New Hampshire's Crawford Notch State Park, situated between the Twin and Bartlett Mountains, is named after a White Mountain National Forest mountain pass and the Crawford family. The Crawford family settled in the area during the 1700s and cut most of the trails that now guide visitors up the mountain.
Crawford Notch State Park has 5,775 acres of wooded wonderland to explore and enjoy while you and your family camp in your RV. The park has plenty to do to keep you busy with lots of wildlife to view, trails to hike, and history to learn about. The Dry River Campground has 36 wooded campsites that accommodate RVs and trailers up to 40 feet in length. Don’t worry; the Dry River isn’t really dry. In fact, it is a fantastic place to cool off in the summer. Maybe, while you are there, you can catch some dinner to cook up on the campfire grill.
After dinner, take a hike on one of the many trails in the park for some exercise and to help get the kids worn out for bedtime. Winter season here is fun too, as you can use those hiking trails for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. With a backdrop of the majestic White Mountain Range, you will feel like you belong on a postcard; it is so beautiful. When you look up at the stars in the night sky after all the kids are asleep, you will wonder why you ever have to leave.
You can find Crawford Notch State Park on US-302 in northern New Hampshire between Bartlett and Bretton Woods. Surrounded by mountains, you will quickly realize that you are going to have some curvy roads to travel on to get to the park. However, the roads are well-groomed and nicely cared for, so you should not have too much trouble getting around.
Coming from I-91 or I-93 to the south or west, I-95 from the east, or US-3 from the north, the highway views are particularly impressive in this part of the country due to the mountains and untouched woods that make the park so appealing. It is best to drive slowly to enjoy the scenery and watch for critters that may be crossing the road, especially at dusk and dawn.
The park itself has some narrow gravel and dirt roads that are not as RV or trailer friendly as the highways you took to get here. Once you get to your campsite, you may want to leave the RV there and walk or ride a bike to get to where you want to go, so you don’t have to worry about maneuvering your big rig around the park. However, if you do want to drive the RV, there are parking lots in popular areas you can use.
At the base of the mountains and surrounded by mature pines, the Dry River Campground boasts 36 campsites spaced out nicely to allow for the maximum amount of room to play. Each of these sites has a campfire ring with a grill for cooking, a large picnic table, and can accommodate up to a 40-foot camper or RV. Some sites are only 20 to 30 feet, though, so check the size limits on the website when reserving your site. Reservations are required and can be made up to six months in advance.
Ten water spigots are scattered around the campground for drinking and cooking, and amenities like flush toilets, showers, running water, and a laundry room provide campers with the conveniences of home. The campsites are spread out along Campground Road and form a loop by a trail that leads you to the Dry River. Pets are welcome as long as they are restrained and supervised at all times during your visit.
Many of the trails in Crawford Notch State Park are open to snowmobiling during the winter season if you want to zip along the forest for a while. You can bring your own snowmobiles or rent some from one of the local dealers. If you cannot find a trail that you enjoy in the park, just 29 miles to the south, you can find the White Mountain National Forest, which has a plethora of fun activities to enjoy during the off-season, including snowmobiling.
When the snow falls, Crawford Notch's abundant hiking trails make great places to do some cross-country skiing. Don’t forget to pack your skis in the rig so you can enjoy some fresh powder. Where else can you go skiing and learn about history at the same time? Skiing the Flume in Crawford Notch State Park is a popular activity. If you want to see the Willey House site, another point of interest, try the half-mile Pond Loop Trail or the one-mile Sam Willey Trail. The winter weather tends to keep the crowds away, and with luck, you'll find yourself all alone on a trail if you want to be. With everything covered in snow, the park shows a different aspect to the green of summer, and the silence of nature is unforgettable.
Autumn is the best time to hike anywhere in New Hampshire, but Crawford Notch State Park is exceptionally beautiful during the fall. The park boasts 35 trails ranging from just over four to 21 miles lined with hardwood forests. The hemlock, spruce, and pines dominate the landscape, but the firs are plentiful as well. Take a 1.1-mile walk on Ripley Falls Trail, where you can see the 100-foot waterfall flowing over granite. If you want more of a challenge, try the 4.2-mile Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliff Loop Trail. The 200-foot Arethusa Falls is a sight to behold no matter what time of year you are here.
Crawford Notch State Park offers three popular climbs, which include Mount Willard, Mount Webster, and the Frankenstein Cliffs. Mount Willard is a 1,900-foot elevation of granite overlooking the Notch. The slabs on the right side are for more experienced climbers, and the tree ledge can help you avoid the headwall underneath it. Mount Webster is at 3,910 feet and is high enough to be an issue when it comes to weather. Make sure you bring plenty of water and extra clothing with you during your climbs and never climb Mount Webster alone. Frankenstein Cliffs may sound ominous, but they are actually the easiest ascents with a 1,441-foot elevation containing plenty of cracks, corners, and ramps.
Be sure to pack the swimsuits and beach toys in the RV before heading to the park. With nearly a mile of frontage along the Saco River and Dry River, Crawford Notch provides a great place to cool off during the hot summer months. The water is bracingly chilly, but the shallows make perfect spots for kids to wade. Alternatively, you could try tubing and let the current carry you at a leisurely pace downstream.
Where there's water, there's fish. Saco River, Dry River, and Kedron Brook are all noted for their brook and brown trout fishing. The trick to catching brook trout is variety. They feed on all different kinds of insects and even small fish and vertebrates like tadpoles and salamanders. Finding a lure that looks or smells like their favorite food it the best way to get some big ones. Brown trout are picky fish and can be wary of just about everything, so you need to be especially vigilant to catch them. Try some deep, quiet pools of water or slow-moving warm water.