benton’s spirit haunting the mountain, or is it in fact the doctor himself, having discovered the secret to everlasting life?


Alpha Guide: Climbing Standard Route on Whitehorse Ledge

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

Steeped in history, Standard Route on Whitehorse Ledge is a must-do 1,000-foot route offering exposed slab climbing at a moderate grade.

A route almost as old as technical climbing in the Northeast, Standard Route on Whitehorse Ledge was explored by early climbing luminaries Robert Underhill and Kenneth Henderson back in the 1920s. Today, Standard Route is a must-do for old and new climbers alike—offering over a 1,000 feet of moderate, often runout slab climbing with enough spice to keep veteran climbers on their toes and remind rookies just how full on 5.5 can feel, making it a classic moderate slab climbing route in North Conway, New England’s trad climbing mecca.

Quick Facts

Distance: 9 pitches
Time to Complete: Half day for most.
Difficulty: ★★★ (5.5, Grade II)
Scenery:★★★★


Season: Late-Spring to Early-Fall
Fees/Permits: None
Contact: https://www.nps.gov/acad/

Download file: Whitehorse.gpx

Turn-By-Turn

Most climbers approach Whitehorse Ledge from the climbers’ parking lot in a maintenance area just below the White Mountain Hotel. To get there from North Conway, take Route 16 toward the Eastern Slope Inn, turn left onto River Road at the traffic lights just past the inn, and then after about a mile, make another left onto West Side Road. After about another mile, look for a large sign for Hales Location on the right and turn in. Follow that road until the first intersection and turn right. This road will pass a couple of large homes, some of the golf course, and then start bending up toward the hotel. As the road bends uphill to the left, the maintenance area and climbers’ lot are straight ahead.

The climbers’ lot holds about 10 cars, so get there early on busy weekends if you want a spot. Beware that cars parked in the hotel’s regular lot may be towed. Also, there are no facilities in the climbers’ lot, so consider stopping in North Conway beforehand.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Traditional Approach

The approach to Whitehorse Ledge is quick and straightforward. Simply leave the climbers’ lot and walk up the road toward the hotel parking lot. Once you reach the parking lot, look for a well-defined trail leaving from the lot’s right corner. Follow this path for about 5 to 7 minutes to the base of the cliff. As it nears the cliff, the path is a little rocky, so watch your step.

Once you’re at the base of the cliff, picking out Standard Route from the expanse of granite slab before you may seem overwhelming. An easy way to identify Standard Route is to look for the prominent arch rising up the middle of the slab. Trace the arch to the ground—Standard Route’s first pitch starts almost directly below it.

Launch pad with climbers heading up. | Credit: Tim Peck
Launch pad with climbers heading up. | Credit: Tim Peck

Lift Off

Standard Route’s first pitch leaves the ground and heads up and slightly right about 100 feet toward a broad bench that climbers call the Launch Pad. Barely fifth class, some parties just scramble up this pitch then transition to roped climbing on the Launch Pad. However you decide to head up, you’ll eventually want to get situated toward the right side of the Launch Pad for the easiest access to the pitches that follow. There are options for anchors near your feet if you look carefully.

Heading up Pitch 2. | Credit: Tim Peck
Heading up Pitch 2. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Toilet Bowl

Standard Route’s next pitch (5.1R, 110 ft) heads up and slightly right to one of the more humorous features on Whitehorse—the Toilet Bowl. It’s a big hole in the slab with a two-bolt anchor at the top. The pitch is somewhat run-out, although you will pass several flakes that have some options for gear along the way.

Pitch 3. | Credit: Tim Peck
Pitch 3. | Credit: Tim Peck

Crystal Pocket

With your crew converged on the Toilet Bowl, leave the anchor and head up the next pitch. One of the longer pitches on the route (150 feet, 5.2R), it angles slightly left leaving the anchor heading toward two bolts. From the higher bolt, delicately pad a bit more up and left toward a flake at mid-pitch (place some gear here), then blast up the slab toward the Crystal Pocket anchor, a two-tiered ledge covered in crystals with a two-bolt anchor.

