The Ultimate Guide To Franconia Notch State Park
Franconia Notch State Park, a slice of spectacular nature!
Franconia Notch State Park, featuring stunning mountain vistas, gorgeous lakes, beautiful waterfalls, and several hiking trails, is one of the most popular attractions and the crown jewel of New Hampshire!
Franconia Notch, a narrow mountain pass winding through the peaks of Kinsman Range and Franconia Range in White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire, is home to an unfathomably beautiful and diverse natural landscape. The natural beauty and resources of Franconia Notch are protected and preserved by the Franconia Notch State Park, which extends from Flume Gorge in the south to Echo Lake in the north. The Park’s several attractions can be explored by driving through the Franconia Notch Parkway, which traverses the Franconia Notch.
Franconia Notch State Park features incredible alpine scenery, including beautiful lakes, waterfalls, lush valleys, and stunning fall colors. However, the Park is popularly known for its three main attractions – (1) Flume George, a remarkable hike through a narrow canyon, (2) Old Man of the Mountain, a natural rock formation resembling a man’s face, which unfortunately collapsed in 2003, but people still visit the museum and the site marker, and (3) Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, a ride to the summit of Cannon Mountain featuring panoramic views.
Franconia Notch State Park is a year-round destination of New England! Summer is popular for sightseeing, hiking, and rock climbing, Fall brings beautiful foliage, and in Winter, it’s a popular ski destination!
Offering a plethora of attractions and activities, Franconia Notch State Park is a year-round destination catering to every age and interest! Whether you’re into hiking, biking, birding, fishing, camping, rock climbing, skiing, or just seeking a place for sightseeing and beautiful fall colors, you will find it in Franconia Notch State Park! Located close to the Park are the towns of Franconia and Lincoln, featuring several lodging and dining options, which serve as a great base while visiting Franconia Notch State Park.
Here is my ultimate guide to Franconia Notch State Park, featuring essential trip-planning information, major attractions, attractions map, and recommendations on hotels and restaurants near Franconia Notch State Park!
Planning Your Trip To Franconia Notch State Park
Flying into Portland International Jetport, Maine, driving to Franconia, and staying overnight in the town of Franconia or Lincoln is the best way to explore Franconia Notch State Park!
Best Time To Visit Franconia Notch State Park: Winters are cold and snowy in Franconia Notch State Park, making late spring through fall the best time to visit Franconia Notch State Park for sightseeing. Summer and fall, June through October, are the peak seasons in Park as they have the perfect temperatures for outdoor activities, and fall brings gorgeous fall colors. In winter, Franconia Notch State Park is a popular ski destination in New England. However, if you don’t mind slightly cooler temperatures, early spring is a great choice to beat the crowds at Franconia Notch State Park.
Time Required At Franconia Notch State Park: Franconia Notch State Park is a popular day-trip destination from Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. While Franconia Notch State Park is small and the significant highlights of the Park can be covered in a day, I highly recommend staying overnight near the Park, which would give you enough time to explore the Park without having to drive back to Boston or Portland on the same day. However, if you’ve more time, you could spend 3 – 4 days in Franconia Notch State Park, hiking and biking the Park’s several nature trails.
Getting To Franconia Notch State Park: The best and the most convenient way to get to Franconia Notch State Park is by flying into Portland International Jetport, located about a hundred miles from the Park, and then renting a car and driving to the Park. Alternatively, you could also take an Amtrak train or a Greyhound bus to Portland and then drive to Franconia Notch State Park.
- Flight: The domestic airport in New Hampshire, Lebanon Municipal Airport, is serviced by very limited airlines, making the Portland International Jetport the best choice of airport to get to Franconia Notch State Park. Portland International Jetport (PWM), Portland, Maine, is serviced by all major airlines and is around 103 miles from Franconia Notch State Park.
- Train: While there’re no direct Amtrak trains to New Hampshire, you could take an Amtrak train to Portland in Maine, located about 100 miles from the Park, or Boston, Massachusetts, approximately 140 miles from Franconia Notch State Park, and then drive to the Park.
- Bus: The closest Greyhound bus stop to Franconia Notch State Park is located in White River Jct, Vermont, about 90 miles southwest of the Park. You could alternatively take a Greyhound bus to Portland or Boston and then rent a car and drive to Franconia Notch State Park.
