Franconia Notch State Park
Guide

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Introduction

Welcome to Franconia Notch State Park, located in the heart of the popular White Mountain National Forest. Franconia Notch is a spectacular mountain pass traversed by a unique parkway which extends from the Flume Gorge at the south to Echo Lake at the north. For eight miles, I-93 winds between the high peaks of the Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges.

Franconia Notch was the home of the famous Old Man of the Mountain, the same "Great Stone Face" immortalized by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Daniel Webster. While you are here, stop at the Flume Gorge Visitor Center and walk through the renowned Flume Gorge, ride the exciting aerial tramway at Cannon Mountain, and visit the New England Ski Museum. Take your time, stop for a swim at Echo Lake, net a trout while fly fishing at Profile Lake, ride your bike on the Recreational Trail, watch for rock climbers, hawks, and falcons on Cannon Cliffs, or hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Bring the family, stay awhile, and enjoy Franconia Notch State Park.

Whether you're a state park enthusiast with tales and travels under your belt, or this is one of your first outings, you're not going to want to pass up the opportunity for an RV trip to Franconia Notch State Park. This piece of New Hampshire is home to the White Mountains and a part of New England that boasts so many outlets for recreation and wonder.

Franconia Notch State Park is in the heart of that wonder and the urge for exploration is often palpable. With so many trails and excursions to keep guests busy throughout the day, you're sure to see the park bursting with activity during peak summer seasons. Even during the winter, visitors come from far and wide to enjoy activities that warm them up among the brisk cold.

For those looking to stay overnight at the park, you can expect your camp to be the perfect hub, making access to the area's attractions that much easier. It's an ideal RV getaway and a delightful introduction to New England's splendor.

RV Rentals in Franconia Notch State Park

Transportation in Franconia Notch State Park

Driving

Getting into the park and around to the two main camping areas for RVs and trailers is quite easy, as all lie along I-93. The parking areas you'll be concerned with reside in the Cannon RV Park and Lafayette Place Campground. The loops at Lafayette are the only ones you may run into any issues with, as larger rigs don't fair so well here. It's recommended that motorhome guests don't come with rigs any larger than 28 feet in length. Local roads within the park have no driving restrictions for RVs or cars.

Parking

If you've parked your rig at either the Cannon Mountain RV Park or Franconia Notch State Park's campground, you won't have to worry about dancing around the parking lots of the area's popular points of interest. Both the RV Park and Lafayette Place Campground offer sites that are conveniently located to the state park's most traveled hiking and biking trails. From here, you can get to the famed Flume, the Basin, or elsewhere. Be prepared for back-in sites. Parking lots are also conveniently located by the river and Visitor Center.

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Franconia Notch State Park

Campsites in Franconia Notch State Park

Reservations camping

Cannon Mountain RV Park

Beautiful Echo Lake, at an elevation of 1,931 feet, offers swimming, fishing, and small boat access, as well as views of Mt. Lafayette and Cannon Mountain. In a different watershed from Profile Lake, its waters flow westerly toward the Connecticut River.

Right beside the beaches of Echo Lake are the sought-after sites of the Cannon RV Mountain Park. There are just seven sites here that are designated for RV-use only. Get your reservations in early since there aren't many sites to compete over. All seven provide three-way hookups for electricity, water, and sewer. However, visitors should note that during the off seasons, between mid-October through May, only electric is available. RVs need to be self-contained in order to stay, as even the dump station is made unavailable until May rolls around.

Each site features a quaint picnic table and fire ring. There are also public bathrooms for use, but only until nightfall. While the amenities may not be abundant here, the RV park serves as a superior spot to start your adventures. From here, you're only minutes away from where you can enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, or all sorts of other activities around the White Mountains. Such a short trek to the lake's beach certainly doesn't hurt for location either. Even during the winter, guests enjoy staying at the base of Cannon Mountain Ski Area.

Reservations are not required, but highly encouraged. Payment is not due until registration at the park. Reservations for this park are easily made through by calling in or booking through an online portal. Unfortunately, pets are not allowed at this campground.

