The White Mountains of New Hampshire are an incredible place to vacation. There is something for everyone, young and old, to see and do in this beautiful area surrounded by some of the highest mountains on the east coast. These are some of the destinations you should consider when planning your trip here.
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Scenic Drive on the Kancamagus Highway
The Kancamagus Highway (Route 112) travels through the White Mountain National Forest between the towns of Lincoln and Conway. This 35-mile drive takes you through stunning mountains, waterfalls, and views. There are many places to stop along the way to hike or have a picnic. Watch for wildlife along the way, you never know what you might see. On one of the many times we drove this highway, we saw a beautiful gray fox when turning into a picnic area. Boy, what a sight to see.
Take a Hike
There are over 100 waterfalls in the White Mountains. Some you can see from the road while others you need to take a hike to get to. I personally love hiking to waterfalls as you can ear when you’re getting closer with the sound of the rushing water and oh what a view when you get there. My husband loves hiking ridgelines, so we look for both wherever we go and the White Mountains does not disappoint.
The White Mountains are great for this as you can go on five roads and get to see must of the attractions and hikes. We took these roads and were able to hike several different hikes each day. Many trails are off the following routes 3, 16, 112, 135 and 302. These routes form a loop around the White Mountains.
Take a Moose Tour
Experience what New Hampshire is known for by taking a moose tour. Yes, you can try to find moose on your own, but with the dwindling population of recent years, it’s getting harder and harder to see that moose. There are several tour companies in the area to choose from with similar pricing at $35 per person and kids under 12 $25.
The main three companies are Pemi Valley Excursions in Lincoln, Gorham Moose Tours in Gorham and MWV in North Conway. All are bus tours and are between 2 1/2 to 3 hours in the evening as most moose are spotted after dark. These tours are available mid-May to the beginning of October.
We took a tour with Gorham Moose Tours while visiting the White Mountains. We weren’t disappointed as we saw 5 moose and the tour guide even took us into Maine in order to view moose.
Discover a Covered Bridge
Covered bridges are a big part of the history of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. With 13 bridges throughout the region, make sure to visit some on your adventures here. Most were originally built in the 1800s however all but one of them had to be rebuilt or reinforced due to structural safety.
Here is a list of the covered bridges:
- Bump Bridge, Campton, NH, was originally built in 1877 with the current structure build in 1972. It goes over the Beebe River and is 68’ long.
- Sentinel Pine Bridge (also known as the Flume Covered bridge) Located in the Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch State Park is 60’ long expanding over the Pemigewasset River. This bridge was built in 1939.
- Albany Bridge, Albany, NH is in the White Mountain National Forest just off the Kancamagus Highway. It was built in 1858 and the US Forest Service modified it in 1982. It expands 120’ over the Swift River.
- Blair Bridge, Campton, NH, expands 224’ over the Pemigewasset River. This bridge was also built numerous times with the present one constructed in 1977.
- Swift River Bridge near Conway Village is now just used as a walking bridge over the Swift River. After being constructed several times, in 1974 a concrete bridge was built for traffic about ¼ miles away. This 133’ long covered bridge stands today as a reminder of yesteryears and the opportunity to still cherish this beautiful structure.
- Swiftwater Bridge, Bath, NH this truss with added arches 158’ structure was also built several times due to losing the bridges to floods with the latest one finished in 1977. It goes over the wild Ammonoosuc River.
- Jackson/Honeymoon Bridge, Jackson, NH, this bridge was built in 1876 and is nicknamed Honeymoon Bridge because couples take their wedding pictures by the bridge. Its 121’ long and goes over the Ellis River. In 1930 a sidewalk was added to it.
- Bath-Haverhill Bridge on Route 135 near Woodville Village, is the oldest covered bridge still in use in New Hampshire built in 1829. It’s a lattice truss with arches design spanning 224’ over the Ammonoosuc River.
- Saco River Bridge, Conway, NH was built several times before its existing structure which spans 224’ over the Saco River.
- Bath Bridge, Bath, NH was built 5 times with the current structure build in 1832. Three prior bridges were destroyed by floods with the fourth damaged by fire. This is the longest covered bridge in the are at 374’ long.
- Turkey Jim’s Bridge, Campton, NH was originally built in 1874 over the West Branch Brook on Stephan Road and was replaced in 1958. However, in 1964 the bridge was washed down the river, retrieved and reset at its original place. This 60’ structure is only used for pedestrians and snowmobile traffic.
- Clark’s Bridge, located in Clark’s Trading Post on Clark’s Short Steam Railroad, was built in Vermont in 1904 for the Barre Railroad. In 1960 it was dismantled and moved next to the Perigewasset River on dry land then moved again in 1965 over the river. At 116’ long it is the only Howe railroad (Howe Truss) bridge remaining in the world.
