16 Best Sights in The White Mountains, New Hampshire

Crawford Notch State Park

Fodor's choice

Scenic U.S. 302 winds southeast of Bretton Woods through the steep, wooded mountains on either side of spectacular Crawford Notch. At this 5,775-acre state park, you can picnic and hike to Arethusa Falls, the longest drop in New England, or to the Silver and Flume cascades—they're among more than a dozen outstanding trails. Roadside photo ops abound, and amenities include an Adirondack-style visitor center, gift shop, snack bar, and fishing pond.

Franconia Notch State Park

Fodor's choice

Traversed by the Appalachian Trail and a stretch of Interstate 93 that narrows for 8 miles to become Franconia Notch Parkway, this stunning 6,692-acre state park feels as awesome as a national park and offers dozens of diversions, including myriad hiking trails, summer swimming at Echo Lake Beach, and winter downhill skiing at Cannon Mountain, whose 4,080-foot summit observation deck you can explore on the Aerial Tramway, an 80-passenger cable car. One of the top park draws, the dramatic, narrow 800-foot-long Flume Gorge is reached from a modern visitor center via a picturesque 2-mile loop hike along wooden boardwalks and stairways. The park was long famous as the site of the Old Man of the Mountain, an iconic profile high on a granite cliff that crumbled unexpectedly in 2003. Overlooking Profile Lake, at the small Old Man of the Mountain Park, you can walk the short but pretty paved trail to view the mountain face through steel rods that seem literally to put the beloved visage back on the mountain. You can see related photographs and memorabilia in a small museum, and also visit the New England Ski Museum (which has a second location in North Conway) to learn how skiing was popularized as a sport in New England, through artifacts, clothing, and equipment, as well as Bode Miller's five Olympic medals.

Kancamagus Highway

Fodor's choice

In 1937, two old local roads were connected from Lincoln to Conway to create this remarkable 34.5-mile national designated scenic byway through a breathtaking swath of the White Mountains. This section of Route 112 known as the Kancamagus—often called simply "the Kanc"—contains no businesses or billboards and is punctuated by overlooks, picnic areas, and memorable hiking trailheads. These include Lincoln Woods, an easy 6-mile round-trip trek along a railroad bed that departs from the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center, crosses a dramatic suspension bridge over the Pemigewasset River, and ends at a swimming hole formed by dramatic Franconia Falls. There's also Sabbaday Falls, a short ½-mile stroll to a multilevel cascade that plunges through two potholes and a flume. For a slightly harder but less crowded trek, take the 3.5-mile Boulder Loop Trail, which rises precipitously some 1,000 feet from the banks of the Swift River to a granite-crowned summit with mountain views. The road's highest point, at 2,855 feet, crosses the flank of Mt. Kancamagus, near Lincoln—a great place to view the fiery displays of foliage each autumn. On-site in lots and overlooks costs $5.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves

Fodor's choice

Parents can enjoy the looks of wonder on their kids' faces as they negotiate wooden boardwalks and stairs leading through a granite gorge formed by the roaring waters of the Lost River. One of the 10 caves they can explore is called the Lemon Squeezer (and it's a tight fit). Visitors can also pan for gems and search for fossils and walk through a fascinating giant man-made birdhouse, venture across a suspension bridge, and climb up into a big tree house. The park offers lantern tours on weekend evenings.

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Fodor's choice

In 1858, Sylvester Marsh petitioned the state legislature for permission to build a steam railway up Mt. Washington. One politico retorted that Marsh would have better luck building a railroad to the moon, but 11 years later the Mount Washington Cog Railway chugged its way up to the summit along a 3-mile track on the mountain's west side. Today it's a beloved attraction—a thrill in either direction. A small museum has exhibits about the cog rail, and a casual restaurant offers great views of the trains beginning their ascent. The full trip on these eco-friendly, biodiesel trains takes three hours including an hour at the summit. In winter, the railway runs shorter and less-expensive trips to the Waumbek Station (elevation 3,900 feet), which still offers impressive vistas of the snow-covered countryside.

Mt. Washington Auto Road

Fodor's choice

The drive to the top of this imposing summit is truly memorable. Your route: the narrow, curving Mt. Washington Auto Road, which climbs 4,600 feet in about 7 miles. Drivers can download an app with a narrated tour and receive a bumper sticker that reads, "This car climbed Mt. Washington." The narration is fascinating, and the views are breathtaking. Once at the top, check out Extreme Mount Washington, an interactive museum dedicated to science and weather. If you're nervous about heights or the condition of your car, book a guided van tour or a ride up the cog railway in Bretton Woods.

