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Within New Hampshire’s White Mountains National Forest lies Franconia Notch State Park. This park sits on one end of the popular Kancamagus Highway and it is near some of New Hampshire’s tallest peaks, making it a prime destination to explore.

With forested ridges to climb, gorges to wander, lakes to play in, and signs for moose crossing, this is a park perfect for outdoor lovers, family road trippers, and weekend campers.

In this article you will discover the best activities in Franconia Notch State Park and gather useful information to plan your upcoming adventure.

Best Things to Do in Franconia Notch State Park

1. Flume Gorge

Franconia Notch’s Flume Gorge takes visitors past cascading waterfalls, across historic covered bridges, and amidst New Hampshire’s pristine forest. Its famed section of narrow boardwalks dive into a long granite gorge complete with mossy 90 foot walls and rushing falls. Hiking the Flume Gorge is one of the best things to do in Franconia Notch State Park, and it is possible for people of all ages to enjoy.

The Flume Gorge Trail is a 2.2-mile loop from the parking lot, through the gorge, and past overlooks. You must do the full two-mile loop as the Short Trail – Rim Path is closed. Most of the trail is along a wide gravel path that is easy to hike along and only goes over small hills. Overlooks dot the trail, providing views of cascading falls, covered bridges, and rocky streams.

In the gorge, the trail transforms into a narrow boardwalk that runs alongside the falls, offering the most scenic part of the hike, although regrettably, it makes up only a small segment of the 2-mile trail.

Flume Gorge Franconia Notch State Park

Flume Gorge Franconia Notch State Park

Exploring the Flume Gorge is one of Franconia Notch State Park’s popular activities, attracting many visitors. To avoid crowds, I recommend seeing the Flume Gorge in the morning. I arrived at 9 am and got to enjoy the trail with light foot traffic.

The Flume Gorge is open daily from 9am to 5pm between May and October. The last slot for admission is at 4pm. For more information about rates and times visit the official website.

Flume Gorge Franconia Notch State Park

It is recommended to make a reservation in advance to see the Flume Gorge. Reservations must be made under a specific time window and you must get a reservation for each member of your party, including ages 5 and under. Walk-ins are accepted, but you risk getting turned away if the Gorge is full.

Upon arrival at the Flume Gorge, online reservations will be checked at the ticket booth. The trail begins directly behind the ticket booth.

Not to be confused with the ticket booth, there is also a large visitor center at the entrance to the Flume Gorge. Visitors can enter either before or after hiking, and inside is an information booth, gift shop, food court, and restrooms.

2. Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway and Ski Area

The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway is the nation’s first passenger aerial tramway and it has been taking visitors to see its grand views for over 80 years. This tramway brings visitors to the 4,080-foot summit of Cannon Mountain. On a clear day, you can see the mountains of four states and Canada!

At the summit, you’ll find scenic walking paths, an observation deck, cafe, and restrooms. We greatly enjoyed our experience at Cannon Mountain, and found it a great thing to do, especially for non-hikers.

Franconia Notch State Park

Franconia Notch State Park

Cannon Mountain

The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway is open daily from 9am to 5pm between May and October. Having an online reservation is recommended. For more information about rates and times visit the official website.In the winter, Cannon Mountain is a popular ski area. The mountain has multiple lifts that will take skiers to the top, and it has 97 paths, including New Hampshire’s longest vertical drop. Though it is a ski area, it does not have a proper ski resort with lodging. However, there is a small base where you can rent gear and grab food.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

3. Echo Lake

Echo Lake is a scenic natural lake nestled amongst the White Mountains. Canoes, kayaks, and peddle boats are available for rent at the Lake, allowing visitors to take in its crystalline surface and wondrous views.

There is a day-use fee to enter Echo Lake, and online reservations are recommended. These can be made up to 30 days in advance. Walk-ins are accepted on a first-come/first-serve basis. Echo Lake also offers Season Passes for frequent visitors. Learn more here.

Echo Lake is only open on weekends from May to June. It is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm from June to September, and through September it is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. See exact dates and hours here.

4. Artists Bluff Trail

A popular hike from Echo Lake is the Artists Bluff Trail. This is a 1.5-mile loop hike that takes hikers to a viewpoint over Echo Lake and Cannon Mountain. This hike is relatively easy and is many visitors’ favorite experience in the Park.

