Drive along U.S. 302 from Glen  and you’ll run straight into the heart of this 20-mile-wide valley, which is split in half by the Saco River. The area’s state park draws hikers and fishermen as well as sightseers to its waterfalls and plethora of scenic overlooks. TCrawford Notch was first settled in 1790 by rugged Abel Crawford and his family, who opened an inn called the Mount Crawford House and began guiding visitors up the peaks of the region.
After Abel’s son Ethan opened the Crawford Trail in Pinkham Notch , he blazed a shorter trail from the area of Bretton Woods on the side of the mountain in 1821. In the same location 40 years later, the area would make engineering history with the construction of a cog railway  to bring groups of tourists up to the hotels at the summit.
With the waves of tourists, the age of grand Victorian hotels began in earnest. In 1902, one of the grandest hotels in the world, the Mount Washington Hotel, opened in the shadow of its namesake peak. In 1944, it grabbed a piece of the global spotlight when it was chosen as the site for 45 of the world’s delegates to discuss the postwar recovery of Europe. Together they established the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the underpinnings of the world financial system.
Today, VIPs still gather in and around the sprawling hotel, but primarily for more recreational pursuits—skiing, horseback riding, snowshoeing, and fine dining.
Fill up on German specialties in the warmly colored, relaxed dining room at The Bernerhof (Rte. 302, Crawford Notch, 603/383-9132, www.bernerhof 
inn.com, 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon–Sat.; 8 a.m.–9 p.m. Sun., $19–26). The menu sways toward the truly traditional: Wiener schnitzel with eggs, homemade schnitzel, and soul-warming fondue.
Jump on the hearty carb wagon at Scarecrow Pub (Rte. 16, Intervale, 603/356-2287, 3 p.m.–11 p.m. daily, $9–17)—the place to fuel up on pastas, nachos, and burgers before or after a chilly hike. Hit the ATM before you go; the pub is cash only.