Lafayette Place Campground

The camping and hiking hub of the Notch is centrally located in the Park at Lafayette Place. It provides a great base from which to enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, and many attractions in the White Mountains. Information about hiking trails, safety, and the natural and cultural history of the park is available at the cabin near the campground entrance.

A lodge houses a registration desk and offers a selection of camping supplies. Each campsite is wooded and has a picnic table, car parking, and an open fireplace. There are coin-operated showers and a camp store.

Lafayette Campground provides 97 wooded tent sites - 88 are by reservation only, 7 are for first-come/first-served campers, and 2 are for youth group camping. Reservations for youth groups are required.

The campground is open for reservable stays from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend. Self-service/self-pay camping with limited staffing and facilities is available during the off season, weather permitting

A lodge is located at the campgrounds and houses the registration desk, information about area trails, and offers a small selection of camping supplies. All guests, including those with reservations, are required to check-in at the registration desk before making their way to their reserved site.

Reservations are required if you want to stay here on four wheels. Out of a total of 97 sites, there are only 21 sites that provide parking for motorhomes and travel trailers. All 21 sites are back-in and there is a maximum length of 28 feet permitted. While somewhat small, in terms of fitting rigs, the wooded sites are quite spacious and comfortable. There is a standard picnic table and open fireplace featured at each site, even for tent campers.

Open year-round, you'll find other guests here enjoying the scenery even in the midst of winter. Yet, if you're here for the winter excursions, this is just the place you want to be parked. With many trails and unexplored landscape it's good thing that getting situated at the grounds is so easy because now you can get to the fun stuff.

First-come first-served

Cannon Mountain RV Park

RVs have their own location here at Cannon Mountain RV Park. It's the perfect place to park, with easy access to the area's finest hiking and biking trails, swimming, fishing, and other aquatic recreations. Being right next to Echo Lake, you can be sure this is a popular spot for visitors to choose.

There are only seven sites here, but they do not require prior reservation in order to stay. If you're out on a whim and want to see if there is vacancy, feel free to take up any site that is not marked as reserved. If sites are open, that means you're good to go. Payment is easily made upon registration.

There are just a few simple guidelines to follow here: your RV must have hookups, although water and sewer are not provided hookups between mid-October through the beginning of May. No pets are allowed, you cannot have any other auxiliary shelters, and your RV must be self-contained. During the off-season, even the dump station is closed.

Sites include a picnic table and fire ring, and the bathrooms are only a short walk away. However, they are locked down at night. It's the perfect spot to park if you want to feel like you're in the middle of it all. In fact, parking here may be the easiest decision to make. Between Echo Lake's beach and the call from area trail heads, you may have trouble simply sorting out which is your next destination.

Alternate camping

Private Campgrounds

Private campgrounds and RV parks are a popular alternative for RVs and trailers. This is a good option for guests of the park who weren't fortunate enough to grab a reservation in the middle of all the action. Private accommodations can offer a range of modern amenities from wireless internet to swimming pools. You can choose the type of experience you are looking for, from rustic to luxurious. You can easily make day trips to the park with ample parking available on-site. You won't want to miss all the fun you can have from hiking to swimming.

Seasonal activities in Franconia Notch State Park

In-Season

Canoeing and Kayaking

Echo Lake of Franconia Notch State Park sits at an elevation of over 1,900 feet. From here, you can get spectacular views of Mount Lafayette and Cannon Mountain, all while surrounded by the calm waters of the lake. It's a serene, yet fun-packed setting where guests are able to rent canoes and kayaks. So, even if you don't have your own way to get out on the water, you don't have to miss out.

Swimming

Echo Lake is not only popular for boaters, but for those looking to grab a quick dip as well. If the idea of a nice swim perks your interest during the heat of the summer, don't be shy about enjoying the lake's water. Echo Lake Beach is open from June though August and even has lifeguards on duty to ensure you remain safe while having a blast.

Fishing

There are two lakes, Profile Lake and Echo Lake, where you can enjoy fishing. First, try Profile Lake. This small, clear body of water is the headwaters of the Pemigewasset River. Directly below the Old Man of the Mountain, it is often called the Old Man's Washbowl. The lake is well-known for its brook trout and is open to fly-fishing only. Here, even if you don't come back with a catch, you can be sure you'll be coming back with a new-found appreciation for the surroundings. This lake has another incredible view. For those that prefer reel-fishing, Echo Lake is your destination. This lake is larger than Profile Lake, offering 38 acres of water. Here, you'll find the Lakeside General Store for all the bait and fishing poles you'll need.

Rock Climbing

Franconia State Park is home to all sorts of recreation to enjoy during your RV trip, including rock climbing. A popular spot for climbers to frequent is Echo Crag, which is a single, small pitch that overlooks Echo Lake and the slopes of Cannon Mountain. The Crag has diverse climbs available for those of differing skill levels, with shorter and moderate routes located on the north side and longer, more difficult routes to the south. Most routes have either bolted anchors or slings for support at the top. Summer brings the best time of year to traverse the rock. If conditions are too wet, climbers can always try Profile Cliff, which is another 10 minutes up a hill from Echo Crag.

Visiting the Flume Gorge

Welcome to the Flume Gorge and Visitor Center at Franconia Notch State Park, in the heart of the popular White Mountain National Forest.

Discovered in 1808, the Flume is a natural gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. The walls of Conway granite rise to a height of 70 to 90 feet and are 12 to 20 feet apart. A trip into the Flume begins and ends at the Flume Visitor's Center.

Framed by a spectacular vista of Mount Liberty and Mount Flume, the Visitor Center houses the Flume ticket office, information center, cafeteria, gift shop, and the state park system's historic Concord Coach. A 20-minute movie showcasing beautiful Franconia Notch State Park is available for viewing.

The Flume Gorge is a destination you'll won't want to miss as its a highlight of the park. The Flume remains open to guests from May through November, showcasing a natural 800 foot long gorge that you can walk right through. Immense granite walls rise up, way above, as you continue the trek. The towering sights are packed closely together, creating a dramatic effect. The very top of the gorge boasts the Avalanche Falls, a spectacular 45-foot waterfall.

Off-Season

Hiking

There are so many trails to choose from here, meaning no matter what your skill level you're going to find a path that suits you. Most trails provide spectacular views to marvel over during your trek. It's an outing everyone will be able to agree on. Many trails are multi-use, and even winter seasons see a good amount of activity on these paths. So don't be afraid to bundle up, head out of the camper, and onto the trail.

Briefly described below are a few of the more popular family hikes in Franconia Notch State Park. For more specific information, or for descriptions and maps of lengthier hikes into the White Mountain National Forest and on the Appalachian Trail, consult the Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide. It is important to wear sturdy walking shoes and remember that in the mountains weather changes suddenly and darkness falls quickly. Keep close tabs on children, as unforeseen hazards may exist or develop suddenly on mountain trails.

Bald Mountain and Artists Bluff, reached by a short hike, offer fine views of Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch. The 1 1/2 mile loop begins in the parking area across Route 18 from Peabody Base Lodge. After 1/4 mile a short, steep path diverges left for 1/10 mile to the open summit of Bald Mountain. The main trail continues on from the junction and bears right, up and across the low ridge. A short, unmarked path diverges left to the open top of Artists Bluff. The main trail continues down to Route 18 near Echo Lake.

Lonesome Lake, nestled in the mountains 1,000 feet above the floor of the notch, is a popular hiking destination. It is reached by a 1 1/2 mile (one way) trail that begins at Lafayette Place, just south of the cabin near the campground. A lakeside trail leads to the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) hut at the far end of the lake and passes by an inactive beaver lodge.

Kinsman Falls, a beautiful, secluded and oft overlooked spot on Cascade Brook can be found by following the Basin-Cascades Trail for 1/2 mile from the Basin. Many potholes and ledges in the brook along the way make for an enjoyable twenty minute (one way) walk. A rough path diverges left off the trail to the cool base of the falls. Follow the main trail a short way to a brook crossing to the left that leads to Rocky Glenn Falls.