On the arch. | Credit: Tim Peck
On the arch. | Credit: Tim Peck

Getting to the Arch

From the Crystal Pocket, your next destination is a thread anchor in Standard Route’s main arch about 100 feet up. To get there, first climb a steeper swell (crux, 5.3), then follow a series of pockets out and right as you angle up to the arch. If you have tricams on your rack, they’ll definitely find homes in these cool-looking pockets.

Once you’re at the thread, either build an anchor or proceed a few feet up and around the corner to a vertical crack that eats mid-sized cams. Neither of these anchors is particularly comfortable, but from the latter anchor, your second will have a better view of the pitch ahead and won’t be hassled at the rap station by a party rappelling off Sliding Board or Wave Length.

Climbing just below Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck
Climbing just below Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck

Lunch Ledge

Perhaps the most enjoyable section of the climb, the next pitch (5.4, 130 ft) first follows the large arch as it arcs up and right. At a weakness, the pitch then ascends a small break in the slab up featured, vertical terrain to a two-bolt anchor atop Lunch Ledge. This section of hero climbing has great hands and feet and is quite moderate—so long as you climb the easier, left side of the intersecting arch.

Due to its size and location (more than halfway up the climb), Lunch Ledge is the perfect spot to pause, have a snack, and rehydrate. Many parties rappel from here—working down to the ground in five double-rope rappels. If you’re at all wavering about going higher, this is one of the last good spots to rappel from.

Pro Tip: Since rappelling on Whitehorse requires two 60m ropes, plan on climbing as a party of three or carrying a long tag line so that you can get down if you decide to rap.

Underneath the crux. | Credit: Tim Peck
Underneath the crux. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Business

The pitch above Lunch Ledge is the 5.5 crux of Standard Route. Start on the right end of Lunch Ledge and climb up about 20 feet. From here, climbers traverse right to a left-leaning ramp that takes you to the top of the pitch. Start by making a sharp right and padding delicately across a smooth slab protected by a bolt. Next, step slightly down onto a small ledge, clip another bolt, and continue padding right past the infamous “Brown Spot” and toward the ramp. Once on the ramp, continue up for about 40 feet to a right-facing corner. Climb through the corner and then continue up and left for a few additional moves. Build an anchor below the final overlap.

Besides presenting the route’s physical crux, this twisty-turny pitch also presents a rope management challenge. To minimize rope drag, consider placing long slings on your pieces. Another alternative is to do the more direct 5.7 variation.

Climbing on the upper slabs. | Credit: Tim Peck
Climbing on the upper slabs. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Finishing Pitches

From the anchor above the Brown Spot, there are three more pitches to the top of Standard Route. The first pitch (5.2R, 80 ft) follows the overlap left, reaching a featured dike that you’ll ascend briefly to a ledge. Build an anchor here.

The last two pitches (both 5.2R, 150 ft) follow the dike to the top of Whitehorse. These two pitches are split in the middle by another large overlap, which is easily passed on its left end near a small pine tree. Just above the pine tree, look for a small ledge where you can build an anchor.

The final pitch stays in the dike, passing one old bolt before reaching the top of the cliff. Build an anchor on a solid tree and bring the rest of your crew up.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Variations

The Original Route: If the opening pitches above the Toilet Bowl are crowded, an excellent alternative is to start up the pitch and climb to about the half-way point. Once there, move left toward a long ledge leading over to the base of the route’s namesake arch and a two-bolt anchor. From this anchor, climbers ascend the arch for two pitches (both 5.3) rejoining the normal route at the thread anchor atop the Crystal Pocket pitch. Best avoided in wet conditions, this variation is the original Standard Route and a must-do for aficionados of Northeast climbing history.

The 5.7 Variation: A spicier alternative to the Brown Spot pitch is to take a straighter, more direct route to the anchor. Technically the fourth pitch of Slabs Direct (5.7 PG, 120 ft), this pitch starts the same way as the normal route. It climbs up and right for about 20 feet toward a left-leaning corner then deviates from the normal route—climb the corner then step right onto a slab protected by a bolt. Continue moving up and right toward a ramp. Follow the ramp left to a corner, ascend the corner (pin) and build a belay just below the final overlap, at the same spot where the Brown Spot pitch normally ends. Use long slings to minimize rope drag.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Atop Whitehorse

With the technical climbing behind you and ample places to sit comfortably, the top of Whitehorse Ledge provides a picturesque setting for rehydrating, switching from climbing to approach shoes, packing your rope and rack, and getting ready for the descent. Before leaving, be sure to soak up the fantastic views, with North Conway in the foreground and the White Mountains spilling out north.

