The White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire is known for many things; hundreds of miles of hiking, multiple peaks, waterfalls, preserved Native American sites, campgrounds, fishing holes, and more. And certainly all of those attributes make the land within the national forest so well loved, but one thing in particular sets federally protected land, like the White Mountain National Forest, apart; and that is it’s open to all.
The United States Forest Service, within the Department of Agriculture has put together a list of ADA compliant trails throughout the White Mountain National Forest. Trail compliancy fits into a spectrum of definitions. While it’s easy to think that a paved trail or road is the only answer, there are many ways a trail can fit an ADA designation. Some indicators of an ADA compliant trail include grades of slope, tread width, width of trail openings, obstructions - or lack there of, ADA parking accessibility, trail surfaces, and more.
The trails compiled in the document, which are outlined below, or can be downloaded into a printable .pdf, here, all fit into one or more aspects of the designations above. A member of the US Forest Service - Saco Ranger Station made note that “while these trails are ADA compliant, they are not one in the same. For example, Sabbaday Falls is a packed gravel path, but has a steep grade which could be challenging for some. The Lower Falls trail off of the Kancamagus Highway has been upgraded and designed to bring someone in a wheelchair to a viewing point, if they find that the Rocky Gorge (located a few miles up and feeds the Lower Falls) gravel path is too difficult. And lastly, Diana's Baths is a graveled walking path, but does have tight corners. So while the width of the trail complies with ADA regulations, those navigating in a wheelchair might find the corners and the bridge a bit challenging.”
While these addendums help provide more insight into what to expect when accessing these ADA compliant trails, all of this information should be applied to one’s own needs and abilities, and trails should be explored on their own to determine ones own capability with the information presented.
It's important to note, for all, that when recreating in the White Mountain National Forest understanding one's impact on the natural resources is paramount. Before you venture out, make sure you sign the MWV Pledge. This ten-principle responsibility code encompasses safety precautions and responsibility tenets that cover how to preserve the land and trails; how to treat one another in shared spaces; how to protect state’s wildlife and the indigenous flora and fauna, as well as how to preserve the state’s waterways. Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to click the link, and sign their name to the pledge, and promise to preserve and protect the White Mountains, and its natural resources so we can protect it for years to come.
Below you'll read about ADA Compliant Trails in the White Mountain National Forest, recommended by the United States Forest Service, (USFS). All descriptions provided by the USFS.
Saco Ranger District
(603) 447-5448 TTY (603) 447-3121
Visitor information services - and restrooms (not fully accessible)
33 Kancamagus Highway Conway NH 03818
Rail N’ River Trail – Beginning behind the Russell-Colbath Historic House on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, 12.3 miles west of the Saco Ranger Station in Conway, this fairly flat, shady loop trail takes you out to the Swift River at an opening that may prove to be a good fishing spot.
Rocky Gorge Scenic Area – From the parking area, follow the paved path to the bridge that crosses the Swift River just below the Gorge. Across the bridge, the path narrows and is surfaced with compacted gravel, winding its way along the edge of the Gorge to a viewing area just above the falls. The path continues up a small ridge at 8% grade to the top, where it crosses the Nanamocomuck Trail, then descends in a short section of 14% grade before arriving at Falls Pond, where there is a hardened viewing area near water’s edge. There are benches for resting along the trail from the parking area to the pond. The total distance of the trail into Falls Pond is approximately 1,300 feet. A second choice is to proceed from the parking lot and, instead of crossing the bridge, continue along the hardened gravel trail that follows the old location of Rt. 112. Just past the bridge is masonry overlook with a beautiful view upstream of the bridge and a bench for resting. This path follows the river for approximately 1,000 ft. before ending at a widened area.
Sabbaday Falls – Located 16 miles west of the Saco Ranger Station on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, this 0.4 mile trail leads to a picturesque series of cascades in a narrow flume. The gravel trail is wheelchair accessible, but is steep in places (6 to 25% grades) with frequent level spots. At the trail intersection by the falls, follow the signs for the Sabbaday Brook Trail, not the Sabbaday Falls Path. The trailhead parking area has accessible toilets and a picnic area, although not all picnic areas are easily accessed. Accessible toilets are also located here. Access to the dam may be difficult for some people due to the uneven grassy path surface. Two accessible fishing platforms are located between the boat launch and the dam, and this section of trail has been improved and surfaced with gravel.
Pemigewasset Ranger District
(603) 536-6100 (business calls) TTY (603) 536- 3665
Visitor information services and accessible restrooms
71 White Mountain Drive, Campton, NH 03223
Diana’s Baths – This curious set of circular stone cavities is located on Lucy Brook. An accessible trail leaves the west side of West Side Road in North Conway. The Baths are located 0.8 miles from the trailhead at the park-ing area. Accessible toilets are also located here.
Forest Discovery Trail – The Discovery Trail is located along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, approximately 7 miles east of Lincoln and 800 feet from the entrance to Big Rock Campground. Two separate loops comprise a total of 1.3 miles of gravel-surfaced trail, ranging from flat to average 8% grade. The shaded trail passes different prescriptive cutting units which serve as an educational site for timber management. There are breathtaking views, and opportunities to see some wildlife. Accessible restrooms are available on-site, with benches for resting and interpretive panels trailside.
Lincoln Woods Trail – Parking for this trail is located at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, 5 miles east of Lincoln. The trail crosses a suspension bridge over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River, then follows an abandoned railroad grade for 2.8 miles along the west side of the river. The trail is shady, wide, and with an easy grade. A visitor information cabin and accessible toilet facilities are located at the parking area.
Livermore Road – Located in Waterville Valley near the Tripoli Road, this former logging road is closed to motorized vehicles but is a great road for horseback riding, mountain biking, and wheelchair hiking. The gravel road is mostly level, shaded by trees, and has an accessible restroom in the parking area. Lower Ammonoosuc River Trail – This trail offers a view of the lower falls of the Ammonoosuc River. To view the falls, park in the lot 1/4-mile For more information, please contact the White Mountain Visitor Center at (603) 745-3816. east of the Zealand Campground on Route 302. Here, the Ammonoosuc River flows down a long channel of granite shelves. The biggest drop in the river is not more than three feet but the overall effect is still quite beautiful.