Hiking and Camping in the White Mountain National Forest (New Hampshire)

I love the White Mountains.  At 750,000+ acres, there is so much to see and explore.  The forest offers miles of hiking trails through diverse environments including dense forests, ponds, alpine mountain peaks, and mountain streams.

My son and I spent two days exploring trails and camping off the Kancamagus Highway (Rt 112). 

Lincoln Woods and Franconia Falls

The Lincoln Woods Trail is flat and wide with a slight incline.  As a former railroad bed, it still has several railroad ties in place.  The trail begins at the Lincoln woods visitor center and heads up into the Pemigewasset Wilderness.  We traveled on the Lincoln Woods Trail for 2.6 miles before reaching the Franconia Falls Trail.  After an additional 0.4 miles, we came to Franconia Falls.  This is a relatively easy hike with little gain in elevation, and we saw a few runners and dog walkers using the trail while we were there.  Here is the trail map.

Note the railroad ties still in place.
Franconia Falls

Franconia Falls
Franconia Falls with mountain view

Lower Falls Scenic Area

The Lower Falls Scenic Area is a parking area with a short walk to an overlook of a falls.  During our last visit here, my kids and I swam under the waterfalls.  Due to the water and air temperatures today no one was swimming.  This is a short easy walk with nice views.

Rocky Gorge Scenic Area

The Rocky Gorge Scenic Area is another short, paved handicapped-accessible trail.   It leads to beautiful views of Rocky Gorge, a narrow gorge with a waterfall.  Here is a trail map.

View of the falls from the rocks

There is a bridge spanning the gorge
View of the gorge from the bridge
Covered Bridge Campground

The Covered Bridge Campground is one of several Forest Service campgrounds off of the Kancamagus Highway.  It's a fairly straightforward campground, offering a picnic table, fire ring, and flat piece of ground to put a tent on.  There were relatively clean pit toilets located at various points throughout the campground and a water spigot.  There are no showers located in this campground; however there are showers at the Jigger Johnson campground 6.5 miles away.

Our camping experience was marred by an abundance of mosquitoes, a neighbor that greatly enjoyed 80's rock well into the night, and the proximity of the campground to the highway (this probably isn't usually an issue, but our trip coincided with Laconia Bike Week and therefore several groups of bikers were driving through the area).

Its worth noting that we had no cell phone coverage with Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile throughout most of the Kancamagus Highway, with the exception of a few limited spots of Verizon and AT&T coverage by a few of the overlooks.  We relied heavily on the InReach to communicate with the outside world.  

There was also a picnic table, not shown. 

Sunrise at the Sugar Hill Overlook

Sugar Hill Overlook is a short distance from the Covered Bridge Campground and provides nice views of several of the mountains in the area.  We took advantage of this by getting up at 4:30am to take pictures of the sunrise. 

Sabbaday Falls

Sabbaday Falls is a 40 foot waterfall which can be reached via a 0.7 mile (round trip distance) trail.  There is a nice overlook platform from which to view the falls.  Here is the trail map.


Champney Falls Trail

The final hike of our White Mountain trip was Champney Falls.  This turned out to be an incredible hike, with views of both Champney Falls and its neighbor Pitcher Falls.  The water levels were sufficient to allow the falls to be flowing and yet low enough to cross over the stream into the gorge under Pitcher Falls.

The round trip distance was approximately 3.5 miles.  Here is the trail map.  Note that there were an abundance of mosquitoes, so bug spray and mosquito netting is definitely recommended this time of year. 

There is the option to continue on the trail to the summit of Mount Chocorua, for a total roundtrip distance of 7.8 miles.  We chose not to do so on this trip but will likely return in the future.

Champney Falls
Pitcher Falls
Pitcher Falls and its gorge.  For perspective, my 6'3" son is visible in the middle left of the picture.


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