22 Best New Hampshire State Parks with Lakes, Waterfalls, Hiking Trails & More

Willey House Dam Pond with flowers and fall colors in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.

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Get ready for an epic outdoor adventure to the New Hampshire state parks! Located in the northeastern region of the United States, the state is famous for its rugged natural beauty, picturesque towns, and layered history.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the best state parks in NH, from coastal areas with sandy beaches and ocean views to inland regions with dense forests and mountainous terrain in the iconic White Mountains

You may also like our guide to some of the best places to visit in New Hampshire along with our bucket list ideas to make the most out of your time in the state.

For more hiking opportunities in the state, check out some of the best hikes in NH.

Best State Parks in New Hampshire

Hampton Beach State Park

A handful of New Hampshire’s state parks sit on the Atlantic Ocean, and Hampton Beach is one of them.

Located near the Massachusetts border, this spot is home to a small stretch of beach, campground, and multiple jetties.

It’s one of the state parks with swimming, with a number of bathhouses existing within the park to serve the many people who visit during the summer.

Pets aren’t allowed on the beach during the summer, but during the off-season, they can be present on the beach.

You will find this NH state park near Rye, just around a 20-minute drive south. 

An aerial view of the long stretch of beach in Hampton New Hampshire on a clear day

Odiorne Point State Park

Picnic areas, a playground, a science center, and remnants of an old fort exist at Odiorne Point State Park.

It features a number of hiking and biking trails that trace their way along the jagged shore and through the inland woods of this park on the Piscataqua River.

The old fort remnants offer great views of the Atlantic Ocean, while the science center teaches visitors about natural coastal environments found in the region.

This is one of the state parks near Portsmouth, at just less than a 10-minute drive, so families near the area often take their kids here to spend time outside or use one of the park’s many child-friendly amenities.

Aerial view of Odiorne Point State Park in summer in town of Rye, New Hampshire

Pawtuckaway State Park

Situated between the popular areas of Manchester, Concord, and Portsmouth is the hilly Pawtuckaway State Park.

The 5,500-acre park’s main features are Pawtuckaway Lake – a place for paddling, fishing, and swimming – and South Mountain, one of the major hiking landmarks in the large park.

Middle Mountain and North Mountain are the two other major peaks, the highest reaching 1011 feet above sea level.

Aside from the many miles of hiking trails, visitors enjoy paddling between the many rocky islands in Pawtuckaway Lake.

This state park is near Manchester, just less than a 30-minute drive, so if you’re staying in the city, this offers an easy opportunity for a nature escape.

Bear Brook State Park

Similar to Pawtuckaway, Bear Brook State Park is packed with many different amenities.

Overnight visitors can enjoy the park’s 101-site campground or one of the multiple cabins on Bear Hill Pond.

Bear Brook is only five miles from Pawtuckaway, is larger, and has more lakes but fewer mountains.

Paddleboarders enjoy Bear Hill Pond and Beaver Pond, both of which are popular paddling destinations that are usually calm.

Archery ranges are also available for use at the park, as long as visitors have their own equipment.

This is also one of the state parks near Concord, just less than a 30-minute drive away.

Bridge over a pond at Bear Brook State Park, New Hampshire

Greenfield State Park

Moving down in size, Greenfield State Park is between Antrim and Peterborough and has multiple small ponds for fishing and paddling.

The park mainly serves as a large campground for the area, with 256 campsites available for reservation.

A beach on Otter Lake is a popular place for families who visit or stay at the park.

A short trail loops Hogback Pond — this is the only hiking trail in the park.

Clear lakes, a large campground, and picnic areas make this park a perfect stopping-over point for a road trip.

Monadnock State Park

A monadnock is a geographical term that means a standalone hill that rises high above a mostly flat plain.

So it would only make sense that Monadnock State Park would be centered around one large mountain.

Mount Monadnock rises to 3,165 feet above sea level and more than 2,000 feet above the land around it.

Hiking is the main activity featured at this park, with over ten miles of trails, five of which converge on the high summit of Mount Monadnock.

At the base of the mountain, the visitor center and campground are both small but add significant value to the park as well.

Rhododendron State Park

Rhododendron State Park is another Southern NH option, located only five miles southwest of Monadnock State Park, but it’s significantly less well-known.

While the park is almost 3,000 acres, only a small part of it is developed with a parking area and hiking trails.

Little Monadnock is the main feature of the park, rising to 1,883 feet above sea level.

Another larger trail system also has forested trails that climb and descend the hills near the main parking area.

Rhododendron is also a fantastic place for bird-watchers and wildlife enthusiasts.

