This Small New Hampshire Town Was Once a Go-to Destination for Presidents and Celebrities — and It Sits at the Base of the Northeast’s Highest Peak

It's also home to one of the last surviving grand hotels.

Exterior view of Omni Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire during spring with purple flowers in foreground

Courtesy of Omni Hotels and Resorts

Bretton Woods was once a destination for presidents, celebrities, and poets who came in search of a quiet hideaway. They stayed in the grand Mount Washington Hotel, a luxurious property that was built in 1902 and notoriously boasted more than 2,000 doors, 12,000 windows, and 11 miles of plumbing. The building's grandeur was complemented by the great expanse of national forest that surrounded it. It was a true destination — one so special, it remains today. 

These days, the hotel is called the Omni Mount Washington Resort and is recognized for being one of the last surviving New Hampshire grand hotels. It's still surrounded by national forest and maintains unobstructed views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range.

And while many travelers still come to enjoy the old-world grandeur of the property, these days, it's more than just a place to lay your head. The resort and its surrounding community offer some of New Hampshire’s best skiing, two golf courses, plenty of hiking, and a historic cog railway that travels to the top of Mount Washington.

Here’s what you need to know about this tiny community, which sits in north-central New Hampshire and is part of the town of Carroll.

Best Things to Do in Bretton Woods

Two people ski in winter near Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

Courtesy of Omni Hotels and Resorts

In the winter, it’s all about skiing here. The Bretton Woods Ski Resort is the largest ski area in New Hampshire, offering downhill skiers and snowboarders 464 acres of terrain and almost 100 trails and glades to explore. Nordic skiers can make their way to the Bretton Woods Nordic Center on the grounds of the Omni Mount Washington Resort to experience one of the largest cross-country ski playgrounds in the East. Along the 62-mile trail network, skiers can meander over beaver ponds and mountain streams and through open fields and dense woods.

In the summer, the grounds of the Omni Mount Washington Resort become a golfer’s paradise, with two golf courses, including one designed by Donald Ross. The two championship courses — one with 18 holes, and the other with nine — both offer spectacular views of New Hampshire's Presidential Range.

Throughout the year, visitors can try the canopy tour on the slopes of Bretton Woods Ski Resort, where participants traverse a series of treetop zip lines and resting platforms situated high in ancient hemlocks. Meanwhile, the Bretton Woods Skyway Gondola whisks visitors up to the grand Rosebrook Lodge, providing 360-degree views on the five-minute journey.

The Mount Washington Cog Railway makes it decline down near Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

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And it wouldn’t be a visit to New Hampshire without checking out Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern U.S. You can either hop aboard the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world's first mountain-climbing cog railway, or hike Mount Washington on the Jewell and Ammonoosuc Ravine trails. (You can take one path up and the other back down to make the 9.3-mile loop, or pick one of the two trails for an out-and-back hike.) It's also an option to hike one way and take the cog railway back, but keep in mind that one-way train tickets are not always available, so if you decide to trek, you’ll need to be prepared to tackle the entire route.

Best Places to Eat in Bretton Woods

Most of the dining options in Bretton Woods are either at the ski area or at Omni Mount Washington Resort. At the former, check out the Switchback Grille in the Rosebrook Lodge, which is accessible by gondola and boasts some of the best views in town (plus, delicious Bavarian pretzels). 

At the Omni Mount Washington Resort, you’ll find six restaurants and bars, including the sophisticated main dining room and the Rosebrook Bar, which has large picture windows overlooking the Presidential Range and a great cocktail menu.

Those looking to venture away from the resorts will want to check out Fabyan’s Station, located located inside a restored train station that was once used by 19th-century Mount Washington travelers. In addition to enjoying the unique ambience, try the Fabyan’s Station Burger, which is topped with pork belly, and Station Pork Sundae, a monstrous concoction made with cornbread, baked beans, pulled pork, coleslaw, and pickles.

Best Places to Stay in Bretton Woods

Interior guest room suite with balcony at Omni Mount Washington Resort

Courtesy of Omni Hotels and Resorts

The Omni Mount Washington Resort is the obvious choice when it comes to lodging in Bretton Woods. It offers easy access to golf and skiing, and has a 25,000-square-foot spa and heated indoor and outdoor pools. 

If giant, luxurious resorts aren’t your cup of tea, the much smaller and quieter Omni Bretton Arms Inn is a great choice. The property has just 34 rooms and is located in a beautifully restored historic house near all the action. 

Best Time to Visit Bretton Woods

Bretton Woods is a true year-round destination. The summer months offer the best weather for hiking, but at its core, Bretton Woods is a winter spot, with some of the East Coast’s best downhill and Nordic skiing. Come fall, the leaves turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red, and many travelers plan their Bretton Woods escape around the changing colors (typically the first half of October).

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