Parking & Shuttles In Franconia Notch State Park: While there’s ample parking for visitors in Franconia Notch State Park, hikers often find it challenging to find parking near the trailheads, especially during the peak seasons. So, the Park offers a seasonal paid hiker shuttle service, which can be boarded from the main parking lots in Peabody Big Lot or Falling Waters. You can find more details about the hiker shuttle on the Franconia Notch State Park website. Though it might be tempting to park close to a trailhead, parking along the highway or at non-designated parking areas is dangerous and illegal in Franconia Notch State Park.
Lodging Options In Franconia Notch State Park: You may not find luxury boutique hotels near Franconia Notch State Park, but there are a couple of great resorts and quite a few chain hotels and locally owned charming bread & breakfasts in the nearby towns of Franconia and Lincoln. If you’re into camping, you can find the list of campgrounds in the Park on the Franconia Notch State Park website. But if you like the comfort of a hotel, here’re my top picks for hotels near Franconia Notch State Park
Dining Options In Franconia Notch State Park: While dining options inside the Park are limited to a few vending machines at the Flume George Visitor Center and Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway base station, you will find a few excellent restaurants in the nearby towns of Franconia and Lincoln. Here’re my top picks for restaurants near Franconia Notch State Park – The Common Man and Gordi’s Fish & Steak House for American fare, Black Mountain Burger Co. for comfort food, La Vista Italian Restaurant for authentic Italian cuisine, and Polly’s Pancake Parlor serving great sandwiches and pancakes with great views.
Things To Do In Franconia Notch State Park
Franconia Notch State Park Attractions Map
Most of Franconia Notch State Park attractions are easily accessible via the Franconia Notch Parkway, a one-lane reduced-speed highway stretching from Flume Gorge in the south to Echo Lake in the north. However, exploring many of the attractions in Franconia Notch State Park involves hiking, ranging from easy to moderately strenuous hikes, and requires a considerable amount of time.
Below, I have listed all significant attractions in Franconia Notch State Park, but if you’re visiting just for a day, you would want to stick to the Park’s main attractions, including (1) Flume Gorge, (2) The Basin, both of which involves hiking, (3) Old Man of the Mountain Museum, (4) Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, and (5) Echo Lake.
Here’re the most popular attractions in Franconia Notch State Park, listed south to north!
The Flume Gorge is a granite gorge at the base of Mount Liberty, cut by the Flume Brook, a stream that flows through the canyon, and is the most popular attraction in the Park. The Flume features wooden boardwalks, 2 miles loop open May through October, letting visitors hike the narrow canyon while marveling at moss-covered granite walls, waterfalls, and streams.
The Basin, located about 2 miles north of Flume Gorge visitor center, features a gorgeous waterfall and a large pothole carved into the granite base of the waterfall, formed by glacial action and the continuous swirling motion of stones and rocks created by the force of the waterfall. The Basin can be accessed by a short hike from the parking lot and is open year-round.
Lonesome Lake, a gorgeous alpine lake accessible via a moderately strenuous hike, features stunning views of the Franconia Ridge and beautiful lake vistas. The Lonesome Lake hike, 3.5 miles roundtrip hike starting at Lafayette Campground parking lot and passing through woods ascends down the mountain into the lake, is one of the most popular hikes in the Park.
Old Man of the Mountain
Old Man of the Mountain
The Old Man of the Mountain, a naturally occurring layer of rocks resembling an old man’s face, was once the most popular and iconic landmark of Franconia Notch State Park. Unfortunately, the stones collapsed in 2003, but you could still visit the site marker and the Old Man of the Mountain Museum, featuring exhibits and photographs of the iconic site.
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, the oldest passenger aerial tramway in the US, offers scenic gondola rides to the summit of the Cannon Mountain, featuring spectacular views of the surrounding mountain peaks and lush valleys. The aerial tramway is also home to the New England Ski Museum and is open year-round, although, in winters, it’s mostly used by skiers.
Echo Lake, located at the foot of Cannon Mountain, is a gorgeous lake featuring stunning views of Franconia and Kinsman Mountain Ranges and popularly used for swimming, kayaking, and canoeing. However, Echo Lake is accessible only from June through August, and during the season, it features a boat rental facility and a general store.
The Artist’s Bluff, located at the northmost section of Franconia Notch State Park, is a vista point atop a cliff featuring phenomenal aerial views of Franconia Notch and Cannon Mountain. Artist’s Bluff is accessible via the Artist’s Bluff Loop, a moderately strenuous 1.5 miles hike, which involves steep climbs and walking through rocky terrains, but is very rewarding.
Other New Hampshire Attractions & Related Posts
I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Franconia Notch State Park, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to the Franconia Notch State Park. You can find other attractions in New Hampshire in my New Hampshire Travel Guide.
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