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Get Out & Play!

Dec 26, 2013 11:08AM ● By Erin Frisch

Winter is getting into full swing, and that means lots of fresh snow! One of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors this season is to strap on a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes and hit the trails. Both of these activities are great forms of winter exercise, as well as enjoyable ways to get outside and spend time with friends or family. And with no prior experience needed to snowshoe, anyone can get bundled up and head out into the snow for a beautiful day of exploring nature. The only question that remains is where are the best places to snowshoe and cross-country ski in and around the Upper Valley. Read on to find out.

The Dexter’s Inn Trails by Norsk are in Sunapee, NH. This trail system comprises over 20 groomed kilometers plus 15 ungroomed kilometers of trails, all of them marked and mapped. Originating in 1948, these unique trails have been completely renovated and updated. They wind through forests and fields and provide beautiful views as part of the rewards. The trails are shared between classic parallel track skiing and snowshoeing. Equipment is available for rental for both activities, and group and private lessons are available. The inn also offers great accommodations if you decide to make a weekend of it!

In Enfield, NH, various trails are available for those who have their own equipment for either activity.

● The Colette and Bicknell Brook Trails trailhead is located on Grafton Pond Road and Boys Camp Road. The gentle, easy trail follows Bicknell Brook and ends overlooking Crystal Lake. It is about 3 miles long and offers views of waterfalls and marshes.

● The Northern Rail Trail can be accessed at Shaker Bridge Landing Park and the Main Street public parking lot in downtown Enfield. It is about 3 miles long and hugs the eastern shore of Mascoma Lake but connects at the east end to Canaan and at the west end to Lebanon. It’s an old railroad bed that’s quite wide and features gentle grades. The trails are open to horseback riding and snowmobiling as well.

● The Shaker Mountain Trails are great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Located on Route 4A just opposite the Shaker Museum are several miles of trails with scenic easterly views. The longest loop is about 4 miles, but there are many different options for distance. Formal signage is in the process of being completed on the trails.

In Hanover, NH, the Dartmouth Cross Country Ski Center maintains over 25 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails on Oak Hill and Garipay Field. Passes are required to use the trails, and equipment rentals are available. Both group and private lessons in classic and skate skiing are offered. You can also get a seasonal trail pass that will work for a limited number of trips at other Nordic Centers as well, perfect for the die-hard cross-country skier (Eastman's, 5 times; Grafton Pond, 3 times; Smuggler's Nordic Center, unlimited). Snowshoes are also available for rental.

If you’re looking to travel a bit, check out the Eastman Cross Country Center in Grantham, NH, offering over 36 kilometers of skiing and snowshoeing trails as well as skating and sledding plus special activities. Trails vary from easy to challenging (with hills), and trails are groomed for both classic and skate skiing and reward you with distant mountain views. Group and private lessons as well as equipment rentals are available. Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center, in Grafton, NH, offers a number of cross-country ski trails of various difficulties (beginner to expert) and a groomed base area for learning. They offer 15 kilometers of tiller-groomed Nordic skiing through fields and forests as well as 15 kilometers of backcountry terrain, and they make snow on 5 kilometers of trail. They also offer 10 kilometers of snowshoe trails as well as equipment rentals and lessons.

Do you have a favorite place to cross-country ski or snowshoe in the Upper Valley? Share it with us in the comments!

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