Climbing near Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck
Climbing near Lunch Ledge. | Credit: Tim Peck

Getting Down

From the top of the climb, start walking climbers’ right toward the saddle between Whitehorse and Cathedral, following a well-trod path ducking in and out of the woods and occasionally onto some low-angle slabs. Shortly after the trail departs from the slabs for a final time, it forks. Head right (going left will bring you to Cathedral), and follow the initially steep, but eventually mellow, trail for 15 to 20 minutes to the base of the slabs.


Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Kit

  • Tricams are a particularly useful piece of protection on Standard Route, as they slide into pockets that don’t accommodate nuts or cams.
  • A 60-meter rope is the perfect length for Standard Route and you won’t go wrong with a Sterling Nano IX 9.0 mm, but like we said above, if you plan on repelling, you’ll need two.
  • Big enough to carry your climbing kit, layers, food, and water, the Black Diamond Speed 22 is the ideal-sized climbing pack for a trip up Whitehorse.
  • There isn’t much protection from the sun on Whitehorse’s exposed slabs—a sun shirt offers simple, safe protection.
  • A sticky-soled pair of approach shoes are invaluable at Whitehorse—many will scramble up to the Launch Pad (or even the first few pitches) in them while everyone appreciates them on the at-times-steep and scrambly descent.
  • Feel like climbing more? Check out the North Conway Rock Guide for all the information needed to tackle other routes at Whitehorse, along with the area’s other crags.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Keys to the Trip

  • Slab climbing on wet rock is terrifying. If the rock is wet, it’s raining, or rain is in the forecast, consider a different objective.
  • The routes on the Slabs on Whitehorse (Sea of Holes, Sliding Board, Standard Route, Beginner’s Route, and Cormier-Magness) are extremely popular. Plan on an early start or climbing during the week to avoid crowds and traffic jams.
  • There aren’t a lot of placements on several pitches of Standard Route. A normal rack for the route might be 9 cams (0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2 with doubles of 0.5, 0.75, and 1), a size run of nuts (5-13), a few small tri-cams, and 8 alpine draws.
  • Sending Standard Route is an achievement worth celebrating. Flatbread Company in North Conway is only a few minutes from the cliff and offers the tastiest pizza around.
  • Realized you were missing a key piece of gear on the route? Want to cruise for a deal on a new puffy? Just want to check out the latest and greatest in outdoor gear? Stop into our North Conway store before you head home!
  • If you’re not sure you’re up for leading the route but really want to climb it, the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School will be happy to guide you up it.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Current Conditions

Have you recently climbed Standard Route on Whitehorse? What did you think? Post your experience in the comments for others!


Bikes and Brews: Bear Brook and Concord Craft Brewing

Bear Brook State Park, located in south-central New Hampshire, is a mountain biker’s dream. With trails that offer options for every type of rider, Bear Brook is an easy trip for many in-state and Massachusetts-based mountain bikers, while its campground makes it perfect for those visiting from farther afield. Better yet: Combining a ride here with some post-ride refreshment from Concord Craft Brewing makes for a fantastic day out.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Biking

Originating through the Recreational Designation Area Program—a New Deal project to build public parks near urban areas—Bear Brook is located about 30 minutes from both Concord and Manchester, New Hampshire. The park sports an extensive and diverse trail system, with roughly 10,000 acres and more than 40 miles of trails. It is the largest developed state park in New Hampshire, and there’s no better way to explore it than on a mountain bike.

There are a handful of parking options, but the biker/hiker parking lot or Hayes Field on Podunk Road—both off of NH-28—both provide a central jumping-off point for exploration. Generally, parking in the hiker/biker lot means beginning your ride with a climb, while parking at Hayes Field means ending your ride with one.