Artists Bluff is part of a loop trail that includes Bald Mountain, a second summit that provides even more incredible views of the State Park. It does not add on much distance to reach the top of Bald Mountain, as the summit is just off of the Artists Bluff loop. However, the trail is steep.

Echo Lake Artists Bluff Trail

View of Echo Lake in the fall from the Artists Bluff Trail | haveseen/shutterstock.com

5. Hike the Franconia Ridge Loop

Our favorite experience in Franconia Notch State Park was tackling the 12-mile Franconia Ridge Loop. This trail takes hikers across the park’s second highest peak range, and to the summit of three mountains.

With steep grades and considerable distance, it’s ideal for fit hikers seeking stunning views of New Hampshire’s forests and distant peaks. But despite its difficulty, completing this loop doesn’t require extensive hiking experience. Learn more in our Franconia Ridge Loop hiking guide.

Franconia Ridge Loop

Franconia Ridge Loop

6. Hike to Lonesome Lake

A popular 3-mile trail in Franconia Notch State Park leads to the serene Lonesome Lake and offers expansive vistas of the Franconia Ridge. The Lake is located on the slopes of Cannon Mountain, and the hike starts and ends at Lafayette Parking Place.

7. Old Man of the Mountain Profile Plaza

Situated at the base of the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, this historic landmark pays homage to the iconic profile of the Old Man of the Mountain. For two centuries, travelers marveled at this natural rock formation until its unfortunate collapse in 2003. The memorial serves as a tribute to a cherished geological wonder that once graced the New Hampshire landscape.

8. The Basin

Also known as, “The Old Man’s Foot”, this glacier-carved pothole is a scenic attraction in Franconia Notch State Park. Water gracefully cascades into the 15-foot deep crevice, resembling a mythical bath. The Basin is easily accessible with a quick 10-minute walk from the I-93 pull-off, or you can extend your visit by walking the scenic 2.6-mile Basin Cascade Trail.

The Basin, Franconia Notch State Park

The Basin | Pierre Leclerc/shutterstock.com

Where to Stay


Lincoln is a convenient place to stay during a trip to the White Mountains, since this small town is located only 10 minutes from Franconia Notch State Park, and it sits on one end of the Kancamagus Highway. Sadly, there is not much to see or do in Lincoln, and it is not the prettiest area to wander. It is best to spend your time inside of the park during a stay here.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn and it provided a standard and comfortable hotel experience. Its proximity to many of Lincoln’s restaurants was convenient for our stay.

Other highly rated hotels include the Lincoln Log Cabins (stay in your own private cabin with a view of the mountains), InnSeason Resorts Pollard Brook (a resort with one- and two-bedroom suites, making this a great pick for families), and Launchpoint Lodge (a beautiful property that is adult-only).


Franconia is a small village just north of Franconia Notch State Park. Within Franconia there are some welcoming historic inns, namely the Franconia Inn and Horse and Hound Inn which offer homey accommodations within the White Mountains.

Lafayette Place Campground

Nestled in the heart of Franconia Notch State Park, Lafayette Place Campground offers a tranquil setting for a night in the wilderness of New Hampshire.

Best Time to Visit Franconia Notch State Park

The best time to visit Franconia Notch State Park is in the fall when the forests become an assortment of reds, yellows, and oranges. New Hampshire’s leaves usually change in early to mid October. Expect higher crowds in the fall.

We visited the Park in the first week of August, and we were able to enjoy lush green forests and fully accessible trails, but the wow factor of the autumn foliage was missing. From our experience in 2023, crowds are relatively low in the summertime.

If you have any questions about things to do in Franconia Notch State Park, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to New England

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Don’t miss our article about hiking the Franconia Ridge Loop. We also have a guide to the 10 best stops along Kancamagus Highway.

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK: Check out our Acadia National Park Travel Guide for important travel information, sample itineraries, and how to plan your visit. For a list of must-have experiences, read our article Best Things to Do in Acadia National Park. Go off the beaten path and explore Isle au Haut.

USA ROAD TRIPS: Planning your next big adventure in the USA? Check our our USA Road Trip Guide for travel ideas and sample itineraries.

NEW ENGLAND ROAD TRIP: Visit Cape Cod, coastal Maine, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and more in this 12 Day New England Road Trip Itinerary.

NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries.

If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide and our New Hampshire Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.


Best Things to do in Franconia Notch State Park


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