White Mountain National Forest
Before its collapse, the most famous natural feature in New Hampshire was Old Man of the Mountain, the former official state symbol located on the side of Profile Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park. But as far as dramatic or intriguing rock formations in the White Mountains go, the Old Man was only one among many.
For instance, the lesser-known but still striking Old Lady of the Mountain looks out, as did the Old Man, over Profile Lake. Near Madison, New Hampshire, Madison Rock is one of the largest glacial erraticsa rock that is significantly out of placein the world, rising three stories high and stretching 80 feet in length. It is a designated National Natural Landmark.
For more information on these and other distinctive examples of geological whimsy in the White Mountains, see Rock Formations.
Franconia Notch State Park
New Hampshire's flagship state park, covering 6,440 acres, lies nestled in a deep valley between the soaring peaks of the Franconia and Kinsman mountain ranges. You can enjoy almost every imaginable form of outdoor recreation here, from hiking and biking to swimming and scenic driving. The Appalachian Trail passes through the park, and The Old Man of the Mountain, New Hampshire's most famous landmark, calls Franconia Notch home.
Other attractions here include an aerial tramway that takes passengers to the summit of Cannon Mountain (4,180 feet), where an observation tower offers even better panoramic views than those you got on the way up. The Flume is an 800-foot natural gorge that rests at the base of Mount Liberty. Echo Mountain Lake is a 28-acre swimming and fishing hole near famous Artist's Bluff (2,340 feet), where landscape enthusiasts can find great views without having to expend much effort.
Lafayette Campground is the major camping area in the park. With 97 tent sites and showers, the campground is a great place to set up your base for more extensive explorations of the park. There is also a camp store here with outdoor supplies. To reach the campground, call 603-823-9513. To contact the park, call 603-823-8800.
Crawford Notch State Park
Located off of Rte. 302 on the eastern edge of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, Crawford Notch has prime access to views of the Presidentials. Hiking and fishing are the major activities here (see descriptions of hikes in Crawford Notch State Park). Among the park's many picturesque waterfalls is Arethusa Falls, one of the highest falls in the state.
The Dry River Campground here has 30 tent sites. Call 603-374-2272 to reach the park.
Echo Lake-Cathedral Ledge State Park
Turn off Rte. 302 two miles west of North Conway to find this cool, crisp lake (not to be confused with a lake of the same name in Franconia Notch) stretching beneath White Horse Ledge (2,010 feet). Another panoramic hotspot, Cathedral Ledge (1,150 feet), has a natural rock formation that is said to look like a cathedral built into the cliff's face. A scenic road climbs the distance to Cathedral Ledge. Call the park at 603-356-2672 for more information.
Moose Brook State Park
The waterway after which this park is named provides some of the Forest area's excellent stream fishing. Lying in lush mixed forest, the campground here has 42 tent sites and showers. Mountain bike trails wind through the area, and the proximity of the Presidential and Crescent ranges makes the park a great basecamp for hiking in the high peaks. Located off Rte. 2 about two miles west of Gorham. You can reach the park at 603-466-3860.
Eisenhower Memorial Wayside Park
Stop at the turnoff on the east side of Rte. 302 two miles north of Crawford Notch State Park to find the path that leads to a Presidential range vista, including views of Mt. Washington.
Mount Washington State Park
This 52-acre park includes the summit of Mount Washington, the highest mountain in the northeast at 6,288 feet. The weather here can be brutal and change at a moment's notice; always pack with the expectation that it will get colder. Not exactly the most rustic destination, Mt. Washington's summit includes a post office, snack bar, and gift shop. Visitors can reach the park via hiking trails or take the privately owned Mt. Washington Auto Road or the Cog Railway for a fee. No camping facilities are available in this park. The best access is from Pinkham Notch off Rte. 16. Call 603-466-3347 to learn more.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication