A Perfect First Day in the White Mountains: Franconia Notch State Park

A Perfect First Day in the White Mountains: Franconia Notch State Park

It always takes us a day or two to get the lay of the land when we arrive in a new location. I find that I can do all the research in the world, but we don’t really get a good feel for a place until we drive around a bit and chat with the locals and other guests at the campground.

The White Mountains of New Hampshire can be daunting simply on account of how many amazing places there are to see and how much there is to do. We were staying in the southern part of Franconia Notch, near Lincoln, so we decided to start our explorations nearby at the Flume Gorge. I am so glad we made this decision because I think our itinerary for that first day would give any visitor a perfect introduction to the landscape and history of the White Mountains. By the end of our day we also had a much better idea of what we wanted to do with the rest of our time in Franconia Notch.

The Perfect First Day Itinerary

1. Begin your planning by looking at this wonderful website maintained by the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. I found it easy to navigate, with all of the pricing, attractions, and trail information I was looking for. Print out this Flume Gorge Scavenger Hunt before you go (there are no printed copies available at the visitor’s center).

2. Purchase the Discovery Pass which includes entrance to the Flume Gorge and a ride on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway. At first I had a little sticker shock at the $29 ticket price. But we definitely wanted to do a tramway ride, and this was by far the most affordable option. All three of our children were free, so $58 for a full day of amazing experiences ended up seeming like a great value.

3. Start your day early by hiking the Flume Gorge first (it opens at 9 am). We got there before the tour buses arrived and had the place mostly to ourselves. By the time we were coming back down at 11 am, it was much more crowded. The Flume Gorge Loop Trail is a great 2-mile hike taking you up one side of the Flume and down the other. There are options for longer hikes if you want to spend more time in that part of the park.






4. Eat lunch at the Gilman Visitor Center. After the Flume Gorge Hike, we wanted to feed the kids before heading to the Aerial Tramway. We thought we were making a decision of convenience by ordering lunch at the visitor center restaurant. Turns out the food there is absolutely amazing. Seriously. The burgers were delicious and cooked perfectly. The grilled cheese was made with Texas toast. Everything was fresh and made to order. We were shocked and delighted.


5. Take the Aerial Tramway up to the top of Cannon Mountain and then walk the Cannon Mountain Rim Trail to the summit observation tower. It is an easy, short walk with lots of opportunities for panoramic views.



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6. Once you are back down the mountain, take some time to learn about the history of the Old Man in the Mountain at the new memorial site.

7. Return to the campground for a relaxing refreshing swim in the pool.

This first day itinerary was exciting, stunningly beautiful, and kid friendly. It helped us understand the geography of Franconia Notch and gave us more than enough ideas for the rest of our days in this area of the White Mountains.

We can’t wait to tell you all about it!

1 Comment

  1. JP

    You are making me wish I was going up there instead of Virginia, but Virginia has the grandchildren so that will be a good time also! I’ll bet I have hiked the Flume 5 or 6 times since my first visit to N.H. I miss the Old Man of the Mountain.


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