Clark's Bears

Chock-full of hokum, this kids-oriented old-time amusement park is famous for its performing live-bear shows. There are also short train trips over a 1904 covered bridge, Segway rides, a museum of Americana inside an 1880s firehouse, a restored gas station with antique cars, an Old Man of the Mountain rock-climbing tower, and a huge, kitschy gift shop with penny-candy.

Conway Scenic Railroad

Departing from historic North Conway Station, the railroad operates various trips aboard vintage trains. The Notch Train to Crawford Depot or to Fabyan Station travels through rugged territory yielding wonderful views, which are best enjoyed from the premium-class Upper Dome cars. The shorter Conway Valley Train offers glimpses of Mt. Washington during a 55-minute round-trip journey to Conway or a 1¾-hour excursion to Bartlett. The 1874 station displays lanterns, old tickets and timetables, and other artifacts. Reserve early during foliage season. Some rides include box lunches or full dinners.

Echo Lake State Park

You don't have to be a rock climber to enjoy the views from the 700-foot White Horse and Cathedral ledges, which you can reach via a 1.7-mile road. From the top, you'll see the entire valley, including Echo Lake, which offers fishing, swimming, boating, and, on quiet days, an excellent opportunity to shout for echoes.

Hobo Railroad

Restored vintage train cars take you on 80-minute excursions along the scenic banks of the Pemigewassett River. A Santa Express runs late November–mid-December.

Seven Birches Winery

With a tasting room at Lincoln's RiverWalk resort and steps away in a bright and modern wine bar with a big patio, this respected winery offers its classic European-varietal dry wines and sweeter fruit wines by the glass or flight, along with a selection of snacks.

Story Land

This theme park with life-size storybook and nursery-rhyme characters is geared to kids (ages 2–12). The two-dozen rides include a flumer, a river raft, and the Roar-O-Saurus and Polar Coaster roller coasters. Play areas and magic shows provide additional entertainment. There's also the Living Shores Aquarium, which offers 32,000-square-feet of mostly interactive, touch-friendly pools and exhibits.

The Frost Place

Robert Frost's year-round home from 1915 to 1920, this modest homestead on a peaceful unpaved road is surrounded by well-tended gardens and offers stunning mountain views. The place is imbued with the spirit of his work—two rooms contain memorabilia and signed editions of his books. Poetry readings are scheduled some summer evenings. Out back, you can follow short trails marked with lines from his poetry. The grounds are always open and beautiful for a stroll.

The Great North Woods

The collective name for New Hampshire's northern panhandle, which is reached from Littleton via Route 116 to U.S. 3, the Great North Woods covers about 1,800 square miles, an area slightly larger than Rhode Island. This sparsely populated expanse of dense woodland and mountains is hugely popular with fishing, hunting, hiking, and other backcountry recreation enthusiasts, but it's also appealing for a picturesque country drive, especially for moose viewing (drive carefully) and admiring fall foliage from mid-September through early October. The Canadian border is about 95 miles from Littleton and takes two hours each way without stops, but passes through interesting little towns—like Whitefield, Lancaster, Colebrook, and Pittsburg—and snakes along the shores of the upper Connecticut River and the three pristine Connecticut Lakes. From Colebrook, you can also detour east along a dramatic stretch of Route 26 to Dixville Notch, site of the famous former Balsams Grand Resort (which is currently being converted into a condominium development) and one of the first election districts in the nation to vote in presidential general elections. The area has a handful of popular businesses, like Black Bear Tavern in Colebrook, the Rainbow Grille in Pittsburg, and the Cabins at Lopstick and Glen at Bear Tree lodgings, both in Pittsburg.

Weeks State Park

A few miles north of Whitefield's famous Mountain View Grand Resort, this 446-acre park occupies the early 20th-century estate of conservationist and U.S. Senator John W. Weeks, whose 1911 Weeks Act enabled the acquisition of some 19 million acres of wilderness, including White Mountain National Forest. An auto road winds to the 2,037-foot summit of Prospect Mountain, where a stone tower offers astounding views of Vermont and New Hampshire. One-hour tours of the Weeks mansion are available, and a 3.4-mile loop hiking trail traverses the property.

Whale's Tale Waterpark

You can float on an inner tube along a gentle river, plunge down one of five waterslides, hang five on the Akua surf simulator, or bodysurf in the large wave pool at Whale's Tale. There's plenty here for toddlers and small children, too.