9 Scenic New Hampshire State Parks

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While you’ll certainly enjoy visits to New Hampshire cities like Portsmouth, Keene, and Manchester, the beautiful outdoors  is what NH is truly known for. 

This post covers the top state parks in New Hampshire, including some that are more underrated. Each one is filled with its own unique things to do and provides a great way for you to get closer to nature and away from the people-filled cities!

New Hampshire’s state parks will truly take your breath away, no matter which one you visit.

Bear Brook State Park

beautiful lake under a blue sky

First up is Bear Brook State Park which is located in Allenstown. It’s the largest state park in the entire state, so it’s often considered to be the most popular. However, don’t let that deter you from visiting it, because it’s absolutely beautiful and filled with many great things to do.

Within the park, you can go camping, canoeing, kayaking, cross country skiing, biking, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and more. Truly, the possibilities are endless at this park. There are even seasonal activities like snowshoeing and snowmobiling, perfect if you are visiting New Hampshire in the winter!

The absolute best hike to go on when visiting Bear Brook State Park is Catamount Hill Trail and One Mile Trail Loop. It’s about 4 miles long and is rated as moderate, but the views are great. It’s also used for mountain biking and dogs are able to go on the hike if they’re on a leash. The hike usually takes a little over two hours to hike.

Milan Hill State Park

person hiking in the fall

Next is another of the best New Hampshire state parks, Milan Hill State Park, which is located near Berlin. What makes this park so great is that it’s open all year, but you won’t find as many workers during the off-season, so keep that in mind.

In the park, you can go camping, cross-country skiing, hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and more. The camping facilities at Milan Hill State Park are absolutely incredible, and many of the hikes here allow you to even see out to the Vermont and Maine mountain ranges.

For an easy hike in Milan Hill State Park, consider doing the Milan Hill Firetower loop. It’s about one mile long and the elevation gain is around 200 feet, which isn’t terrible. There’s a small fee to do the hike, but that’s covered by the entrance fee. Because it’s such a short walk, it’s perfect if you’re visiting the park with kids.

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Cardigan Mountain State Park

girl sitting on a rock looking out at the mountains

One of the incredibly underrated New Hampshire state parks is Cardigan Mountain State Park. It’s absolutely large at just short of 6,000 acres of land and is the perfect place to go hiking in New Hampshire. 

Despite its large size, there really isn’t much to do in the park besides hiking, but it’s truly a hiking lover’s dream. There are also restrooms, picnic spots, and more. It’s open seasonally, so make sure you plan your trip wisely.

The most popular hike in the entire park is the Mount Cardigan Loop Trail. It’s a moderate trail that’s both kid-friendly and dog-friendly, though dogs have to be on their leash. It’s only 3 miles long and takes about two to three hours to complete, but there is around 1200 feet in elevation gain. The views are unparalleled. 

Greenfield State Park

people kayaking on a lake

Located in Greenfield is none other than Greenfield State Park. It’s a smaller park at around 400 acres, but it’s still worth visiting. The park is a popular place to visit during the summer months because it’s perfect for camping.

There’s so much to do in the park too, besides camping. Guests can go swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hiking, and there’s even a playground for kids to play on. Plus, boat rentals are available right on site.

With around ten different trails in Greenfield State Park, it can be hard to choose which one to do. The most popular one that you won’t want to miss is Ted’s Trail to Carolyn’s Trail Loop. It’s around 5 miles long and takes three hours to hike. Dogs are allowed on a leash and the elevation gain is around 1400 feet. Keep in mind that there are lots of spots where you have to scramble on rocks as you get higher up on the mountain.

Crawford Notch State Park

crawford notch mountains in the fall

Crawford Notch State Park is one of the more popular parks in New Hampshire. It’s near Bretton Woods and is fairly large at around 5700 acres. Parts of the park are open seasonally, including the visitor center, so be sure to pay attention to when you visit if there are certain parts of the park you definitely want to visit.

Within the park, guests can go cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, mountain biking, and even visit some of New Hampshire’s historic sites. The amenities at the park are great too, including showers, picnic spots, and restrooms.

There are around 40 different hiking trails within Crawford Notch State Park. The one hike that you won’t want to miss out on is the Mount Willard Trail. It’s kid-friendly and is considered moderate at around 3.1 miles. There are around 900 feet of elevation gain though, but you’ll see a waterfall along the way which makes it more than worth it.

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Mount Washington State Park

mount washington under a blue sky

Mount Washington State Park is known for its incredible views and is situated right on Mount Washington. It’s around 60 acres large but is surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest, which is absolutely immense.

The park includes spots for hiking, which is the main activity here. There’s also a historic site, viewpoints, picnic tables, and great restroom amenities. Be sure to stop by the Sherman Adams building where you can check out the visitor center as well as the Mount Washington Observatory.

Unlike the other parks on this list, the must-do hike in Mount Washington State Park is actually a difficult one. It’s best for those who have lots of experience hiking; it’s called the Mount Washington via Jewell Trail, Gulfside Trail, and Crawford Path. With 9 miles in length and 4,300 feet in elevation gain, this loop trail can take up to seven hours.

Monadnock State Park

people hiking on a rock in Mount Monadnock

Located in Jaffrey, Monadnock State Park is a gorgeous park in the state worth visiting. It’s located on Mount Monadnock and is near many protected lands. The park is also open year-round, though, of course, parking reservations and camping fees may apply.

There are so many great things to do in the park, including snowshoeing, hiking, camping, and cross country skiing. Amenities are abundant there too, including restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and more.

With around 30 different trails, there are many to choose from in Monadnock State Park, one of the best New Hampshire state parks. The best one to do is Mount Monadnock via White Dot and White Cross Trails. It’s just shy of 4 miles long and takes around 3 miles to do, but it’s rated as hard because there are around 1700 feet in elevation gain to get to the top.

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Pawtuckaway State Park

fall in Pawtuckaway State Park

Pawtuckaway State Park is another large state park at around 5000 acres located in Nottingham. It’s known for having many different landscape types, including a lake with a beach and of course mountains with epic views.

The activities in Pawtuckaway State Park are incredible. You can go swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, cross-country skiing, fishing, and even horseback riding! Truly, anything you can imagine to do in a state park you can pretty much do here.

For an excellent hike in this state park, be sure to do the South Mountain Lookout Tower Trail. It’s about five miles long and takes around three hours to complete. It’s kid-friendly because it’s moderate, and it’s a loop trail so that you can see a different view during the entire hike.

Franconia Notch State Park

echo lake in Franconia Notch State Park

Last but not least is easily the most popular of New Hampshire state parks: Franconia Notch State Park. It’s located in the White Mountain National Forest which is what makes it such a gorgeous park; there’s beauty everywhere that you look.

The park, similar to Pawtuckaway State Park, is filled with every type of activity imaginable. There’s boating, hiking, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fishing, and more. Plus, there are a few historic spots worth visiting too.

There are around fifty different hikes in Franconia Notch State Park, but the best one is Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop. It’s around 9 miles long and takes seven hours or so to fully hike, which is why it’s ranked as hard. The hike is dog-friendly and has a beautiful waterfall that you won’t want to miss. Don’t forget to pack a lunch since this is a full-day hike!

This post was all about the best New Hampshire state parks. Hopefully, you’ve found one worth visiting for your next trip to this magnificent state. Many of them are also located near other top places to visit, so you could even make a road trip out of it!

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