Floating the Western White Mountains
On a hot summer day, nothing feels better than cool water behind your toes. The Whites Mountains might be known for their mountains, but the area is also home to some incredible bodies of water that are perfect to dive in or just dip your feet after an early morning sunrise hike. Grab your beach towels, slather on the sunscreen, and cool off in your favorite swimming hole.
The Pemigewasset River
The Pemigewasset River, or more locally called the “Pemi,” runs 65 miles from Profile Lake in Franconia Notch State Park to where it merges with the Winnipesaukee River to form the Merrimack River in Franklin. There are many spots along the Pemi where you can dip your toes or go for a swim. Located in the heart of downtown North Woodstock, Cascade Park is a charming little riverfront park with access to the Pemi. Perfect for the whole family, the smooth sloping rocks and lots of small cascades and pools, make Cascade Park a great place to spend a hot summer day. Bring a tube and enjoy the “rapid waters” of the Pemi! The Woodstock Company sells floats in case you forget yours at home.
The East Branch of the Pemigewasset River is larger and longer than the main branch of the river and wins through the town of Lincoln. The river can be accessed from many of the nearby hiking trails, such as the J.E. Henry Trail behind the RiverWalk Resort and the Lincoln Woods Trail in the White Mountain National Forest. The Pemi is a great place to spend the day kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. If you don’t have your own kayak, you can rent one from Outback Kayak and ATV Tours.
Located at Cannon Mountain and offering one of the most iconic views in New Hampshire, Echo Lake is a 39-acre lake at the foot of Cannon Mountain and Franconia State Park. Cool off in the refreshing lake while taking in the picturesque views of Franconia Range and Kinsman Range meet creating the infamous notch. Open daily, the calm lake is great for families with young children. The swimming area is roped off and lifeguards are on duty (except during COVID restrictions). The sandy beach is perfect for reading a book in the sun or building sandcastles with the kiddos. Canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats are available for hourly rent.
Wash the sweat off with a dip into Lonesome Lake, a 12.2-acre lake in Franconia Notch State Park. In order to splash in the cool, refreshing mountain water, you’ll have to hike the 1.6-mile Lonesome Lake Trail. The trail is very well marked and accessible through the south parking lot of Lafayette Place Campground. Meander around the small lake by taking the Lonesome Lake Loop. Stop by the AMC Lonesome Lake Hut for a snack break.
Otter Rocks Day Use Area
Drive the scenic Kancamagus Highway towards Conway and stop by Otter Rocks Day Use Area for a picnic and a swim. Most of the swim holes are shallow and great for young children and there’s a larger pool about four feet deep for adults and older kids. The large flat rocks along the river’s edge are the perfect place for your picnic blanket or sunbathing. As an added bonus, there are bathroom facilities available!
Future Riverfront Park
In 2019, the town of Lincoln broke ground on the 18-acre Riverfront Park nestled along the northern bank of the Pemigewasset River, just west of Jean’s Playhouse. Over the next five to ten years, the park will be built to include a multi-use trail system, canoe launch, dog park, playground, and Lin-Wood skateboard park. Stay tuned as we follow the Riverfront Park project in the coming years.
Known as a premier winter destination, the Western White Mountains are truly a year-round destination. Enjoy the dog days of summer in one of the many local swimming holes where you can dip your toes after a long hike or dive headfirst into splish-splashing fun. Don’t forget to bring the sunscreen and carry out your trash!