- Bartlett Bridge in Bartlett, NH has been closed to traffic since 1939. Spanning 166’ over the Saco River this bridge was used by the town to store their equipment in from 1950 to 1966 when it was purchased by a private citizen. It was repaired and a gift shop was opened inside the bridge. The shop is still in existence today opened from Memorial Day to the end of October.
There are quaint New England towns in the White Mountains, and the shopping here consists of small mom and pop type stores with everything from home baked goods, maple syrup products, antiques, rustic decor, farmstands, and your typical souvenir shops.
In North Conway, they have the Settler’s Green Outlet Village with over 75 outlets store. Down the road, there is also the L.L. Bean Outlet Center. It’s always worth a trip when in the area.
The State of New Hampshire operators liquor supermarkets all over the state offering discounted tax-free liquor and wine. There are several within the White Mountains including stores in Conway, Glen, Lincoln, and Whitefield. We always “stock up” when visiting New Hampshire as it is a substantial discount from where we live in NY.
Go to New England Water park—Whale’s Tale
Whale’s Tale in Lincoln is New England’s award-winning water park for over 30 years featuring a huge wave pool, a lazy river, and 11 waterslides. There is something for everyone who loves a water park. Opened early June to Labor Day one admission price covers all the attractions. Off-peak pricing is $39 and peak is $44 but order online and get a discount.
See “the old man on the Mountain”
The Cog railway offers rides in diesel and steam trains up to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak on the east coast. It’s a whole experience by itself riding the cog. You can read all about in my post about the Cog Railway here https://ourusaadventures.com/the-mount-washington-cog-railway/.
Franconia Notch State Park
Franconia Notch State Park offers hiking and biking and is the home to many attractions in the area. The Flume Gorge is a self-guided hike through rock walls and waterfalls. The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway is also located in the park and carries you to the summit of Cannon Mountain.
The Franconia Notch Bike Trail runs the length of the park. You can bring your own bike or rent at the Cannon Tramway where a shuttle is also offered. The “Old Man of the Mountain” Historic Site is located within the park where this monument once stood and today you can learn the history about it.
The Lafayette Place Campground and Echo Lake Beach are also within the park. At Echo Lake, there is also a 7 site campground which is really in the parking lot by the lake. Also when in the area take the short hike to the Basin which is a natural pothole of water which offers beautiful views.
Conway Scenic Railroad
Departing from an 1894 Victorian Station in North Conway, Conway Scenic Railroad offers two different rides, The Valley Train which goes from Conway to Bartlett and the Crawford Notch (Notch train) excursion. You have your choice of riding in first class, coach or a dining car.
The Notch train is a 50 mile, 5-hour road trip experience through the beautiful scenery of the mountains and it stops in Crawford Notch where you can get out and have a picnic lunch or eat at the Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center. This train runs an additional 10 miles to Fabyan station during fall foliage times.
The Valley trains stay in the valley and go either to Conway (11 miles, 55-minute roundtrip) or the Bartlett (21 miles, 1 ¾ hour roundtrip ride). You can watch the locomotive turn around for the return trip to North Conway. Both these trains are offered on certain days so check ahead to get the daily schedule here https://www.conwayscenic.com/.
Since 1954, I remember going there with my parents and sister on our family vacation to New Hampshire. We also took our own kids there to this family-oriented amusement park with rides and attraction for young children to the pre-teen years.
Discover all the fairytale characters from children’s book come to life in this theme park located in Glen, New Hampshire. With over 30 rides and attractions, there is something for everyone. Some rides are original and still in existent today like the swan boats.
The park is opened Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day on weekends and daily from June 14 to Labor Day. The best way to purchase tickets is online as you save $7 ($31.99 for 3 and to 59 with senior tickets at $28.99) and if you buy them 7 days in advance you can save an additional $2. Park hours vary so please check before your visit. They also offer other discounts so check their website at https://www.storylandnh.com/ for more information.
After the park closes they offer a character dinner buffet so you can visit up close with the park’s characters. This is available on certain dates through the season with children 3 to 12 for $9.99 and 12 and over $19.99. Also for an additional cost of $10.99, there is Tea with Cinderella and Fairy Tale 101 programs. Availability is limited so if you want to add this experience to your visit you should book ahead (this is done during park hours).
Clark’s Trading Post
A tradition in the White Mountains, Clark’s Trading Post has several family attractions including a train ride, bear show, circus act, seaway park, “Old Man on the Mountain” climbing rock wall, Merlin’s Mystical Mansion tour, water raft ride, and water blaster boat ride. There are also several museums on the premises that you can visit too.
You get all the ride, attraction and shows for one admission price of $24 for ages 4-64, seniors and military $21 and 3 and under are free. Clark’s is open daily from mid-May to Columbus Day. Hours vary depending season and days.
The Flume George
Located in Franconia Notch State Park, the Flume Gorge is a two-mile nature walk through rock walls and beautiful waterfalls and pools. This popular attraction is the home of the Sentinel Covered Bridge. Your walk begins at the Visitors Center where you can watch a movie about the discovery of the gorge.
The Flume Gorge is open from the middle of May to mid-October and cost $16 for adults, $14 for children 6 to 12 and free for kids under 5. You can also purchase a “Discovery Pass” which also includes The Cannon Tramway attractions for $31 for adults and $25 for kids 6 to 12.
The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
This 80 passenger tram takes you up to the summit (4080′) of Cannon Mountain and is located in Franconia Notch State Park. At the top, there is an observation deck that allows you to see views of four states and Canada on a clear day. There also are several walking paths so you can explore this mountaintop, a cafe, bar and restrooms.
You can either take the tram back down or there is an option for you to hike down. Cost of a round trip fare is $19 for adults and $17 for children 6 to 12 and one way $13 and $10, respectively. In addition, there is a Discovery Pass which includes admission to the Flume Gorge as well.
Wildcat Mountain in Pinkham Notch is a ski resort in the winter and offers a gondola sky ride and the zip ride in the summer. The Wildcat Express Gondola takes you up over 4000′ to the summit of the wildcat mountain. There you can experience stunning views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Mountain Range.
The Ziprider is a adventurers dream soaring 1/2 mile over trees and the Peabody River. You take a chairlift up to the zip line deck where four riders can descend at one time down the mountain 70 ft in the air with speeds up to 45 mph. This must be some rush but not for me since I’m afraid of heights.
This summer experience at Wildcat Mountain begins the end of June to Labor day (daily) and on weekends through mid-October. Prices vary per experience but start at $17 for adults and $13 for children 6 to 12.
Mount Washington Auto Road
The Mount Washington Auto Road is a private road leading to the summit of Mount Washington. You can either drive your own vehicle or they also offer guided tours in their vans so you get to enjoy the scenery. This road is open early May to Memorial Day weekend depending on weather and daily from Memorial Day weekend to the beginning of October.
“This car climbed Mount Washington” bumper stickers are given to all vehicles making the adventure. The price to take your car and driver is $31 with each additional passenger $9, children 5-7 $7 and under 5 free. Motorcycles are $17. We’ve done this trip before and it is a beautiful ride but note cautious on the way down as brakes tend to heat up.
The Van Tours are very popular and offer a 2 and 3-hour tour. Your guides (drivers) tell you the history of the area and stories of the road and mountain. The 2-hour tour gives you 1 hour to explore the summit. This tour is offered every day at a cost of $36 for adults, $31 for seniors and $16 for children 5 to 12.
The three-hour tour gives you additional time to take a hike on top and is a guided tour of the summit going where most people don’t go experiencing hidden area to view wildlife, flora and learn the history of the mountain. These tours are only offered Friday to Sunday. Costs are $65.
You can also take a van up to the summit and hike down. This experience will cost you $31, seniors $26 and kids 5-12 $13.
In Jefferson, NH, this Christmas themed family park is both an amusement and water park in one. Great for children under 10, the rides are geared for children but are built that adults can accompany them. All rides and attractions are included with the admission price. The park is opened from the end of May through the end of December with the water park only opened on days the air temperature is at least 65 degrees.
Although it’s great to visit here in summer, Santa’s Village gets very busy from Thanksgiving to New Years. The Christmas spirit is alive all year long here with themed foods and attractions. When entering, be sure to visit Elf University where you kids get to participate in a scavenger hunt all around the park finding 26 elves. When leaving make sure to hand in your card and they will receive a special prize and a diploma.
Don’t forget to visit the main man himself, Santa, where he will take pictures with your family. You even get to see and feed Santa’s reindeers, so make sure to visit the Reindeer Barn!
Bike Franconia Notch Bikeway
Franconia Notch Bike Trail runs 8.7 miles through Franconia Notch State Park with most of the park’s attractions on the trail. The path has many hilly areas and total elevation climb is 340 ft. There is also a long downhill which you need to keep to the posted 20 mph speed limit on the trail. Caution is advised as there have been several accidents due to speed.
The scenery of the trail is beautiful passing Echo Lake, Flume George area, Old Man of the Mountain historic site, mountains and streams along with way. In this crowded attraction sections, there are signs that only walking is permitted in these areas.
You can access the trail from two trailheads, the Skookumchuck trailhead and the Mt. Pemigewasset trailhead. At the Cannon Mountain Tramway, you can rent bikes and a shuttle is also offered there if you only want to bike one way.
Echo Lake Beach
Echo Lake Beach is a 39-acre lake at the foot of Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park and is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. You can swim there and during the peak summer season, you can rent non-motorized boats (canoes, kayaks and pedal boats) for $20 an hour. Canoeing and kayaking are common at this beach
I hope you enjoyed this article about things to do in the White Mountains. As you can see, you won’t regret vacationing in this beautiful area of New Hampshire. We’ve been there numerous times over the years and between its beauty and the opportunity to experience so many different areas and attractions it will bring us there again and again in years to come.