The Year in Review – A Personal View of NH State Parks

Red eftWell, the first year has passed and I’ve visited each and every state park in NH at least once.  I’ve discovered a few gems that I’ll look forward to returning to, as well as a few I’ll probably never see again.  I never got around to buying that boat as planned so some parks didn’t get a thorough investigation.  Nonetheless, what better time to look back and reflect on what I’ve learned?

Although I have some opinions and ideas of how the park system could sell itself better, I’ll save those for a separate post sometime.  This post is all about what’s best and most worth a visit.

My Top 10 Parks

  1. Franconia Notch SP – With scenery so spectacular it feels like you’re in a national park, this park is a great introduction to the beauty of the White Mountains.  Add Crawford Notch SP and Mt. Washington SP and you’ve covered some of the best mountain scenery east of the Rockies.  It no longer boasts the Old Man of the Mountains, but The Flume is always spectacular, and The Basin is one of my favorite spots in the state.  I love the paved bike path, both for biking as well as x-country skiing in winter.  Echo Lake is attractive for swimming & boating, but hiking seems to be my biggest draw, with favorites being the Lonesome Lake loop and the Franconia Ridge loop, which technically isn’t entirely within the park but starts and ends there.
  2. Pawtuckaway SP – This was probably my biggest surprise.  It’s certainly one of the largest parks this close to the seacoast and Boston and is surprisingly varied in its landscape and attractions.  It isn’t spectacular like Franconia Notch but is rugged enough that it doesn’t feel domesticated in any way.  The Boulder Trail was so much fun and I’ve never seen any other place quite like it.  The rest of the trail system is quite inviting, too, and the unique ring-dike arrangement of the Pawtuckaway Mountains and its fire tower make for great hiking.  Then wrap it all up with a visit to Pawtuckaway Lake, either for swimming, boating, or camping and you’ve had a great weekend.
  3. Odiorne Point SP and the NH State Beaches – The network of trails in Odiorne Point make a great jumping off point for a terrific bike trip along the NH coastline.  Or with the Seacoast Science Center, historic World War II remains, and seashore walks, it becomes a destination all in itself.  Although not as impressive as Franconia or Pawtuckaway, it still provides a glimpse into another part of the state and a look backwards to what New Hampshire’s coast was like before the 21st century.
  4. Umbagog Lake SP – After picking numbers 1 and 2, the next three picks are much harder as there are many candidates.  Umbagog Lake could easily be much lower on someone’s list but I have placed it here more for its potential and because there’s nothing else like it in the state.  Although the park’s headquarters and lakeside cabins could use some sprucing up, the dozens of remote campsites scattered miles away around the lake make this place special.  With most of the lake preserved as part of the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, it remains mostly undeveloped and is a great place to see wildlife.  It’s New Hampshire’s version of Maine’s Great North Woods.
  5. Monadnock SP – Considering the sheer number of visitors it would be hard to ignore this park and that’s mainly why I have it listed here.  Although other parks feature mountaintop vistas and great hikes, Monadnock’s long history and location make it a first among equals.

It’s tough to rank the next five so I’m leaving these in no particular order.  Also I’m cheating by lumping 7 mountaintops into a single entry, but who’s counting?

  • Crawford Notch SP – Similar in many ways to Franconia Notch, this one has better waterfalls, and the view from Mt. Willard is spectacular.
  • Echo Lake SP – Loved the views from Cathedral Ledge.  The lake is beautiful.
  • Dixville Notch SP – My surprise pick.  Even though this park has virtually no facilities and is a long distance from everywhere, the experience of hiking to Table Rock was a thrill I’ll remember for a long time.  Nice waterfalls, too.
  • Rhododendron SP – In July when the flowers are blooming…
  • Mt Washington SP, Mt. Cardigan SP, Miller SP, Rollins & Winslow SPs, Weeks SP, Mt. Sunapee SP – All of these mountaintop parks offer great views, so it’s tough to rank one above the other.   Most are what I’d call “park & hike” parks, although many offer drives either directly to or very near the summit.  Mt. Washington will always be first among equals.

Happy travels!

End of Blog – reading below here may expose you to ads.

a

a

a

a

a

a

a

a

a

a

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s