Explore the best of Franconia by bike or foot this summer. Running the length of Franconia Notch State Park, the 8.7-mile paved Franconia Notch Recreation Path passes by several of the Western White Mountain’s best attractions. Break a sweat, dip your toes in the cool waters of Echo Lake, and visit some of New Hampshire’s most iconic spots on the Franconia Notch Recreational Path.
During the warm summer days, strap on your helmet or lace up your walking shoes and hit up the Franconia Notch Recreation Path by bike or foot. Take Exit 35 on I-93 N and park your car in the Skookumchuck trailhead parking lot. Head south along the paved trail to take in the stunning views of Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges in the distance.
At the two-mile marker, you’ll arrive at Echo Lake Beach, where you can grab a snack to refuel and take a dip in the 39-acre lake at the foot of Cannon Mountain. Enjoy a few hours out on the water with a canoe, kayak, and pedal boat rentals. It’s a great way to take in the incredible views of the Notch while working on your summer tan.
From the lake, take a short detour to the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway. The legendary 80-passenger cable care is America’s first aerial tramway and brings passengers to the 4,080-foot summit of Cannon Mountain under 10 minutes. Don’t forget your camera as the views from the 360-degree observation deck is out of this world. On a perfect blue-bird summer day, you can see all the way across New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York, and Quebec.
Don’t forget to check out the New England Ski Museum next to the Tramway on your way back to the path. The small museum is packed with tons of great information on skiing from its prehistoric roots over 8,000 years ago up to modern times. You’ll get a chance to get up close and person with Bode Miller’s five Olympic medals on display plus other items from the local world champion.
If you’re looking for a great view of Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch, Artist Bluff and Bald Mountain is a short 1.5 mile loop hike with rewarding views that are well worth the effort.
Head back to the Recreation Path and get ready to view one of New Hampshire’s most iconic sites – the Old Man of the Mountain. Unfortunately, the Old Man’s face fell in 2003, but you can still see where the Great Stone Face once resided. The famous landmark dates back to the 19th-century literary works of Daniel Webster and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Once you pass the Old Man of the Mountain, the Recreation Path starts to descend into the Mt. Pemigewasset trailhead and parking lot. While you might be tempted to speed through the 3.3 miles to The Basin, there is a 20 mile per hour speed limit on the trail. Franconia Notch is home to tons of natural geological features, like The Basin. The Basin is a 30-foot-wide, 15-foot-deep granite pothole in the middle of the Pemigewasset River. Henry David Thoreau once said The Basin is “perhaps the most remarkable curiosity of its kind in New England.” If Thoreau likes it, then you will, too.
Just like a rainbow, you’ll find a “pot of gold” at the end of the Franconia Notch Recreation Path. The Flume Gorge and Visitor Center is one of New Hampshire’s most visited state parks. Extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty, the Flume is a natural geological feature first discovered in 1808 by 93-year-old “Aunt” Jess Guernsey. At the time of her discovery, a giant boulder was suspended between the 90-foot granite walls, but a massive rainstorm washed it away in 1883.
Start your journey at the Flume Visitor’s Center before walking through the iconic Gorge or walk the two-mile loop where you can see all the natural features of the park, including the Glacial Boulders, Bear’s Cave, and Liberty Gorge. They’ve even got a scavenger hunt!
Bike rentals and shuttles are available at the Aerial Tramway. If you prefer the ease of someone else planning everything for you, Rodger’s Ski and Sport offers a that includes your bike rental, shuttle services, helmet, and bike lock.
Parking, especially during the busy summer and fall months, can be difficult. Be prepared to get to the trailheads early in the morning or in the late afternoon for the best chance at scoring a spot a parking lot. Parking on I-93 is strictly prohibited, and your car will be towed at your expense. Remember, many rental shops and lodgings offer shuttle buses to and from many of the trailheads in the area! Here’s a great resource on Franconia Notch parking and the hiker shuttle.