Hike, Dip & Slide -Mount Crawford, Saco River & Attitash Mountain Resort

Charlie standing on Mount Crawford’s summit and a view north over Crawford Notch.
Charlie standing on Mount Crawford’s summit and a view north over Crawford Notch.

Amy Patenaude

by Amy Patenaude
Outdoor/Ski Writer

From Franconia we drove through Twin Mountain, past the grand Mount Washington Resort Hotel and down Crawford Notch to reach the parking area for the Davis Path—right across from Samuel Bemis’ Granite Mansion that is the Notchland Inn.
The morning looked promising for another sunny hot day in the mountains. Charlie and I grabbed our packs and started walking along the bank of the Saco River to the pedestrian suspension bridge built in 1999 near the site of the original Bemis Bridge.
The view from the middle of the bridge up and down the Saco River is reached by a short walk and is alone worth a visit.

At the bottom of Crawford Notch on Route 302 and across from the Notchland Inn is the paved parking area for the Davis Path. From the parking area it is just a short walk to the pedestrian suspense bridge over the Saco River.
At the bottom of Crawford Notch on Route 302 and across from the Notchland Inn is the paved parking area for the Davis Path. From the parking area it is just a short walk to the pedestrian suspense bridge over the Saco River.
Charlie on the Davis Path.
Charlie on the Davis Path.

The Davis Path was built by Abel and Hannah Crawford’s son-in-law Nathaniel Davis and opened in 1945 and was the third bridle path that led to Mount Washington. It was in use as a bridle path until around 1854. The path was restored as a hiking trail and is a popular 2.5 mile hike one way to the ledgy summit of Mount Crawford. The Crawford Path to Mountain Washington is 14.4 miles long. The path runs through the designated Presidential Range-Dry River Wilderness.
The trail isn’t an easy but it does have fair footing as it switchbacks and climbs over 2,000 vertical feet to reach the summit and its grand mountain panorama.
The trees shaded us well and the cool morning breeze helped keep us cool as we hiked up the trail and stepped up some fine stone steps that protect the trail and provide good safe footing.
At 2.2 miles the Davis path bears right and the spur path to Crawford’s summit goes straight ahead up a large sloping ledge. This section is the most difficult piece and requires a bit of scrambling. At the top of the ledge there is reward of a big vista of Crawford Notch and down to Notchland’s roof.
From this point the trees become sparse and soon we were standing on Crawford’s bare peaked summit. We walked around the small cone taking in the magnificent vista. Stairs Mountains is near and I like to imagine the Jolly Green Giant bounding up the giant mountain staircase. Mount Washington’s top was in the clouds but everything else could be seen clear. The Southern Presidentials, Crawford Notch, Willey, Bonds, Carrigain, Duck Pond Peak, Tremont, Attitash Bear Peak and oh so much more!
We sat on the summit for a good half an hour reminiscing of adventures to the peaks that we pointed out around us. We ate Snickers Bars too.
Hiking down took almost as much time as going up but it took less effort and time flew by quickly. We passed two small groups headed up. The first were zippy but the second group wanted to know how much further and they weren’t even half way up. We cheered them on and chirped that it was worth the climb.

Cooling off after a good hike.  Yours truly enjoying the Saco River somewhere between Hart’s Location and Attitash Mountain Resort.
Cooling off after a good hike. Yours truly enjoying the Saco River somewhere between Hart’s Location and Attitash Mountain Resort.

Back at the car it was hot and we were hot. It was tempting to jump in the river right there but the water is very shallow. We jumped in the car and headed south and somewhere south of Sawyer Rock we pulled over where a couple cars were parked. We scrambled down the steep bank and found what we were looking for a nice deep pool. A good quick dip in the Saco River’s refreshing cold water was just what we needed.
We drove a few more miles and then we pulled into the Attitash Mountain Resort’s parking lot. No skiing today but we’d be sliding down the slopes just the same via the original Attitash Alpine Slides and their Nor’Easter Mountain Coaster.
Attitash is the original summer fun ski resort when it opened the Alpine Slides way back in 1976. Now the mountain is just bustling with fun things to do. The Alpine Slide and Mountain Coaster share the slopes with the zip-line ZipTour, downhill mountain biking, waterslides, Airbag jump, horseback riding tours and more.

The Attitash Alpine Slide has been thrilling riders since 1976.  After a relaxing ride up the chairlift it is then time to take a wild ride down the Attitash’s slopes.
The Attitash Alpine Slide has been thrilling riders since 1976. After a relaxing ride up the chairlift it is then time to take a wild ride down the Attitash’s slopes.

he chairlift ridge to the top of the Alpine Slide was relaxing and again we were pointing out the mountain peaks high around us. At the top we each grabbed a sled and brought it over to the twin side by side tracks. We didn’t race but we did trade the lead and I don’t remember which one of us reached the bottom first. I tried to go fast and not scare myself while I braked on the tight corners. I enjoyed the thrill too much to pay attention to what Charlie was doing on his track. I wanted to do it again.
Next we went over to the mountain coaster and the line was long. We grabbed a cold beverage and enjoyed it while we waited for our turn. We watched people load, buckle up and glide up to the top of the track. People getting off had big smiles on their faces. Many people rode double on the coaster cars—mostly a parent and a child.
Since Charlie and I together were less than 300 pounds we were permitted to ride together. I rode in the front. Charlie had control of the brakes, he never used them. We flew down mountain, it was a windy roller coaster and our car zoomed and rolled around the fast turns. I screamed; a lot.
The coaster was terrific fun.
By the end of the afternoon we had had plenty of laughs and adventure. We ended the day by driving home up Bear Notch, over the Kancamagus Highway and back to Interstate 93.
Sunday was another fine day to remind me that I am the luckiest person in the world to live in New Hampshire. We weren’t playing tourist, this is what we do in our backyard. Since you’re reading this you probably agree that being here is special.
Have Fun.

Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: amy@weirs.com.