This post covers the top state parks in New Hampshire, including some that are underrated and maybe even unknown to you. Each one is filled with its own unique things to do and provides a great way for you to get closer to nature and the gorgeous scenery that the Granite State has to offer!
Some state parks are a little wild, and perfect for those adventurous souls who like to be out in the thick of it, away from civilization. Some are more on the mild side, and perfect for those looking for day hikes that they can do without even breaking a sweat.
Whatever kind of state park experience you’re looking for, there’s something in the Live Free or Die State for you!
New Hampshire’s state parks will truly take your breath away. Get ready to take notes, because these are some of the best state parks in NH that should be on your list to visit ASAP!
Table of Contents
New Hampshire State Parks to Visit ASAP
Bear Brook State Park
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 there’s plenty of space for everybody!
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.
Odiorne Point State Park
Located in Rye on the lovely NH Seacoast, Odiorne Point State Park is beautiful. You’ll find 135 acres to explore at this seaside state park, with lighthouses, an island, and lots of great walking trails.
In addition to the outdoor natural scenery like the woodlands, salt marsh, and sandy beach that are found here, there’s also the Seacoast Science Center. This science center is a must visit if you are interested at all in marine mammals and ecosystems. There’s even an interactive touch tank!
Milan Hill State Park
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.
Umbagog Lake State Park
Umbagog Lake State Park is a popular lakefront camping destination in New Hampshire, and with good reason! Rent a canoe or kayak and get out on the water and you’ll quickly realize why this peaceful state park attracts so many visitors. There’s also a nice little beach area for swimming, and there’s great fishing at the park.
This lovely state park has a great campground with both electrical and water hookup sites as well as remote sights. Oh, and there are even cabins to rent, too!
Cardigan Mountain State Park
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.
Echo Lake State Park
Looking for a great swimming state park in New Hampshire? Check out Echo Lake State Park! Located in North Conway, this is a popular swimming and hiking spot in the Granite State.
Popular hikes at Echo Lake State Park including one that leads to Cathedral Ledge and its expansive Saco River Valley Views! Echo Lake State Park offers season swimming passes, so if you’re planning on being in the area for a few weeks in the summer, consider getting one.
Greenfield State Park
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 onsite.
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.
Moose Brook State Park
Located in Gorham, Moose Brook State Park is one of the newer parks in the system. Named for Moose Brook, this lovely stream of water feeds the swim spot that offers the perfect spot to cool off after a nice, long hike.
There are several campsites at Moose Brook, and with all the fishing, swimming, and hiking available, you’re going to want to just go ahead and book a campsite!
Crawford Notch State Park
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.
Jenness State Beach
Looking for a beautiful Seacoast state beach? Look no further than Jenness State Beach in Rye! This gorgeous Atlantic Ocean beach is perfect for a day spent enjoying sun and sand in NH.
There’s a bathhouse with showers, a picnic area, and plenty of space on the sand here for everyone!
Mount Washington State Park
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
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.
Jericho Mountain State Park
Looking for a place to take the ATV or snowmobile out? Check out Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin. This NH state park is actually the first 4×4 Jeep trail on public lands in the region! Trails are open to the public, but drivers need to check in at the Visitor Center.
You’ll also find great fishing, swimming, canoeing, camping, and picnic spots at Jericho Mountain, so there’s a little something for everyone at this lovely outdoor spot.
White Lake State Park
Located on a National Natural Landmark, White Lake State Park should be on your NH state park bucket list, for sure. The glacial lake that the park resides on the shore of is crisp, clear, and some of the best swimming in New Hampshire!
You’ve got boat rentals, excellent fishing, nice walking trails, and well maintained campsites at this beautiful New Hampshire state park.
Wellington State Park
Wondering where the largest freshwater swimming beach in the NH state parks is? Well, it’s in Bristol, New Hampshire, at Wellington State Park! This one stop shop of summertime fun has boat rentals, swimming, hiking, volleyball and horseshoe courts, picnic areas, fishing spots, and a concession stand for refueling!
This is a popular spot for summer activity, and it is one of the clearest and deepest lakes in New Hampshire!
Mt Sunapee State Park
This is one of the most popular outdoor places near Dartmouth, and a part of that is the 4,085 acre lake at Mt Sunapee State Park Beach is absolutely stunning! There’s plenty of space to stretch out here, and there are boat rentals available for those who’d like to get out on the water.
Mount Sunapee State Park has great hiking trails, and both hiking and camping are popular summer activities here. This is one of the gems of the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region, and with all the gorgeous outdoor recreation, it’s no wonder why.
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.
Hampton Beach State Park
Home to one of the most popular beaches in New Hampshire, Hampton Beach State Park is a great state park to visit in the summer. There is great swimming available here at the wide, sandy beach, and lifeguards are present during the swimming season.
There is also a campground that’s very popular for summer camping, with RV spots with full hook ups. You also have all the fun of Hampton Beach nearby, and if you’d rather stay in a hotel rather than an RV, we won’t tell!
Silver Lake State Park
Located in Hollis, New Hampshire, Silver Lake State Park is a popular state park for kids in the summer. There’s a nice picnic area, playground, boat rentals, fishing, and of course, swimming.
Silver Lake State Park is a modest 80-acre state park, but it’s the perfect size for a family outing with younger children looking for summer fun!
Pillsbury State Park
A bit of a hidden gem in the state park system, Pillsbury State Park is a definite must visit if you like wilderness. There’s lots of wildlife to be found at Pillsbury, with moose and loons being quite at home among the heavily wooded ponds and wetlands.
For history lovers, there are remnants of abandoned settlements dating back to the 1700s and 1800s. If you’d rather stay firmly in the present, rent a kayak or a canoe and get out on the water, or head out on foot to hike this pretty park.
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!
New Hampshire state parks can be amenity filled or remote and wild, and there’s a little bit of everything in between!
Hopefully, this post has helped you sort through your NH state park bucket list so you can get to planning your next visit. New Hampshire is a stunning state, full of natural beauty, so no matter where you choose to head, you won’t be sorry.
State park fun in New Hampshire awaits!
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Amy Hartle is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of New England With Love, a comprehensive resource for travel in the New England region. Amy has been exploring New England since 2001. She lived in Vermont for many years and is a graduate of Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. Amy has been writing about travel for over a decade. On this site, Amy aims to share her love of New England and help you to have the best possible adventures!
Amy has been a full time blogger since 2012, and is also the publisher of Two Drifters, where she writes about couples travel and relationships, as well as Let’s Adventure Baby, a family travel site. When not traveling the world or creating epic blog content, Amy can be found cuddling with her husband, son, and cats, & drinking a maple latte.