With the park’s minimal development, viewing opportunities are amplified, not to mention the scarcity of people in the area.

Pisgah State Park

An astounding 13,300 acres in southwestern New Hampshire compose Pisgah State Park, the largest in New Hampshire’s system.

The park remains almost entirely undeveloped, with 55 miles of trails traversing its many hills and lakeshores.

Hikers, bikers, equestrians, and ATV users all enjoy the park’s six trailheads, each accessing a different part of the park.

Dozens of ponds dot the park, and fishing is possible and encouraged on many of them.

The park gets little use during the off-season, making it all the more appealing to people seeking adventure.

The months of October through April offer many opportunities for visitors to be completely alone in this wilderness.

Pisgah is one of our favorite spots to visit in New Hampshire in fall.

Pillsbury State Park

Delving deeper into the foothills of southern New Hampshire, Pillsbury State Park features more than five peaks on its trail map.

Hikers enjoy this spot between Monadnock and Mount Sunapee State Parks, with the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway connecting the parks via Pillsbury.

Five ponds of size also exist within Pillsbury and offer kayaking and paddleboarding experiences alike.

Tent camping is available at 41 sites at this park, with no other overnight amenities available, so you’ll enjoy a fantastic view of the night skies over the ponds.

Mount Sunapee State Park

With a short beach on Sunapee Lake, Mount Sunapee State Park provides amazing views of the lake and surrounding area from its 2,745-foot peak.

The Mount Sunapee Resort exists within the park and offers skiing during the ski season on dozens of different runs.

Check out our favorite places to go skiing in New England for more recommendations.

The summit is quickest reached from a 1.3-mile trail at the end of the park road, but experienced hikers are welcome to try the 2.5-mile one-way trek from the ski area parking.

There is no public boat ramp to Sunapee Lake in the park, but kayakers and paddlers are welcome to launch from the park’s beach.

Mount Sunapee is a popular place in west-central New Hampshire for outdoor activities in all seasons.

Ellacoya State Park

Lake Winnipesaukee is New Hampshire’s largest lake and a fantastic site for a small campground and beach park.

Ellacoya State Park in Lake Winnipesaukee is a recreation area located in the southwest shore area and features a 600-foot beach for all to enjoy.

Visitors can venture 250 feet into the lake and still be atop the sandbar, making for lots of space in the water.

Paddling on the lake is the park’s other main activity, with many miles of open water to explore.

White Lake State Park

Another popular paddling and beach destination is White Lake State Park south of Conway.

On a much smaller lake, White Lake State Park’s beach is nearly 1,000 feet long and the sandbar is 280 feet into the lake from shore.

Kayakers may like Lake Winnipesaukee, but paddleboarders love the small, calm White Lake, which is only half a mile long.

The park also offers a small campground to service overnight visitors.

If you’re looking for hiking near White Lake State Park NH, there is a 2-mile loop trail located around Tamworth.

Keep in mind that this particular trail doesn’t allow dogs.

Echo Lake or Cathedral Ledge State Park

This park most commonly goes by the name Echo Lake State Park, but occasionally is called Cathedral Ledge State Park.

Paddlers enjoy Echo Lake, which is about half the size of White Lake and is very calm.

A strong trail system for such a small park, trails loop the lake and are present atop the mountains on the west side of the park.

There is also a mountain bike trail weaving through the woods at the base of the mountain as well.

The day-use-only park offers amazing views of the White Mountains from 700 feet above the Saco Valley.

Echo Lake State Park North Conway in New Hampshire bench

Crawford Notch State Park

Crawford Notch State Park sits just southwest of Mount Washington, New Hampshire’s highest point.

Besides being a hiker’s paradise, the 5,775-acre park has an eerie history.

The Willey House sits within the park, which is where Samuel Willey and his family lived during the 1820s.

This house was situated in a slide-prone area, and yearly slides and floods threatened Willey and his family.

In 1826, the Saco River rose 20 feet in one night and did catastrophic damage to the area.

The Willey House was expected to be destroyed, but miraculously, it had sustained no damage due to the short rocky ridge it sat on; paths of destruction were on both sides of the house.

Rescuers found the house unharmed, but the family was all found dead outside, likely trying to get to a shelter Samuel had built for their safety.

The house still sits in the park today and has been restored, and Willey’s shelter can be seen along one of the many trails along the park’s ridges.

Ripley Falls, Mount Willard, and Willey Pond are among the park’s main natural attractions.

Willey House Dam Pond with flowers and fall colors in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.

Franconia Notch State Park

Potentially the most popular in our list of the best NH state parks, Franconia Notch State Park is a hiker’s paradise in the White Mountains.

