Franconia Notch at a Glance
Apr 17, 2020 at 8:00 AM in Things to Do by
Named after Franconia, a region in Bavaria characterized by its alps, the Franconia Notch region of New Hampshire encompasses some of the most beautiful and highest mountains in the Northeast. And what’s a notch you might ask? In this case, it refers to a mountain pass, or a part of a mountain range that’s lower than the peaks surrounding it.
If you look on your Discovery Map, you see one specific area indicated along Interstate 93 where the views are spectacular for eight miles from Flume Gorge in the south to Echo Lake (a great place for swimming) in the north. Indeed, it took some doing to carve out this parkway through these magnificent White Mountains, yet in so doing it paved an even more significant path for tourism, now the primary activity in this section of north central New Hampshire. Mountains in this part of the world are blanketed with trees, ones that turn fabulous jewel-like colors in the fall. As much as this part of New England is lovely in every season, it’s truly stellar in autumn when the foliage is ablaze.
The amount of hiking, biking, fishing, rock climbing, ice climbing, skiing, riding and more you can do in Franconia Notch is also off the charts. Much of these outdoor activities take place in and around Franconia Notch State Park. You’ll hear and read about many tales of the Old Man of the Mountain, the great granite stone face that garnered attention for centuries until it finally fell off into a pile of rubble in 2003. Still, this legendary profile remains very much the symbol of the area and you’ll find his craggy visage emblazoned on any number of printed materials and souvenir-type items.
Go to the Flume Gorge Visitor Center within the park and then walk through the awe-inspiring Flume Gorge, an 800-foot-long natural gorge. You’ll feel very small walking along flanked by seventy- to ninety-foot granite walls spaced twelve to twenty feet apart. And this is exactly what makes it so wondrous. You’ll also discover how lush it is in the gorge where the vegetation grows almost as thick as in a rain forest.
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway ranks as another must within the park. Since 1938, this tram has been transporting people to the top of Cannon Mountain, a 4080-foot summit where you can enjoy spectacular vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys. As the first aerial tram to begin operating in the United States, riding the tram up to Cannon Mountain has great significance for many within the region. You can just take in the sights from the top or hike to the summit observation tower or a network of other trails. In the winter, folks love to ski or ride Cannon Mountain, a resort that boasts ninety-seven trails for beginners and experts alike. When here–whether in winter or summer–take a trip back in time by visiting the New England Ski Museum at the base. My, how the sport has evolved!
Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln is also a favorite for skiers and riders and here you can sail up (or down) the mountain on New Hampshire’s longest gondola ride. Note that like most mountain resorts around the country, Loon and Cannon Mountain also offer lots of fun doings in the summer, including mountain bike riding, concerts and more.
The quaint, small towns within this region are as much of a draw as the nature. Sugar Hill is one such destination and like many of the others, it overlooks the White Mountain National Forest. Don’t you just love the name? It comes from the large groves of sugar maples that grow within town limits. Just imagine this in the fall. At Polly’s Pancake Parlor, you’re served delicious golden pancakes that you can top with New Hampshire-made maple syrup.
Waterfalls flow with the brilliance of a bright summer’s day in Franconia Notch. With mountains–particularly in the East–you find lots of water whether it be waterfalls, lakes, streams, pools or ponds. One of the best known within Franconia Notch State Park is the Basin in Lincoln. Best to check with the park service for access. It’s worth it because it is oh-so sweet.
Grab a latte and a pastry at Half Baked & Fully Brewed, a local’s favorite in Lincoln, before you head out. If you’ve hiked hard (or not!), sit down to some prime rib or homemade macaroni and cheese at The Common Man, also in Lincoln. There are a number of them in the northeast but with their fieldstone fireplace, cozy couches and parlor games, this does not feel like a cookie cutter restaurant. Its cozy interior is just the ticket after a day out in the mountains.
Woodstock Inn Brewery is another great place to gather with friends and family–or just your sweetie–in a warm and inviting place. Go for some brews and apps or book a stay at the inn. Or, how about both? That’s what you call a relaxing weekend away.
Usually when you go to this part of the world, you’re itching to see some wildlife–at least in a safe, controlled manner. You can go in search of moose on a Pemi Valley Excursion, a company based out of Lincoln. Take an afternoon nap though because these tours take place at night.
You’re sure to see bears at Clark’s Trading Post in North Woodstock, an institution founded in 1928 when Florence and Ed Clark created a roadside attraction for visitors to the region. The Bear Show continues today, providing a half-hour educational and entertaining experience for vacationers to the White Mountains. You can easily spend a whole day here taking in all of their attractions, including Chinese acrobats, a water raft ride, a wonderful old steam train, lots of shopping and more.
Hobo Hills in Lincoln offers a more subdued version of family fun. Their swashbuckling Pirate’s Cove adventure golf course stands out as one of the best in the state of New HampshirRRRRR.
Wishing you a good time no matter where you go!