White Mountain National Forest

Camping
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Birch and maple trees, White Mountains National Forest
Birch and maple trees, White Mountains National Forest (Peter Haigh/Digital Vision/Getty)

It seems like there are as many ways to camp in the White Mountain National Forest as there are 4,000-foot peaks. Purists can rough it almost anywhere in the Forest they please, as long as they pitch their tent at least 200 feet from the trail (rules are stricter above timberline). For more gregarious types, the warmer months find AMC huts offering just about everything but room service to between 36 and 90 guests, depending on the hut. Developed campgrounds maintained by the USFS give car campers a place to park, while trailside lean-tos and cabins let weary hikers have at least three walls to call home for the night.

Developed Campgrounds
Developed campgrounds are located throughout the National Forest. These campgrounds are designed to give you the chance to enjoy a rustic, get-away-from-it-all camping trip. You will find tent pads, picnic tables, fire rings or fireplaces, toilets, and running water. All campgrounds provide basic services, though none offer hookups. Daily fees at campgrounds help cover operations and maintenance costs. Signs at campground entrances identify charge areas and amounts. Those campgrounds marked "accessible" provide either accessible toilets, campsites, or trails to people with disabilities.

Most campgrounds are open from mid-May through mid-October. Some are open year-round. Call ahead to get specific dates.

Reservations are now accepted for several National Forest campgrounds. For National Forest Recreation Reservations, call: 877-444-6777 or 800-879-4496 (TTY).

AMC Huts
The Appalachian Mountain Club maintains and staffs a uniquely wonderful system of backcountry alpine huts along the Appalachian Trail as it runs through the White Mountains. Designed to be a day's hike from one another, these eight huts are virtual wilderness hotels, with running water (no showers), co-ed bunks with blankets and pillows, and full-course prepared meals at full-service facilities. There is no electricity in the huts; lighting and cooking fuel is provided by propane. Some huts open earlier than others, but all are ready by June to serve hikers who like to pack light.

Prices vary per night from hut to hut and are comparable to an average night at a budget hotel. Prices are cheaper at self-service huts, which don't include meals and have fewer amenities. Hut capacity also varies: Galehead Hut, a remote outpost near the Pemigewasset Wilderness, is tied for smallest, with room for 36, while the popular Lakes-of-the-Clouds hut on the southern shoulder of Mt. Washington sleeps 90. Advance reservations through the AMC are advisable for all huts.

Backcountry Camping
A number of organizations maintain small cabins, lean-tos, and tent platforms throughout the Forest. In the Presidentials region, the Randolph Mountain Club of New Hampshire (RMC) maintains two closed cabins, one of which offers a gas stove in summer and a wood stove the rest of the year.

The USFS maintains tent platforms on the eastern side of the Great Gulf Wilderness that can accommodate up to 15 people; for skiers headed to Tuckerman's Ravine, the AMC operates 12 lean-tos and three tent platforms with a year-round caretaker. Tickets for the Tuckerman's Ravine shelters must be purchased in advance at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center ten miles south of Gorham, New Hampshire.

The White Mountain National Forest offers more than just the Presidentials; lean-tos and other shelters throughout the Forest offer shelter along its 1,200 miles of trails. The AMC White Mountain Guide, published by the Appalachian Mountain Club, provides a complete listing of backcountry shelters.

Campground Directory

BARNES FIELD GROUP AREA
Rt. 16, Pinkham Notch. 6 mi. S of Gorham.
Camping, fishing, hiking. Open year-round.
Mid-May to mid-Oct. by reservation only. Fee based on number of people in party. Call 603-466-2713. Limited winter service.

BASIN CAMPGROUND
15 mi. N of Fryeburg, ME on Rt. 113.
Boating, camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking. Some improvements made for accessibility.
21 sites. All sites suitable for RVs. Some facilities are accessible.

BIG ROCK CAMPGROUND
Kancamagus Scenic Byway, 6 mi. E of Lincoln.
Camping, fishing, hiking, scenic byway. Open year-round.
28 campsites, trailer space.

BLACKBERRY CROSSING CAMPGROUND
Kancamagus Scenic Byway, 6 mi. W of Conway
Camping, fishing, hiking, scenic byway. Open year-round. Some improvements made for accessibility.
26 campsites. Limited winter service. Remains of a Civilian Conservation Corps center.

CAMPTON CAMPGROUND
Rt. 49 off 1-93 Exit 28.
Camping, fishing, hiking. Open year-round. Some improvements made for accessibility.
58 campsites, all wooded with towering white pines. Coin-operated showers. Playfield. Summer Intl. programs.

CAMPTON GROUP AREA
Across road from Campton Campground.
Camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking. Open year-round. Some improvements made for accessibility.
Three group areas for organized camping. Coin-op showers at Campton Campground.

COLD RIVER CAMPGROUND
15 mi. N of Fryeburg ME on Rt. 113.
Camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking. Open year-round. Some improvements made for accessibility.
14 sites, 12 suitable for RVs. Open grassy area for play and sports.

