Containing the eastern seaboards highest peak, White Mountain National Forest offers breathtaking scenery and outdoor adventures set amid its northern hardwood woodlands. With several mountains over 4,000-feet, the spectacular and rugged forest is one of only two National Forests in the Northeast. Located in New Hampshire and Maine, this beautiful forest is also one of the most visited recreation sites east of the Mississippi.
With such a major hub and number of visitors, you’d think this forest would be packed. But six designated Wilderness Areas promise non-motorized quiet. Plus at over 750,000 acres in size, there is plenty of room to get lost away from your RV, or just feel like you are. Amazing fall leaf colors makes the autumn one of the most heavily visited times, but there are plenty of activities no matter the season you visit in your campervan. A drive or hike up Mount Washington is one of the area's highlights, but the waterfalls and secluded glens shouldn’t be overlooked.
Over 1,000 miles of multi-use trails weave through this mountainous terrain, including sections of the Appalachian Trail. The amazing scenery, mountain vistas, and rivers will entice you to stop in to one of the 23 campgrounds scattered throughout the National Forest. To help you make a choice, we will highlight three of the most captivating campgrounds to set up camp in your rig.
Spanning the highest mountains in the northeast, the White Mountain National Forest offers amazing scenery on roadways that you’d best not take your eyes off of. Major state routes weave through the forests, providing access through the southern sections. From there and in the northern part, local roads tackle quiet valleys and mountain passes.
Expect steep grades and curves on any road in the forest. Most roadways have been upgraded to handle tall vehicles, but check for posted heights when approaching underpasses and the occasional covered bridge. Parking is available throughout the forest at campgrounds and trailheads. Some spaces can be tight, especially if crowded.
Dirt forest roads are best tackled with four-wheel drive vehicles due to narrow widths, steep drop-offs, curves, and overhanging branches. The short access roads to campgrounds should be fine in your rig but watch for low branches and expect potholes or mud.
If visiting in the winter, travel with snow tires and keep to posted speed limits as snow and ice can make roadways treacherous even without the mountain climbs and descents. Chains and four-wheel drive vehicles are a better bet, but cautious and slow driving is prudent no matter what campervan or trailer you drive.
Located just off of the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, Passaconaway Campground is an easy stop to extend this lovely scenic drive. Offering 33 rustic sites, this campground is first-come, first-served, so stop in early to claim a choice site along the beautiful Swift River.
Open mid-May to mid-October, you can pick up a free enveloped from the registration kiosk at the campground entrance. All camping sites are naturally surfaced and require backing in. Complete with picnic tables and fire rings, the campsites just need your camper and some locally purchased firewood for a great night.
Considering the dense woods of the campground and some short parking spurs, RVs under 30 feet are best for this campground. There are no electric, sewer, or water hookups. Four water spigots are available in the campground, as well as several vault-style toilets. Still, it is best to come with your water tanks full and holding tanks empty to enjoy your time at this idyllic campground with its nearby hiking trails and lovely woodlands.
Located just off of paved route 16, the Dolly Copp Campground is both historic and vast. Open mid-May to mid-October, this campground contains 177 campsites on 3.5 miles of looping access roads. With flush toilets and large spaces that can handle a long RV, this campground is a fantastic stopping point while exploring the White Mountain National Forest. Mount Washington and its auto route to the summit are located just down the road.
The campground is first-come, first-served, so pick up a fee envelope from the kiosk at the campground entrance before heading into the looping access road to pick out a site. There are also hosts on duty who can help answer questions, especially if you are concerned about backing into a spot with your rig. Considering the diversity of sites and size of this campground, longer campers of over 30 feet can find a spot here.
All sites are naturally surfaced and come with a picnic table and fire ring. Some sites might not be level and most are back-in. While there are flush toilets and sinks in the bathhouses, there are currently no showers or dump facilities within the park. Campsites do not have water, sewer, or electric hookups. So be sure to come with water topped up and holding tanks empty, or you’ll need to venture out Gorham or Jefferson to find dump facilities.
Compared to most National Forest campgrounds, the Jigger Johnson Campground is a bit of luxury with bathrooms featuring not only flush toilets but hot showers. Open mid-May to mid-October, this campground is located just off the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, making this a great hub to explore the beautiful White Mountain National Forest in your rig.
The 75 first-come, first-served campsites are naturally surfaced. All sites are back-in and come with a picnic table and fire ring. Most have a decent screen of trees surrounding the camping spot, but a few are more open.
There is a registration kiosk at the campground entrance. Pick up a fee envelope before heading into the campground with its multiple loops to find an open spot. There are hosts on duty within the campground that can direct you to open sites as well as recommend places to visit nearby.
Despite the availability of water and hot showers in the bathrooms, there are no electric, sewer, or water hookups in the campsites. Dump facilities are located in nearby Conway, if you need to empty your holding tanks or top up on water.
With so many granite mountains, northeastern climbing enthusiasts flock White Mountain National Forest. There are two main rock climbing areas. For a bit of bouldering, as well as some interpretive history on the forest types and features of the area, check out the Boulder Loop Trail. If you are ready to find your footholds up a rock face, check out the Rumney Rocks Day Use Area, which offers over 100 climbing routes, including ice climbs in the winter.
If you want to explore the forest from the comfort of your rig, there are two amazing scenic drives that will leave you awestruck with mountain vistas, especially during fall colors. The Kancamagus Scenic Byway is a 34-mile roadway that can be turned into a spectacular loop drive if you pick up the White Mountain Trail. The Weeks Act Legacy Driving Tour was created in 2012 and highlights the history that created the National Forests east of the Mississippi and is well worth the time and informative stops.
There are four designated trails for mountain biking in White Mountain National Forest. Plus, all roads are open to mountain biking. So, if you want to tackle some steep climbs and descents, head over to Meadowbrook Biking and Snowmobile Trailhead. If you are a rock and mineral enthusiast as well as a mountain biker, Moat Mountain Mineral Site Trailhead offers not only some fun on two wheels but a chance to collect minerals, such as smokey quartz.
Though visiting the White Mountain National Forest is more about getting away from vehicles, it does offer two beautiful routes for snowmobiling. The Sawyer River Road Snowmobile Trail weaves through the northern hardwoods for a 30-mile loop. Meadowbrook Snowmobile and Bicycling Trail offers another chance to cruise through the rugged forests and mountains. All snowmobiles must be registered. Check to see if trail passes are needed before heading out, and follow all posted signs as large sections of the forest are not open to motorized vehicles.
Getting out of your camper and on a hiking trail is a bit of what the White Mountain National Forest is about. With over 1,200 miles of hiking trails and six designated wilderness areas, there is plenty of opportunity to roam the hardwood forests. Hour-long to day hikes are plentiful from easily accessible trailheads. If you really want to leave your rig behind, check out the numerous backpacking trails, including the Appalachian Trail, that offer multi-day adventures.
With so many mountains, there is plenty of downhill skiing opportunities in and near White Mountain National Forest. However, if you want to get away from long lift lines, head out on the miles of trails open to cross-country skiing in the winter. There are 11 designated trail routes and areas in the National Forest offering everything from easy, groomed trails to more rugged options where you might have to break a path for yourself.