Winter trails and local ales

Featuring active hikes and artisanal brews in New England

Though summer and fall are popular for hiking in New England, winter is also an excellent—if chilly—time to explore local peaks. For those who do, they will be rewarded with quiet paths (often covered with a layer of untouched snow), fresh invigorating air, and impressive landscapes. For the icy areas, microspikes are highly recommended. One of the best parts of an active winter adventure is warming up afterwards, and the region offers a number of spots to do just that—replete with cozy fare and local brews.

Here, five New England winter adventures and spots to refuel afterwards:

1. Snake Mountain Trail, Addison, Vermont
Snake Mountain has about 1,200 feet of elevation gain at a little over four miles round-trip, making it a relatively short climb with a steep, steady incline. The hike, which takes under two hours, offers fantastic summit views that sweep across the Champlain Valley and Adirondack Mountains.

Drive 15 minutes to downtown Vergennes, Vermont to hit Shacksbury Cider’s small, bright tasting room in a renovated 20th-century creamery. Sip on locally-made hard cider crafted from local, heirloom apple varieties. After, head to Hired Hand Brewing Co., for one of their beers (and beer cocktails) and lunch. Choose from heartier options like local charcuterie and cheese and lighter fare like roasted mushroom salad and quinoa with roasted vegetables and fresh herbs.

2. Monroe Trail, Huntington, Vermont:
Camel’s Hump, Vermont’s third-tallest mountain, caps around 4,000 feet of elevation gain. It’s a steady, hardy challenge and offers 360-degree views at the summit. The 6.6-mile Monroe Trail has stellar views, though should only be trekked by experienced winter hikers. If you prefer something less advanced, take the Burrows Trail, which offers a hike just shy of five miles round-trip and a steep, rugged trailhead. For high-peak winter hikes such as this one, invest in knee-high gaiters (for extra insurance against wet feet), crampons (to help with traction on steep angles), and ample extra gear in case your clothing gets wet.

Visit Stowe Vermont, the historic mountain town less than an hour away. Stop by cult brewery The Alchemist and taste some of their creations. Then, satiate your hunger at Doc Ponds, a beloved local gastropub with cozy fireplaces and a relaxed vibe. If you’re feeling indulgent, try the fresh cheese with country ham or their famed burger, though you can easily veer more health-forward with their steamed Maine mussels, tamari-roasted broccoli, Doc Caesar salad, or daily wild fish with red curry.

3. Carter Notch Trail, Bean’s Purchase, New Hampshire
Tucked in the White Mountain National Forest between Carter Dome and Wildcat Mountain, Carter Notch Trail is 6.4 miles in total, with 1,500 feet of elevation gain. If you seek a more extensive hike, there’s a 10.2-mile route around the dome and Mount Hight that follows the Appalachian trail.

Twenty minutes south of Carter Notch Trail is White Mountain Cider Co. in Glen, New Hampshire. In addition to freshly pressed cider, there’s an on-site market with salads like the Beet Mill (beets, arugula, goat cheese, and citrus vinaigrette) and stacked sandwiches on local bread. You can warm up with hot cider and homemade pastries or stay for a full dinner in the evening. The menu, which changes frequently, features dishes like pan-roasted cod, grilled chicken sandwiches, and a green falafel burger with tzatziki, arugula, and house chili sauce.

4. Great Pond Mountain Trail, Orland, Maine
For vast snow-capped views, this mellow two-mile hike a must. The trail caps at the top of a granite cliff at a little over 1,000 feet—it’s a gradual climb with a final payoff that overlooks the distant peaks of Acadia National Park and nearby Blue Hill Bay, Penobscot Bay, and Camden Hills. For further exploring, the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands fans into 4,500 acres of wilderness, pathways, and additional hiking trails.

For prime post-hike dining, it’s well worth the forty-five minute drive to Belfast, Maine. This coastal, seafaring town is a locavore pit-stop, with a growing number of excellent eateries and bars. Stop by Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. to sample their beers—whether you prefer IPA, doppelbock, porter, or regular ale, they have it all on tap. Less than five minutes walk is Meanwhile in Belfast, known for fresh fish, salads, and house-made pastas.

5. World’s End, Hingham, Massachusetts
World’s End is 251 acres of coastal landscape with tree-lined carriage paths, rugged shorelines, and hillsides dropping into open fields flanked by woodlands. The 4.5 miles of trails are mostly flat, offer impressive views of the Boston skyline, and are largely accessible without poles or microspikes.

Head to nearby Trident Galley & Raw Bar for a seafood-forward meal with a selection of local oysters, clams, and inventive plates like grilled Spanish octopus, wild mushroom tacos, and blistered shishito peppers. Afterwards, enjoy some ale at Barrel House Z in Weymouth. They brew small-batch, barrel-aged beer and serve a roster in their tasting room.