New Hampshire State Parks

New Hampshire State Parks
New Hampshire State Parks

There are nearly seventy state parks in New Hampshire located in every region of the state. These are not all “wilderness” areas with activities like camping and fishing as are available in Franconia Notch State Park in the White Mountains. Twelve of the New Hampshire state parks are historic sites. The Fort Constitution Historic Site has preserved the 18th century fort and lighthouse that overlook the coast of Maine on the Atlantic Ocean near Portsmouth. Other historic New Hampshire state parks include the lovely Robert Frost Farm in Derry near the Massachusetts border, and the beautiful Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion in Portsmouth, which can be reserved for weddings. All of these are open to the public for tours.

Other state parks in New Hampshire (22 of them) are beaches, both on the ocean and the shorelines of lakes and rivers. Miles of white sand on the ocean are on offer at Hampton Beach State Park. There is camping here, and nearby is one of the state’s water parks. Ellacoya State Park, is in the Lakes Region on Lake Winnipesaukee and offers a swimming beach and small boat launch ramp.

Three are a number of New Hampshire state parks in the White Mountains, which cover most of the northern part of the state. One of the most beautiful is Franconia Notch State Park that encompasses both extensive mountain wilderness and a nearby state beach on Echo Lake. The park has several attractions within its borders, including the Cannon Mountain aerial tramway and the exciting Flume Gorge. This is the site of the Old Man of the Mountain, the rocky crag that is the state symbol and sadly collapsed in 2003. There are miles of hiking and cycling trails in the forests and to spectacular waterfalls, fishing in sparkling mountain streams and camping. There are rental cabins, full-service RV parks, and primitive camping. Franconia Notch State Park also provides access to several ski resorts.

At only 59 acres, Mount Washington State Park is one of the smallest in the state, but it encompasses the summit of the largest mountain in the northeast and is surrounded by the extensive 750,000 acres of the beautiful White Mountains National Forest. On a clear day, the views from the 6,288-foot summit extend beyond New Hampshire as far as 130 miles to Vermont, New York, Quebec, Massachusetts, Maine and the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. The venerable mountain is known for the world’s most severe weather and fastest winds (the record was 231 miles per hour). But in the summer, Mount Washington State Park sees record numbers of visitors reach the top.

Vacationers have been climbing the peak in record numbers since 1861, when the auto road was built to replace the rugged hiking trails and bridle paths. Today, you can drive all the way to summit in your own vehicle or in one of the park shuttle vans. You can also ascend on the first mountain cog railway of its kind (1869) on one of the steepest tracks in the world. Snow in Mount Washington State Park falls at anytime of year, and there is skiing well into August on Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines.

State parks in New Hampshire provide some of the best and most varied things to do in all of New England.

Top image: muffinman71xx (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0
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