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Franconia Notch, most of which is encompassed by Franconia State Park, is located in the heart of the 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest, visited by more than 7 million people annually. One of the few passages through the Presidential Range of the Appalachian Mountains, the notch could be called the Yosemite of New England. Like that park, it is a monument to the power and beauty of nature. Formed by glaciers and rushing water, it is a place of steep rocky cliffs and lush evergreen forests. The state symbol, The Old Man of the Mountain, a huge natural rock formation with the shape of a craggy face, loomed high over the notch until ...

Franconia Notch, most of which is encompassed by Franconia State Park, is located in the heart of the 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest, visited by more than 7 million people annually. One of the few passages through the Presidential Range of the Appalachian Mountains, the notch could be called the Yosemite of New England. Like that park, it is a monument to the power and beauty of nature. Formed by glaciers and rushing water, it is a place of steep rocky cliffs and lush evergreen forests. The state symbol, The Old Man of the Mountain, a huge natural rock formation with the shape of a craggy face, loomed high over the notch until it fell from its cliffside perch in 2003. A monument and museum memorialize it today, and its profile is still seen on state highway signs and other official places. The mountains on either side of the notch are traversed by miles of hiking trails (see the AMC White Mountain Guide).

The I-93 Parkway through the notch is one of the most scenic drives in the northeast. Cannon Mountain rises high above at the head of the notch. In winter this is a favorite place for skiing and snowboarding. In summer an entirely different atmosphere prevails. A large gondola, used in winter to bring skiers to the top of the mountain, brings travelers to its peak in summer for hiking and striking views of the entire notch and the Presidential Range and other mountains in every direction. At the foot of the mountain, Profile Lake provides a favorite place for catch-and-release fly fishing. The New England Ski Museum tells the story of the development of skiing in the United States, much of it here in northern New Hampshire. Nearby Echo Lake draws sunbathers, swimmers, family picnics and lovers of paddle sports and, across the road, a short but steep climb brings visitors to Artist’s Ledge, a favorite vantage point for artists from the 19th century to today. Lower in the valley, rushing water has, over millennia, worn away large potholes in the underlying bedrock, the largest of which encloses a small waterfall-fed pool called The Basin. At the southern end of the notch, The Flume is a natural narrow gorge 800 feet in length and 70-90 feet deep through a channel of solid granite. A series of paths and wooden walkways of platforms and stairs allows visitors to fully examine this natural wonder. At the south end of the notch, near North Woodstock, Clark’s Trading Post, Whale’s Tale Waterpark, the Hobo Railroad, and Café Lafayette Dinner Train provide entertainment for families.

Lura Seavey
About the Expert

Lura Seavey is the author of Fun with the Family in Vermont and New Hampshire and she has contributed to several Thomas Cook guidebooks, including Drive Around Catalonia, Travellers Mallorca, and Travellers Barcelona.

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Lura Seavey for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    May through October; Skiing and winter sports: late November through mid-April