Way Up North: Lake Francis

Lake Francis State Park in Pittsburgh, NH is one of New Hampshire’s northernmost parks. It’s an absolutely beautiful place and the remote setting is uniquely natural. The lake is great for exploring by boat, and the Connecticut River that feeds it is easily explorable from the excellent campground.

Lake Francis is a big lake. The boat launch by the campground is nicely situated on a small section of the lake with a great view and lots of places to explore – from the mouth of the river and the shores to the expanse of the rest of the lake beyond. It’s especially peaceful at sunset and in the early morning as the scenery reflects across flat calm water. Lake Francis is the kind of place that makes me want to slow down and spend as much time as I can just being there.

The lake and the surrounding wilderness are home to plenty of wildlife. There are a couple loons on the lake and visitors are almost guaranteed to see one – and maybe even hear them calling at night. Be sure to give the loons space if you’re boating! I also saw a bald eagle way up high and a couple herons on the shore. My parents saw a couple river otters, but I wasn’t around with the camera and we didn’t see them again (darn).

The campground in the park is excellent, with lots of good sites. There is a visitor’s center with information, showers, a dishwashing area, and even laundry machines. Some of the sites are down near the water, and a couple are near the river. The location of the campground creates an great atmosphere. There’s nothing like going to sleep to the sound of the river and seeing the fog on the lake first thing in the morning.

A great easy hike near Lake Francis State Park is Prospect Mountain. It only takes around 20 minutes to reach this excellent view of the First Connecticut Lake. The hike is super easy, but the trail (a part of the longer Cohos Trail) was somewhat hard to find. The road is somewhat rough, so a car with good ground clearance is recommended. Go left from the end of River Road (coming from the campground) onto Route 3. Just after you see Young’s Store on the left, take a right onto Danforth Hill Road. There are several splits, but stay on Danforth Hill Road until you see a sign for a campground and parking just past another fork (the last one on the road). The trail is just at the start of the left fork of visible in this map– look for yellow blazes. Follow the trail marked by the yellow blazes to the top of the hill and left to the sign for Prospect Mountain trail. Apparently it is possible to drive up the other side of the mountain, but I’ve only heard the road described as ‘kinda sketchy,’ so I wouldn’t suggest that. The hike is well worth it!

A nice extra stop on the way to Lake Francis from almost anywhere further south in New Hampshire is Beaver Brook Falls in Colebrook. I didn’t know it was there, but I had to stop when I saw it, and I think it’s worth checking out. There is a short path around the base of the waterfall and it was a nice way to stretch a leg after driving for a while.


Tom Howe

Tom Howe is a third year Div II at Hampshire College concentrating in graphic design. he lives in Goshen, NH and grew up in Anchorage, AK. He likes hiking, biking and cross country skiing, and just generally being outside.

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