If you have kids and you like to climb mountains, then you know this dilemma well: to pick a mountain and a route engaging enough and challenging enough to keep an adult’s interest, but one that’s also short enough (distance, height, or both), mellow enough, and otherwise accessible enough for the little ones (whether they’re riding in a pack or snowshoeing under their own power).
With the following itineraries, it’s a problem solved. Leave your crampons and ice axe at home (ditto for the skis), strap on a pair of snowshoes, grab your trekking poles, and take your children to new heights on these modest peaks with inspiring views.
Stowe Pinnacle, Vermont
While hard core skiers, mountaineers and ice climbers set their sites on Mount Mansfield and Smugglers Notch, turn your attention instead to Stowe Pinnacle, a rocky outcrop above its namesake village, set against the backdrop of the Worcester Range. A short snowshoe brings you up through a stunted fir forest and out onto an open ledge, where you’re rewarded with a panorama of Vermont’s highest peak looming just across the valley. Begin at the trailhead on Upper Hollow Road in Stowe. It’s 1.4 miles and about 1,500 vertical feet to the 2,651-foot summit.
Cascade Mountain, New York
Widely considered the easiest of the Adirondack High Peaks, Cascade requires relatively little effort with a very big payoff. From its bald, rocky summit, you’ll have 360-degree views of the Adirondack wilderness, with the MacIntyre Range to west-southwest, Mount Marcy and the rest of the Great Range to the south, Giant of the Valley to the southeast, Hurricane to the east, and Whiteface to the north. Begin at the trailhead on Route 73 just west of Cascade Lakes. It’s 2.4 miles and not quite 2,000 vertical feet to Cascade’s 4,098-foot summit.
Mount Everett, Massachusetts
The southern Taconic Range’s Mount Everett, the second-highest peak in Massachusetts, holds much appeal: Guilder Pond, the highest natural body of water in the state; the Appalachian Trail; scenic Race Brook Falls, popular with ice climbers during winter; a rare old-growth dwarf pitch pine forest on its summit; and views across Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. Begin at the gated winter road closure of the Mount Everett Road near Guilder Pond. Follow the AT for a little over one mile and about 900 vertical feet to the 2,624-foot summit.
Mount Cardigan, New Hampshire
The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Cardigan Lodge—and a nearby sledding hill—provides the perfect family-friendly jumping off point for granite-domed Mount Cardigan. The southeast facing bowl formed by Cardigan and Firescrew, a subsidiary peak, naturally capture oodles of snow, and the summit offers expansive views as far as Camels Hump in Vermont and Pleasant Mountain in Maine. From the AMC’s Cardigan Lodge, follow the Holt trail to the Holt-Clark cutoff to the Clark trail. It’s about two miles and 1,800 vertical feet to the 3,155-foot summit. To complete a 5.5-mile loop, continue north over the summit and follow the Mowglis trail to Firescrew, then descend the Manning trail to Cardigan Lodge.
Mont Megantic, Quebec
Set within one of Quebec’s flagship provincial parks, and featuring an astronomical observatory on its summit, Mount Megantic is out of this world…in more ways than one. The mountain is a winter wonderland caked with snow, and public viewing sessions running through the end of this month at the observatory and AstroLab add a fun science element to snowshoeing in the great outdoors. Begin at the Discovery and Visitors Center at the park entrance, and follow the Mont Megantic trail 3.1 miles and 1,600 vertical feet to the 3,625-foot summit. Or, for less than $20 Canadian per person, have the park’s shuttle drop you off on the summit, leaving you just the downhill snowshoe back to your car at the base.