Outdoor Adventures: Glen House Adds Hotel Option to Great Glen Trails

  • A skier crosses a meadow at Great Glen Trails. The new Glen House hotel is located trailside at the Pinkham Notch, N.H., outdoor center. (Marty Basch photo)

Special to the Valley News
Saturday, January 12, 2019

A lone cross country skier clad in a red jacket skated swiftly and silently across the open field at the base of a shaded Mount Washington, the early morning sun casting a purple hue across the sky as it touched the frosty crowns of the peaks in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range.

Just 16 or so hours before, peering out from the same third-story trailside hotel window yielded a very different scene, as a muted cloudy drape hid the classic alpine scenery.

Such are some of the panoramas experienced from the recently opened Glen House, the fifth rendition of the iconic White Mountain hotel on the east side of the Rockpile.

Owned by the Mount Washington Summit Road Company, the 68-room boutique-style hotel continues a Pinkham Notch tradition of hospitality linked to the outdoors heralding back to 1852, when Col. Joseph Thompson opened a renovated farmhouse to guests.

Since then, four renditions of the hotel near the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road have succumbed to fire, the last in 1967. After a half-century, a new nature-friendly hotel was unveiled in September, poised on the Great Glen Trails’ 45-kilometer trail system with its skate-groomed and classic Nordic pathways, fat-tire biking, snowshoeing, tubing and access to a motorized snowcoach tour to a dramatic treeline vista on the Auto Road.

The hotel offers a cross country ski-in, ski-out experience (roll-in, roll-out, too) for those staying and those looking for lunch along the trails at the Notch Grille. That same American-style cuisine restaurant houses a comfortable high-ceilinged bar complete with a mosaic-laced moose over the fireplace and windows overlooking the mountains that make for a pleasant apres-ski experience, whether coming off Great Glen’s trails or nearby Wildcat Mountain. An outdoor fire pit augments it all. Overnight guests receive a voucher good for a one-day trail pass for the network.

I’ve been making day trips to Great Glen for some time, enjoying the well-groomed runs through the pines, beech and birch, with not just its Presidential accents but also those of the Carter-Moriah Range across N.H. Route 16. Opening in Dec. 1994, the soft adventure-focused system was constructed with the idea that it would one day be a playground for the next Glen House. Its bilingual signs are in English and French, and there’s even a resident Olympian on staff as ski school director.

And there was 1984 Olympian Sue Weymss in the base lodge, teaching an early-season Nordic warmup class as my wife, Jan, and I prepared to hit the trails on a relatively gentle 6.4-kilometer loop with the Great Angel Warming Cabin as the midpoint. Skiing through a tunnel under the road to the open meadow, we soon entered the woods and later stood in front of the analog thermometer with its 12-degree reading. Though the view into the Great Gulf Wilderness was hidden, the cabin’s coziness was welcome from the persistent wind, a pleasing respite from the chill.

After lunch in the lodge’s Glen View Cafe, we tromped about for a good mile or so on the packed-in-the-forest and windblown-in-the-open snowshoe trails outside the lodge, crossing multiple bridges outfitted for mountain biking, scaling some short steeps and passing by a weathered wooden outhouse.

Instead of heading home, the night was spent at the Glen House, first enjoying the hot chocolate and cookies in the lobby before swimming a bit in the small indoor saltwater pool sans hot tub, which would have been appreciated. Reasonably priced drinks and dinner at the bar followed before slumbering in the simple Shaker-inspired room.

The next day, we took advantage of the weather with a coach tour to about the 4,250-foot mark on the Auto Road, with its dazzling look at mountains like Washington, Adams and Jefferson. Fat biking was next, sharing the trails with skiers as we pedaled to the tubing hill for some slides down, biking on trails that had been skied upon the previous day.

There’s the beauty of it all, seeing the same landscape from skis, snowshoes or bikes, and watching those who are just learning or know what they’re doing. With The Glen House, instead of heading home, a day trip becomes an overnight, a weekend, a holiday, and it allows for the possibility of purple-hued perspectives from beds at the base of the Northeast’s highest peak.

Marty Basch can be reached at marty.basch@gmail.com.