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If you love exploring outdoor attractions and especially in forests with views of the mountains, then New Hampshire should definitely be in your future travel plans. While National Park Service sites are very few, there are many amazing state parks that showcase the area’s natural beauty. Here are some of the best New Hampshire parks to help you get to know this part of the Northeastern U.S.
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Located in the heart of the White Mountain Forest, Franconia Notch is a popular state park that runs from the Flume Gorge to Echo Lake. One of the most beautiful state parks in the entire U.S., it was the home of the famous “Old Man of the Mountain”, and the park has the Flume Gorge ride and the New England Ski Museum. At the park, you can also swim in Echo Lake, go fly fishing at Profile Lake, ride the aerial tramway, bike on the Recreational Trail, go rock climbing, and hike part of the Appalachian Trail. For overnight stays, there’s the Lafayette Place Campground with 97 wooded tent sites. Meanwhile, the Cannon Mountain RV Park has seven sites on Echo Lake’s north shore and is open year-round.
Another great park to visit in New Hampshire is Bear Brook State Park, which spans over 10,000 acres and is the largest state park in the state. It’s in the southeastern region of the state and a place for camping, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, and archery. There are around 40 miles of trails that go through the park and lead to ponds, summits, and other natural landscapes. The park also has two archery ranges where you can try shooting with a bow and arrow. The museum complex has the New Hampshire Antique Snowmobile Museum, Old Allenstown Meeting House, and the Richard Diehl Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Museum. For camping, there’s the Beaver Pond Campground that’s pet-friendly, the Bear Hill Pond Cabins with two sizes of furnished cabins, and the Smith Pond Shelter overlooking the pond.
Spanning 5,775 acres, Crawford Notch State Park has hiking trails, mountain views, waterfalls, fishing, and wildlife viewing. You can learn about history at the Willey House and camp at the Dry River Campground in the 36 wooded sites. In the summers, you can join a nature-based program to learn from a ranger. Camping is available between June and October, but you can also camp in the early spring and late fall on a first-come, first-served basis – weather permitting.
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park is the only national historic park that’s part of the NPS system in New Hampshire and a place with historic buildings, outdoor monuments, gardens, and trails. The great American sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, lived here beginning in 1885, and you can see his bronze sculptures throughout the park. There are many educational opportunities at this park for music and art, such as sculpture workshops and summer concerts. You can do self-guided touring or take a guided tour when you are here. Check the park’s website to see what events are going on during your visit.
Echo Lake State Park is a family-friendly state park with great hiking trails, including ones that go around the lake and others that offer Saco River Valley views on the way to Cathedral Ledge State Park. Swimming in the lake and rock climbing are also popular activities to do on a day at Echo Lake State Park, as well as kayaking and canoeing. There is no camping here, but you can camp in one of the nearby state parks instead, such as White Lake State Park or Crawford Notch State Park.
You’ll love going for hikes at Cardigan Mountain State Park, which is a 5,655-acre park that also has a mountain road that leads to trails and the summit. The summit of Mount Cardigan is 3,121 feet tall and offers panoramic views of the White Mountains and Mount Monadnock. The West Ridge Trail is the most direct route to the summit and has wooden bridges and log staircases to climb through the hardwood forest. The park is open throughout the year but not fully staffed during the off-season, which means you should have sufficient outdoor survival skills if you visit in the winter. There is no overnight camping at this park.
Visit Pawtuckaway State Park for a family beach on the lake, hiking trails to a mountaintop fire tower, and a marsh with beavers and great blue herons. There are also large boulders that were deposited when the glaciers melted at the end of the Ice Age. It’s open year-round; however, many areas are not staffed during the off-season. When you’re here, it’s also fun to rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. The campground has 192 wooded sites and many of them have views of the lake. For a glamping experience, you can also rent a cabin.
Odiorne Point State Park is an ideal place to have a picnic and enjoy views of the rocky shoreline along the ocean. There’s a network of trails to traverse the park and also the Seacoast Science Center to learn about both natural and human history. Activities to do in this park include boating, kayaking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fishing, mountain biking, and using the playground. This park is also a popular spot for weddings and other special events because of the amazing view of stonewalls and ocean overlooks.
Located along Little Diamond Pond and 12 miles east of Colebrook, this is a remote North Country state park known for its trout fishing. Hunting enthusiasts love coming here too, as well as adventurers looking to go boating and snowshoeing. It’s fun to stay in one of the ATV campsites so you can hit the trails right from your campsite. There are also lodges that have direct ATV trail access for your off-road adventures.
The 3,165-foot-tall Mount Monadnock has its own state park and is protected by thousands of acres of land. This is a year-round outdoor destination in New Hampshire and a designated National Natural Landmark. There is a parking pass daytime use fee, and reservations are required to hike here. The Monadnock HQ trailhead offers the most direct route to the top and the main trails, while the Old Toll Road has many side trails and the Gilden Pond trailhead offers a longer hike for more solitude and fewer crowds. This park is open year-round and also has camping. Unlike many New Hampshire state parks, this one does not allow pets.
For your New Hampshire beach experience, plan to visit Hampton Beach State Park because there are miles of sandy beach and lots of activities, including swimming, fishing, camping, and picnicking. The park has the only RV park on the state coast at the mouth of the Hampton River. It has 28 sites and takes reservations from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Pets are only allowed on the beach between October 1 and April 30. Weddings and other events are popular at this state park at the Seashell Oceanfront Pavilion, South Pavilion, and South Beach Pavilion.
Located on the southwest shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, this state park has a sandy beach and is a family fun spot on the state’s largest lake. It has a campground with 37 sites. Popular activities are swimming, kayaking, boating, and picnicking. Pets are not allowed in this park or in the RV campground.
John Wingate Weeks was a congressman, senator, secretary of war, and conservationist who this park is named after. His children gave this 446-acre estate to the state of New Hampshire in 1941 so that everyone could enjoy the views of the mountain splendor here. There’s a museum at Weeks State Park that offers tours where you can learn more. People come to this park for skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and snowmobiling. Pets allowed at this park, but there are no overnight camping accommodations at Weeks State Park.