Franconia Notch State Park is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. This nature preserve has miles of hiking trails, bike paths, mountains and waterfalls to explore. Here is a guide to the best outdoor activities you can enjoy within Franconia Notch State Park.
Ultimate Guide to Franconia Notch State Park
1. The Flume Gorge
The Flume is a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. The walls of granite rise to a height of 70 to 90 feet and are 12 to 20 feet apart. The Flume was formed 200 million years ago during the Jurassic Period and discovered in 1808 by 93-year-old woman when she accidentally came upon it while fishing.
This is one of our favorite places to go for a hike. You essentially walk up a boardwalk over the rushing water up to a large waterfall. We like to walk the Flume Trail which is a 2 mile loop and takes about 1.5 hours to complete. There is a shorter trail called the Rim Path which is currently closed. Visitors should purchase tickets in advance by clicking here. Tickets cost $16 for a child and $18 for an adult. No dogs allowed.
To read our guide to visiting the Flume Gorge, click here.
2. The Basin
Here in New England, we are famous for our potholes, but this giant pothole is the prettiest of all. The Basin is believed to have been eroded 15,000 years ago while the North American ice sheet was melting. It has been smoothed by small stones and sand, whirled around by the Pemigewasset River. Henry David Thoreau visited the Basin in 1839 and wrote “this pothole is perhaps the most remarkable curiosity of its kind in New England.”
It only takes about 10 minutes to walk to the Basin, so it is very family-friendly. If you want to walk further, you can continue on the Basin Cascade Trail which will take you to Kinsman Falls. This is a 20 foot narrow waterfall. If you want to extend your hike even further, continue on to Rocky Glen Falls, a three-tiered falls that drops about 40 feet. Beyond the waterfalls, the trail will continue to and around Lonesome Lake. I would recommend downloading the AllTrails app to plan your hike.
There is free and easy parking on either side of I-93. This hike is dog friendly.
3. The Old Man of the Mountain Profile PLAZA
The State emblem of New Hampshire once was a jagged face of a man that jutted out of the mountain. This landmark was so important, it was found on their license plate, state quarter and state route signs.
Sadly, this icon collapsed on May 3, 2003. While residents considered replacing it with a replica, the plans were ultimately rejected. There is now a memorial plaza where you can visit to learn about the history. From the viewing platform, you can align steel profilers to see what the profile once looked like before the collapse.
4. Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
This cable car will whisk you up to the 4,080-foot summit of Cannon Mountain in under ten minutes. On a clear day, you can see the mountains of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, New York and Canada. There is a scenic trail at the summit with an observation deck. The views are spectacular, especially in the fall.
The tram is open from 9-5 May 28- October 17th, but this could change at any time so check their website. Reservations are required. No dogs allowed.
5. Echo Lake Beach
Not to be confused with Echo Lake in North Conway, Echo Lake Beach is a clean sandy beach surrounded by mountain views. It is a great place to swim or paddle with the family. Canoes, Kayaks, and Pedal Boats are available for rent. Admission is limited, so reservations are required. No dogs are allowed on the beach.
6. Artist Bluff Trail
The Artists Bluff Trail is relatively short hike but leads to a gorgeous scenic view cherished by Instagrammers. The best way route to take is from the Bald Mountain trailhead. From there, you’ll head up a short but steep 1.5 mile trail which ends on a rocky overlook with views over Echo Lake and Franconia Notch State Park.
7. Franconia Notch State Park Bike Path
The 8.8 mile recreation trail is great for bikers or walkers. It will bring you through many of the main attractions of Franconia Notch such as Echo Lake, the Arial Tramway parking lot, Lafayette Campground, The Basin and ending near the Flume. The trail is mostly uphill if you start from the Flume end. Click here for a trail map.
8. Boise Rock
As the legend goes, Thomas Boise was horseback riding during the winter when a blizzard hit. He took shelter under a large rock now named after him. In order to survive, he killed and skilled his horse. He wrapped himself in the hide to keep warm. The following day a search party went out to find him and the men had to use and ax to cut him out of the frozen cocoon.
Boise Rock has it’s own pullover for viewing. You don’t have to walk far to see it.
I hope you found this guide to outdoor activities in Franconia Notch State Park helpful. If you are looking to stay in a hotel, the nearest town is Lincoln, just to the south. Also nearby is Santa’s Village which is a favorite in our family.
For a guide on where to camp within Franconia Notch State Park, click here.
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