There’s a $4 per person fee to enter the park, which you can pay in advance on their website or in person at the “toll booth” on Podunk Road or the ranger station at the entrance to the biker/hiker parking lot. Even if you prepay, it’s a good idea to stop and get a free map—the park is vast, the trail signage could be better, and navigating is tricky at times.

Evidence of a pre-park time is apparent throughout most rides, as the park’s large trail system passes stone walls, long-forgotten foundations, and old cemeteries.

Bear Brook’s trails offer something for everyone, with everything from fast and flowy trails to techy rock gardens to playful side hits. There is also climbing—lots and lots of climbing.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Fast and Flowy: Ending almost in the hiker/biker lot, Big Bear is the crown jewel of Bear Brook’s trail system. It delivers huge smiles as you whip down the smooth trail and hurtle through banked turns—there are even a couple of optional jumps for those looking to clock some air time. Designed for descending, downhillers have the right of way on Big Bear. Across from the hiker/biker lot (after a short climb) is another great option for those with the need for speed: Hemlock offers a swift, bench-cut descent before giving way to fast, fun, rolling terrain.

Tech: One of the awesome things about riding at Bear Brook is that after the steep climbs and robust rock gardens, the best techy trails usually reward bikers with enjoyable, easier riding. Two great options are in close proximity to Hayes Field. Carr Ridge offers rock-strewn, punchy climbs and loose descents that give way to well-manicured and grin-inducing turns. Similarly, Bear Hill delivers climbing, intermittent rock gardens, a skinny elevated log ride (don’t worry, there’s a B-line), and a few fun things to pop off of, all mixed in with pleasurable, easy-rolling singletrack.

Climbing: When thinking about Bear Brook climbing, one trail immediately springs to mind: Alp d’Huez. Named after the iconic Tour de France climb, Alp d’Huez is less centrally located than other classics (it’s close to the toll booth), but offers a nice switchbacking ascent sure to have you breaking a sweat and trying to catch your breath. The Little Bear Trail—which starts near the hiker/biker lot and is the standard way to get to the top of the Big Bear Trail—provides a similar experience but is a little bit shorter and less steep.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Brews

One of the best ways to end a great day of riding at Bear Brook is with a craft beer—and Concord Craft Brewing in downtown Concord, New Hampshire, is the perfect place to kick back with friends, whether on the patio or in their cozy taproom. Just be warned, the brewery only serves cold beer and munchies (think pretzels, peanuts, and chips). Luckily, there are also a bunch of great places to grab a bite within walking distance.

Double IPA: IPAs rule the day at Concord Craft Brewing, and although you may not have claimed a KOM or QOM on your ride, you can still sit down with the Gov’nah. An imperial/double IPA, at 8.6% ABV, the Gov’nah is Concord Craft Brewing’s strongest offering. Fair warning—the more miles you’ve logged, the more powerful this brew seemingly becomes.

New England IPA: If 8.6% ABV feels ambitious, you can seek a safe space—a Safe Space IPA, that is. A classic hazy New England-style IPA checking in at 6% ABV, Safe Space is the ideal treatment for those tired legs, but not so dangerous to affect your odds of riding again tomorrow.

Session IPA: If you’re planning to spend as much time on the patio as you did on the trails—or feel like you deserve a beer for each trip you took down Big Bear—consider a Finding NEIPA, a delicious low-alcohol (4.2%) brew that won’t leave you feeling like you went over the handlebars the next morning.

Sour Slushie: For non-beer lovers and those super-hot days, you can’t go wrong with a Sour Slushie. A delightful treat that will have you yearning for your youth, but happy to be over 21, Concord Craft mixes its Berliner Weisse Kettle Sour in a slushie machine for a truly unique treat.

If you’re staying at the campground or heading south to get home, there’s still a great way to sample some of the brewery’s choice beverages. Concord Craft beers abound at grocery and convenience stores near Bear Brook. Be an après-hero and grab a four-pack (or two) for your crew for some post-ride refreshment.

Have you visited Bear Brook or Concord Craft Brewing? If so, we want to hear about your favorite trails and what ales you in the comments below!

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck