Connor Cahill, SCA Interpretive Ranger
Franconia Notch State Park offers many fun and family friendly recreational activities during the spring, through the fall, and even during the winter! Whether you enjoy walking through the recreational path alongside the Pemigewasset River, or navigating your way down Cannon Mountain on skis, there is something for anyone.
Franconia Notch State Park provides access to several of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers, dozens of hiking trails, and breathtaking views of the White Mountains, which is why it’s so gratifying for hikers. With that being said, there are hikes available for any level of experience, from beginner to expert. Here are a few hikes that you have to check out if you haven’t already:
(Cahill, Connor, 2023, Franconia Notch State Park, Flume Covered bridge)
The Flume is an exciting 2 mile loop that features the historic Flume Covered Bridge. Built in the 1800s, it’s one of the oldest surviving covered bridges in New Hampshire. After crossing the bridge, you’ll notice Table Rock to your left which extends about 500 feet uphill. The sounds of the Flume Brook flowing near you will grow louder as you finally approach the Flume Gorge itself, with Avalanche Falls pouring down from above. After proceeding past the Bear Cave there is a small descent through the Downhill Ridge Path. This path will lead to the Liberty Gorge, another stunning cascade with waterfall down through the narrow valley. Another feature you sure to not want to miss is the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge towering over the Pool. The pool can reach up to 40 feet in depth and it is surrounded by beautiful cliffs of granite.
Artist’s Bluff and Bald Mountain
(Cahill, Connor, 2023, Franconia Notch State Park, Artist’s Bluff Viewpoint)
One of most of the most popular hikes in the Notch is the Artist’s Bluff trail which consists of a 1.5 mile loop. While you’re making your way around the loop, you can extend slightly further and stop at the Bald Mountain path which connects via Veteran’s Loop. Bald Mountain is also accessible from the trailhead and consists of a .7 mile out and back trail. Both Artist’s Bluff trail, and Bald Mountain trail offer gorgeous views of Cannon mountain, Echo Lake, and the Franconia ridge.
Basin Cascade Trail
(Photo Credit: Cannon Mountain)
This 2.6 mile out and back hike comes with a variety of trail conditions including paved asphalt, gravel, and natural surfaces. The Pemigewasset River flows through the forest continuing to naturally carve the rock around the trail. Be sure to stop at the Basin to view an incredible pothole created by natural erosion. Venture past the Basin, to see amazing waterfalls further up trail!
Lonesome Lake Trail
The Lonesome Lake trail is a 3.1 mile loop that has been rated as moderate in difficulty. There are steep sections, so it is recommended to have appropriate footwear and hiking poles. This trail is very popular as it is accessible from Lafayette campground and the hike loops around Lonesome Lake. You are also able to reserve a room at the Lonesome Lake AMC Hut that sits alongside the trail, near the Fishin’ Jimmy trail.
Franconia Ridge Loop
(Cote, Eric, April 14, 2016. Lincoln, NH, Franconia Notch State Park, Franconia Ridge Loop)
The Franconia Ridge Loops is one of the most strenuous hikes at Franconia Notch, so it is always recommended to bring the essentials needed to hike safely. A popular route to complete the nearly 8.5 mile loop starts at the Falling Waters trail and ascends up past the Stair Falls, Swiftwater Falls, and Cloudland falls. Continuing your way to the summit involves maneuvering through steep rocky sections as much of this section is exposed to the elements. This trail finishes moving East once you arrive at the peak at Little Haystack Mountain. Now begins the trek along the ridge towards Mt. Lincoln, and soon after peaking in elevation at Mt. Lafayette. The descent then begins on Old Bridle Path as you make your way towards the Greenleaf AMC Hut. Once you arrive, there is another 2.8 miles until completion of the ridge loop. It’s also able to be completed ascending up the Old Bridle Path and descending down Falling Waters Trail.
The Recreational Trail is an 8.7 mile paved trail that stretches across the entire state park with ending points at the Skookumchuck trailhead and Flume Gorge Visitor Center. This trail is great for walking, running, and biking. Not only that, but during the winter months the trail allows for snowmobiles. The Recreational Trail is great for checking out many features of the notch. You’ll go right through the valley with amazing views of Cannon Mountain, Echo Lake, and the entire Franconia Ridge.
You can make a reservation at one of the ninety seven campsites at the Lafayette Campground which also includes a campground store, bathrooms, showers, laundry services, and a playground. Relax by a fire and prepare s’mores with your family and friends, or choose to venture out via the Lonesome Lake Trail connected to the campground. Franconia Notch State Park operates under a carry in, carry out policy, but campers have access to waste disposal and sorted recycling right near the entrance.
Swimming, Fishing, and more!
(Photo Credit: Cannon Mountain)
Echo Lake offers swimming per day use fee and visitors can relax on the sandy shore looking out over the lake with views of Mt. Lafayette and Cannon Mountain. Pedal boat rentals are also available at this lake. You can even bring your own kayak, canoe, paddle board, or small motor boat out on Echo Lake or Profile Lake just further South. Fishing is extremely popular at Echo Lake and Profile lake for those seeking to catch the famous native Eastern Brook Trout! Echo lake offers spin reel fishing while Profile Lake offers fly fishing only.
Skiing and Snowboarding
(Photo Credit: Cannon Mountain)
Franconia Notch is home to the highest ski area summit in New Hampshire at Cannon Mountain and has an elevation of just over 4000 feet. There is diverse terrain with Green, Blue and Black rated slopes. If you’re ready to take on the challenge, there are also yellow rated freestyle terrains around the outermost areas of the mountain. With up to 10 lifts and 97 trails and glades, there are so many different routes to descend down that will make for an entire day of fun! If you’re ready to take a break, then you can sit and relax at the Cafe 4080 to enjoy food and refreshments.
These are just a few of the most popular recreational activities around the notch, but there is so much more! Franconia Notch is a wonderful place for bird watching, since Peregrine Falcons do most of their nesting in NH right here in the White Mountain National Forest.
Many visitors come to experience rock climbing and snowshoeing as well. Whatever outdoor adventure you plan to pursue next, you should make Franconia Notch State Park your destination!
Best Hikes and Trails in Franconia Notch State Park | Alltrails, 2023, www.alltrails.com/parks/us/new-hampshire/franconia-notch-state-park/dogs.
“Cannon Mountain.” Ski NH, 2023, www.skinh.com/resorts/cannon-mountain.
“How Does a River Change the Land?” American Geosciences Institute, 9 Dec. 2016, www.americangeosciences.org/education/k5geosource/activities/investigations/rocks/rivers-and-land#:~:text=Streams%20and%20rivers%20erode%20and,sediment%20and%20in%20shaping%20landforms.
“Franconia Notch State Park.” NH State Parks, 2023, www.nhstateparks.org/find-parks-trails/franconia-notch-state-park#:~:text=Take%20your%20time%2C%20stop%20for,enjoy%20Franconia%20Notch%20State%20Park.