The campground, beach, and ski area are all popular spots, as are the many miles of hiking trails that disperse throughout the park.

The “notch” is flanked by two ridges that sometimes reach 5,000 feet above sea level, offering amazing views from the hiking trails atop them.

Lonesome Lake sits at over 2,700 feet above sea level and has a trail that encircles it, providing a unique alpine lake hiking experience.

The Flume Gorge (requires reservations) and Basin Cascade are home to some of the best waterfalls in the park.

A number of small lakes inhabit the valley of the park as well, which offer paddling opportunities with stunning views.

With a full ski resort at the north end, the park is well equipped to handle itself during the off-season as well.

Franconia Notch also features in our NH fall foliage road trip itinerary.

Franconia Notch State Park map sign Lincoln New Hampshire

Mount Washington State Park

Mount Washington State Park may be the only state park in New Hampshire that gives Franconia Notch a run for its money.

The highest point in New Hampshire, Mount Washington sits at 6,288 feet above sea level and regularly records some of the highest wind speeds in the northeast.

Visitors can drive to the top of the mountain for a view, otherwise, many trails lead to the summit.

Welcome to the Alpine Zone on the Mt Washington Auto Road in Gorham New Hampshire

Visitors can also hike out from the summit, which of course means a long climb back to the parking lot.

Lake of the Clouds, Mount Clay, and Chandler Brook are all popular trails and natural features in the park.

There is also the cog railway that takes visitors to the top of the mountain for a fee.

If you’re visiting during the autumn season, this is one of the best places to see the fall foliage in New Hampshire.

View on the descent along the Mt Washington Auto Road in New Hampshire

Moose Brook State Park

Just west of Gorham is the small, little-known Moose Brook State Park.

Perhaps the polar opposite of most of the previous parks listed, the park has a small campground on the side of a mountain, but its main attractions are its mountain biking amenities.

The park connects to the greater Gorham area’s trail system and offers more than 10 miles of mountain bike trails of varying difficulty.

A small lake and high ridges are on the park’s trail system, but not in the park, and offer great views of the Androscoggin Valley.

Jericho Mountain State Park

The White Mountains are the main geographic feature that shapes New Hampshire, and many of its state parks lie in it.

Jericho Mountain State Park sits just west of Berlin and focuses on some of the lower peaks on the north side of the range.

The two-unit park has dozens of miles of trails and two lakes to paddle on.

Jericho Lake is the main lake with development, the campground sits on the north side and there is a short beach near it as well.

A few of the park’s trails allow motorized vehicles and Jeeps to run on them, a unique feature of this New Hampshire State Park.

Umbagog Lake State Park

Umbagog Lake State Park might be one of the most remote that New Hampshire has to offer.

The lake straddles the border with Maine, and a public boat ramp in the park allows boaters of all kinds to get on the water.

Four cabins exist within the park, each with different amenities, and they are perfect for a remote getaway due to their location.

A number of natural features dot the shore of the lake that can be seen by boat, from big rocks to meadows, historic farms, and remote coves.

Dixville Notch State Park

The smallest “notch” park in the state, Dixville Notch State Park is just 127 acres and lies east of Colebrook.

Day-use only, the tight gorge is flanked by craggy rocks that reach up to 600 feet above the creek bed.

Table Rock is one of these rocks that visitors can hike to, and it overlooks Lake Gloriette outside the park.

The other main hike in the park is to Huntington Falls, a narrow cascade on the side of one of the valley walls.

Coleman State Park

Creeping towards the Canadian Border, Coleman State Park lies just five miles north of Dixville Notch on Little Diamond Pond.

Daytime visitors can paddle on the pond, but the set of overnight accommodations here is surprisingly wide.

The park has five lodges and four different camper cabins, all with different amenities.

These lodges are popular in summer and winter, with fishermen and paddlers in the summer, to cross-country skiers and snowmobilers in the winter.

All of the cabins sleep four people and most of the lodges sleep eight.

Check out our other recommendations for visiting New Hampshire in the winter.

Lake Francis State Park

Finally, just seven miles from the Canadian Border, Lake Francis State Park is a small piece of land on a man-made lake.

Made out of the Connecticut River, Lake Francis is large and contains many boating opportunities.

The 40-site campground is the main feature of this park, with regular, platform, and lean-to sites to choose from.

A boat ramp and picnic area occupy what little space is left in the park, but are both well-used.

Final Thoughts

We hope you find this guide helpful for visiting some of the best state parks in the state!

And feel free to share your experiences in the comments below- we’d love to hear it!

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