Under Mount Washington’s spell

One majestic peak unites two villages

The Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, N.H., is situated at the foot of the Presidential Range. The hotel, built in 1902, has spectacular mountain views from its porches and an outdoor heated pool that is open year round. The Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, N.H., is situated at the foot of the Presidential Range. The hotel, built in 1902, has spectacular mountain views from its porches and an outdoor heated pool that is open year round. (Kathleen Burge/Globe Staff)
By Kathleen Burge and Rich Barlow
Globe Staff And Globe Correspondent / April 14, 2010

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To stay here is to feel the mountains always above you, snow lingering on their peaks even as the weather turns warm. Nearly everything feels as if it depends on the mountains: skiing, hiking, hotels placed here because of stunning views of these peaks, including Mount Washington, the tallest mountain in the Northeast. The town has two very different villages, Twin Mountain and Bretton Woods. Twin Mountain is mom-and-pop stores, tiny restaurants, and independently owned motels; Bretton Woods is the corporate behemoth of the sprawling Mount Washington Resort.

The Mount Washington Hotel (Route 302,, 603-278-1000, rooms starting at $99) was built in 1902 and famously housed the 1944 conference that created the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. History was made here; three US presidents have slept here. It’s also a fun place to explore for both children and grown-ups. A three-piece combo and dance floor entertain diners. The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Center Lodge (Route 302,, 603-466-2727, rates starting at $30) offers private and shared rooms, meals, and a gorgeous view of Crawford Notch. Twin Mountain has less expensive lodging, including a profusion of motels, and Harmony Mountain Abode (222 Route 3 South,, 603-846-2104, rooms starting at $65) a rare bed-and-breakfast in town, with seven rooms, including some with views of Mount Washington. The Profile Deluxe Motel (580 Route 3 South,, 603-846-5522, rates start at $65) is popular among the budget options, with rooms, suites and cottages and an outdoor swimming pool. Boulder Motor Court (5 Harmony Hill Rd.,, 603-846-5437, rates starting at $50) offers guests simple cottages, including some with working fireplaces, at motel-room rates.

The Dining Room at the Mount Washington Hotel (reservations required; 800-314-1752, entrees start at $20) is an AAA-four diamond monument to the good life. Fare is New England traditional with elegant surprises (spring rolls in tomato coulis for vegetarians, for example). A children’s menu is available. Men must wear jackets, and jeans and sneakers are not allowed during dinner. Breakfast is also served. Fabyan’s Station (Route 302, Bretton Woods, 603-278-2222, dinner entrees $13.95-$33 ) is housed in a converted train depot — a toy train runs on a track overhead — that serves American fare in a casual setting. Shakespeare’s Table (Route 3, 603-846-5562,; pizzas start at $10; entrees at $8.50), attached to Shakespeare’s Inn, serves pasta, steak and pizza.

During the day
The Bretton Woods Canopy Tour (Route 302, at Bretton Woods Ski Area at the Omni Mount Washington Resort, 603-278-4947) lets participants zip, harnessed to cables, through the forests and down the hills of Bretton Woods. The full tour, about 3 1/2 hours, is led by guides who talk about local history and wildlife and includes walks across suspension bridges. The full tour costs $110 (less for resort guests), but a quick downhill zip beside the ski trails, called the Williwaw Racing Zip, costs $15 per ride. Starting May 1, the Mount Washington Cog Railway (Base Road,, 800-922-8825) begins running for the season. The train takes a dramatic ride above the clouds to the top of the mountain. Carroll is traversed by miles of hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail and others. The hike to Zealand Falls, where the Appalachian Mountain Club has a hut, is a popular trip, especially once Zealand Road opens for the season in early May. Bretton Woods Stables (Route 302, 603-278-1000) offers horseback and pony rides, carriage rides, and sleigh rides in winter.

After dark
The Cave in the basement of the Mount Washington Hotel is open to guests and nonguests, an unusual bar built during Prohibition, with stone walls and live music. If you are a guest at the hotel, you can swim under the stars in the heated waters of the outdoor swimming pool, open until 9 p.m., later in warmer months. The nearby town of Bethlehem is home to the Colonial (2050 Main St.,, 603-869-3422), the longest running community theater in the country, with both movies and live performances.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at