New Hampshire’s White Mountains are spectacular any time of year, but in the fall they are stunning. So we booked two days at AMC’s Highland Center Lodge in Crawford Notch and were blessed with cool, sunny days.

The Crawford family settled here in the 1700s, building the first Crawford House in 1828, focused on outdoor recreation. Several fires destroyed their lodges, the final one in 1977.

The Appalachian Mountain Club purchased the 26-acre parcel in 1979, built the Highland Center, designed to resemble the old Crawford House, and opened it in 2003. The huge lodge offers lots of options, from private rooms to a bunkhouse. As you might expect, the lodge is surrounded by mountains.

The really good news is that there are plenty of trails that don’t involve climbing mountains. We hiked an easy 1-mile woods trail around Amanusic Lake behind the lodge twice, and a half-mile hike around a pond across the road from the lodge; and we drove down to the Willey House site in nearby Crawford Notch State Park to hike a mile along the Saco River. All were flat, easy walks.

We did sit next to a couple at dinner the first night who had two adorable girls, ages 4 and 2, who had hiked up a nearby mountain that day with both girls. They certainly had more ambition than I did.

The amenities here are wonderful, including the L.L. Bean Gear Room, where you can borrow and try all kinds of Bean equipment, including backpacks, hiking boots, rain gear and snowshoes for free. The staff is helpful and friendly, especially Jimmy, who smiled and had a friendly greeting every time we saw him.

Meals are good, with dinners served family-style at long tables in two rooms, and buffet breakfasts. Breakfast and dinner are included in the room rates. Trail lunches are also available, or you can enjoy a buffet lunch in the lodge — both for a fee.

You certainly don’t have to be a hiker to enjoy this lodge, with comfortable rooms, a library, a living room with fireplace and lots of beautiful works of art and photographs on the walls, along with posters providing information on everything from wildlife habitat to AMC’s energy-efficiency projects.

One afternoon we sat outside the lodge for a couple of hours, enjoying the spectacular mountain views and reading books. This is a relaxing place.


Two years ago, we stayed in New Hampshire’s White Mountains for a fall trip. While taking a scenic drive, we happened upon the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Center resort. The impressive lodge and grounds were beautiful and have stayed in my mind ever since. So when George asked where I’d like to go this fall, I already knew.

Maine has beautiful fall foliage, and the colors have been impressive where we have traveled recently. But there is just something so spectacular about seeing colors running up and down the White Mountains.

I felt as though we were driving through a painting while enjoying the vibrant foliage as we headed toward Bethel. Upper reaches of the mountainsides had lost most of their leaves, but there was still a lot of color in the valleys. There was even a bit of snow on the tops of the Presidential Range. Even with unusually warm temperature, we made sure to pack winter coats, hats and gloves. Good thing. Mornings and late afternoons were indeed chilly.

Our room had a queen bed and a set of bunk beds. The rooms are a moderate size with nice bathrooms. The Great Room at the lodge is the place to relax. Leather couches and comfortable chairs will tempt you, especially with the gas fire going in the massive stone fireplace.

We found several “flat hikes” to enjoy along lakes and rivers nearby. Many who were here were embarking on much more strenuous hiking up one of the mountain trails. We didn’t feel any guilt about that. In fact, one afternoon we enjoyed reading in the sun for a while.

Dinner here is family-style, and we enjoyed visiting with people seated at our table. The creamy pumpkin soup was a big hit with the 4- and 2-year-old girls next to us the first night. It was flavored with cinnamon and made a great start to the meal. One night the entree was rosemary chicken, and the second night they served a delicious pot roast with gravy.

The breakfast buffet of eggs, bacon, sausage and other choices will give you plenty of energy to do some hiking.

There were many people staying here, ranging from families with young children to large groups of kids on hiking adventures, to retired folks like us. I loved the large play space they’d constructed of rocks and logs for kids ages 5 to 12. It was meant to encourage outdoor play and develop skills for hiking and climbing. It included a “bear cave” and a suspension bridge and was the most enticing play area I have ever seen. I think we all wished we were kids about then.

Visit George’s website — — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.

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