As the last of the snow melts away and the ski gear gets packed up, you may feel a little sad about the end of the winter season. But the stoke isn’t over. It lives on all year. Crashing waves and soft sand can win over the crowds during the warm-weather months. But consider turning inland instead for some unique East Coast summer mountain activities.
The mountain ranges of Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Maine, and West Virginia are home to more than half a dozen legendary resorts and deliver the perfect backdrop for adrenaline-pumping experiences and sun-drenched down time. While nearly every resort has the summer staples of mountain biking, hiking, golf, and scenic lift rides, here are a few lesser-known adventures at Ikon Pass destinations you may want to try.
Nestled in the Green Mountains of Vermont, Stratton is a great spot for summer weekend trips or longer vacations. It’s also home to one of the best golf courses in the state, with 27 holes spread across three distinct courses. Whether you’re new to the sport or have been playing for years, consider taking a lesson or two with Stratton’s golf pros. They can help enhance your follow-through, refine that chip shot, and sidestep the shanks—as much as possible.
Stratton boasts several great hiking trails, from mellow beginner paths to steep advanced routes. And one landmark worth a trek is the historic Fire Tower. If you’re an Ikon Pass holder, hop on a free gondola ride to the top of Stratton. From there, hike .75 miles to the true summit, where the old Fire Tower stands. This also marks the spot where the Long and Appalachian Trails cross. Climb to the top of the tower and soak in 360-degree views of breathtaking mountain vistas.
On the Road to Stratton:
No matter which direction you’re coming from, there’s plenty of activities en route to Stratton. Shop ‘til you drop at the outlet shops and boutique stores of Manchester, Vermont, where you’ll find everything from vintage clothing to scrumptious confections to local treasures. Before turning on the access road to Stratton, make a stop in Bondville, a little village that hosts the oldest consecutive running fair in Vermont. If you happen to be in the area in late August, be sure to stop by the fairgrounds for crafts, rides, track events, and much more.
Dubbed the Beast of the East, Killington is known for its intense terrain and killer mountain park: Woodward. But in the summer, Woodward offers a different kind of extreme adventure. The WreckTangle is a thrilling activity with 10 unique obstacles for you and your friends to conquer. Choose your route with the progressive course options, allowing you to match your skill level and work towards finishing the entire challenge.
On the Road to Killington:
Killington is fortunate to sit right along famed Route 100, one of the most scenic drives in New England. With over 200 miles running through the Green Mountains, the road is one of the best ways to take in Vermont’s stunning landscape and rich culture.
Biking in the mountains isn’t just reserved for the downhill extremists in the bike park. Enjoy the scenery on two wheels with a trail bike rental at Sugarbush. And if you aren’t the strongest cyclist, have no fear. You can now ride E-bikes (electric bicycles) in the mountains, making it much easier and faster to explore the many trails at Lincoln Peak and Mt Ellen. Bikes rentals are available at The Farmhouse, and can be reserved for the weekend, or Monday-Friday at discounted summer rates.
On the Road to Sugarbush:
When it’s time to cool off, make a pit stop in Waterbury for a cone piled high with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream straight from their factory scoop shop. Enjoy a different kind of pint at Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Warren, where you can taste their famous Sip of Sunshine IPA while soaking in the rays out in the beer garden.
At Loon Mountain, the journey is the adventure. At 7,100 feet long, the White Mountain Express Gondola is New Hampshire’s longest scenic gondola ride. The four-person cabins have been a staple of Loon Mountain for over 50 years, and, in the summer, provide a 1.3-mile ascent to many high alpine activities, including disc golf, summit yoga, hiking, and more. Tickets are limited each day and may sell out, so purchase online to lock in a ride.
At the base of the mountain, a different journey awaits. The J.E. Henry Railroad, an historic steam train, displays the major role trains played in the history of the White Mountains. Guests can ride the wood-fired locomotive between the Octagon and Governor Adams Lodges, a roughly 900-foot trip. Check ahead for train departure times and operating procedures.
On the Road to Loon:
Lincoln, New Hampshire, the home of Loon Mountain, offers many great summer activities to complement your mountain visit. If the train ride at Loon didn’t satisfy your railway appetite, hop aboard the Hobo Scenic Railroad for an old-fashioned excursion along the Pemigewasset River. And speaking of the river, you can lounge by or cool off in any of the pool-like spots found along the water.