The open ledges at the 2,557-foot summit of Mt. Pemigewasset (Indian Head) afford excellent views of Franconia Notch, the Franconia Range and the valley to the south. The 1.4 mile (one way) trail climbs moderately to the summit from the Flume Visitor Center parking area. Return can be made by the same route or via the Indian Head Trail that diverges from the Mt. Pemigewasset Trail just below the summit, and leads one mile to Route 3, one mile south of the Flume Visitor Center.

Downhill Skiing

Not many state parks can boast a recreation such as this - big-mountain skiing for a small-mountain price. Year after year, the park's Cannon Mountain Ski Area attracts guests to the diverse terrain. Even the highest ski area summit in the state is right here. It's a popular attraction for thrill-seekers and those looking to get a little more excitement than from the Tuckerbrook Family Area. There are 95 trails set aside for downhill skiers and ten lifts to utilize.

Old Man of the Mountain

(Great Stone Face, Profile) The Profile is a natural rock formation that was formed by a series of geologic happenings that began an estimated 200 million years ago. Hovering majestically 1,200 feet above Profile Lake, the Old Man is made of 5 separate granite ledges arranged horizontally to form a man's profile. From chin to forehead, the Profile measures about 40 feet and is 25 feet wide.

The Old Man of the Mountain, nicknamed the Great Stone Face, was located in Franconia Notch State Park. The Old Man of the Mountain was scenically set 1,200' above Profile Lake. Discovered in 1805, the rocks that made up the profile collapsed on May 3, 2003.

Before his collapse, The Old Man of the Mountain could be viewed year-round from two different viewing areas on I-93 in Franconia Notch State Park. On the northbound side of the highway there is a pull-off and on the southbound side take Exit 34B and follow signs.

A short distance to the north (right) of the Profile is a natural rock formation silhouetted against the skyline resembling the barrel of a cannon poking out from the parapet of a fortress. The shape of this rock formation has given Cannon Mountain its name.

Visiting Historic Sites

The Visitor Center offers quite a few historic exhibits, however, there are a number of sites within the park that are perfect for peaking interests on their own. In fact, one such location is the Old Man of the Mountain, or "The Great Stone Face." Since 2003, the rock hasn't displayed the full face of the Old Man, just simply a tumbled version of the once easily spotted surface. The Old Man, just as relevant in his broken state, is readily seen around the state and even serves as an emblem.

Riding the Tramway

Don't miss out on an opportunity to ride the Aerial Tramway. It's a cable car capable of holding up to 80 passengers. Within ten minutes or less, the tramway brings visitors right up the 4,080-foot summit of Cannon Mountain. From here, you can see the mountain ranges of four states: Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, and Maine, as well as Canada. The summit features a whole other phenomenal setting itself, with scenic walking paths, a cafe, bar, and observation deck. It's a must-see!

The first passenger aerial tramway in North America began operation on this site in 1938. Almost 7 million passengers were carried to the top by the first tram. Tram II was completed in 1980, and today, you can take a scenic 5-minute ride in one of two enclosed cable cars to the 4,180-foot summit of Cannon Mountain and enjoy panoramic views of the distant valleys and mountains. Each tram car has a capacity of 80 persons and ascends 2,022 feet vertically over a horizontal distance of more than one mile. Walking trails to a summit observation platform leave from the tram station. A gift shop and cafeteria are located in the tram base station. Cannon Mountain Ski Area, a favorite among skiers, has 26 miles of trails and slopes for both the beginner and experienced. Cannon is the home of the New England Ski Museum, which is located near the base of the tramway. It is open daily from 10:00-4:00, and is on the same seasonal schedule as the tramway.

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a fairly regular activity you can enjoy during an RV trip to the park in the midst of winter. It certainly makes getting around in these parts much more bearable when you're surrounded by the white stuff. Franconia State Park provides a multi-use trail, the Franconia Recreation Path, where snow enthusiasts can lace on their snowshoes and take on a fairly easy terrain. Other popular snowshoeing destinations are found at the Flume Gorge trails.

The Basin

The beautiful waterfall at the Basin, has at its base, a granite pothole 20 feet in diameter. It 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. Below the Basin is a water-eroded rock formation called the Old Man's foot.

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