For Memorial Day this year, we couldn’t let a long weekend go to waste without a quick trip somewhere. Desiring a mix of hiking while discovering a new-to-us state, our trick for finding affordable vacations took us to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Knowing very little about this National Forest before the trip, we were pleasantly surprised at what a wonderful weekend getaway it turned out to be.
Due to its proximity to the White Mountains, we decided to spend two nights in Lincoln, New Hampshire. From there, we headed over to Portland, Maine for one night before flying home. We found cheap plane tickets directly into Boston Logan International, and drove about 2 hours north from there to Lincoln.
Lincoln is a quaint mountain town, with a decent selection of restaurants but small enough to feel like a true mountain escape. It is located along the famed Kancamagus Highway. Partly due to last minute planning, we stayed in a Holiday Inn just across from the Hobo Railway and found this location to be central to most attractions in the White Mountains and Franconia Notch State Park.
Franconia Notch State Park
Starting just after breakfast on our one full day in the area, we arrived at Flume Gorge at opening time. I had read that this can get busy and touristy, so we decided to hit this attraction first. We definitely timed it right as we were one of the first arrivals and therefore were able to enjoy most of the area in peace.
The Flume itself was breathtaking with its towering granite walls and rushing waterfalls. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from New Hampshire, but Flume Gorge got us off to a great start.
We continued around the two mile loop past a few mountain outlooks, waterfalls, creeks and streams.
It was beautiful in late May and I’m sure it might be even better with the colors of fall. If you go, note that there is an entrance fee and it can get crowded, so go early.
Artist’s Bluff Hike
Taking a recommendation from some locals and confirming the hike stats on the AllTrails app, we drove through Franconia Notch State park to the trail-head of Artist’s Bluff to do some hiking. The roughly 1.5 mile loop took us to the top of Bald Mountain, a short and fairly steep hike for great panoramic views.
After a small scramble back down the rock, we continued across to Artist’s Bluff, which also had a great lookout over Echo Lake, Cannon Mountain and Mt Lafayette.
At the conclusion of our hike, we walked across the road to check out the small beach at the serene Echo Lake. There were kayaks and paddle boats available for those interested. Resting here, we were able to spot a bear roaming around up in the mountains.
Although we could have spent a day or two in Franconia Notch alone, we had limited time so we headed back into Lincoln to grab lunch and then set out on the Kancamagus Highway. Kancamagus is a 34 mile scenic byway that winds through the center of the White Mountains. There are various lookout and stop off points, some requiring some easy hiking to get to the point of interest. Below I have listed some of my favorite stops.
Rock Gorge Scenic Area
At the end of Kancamagus Byway, we took 16 to 302 north toward Diana’s Baths. Easily the most crowded of the stops we made, there were plenty of families wading and playing in the falls here.
We finished the scenic trek through more of the scenic highways around the national forest and state park. There were beautiful vistas and stop off points all over this area.
Food and Drinks
We didn’t eat many meals in New Hampshire, but here were the few places we checked out.
One Love Brewery – Walking distance from our hotel, we headed to One Love our first night in town for dinner and drinks. We were seated upstairs and thought it had a great ambiance and decent local beer selection. The staff was friendly and gave us hiking recommendations for the following day.
Peaked Moon Market – We made a quick stop for lunch here before setting out on the Kancamagus Highway. Local, farm fresh ingredients made for the perfect lunch to refuel mid-day. I highly recommend this place for lunch.
Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery – This popular restaurant and brewery serves casual fare and a number of in-house brewed beers.
Although we packed a lot into our short stay in the White Mountains, if we had more time, here are some of the other attractions to consider.
- Mt Washington CogRail or Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway.
- Moose sightings – We were really bummed not to come across a moose. The locals recommended some of the roads with higher frequency of sightings, or there are guided tours you can partake in if you have the time.
- Mt Washington Auto Road – Drive to the summit of the Northeast’s highest peak with views of the Presidential Range along the way.
I found New Hampshire to be the perfect mix of relaxation and hiking, and would definitely recommend the White Mountains for a weekend getaway. That said, ensure you check dates before you book your trip. Due to weather, many of the attractions in the area are only open May through October.