COVERED BRIDGE CAMPGROUND
Kancamagus Scenic Byway, 6 mi. W of Conway.
Camping, fishing, hiking, scenic byway. Some improvements made for accessibility.
49 campsites. Near historic Albany Covered Bridge. Accessible fishing pier nearby.

CROCKER POND CAMPGROUND
Off Rte. 5, 5 of Bethel, Maine.
Boating, camping, fishing, hiking. Open year-round. Some improvements made for accessibility.
Seven sites, three suitable for RVs. Boat access, no trailer ramp. Self-guided tour of nearby Pattee Brook.

DOLLY COPP CAMPGROUND
Rt. 16, Pinkham Notch, 6 mi. S of Gorham.
Camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking. Some improvements made for accessibility.
176 campsites. Surrounds historic Copp homestead. Summer interpretive programs.

HANCOCK CAMPGROUND
Kancamagus Scenic Byway, 6 mi. E of Lincoln.
Swimming, camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking, scenic byway. Open year-round. Some improvements made for accessibility.
56 campsites, 35 are trailer spaces with easy access. Unique swimming hole, Upper Lady's Bath, is a five-minute walk. Open and plowed year-round.

HASTINGS CAMPGROUND
Rt. 113, 3 mi. S of US Rt. 2 in Gilead, Maine.
Swimming, camping, fishing, hiking. Closed in winter. Some improvements made for accessibility.
24 sites, all suitable for RVs. Grassy area for sports and play.

JIGGER JOHNSON CAMPGROUND
Kancamagus Scenic Byway, 12-1/2 mi. W of Conway
Camping, fishing, hiking, scenic byway.
75 campsites. Flush toilets. Near historic Russell-Colbath, an 1830's homestead. Interpretive talks in summer.

PASSACONAWAY CAMPGROUND
Kancamagus Scenic Byway, 15 mi. W of Conway.
Camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking, scenic byway. Some improvements made for accessibility.
33 campsites. Near historic Russell-Colbath, an 1830's homestead.

RUSSELL POND CAMPGROUND
Tripoli Rd., Campton, 13 mi. off 1-93, exit 31.

SUGARLOAF CAMPGROUND I & II
Rt. 302, Twin Mountain, on Zealand Road.
Camping, fishing, hiking. Some improvements made for accessibility.
29 campsites (I) and 32 campsites (II).

WATERVILLE CAMPGROUND
Exit 28, then 8 mi. NE on Rt. 49, Waterville.
Camping, fishing, hiking. Open year-round. Some improvements made for accessibility.
27 wooded sites.

WHITE LEDGE CAMPGROUND
Rt. 16, Albany, 5 mi. S of Conway.
Camping, hiking, picnicking. Some improvements made for accessibility.
28 campsites.

WILD RIVER CAMPGROUND
Rt. 113, 3 mi. S of Rt. 2 on Forest Road #12, Hastings. Five mi. on dirt road.
Camping, fishing, hiking. Closed in winter. Some improvements made for accessibility.
12 campsites, 3 suitable for RVs.

WILDWOOD CAMPGROUND
Rt. 112, Kinsman Notch, 7 mi. W of Lincoln.
Camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking. Some improvements made for accessibility.
26 campsites.

ZEALAND CAMPGROUND
Rt. 302, 2 mi. E of Twin Mountain.
Camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking. Some improvements made for accessibility.
11 campsites.

Rules and Restrictions
Along with standard leave-no-trace guidelines, the USFS regularly issues rules regarding where and how you can camp in the White Mountain National Forest. Some standard restrictions to keep in mind when visiting the Forest are:

  • Above treeline (areas where the trees are less than eight feet in height), camping is allowed only when there is at least two feet of snow on the ground.
  • In the Great Gulf Wilderness, all camping must be below treeline, and 200 feet off the trail OR in one of the designated sites along the trail. No camping is permitted beyond the junction of the Sphinx and Great Gulf Trails in the direction of Spaulding Lake.
  • In the Cutler River Drainage, which includes Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines, camping is allowed only at the Hermit Lake Shelters.
  • No camping, wood fires, or charcoal fires within 1/4 mile of any hut, shelter, tent platform, cabin, picnic area, or campground.
  • No camping, wood fires, or charcoal fires in any Wilderness Area.
  • Hiking and camping group size in Wilderness Areas must be no larger than ten people.
  • No mechanized or mechanical equipment in any Wilderness Area.

Several other heavily used area trails also have restrictions on camping and fires. Camping and fires are not permitted within 200' of the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail or within 1/4 mile of Route 16, AMC and RMC facilities, Glen Ellis Falls, Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, and Dolly Copp Campground.

Other restrictions may also be in effect in specific locations throughout the Forest. Check with the Forest service before you go to see what restrictions may apply to your destination.

The Forest is one of the most heavily visited in the country because of its proximity to many major northeastern population centers. The primary function of these rules is to protect the land from overuse and abuse; without them, the wild character of the Forest risks being lost. Please respect the land and your fellow visitors to ensure that the Forest remains as you found it.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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