Where is Franconia Notch State Park?
260 Tramway Drive, Franconia/Lincoln, NH 03580
Franconia Notch State Park is located in the middle of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. The closest major cities are Conway and Plymouth, but the park is actually located in the towns of Lincoln and Franconia. The state park extends from Flume Gorge to Echo Lake and is located right off of I-93.
You can reach the park directly from the highway by using exits 34A through C. Take exit 34A to Lincoln to see the Flume Gorge and Visitor’s Center.
How Big is Franconia Notch State Park?
Franconia Notch US State Park covers an area of 6,692 acres of forests, lakes, rivers, and mountains. All of the park’s striking natural formations like the boulders, lakes, and gorges were formed thousands of years ago during the last Ice Age.
The famous Flume Gorge is a narrow gorge that is 70 feet deep. Franconia Notch also contains 3 mountains that are above 4,000 feet in elevation including Mount Liberty at 4,460 feet, Mount Lincoln at 5,089 feet, and Cannon Mountain at 4,186 feet.
Franconia Notch Weather
This state park has the most pleasant weather from May to September. During winter, Cannon Mountain comes alive with skiers and snowboarders.
If you visit Franconia Notch in spring, expect cool to cold temperatures and damp ground. Highs in the spring range from 31°F to 71°F with the coolest temperatures in March. Spring is a great time for hiking if you don’t mind cool weather and love empty trails.
Summer is the busiest time to visit Franconia Notch because it has the best weather. At this time, the weather is warm but pleasant. July is the hottest month with average highs around 79°F.
During autumn, the weather gets cool quickly going from daily highs of 74°F in September to highs of 39°F in November.
Winter is the best time for skiing and snowboarding with plenty of snow and average temps raining from 23°F to 35°F.
When did Franconia Notch Become a State Park?
Franconia Notch became a state park in 1928 when it was purchased by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests in order to save it from being sold to logging companies. Up until the 1920s, the land was owned by the Profile and Flume Hotel Company which built two grand hotels on the land.
This state park contains one of the only state-run ski lodges which is located on Cannon Mountain. Cannon Mountain itself is famous for its slopes and also for the Old Man which was a group of stones that formed the shape of the profile of a man’s face. Although the profile collapsed in 2003, it remains the symbol of New Hampshire.
Things to do in Franconia Notch State Park
There are truly plenty of things to do in this state park and if you love nature, you’ll definitely find something up your alley. Our State Park Visitors Guide has outlined a few things to do below.
This area contains miles and miles of great hiking trails the most popular of which is probably the Franconia Ridge hike. This hike takes 7 hours and leads travelers over Mount Lafayette, Mount Lincoln, and Little Haystack which are all some of the tallest mountains in the area.
Other great trail options include Liberty Springs which goes up Mount Liberty, Mount Flume, and crosses the Appalachian Trail. The hikes to Mount Pemigewasset and the Basin Cascades are two options with breathtaking views.
Check out the Hiker Information Center located at the Lafayette Place Campground to pick up trail maps and get guidance from the park rangers!
Flume Gorge is one of the main attractions of the park and is a strikingly beautiful canyon that is around 800 feet long and 70 feet deep. Walk between the granite walls of the gorge to the end where you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the Avalanche falls. Flume Gorge is open from May to November and is located at the base of Mount Liberty.
Echo Lake Beach
Echo Lake is on the northern side of Franconia Notch and is a definite must-see. This lake sits at an elevation of almost 2,000 feet and has great views of Mount Lafayette and the slopes of Cannon Mountain. If the beautiful scenery wasn’t enough, this 39-acre lake has a nice beach for swimming in the summer. There are also boat rentals available for those who want to try out canoeing or kayaking.
Lafayette Place Campground
Lafayette Place is located in the center of the park and is a great spot for both campers and hikers. Camping here will give you access to almost all the trails, lakes, and rivers in the park. There are 97 campsites here that are all wooded and private. Each site comes with a picnic table, parking space, and fire pit.
The nearby Campground Store also sells some food, supplies, souvenirs, and snacks. It also has restrooms and showers.
If you are looking for a smaller campsite, head to the Liberty Springs tent site which has 7 single tent platforms and 3 double platforms.
Ride the Aerial Tram at Cannon Mountain
The Aerial Tramway on Cannon Mountain was originally built to bring skiers up the slopes and was the first one built in North America. It’s an 8-minute ride to the top and provides panoramic views of the park including the mountains, canyons, and lakes. At the top, you will find a gift shop and a few restaurants that serve up good food and also offer the highest beer on tap in the state.
Fishing and Boating
Franconia Notch is full of lakes, rivers, and streams that are great for boating and fishing. Boat rentals are available at Echo Lake Beach and you can also bring your own. The most popular spots to fish are Echo Lake and Profile Lake. Profile Lake is best for trout and only fly fishing is allowed. If you watch to catch bass, head to Forest Lake, the Connecticut River, or Moores Reservoir.
Like hiking trails, the park is also full of great bike trails ranging from easy paved rides to difficult mountain muscle burners. The Franconia Notch Bicycle Path passes by all the park’s main attractions and is a multi-use path that is shared with hikers and sometimes in-line skaters. The North of the Notch Trail is popular with snowmobilers in the winter but is a great one to bike in the summer.