Escape the city heat and jump into adventure this summer at Windham Mountain. Warm-weather activities include mountain biking at the Windham Bike Park, which boasts the longest jump trail on the East Coast. Riders can experience the expertly developed trails and natural terrain of the Catskills, with plenty of drops, switchbacks, jumps, rock gardens, and berms. After winding through rugged courses, hop on the new Westside Six high-speed lift, which zips you right back up to the top of the hill for more downhill action. All tickets and bike rentals must be made ahead of time online, and masks are required when loading and unloading the lift.
On the Road to Windham:
Situated just two and a half hours north of New York City, the town of Windham is often referred to as the “gem” of the Catskills. On the way up north, take a detour to Kaaterskill Falls. Dropping over 260 feet, this popular hiking destination features the highest cascading waterfall in the state of New York. After the hike, visit the Vineyard at Windham to relax and unwind on the four-acre property.
Located in western Maine’s Mahoosuc Mountains, Sunday River is a true outdoor playground for adventure seekers of all kinds. After a season riding on snow, continue the water explorations with a float trip down the river. Whether you opt for a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard, the Androscoggin River will not disappoint with its calm current and beautiful wilderness views. To fuel up for your summer outings, stop at Sunday River Brewing Company, serving everything from hearty breakfast skillets to savory lobster mac & cheese. Capacity restrictions for dining may be in place, so reservations are highly encouraged.
On the road to Sunday River:
As you make your way to Sunday River, be sure to spend some time in Bethel Village. The small mountain town boasts an independent movie theater, a mineral and gem museum, boutique shops, and mouth-watering eateries. At nearby Grafton Notch State Park, spend the day exploring the trails. You can take a short, but exciting hike to Table Rock, or extend the adventure by continuing up to Baldpate Mountain.
Just south of Flagstaff Lake in Maine, Sugarloaf has its fair share of unique summer activities, including mountain Segway tours. That’s right. These two-wheel personal transporters aren’t just found on big city streets. The off-road version is a different way to get out on the dirt and zip around the trails at Sugarloaf. Book a 90-minute tour in advance online, or reserve a 20-minute tour by phone or in person.
On the Road to Sugarloaf:
Carrabassett Valley features some of the best fly fishing in Maine. Dead River, which flows from Flagstaff Lake, is where anglers will find populations of rainbow trout, brook trout, and salmon. No matter your skill level with fishing, guided trips along the river provide an expert’s perspective on the art of casting a fly.
It’s time to head south of New England and venture into the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, home to Snowshoe Mountain. Here, you can enjoy an exhilarating off-road adventure with an RZR ride. Book a 90-minute tour that takes you to Snowshoe’s incredible backcountry areas with beautiful views most people don’t get to see. For something even more special, try the backcountry hut dinner tour, which lets you ride the RZRs to the Sunrise Backcountry Hut to enjoy a lovely dinner for 2, 3 or 4 guests. Advanced reservations are recommended for all RZR tours.
For a different kind of heart-pumping adventure, practice your aim on Snowshoe’s 25-shot sporting clays course. The course is not for beginners, and some experience with shot guns is required. Tours are available Thursday-Sunday and must be booked by phone in advance.
On the Road to Snowshoe:
Snowshoe is surrounded by some impressive attractions; you’ll definitely want to make time to check these out during your travels. The Monongahela National Forest, established in 1920, is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the country. Hike, bike, or horseback ride on all or part of the Greenbrier River Trail, a 78-mile former railroad now reserved for recreational use. Stop at Green Bank Observatory, which designs, builds, and runs some of the most sophisticated radio telescopes.
Summer is here. It’s time to tackle a rockier trail, enjoy a different kind of groomed green, and toast to longer days on the hill. Any of these East Coast summer mountain activities will quench your thirst for adventure, no matter what kind of experience you’re looking for.
(Please be aware that COVID-19 policies may still be in place at most mountain destinations this summer. Be sure to visit the resort websites ahead of time to familiarize yourself with local procedures and restrictions.)