If you are looking for something more difficult, head to the Cherry Mountain Loop which is a 30-mile ride with a lot of steep ascents and descents.
Birding and Wildlife Viewing
The forests of the White Mountains contain plenty of incredible wildlife including salamanders, black bears, beavers, eagles, moose, and 184 species of birds. If you love bird watching then the best places to go in the park are the Cannon Mountain summit, Profile Lake, and Franconia Ridge. Peregrine Falcons nest in the cliffs of many of the park’s mountains.
New Hampshire is one of the best places in the U.S. for climbing and is sometimes referred to as the “granite slate” for its great granite cliffs. So, it comes as no surprise that Franconia Notch is full of great climbing routes from the challenging vertical cliffs of Cannon Mountain to some mid-level routes at Artist’s Bluff, Indian Head, and Eagle Cliff.
If you are new to climbing, there are plenty of great climbing schools in the area that can help you get started.
Ski at Cannon Mountain
Franconia Notch State Park is probably most famous for its ski slopes at Cannon Mountain. This mountain offers the most vertical skiing area in the state and has a great collection of ski routes from beginner to expert. The mountain is serviced by 10 ski lifts and has a warming hut and a restaurant at the top for a nice break between rides.
When to go to Franconia Notch State Park
The most popular time to visit is from June to September when the weather is great for hiking, biking, boating, fishing, and other warm-weather activities. At this time, you can expect trails to be busy and campsites to fill up quickly.
If you want to avoid the crowds, March and November are great months to visit. The weather at this time is cool, but trails will be much less crowded.
Most years, skiing on Cannon Mountain is available from late November through March, although the specific time is dependent on weather and the first snow.
Must-Have Things to Bring to Franconia Notch
Franconia Notch State Park is a vast area of wilderness that should not be underestimated. Besides difficult trails and formidable mountains, the park also includes possibly dangerous wildlife like black bears and moose. Always take every precaution necessary and over-prepare for your trip.
For any outdoor adventure, water is the number one thing you need to bring enough of. Although there are some stores and restaurants in the park, List of Parks advises to bring all the water you will need with you in case they are closed. It’s recommended to bring a liter of water per person for every hour of strenuous activity.
There are restaurants and some stores inside the park but they are likely to offer limited options, so it is always important to bring your own supplies. If you are camping or through hiking in the park, storing food in sealed containers is important to prevent curiosity from dangerous wildlife.
Park Maps in Physical and on Phone
It’s a good idea to have your maps in both paper and digital forms so that you will always be able to access them. Stop at the Visitor’s Center or Hiker Information Center to grab a physical map. You can find digital map downloads on the NH State Parks website.
Proper Hiking Boots
A lot of trails in the park are steep and rough, so it’s important to bring good hiking shoes with a great grip.
Jacket for Rain and Cold Weather Attire
Weather can change quickly in the mountains and it is important to always come prepared with extra jackets and clothing to help prevent hypothermia in an emergency situation.
Sunglasses, Sunscreen, and Warm Weather Attire
UV rays are stronger in areas of higher altitude so make sure to bring sunglasses and sunscreen to help protect your skin and eyes. When visiting in the summer months, wear moisture-wicking garments to help you stay cool.
There’s a lot of great wildlife in the park that is best viewed through binoculars. Don’t miss out on the chance to spot an elusive owl or eagle up close!
This area does have black bears. They usually avoid the trails and crowded areas but bringing bear spray will help you be prepared for a possible encounter.
Mosquitos are a common nuisance at Franconia during the high season from May to November. Bug spray will help you stay comfortable and enjoy your trip.
Toilet Paper and Plastic Bags
As humans, it’s important that we all minimize our impact on the environment and protect our state parks. If nature calls while you’re in the woods, make sure to place your used TP in a plastic bag and take it with you until you can dispose of it properly.
Where to Stay in Franconia Notch State Park
Besides the campsites, there aren’t many options for places to stay inside the state park other than the AMC’s which are mountain huts that are meant to shelter hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Each hut is around a day’s hike apart and is often in a location with beautiful views.
Outside the park, there are plenty of hotels. Budget options that cater to hikers include the Notch Hostel and Chet’s Place. There are also some great 3-star hotels in Lincoln and Franconia such as the Sugar Hill Inn Bed and Breakfast, Lovett’s Inn and Restaurant, and Franconia Inn.
Food Nearby Franconia Notch
Franconia Notch State Park has a good amount of options for restaurants inside the park itself. You can grab a bite to eat at the Flume Gorge Visitor Center. Cannon Mountain also has some great options including the Lafayette Food Court, Cannonball Pub, and Notchview Café.
Outside the park, you’ll find a Price Chopper grocery store in Lincoln that is great for stocking up on supplies. The town also has some good restaurants and pubs including Half Baked and Fully Brewed, The Common Man, and One Love Brewery.
Airports Nearby Franconia Notch State Park
The closest airport is the Lebanon Municipal Airport which is around 70 miles from the park. You can also fly into the Boston Airport and then make the 2.5-hour drive to Franconia Notch.