“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”
– Laura Ingalls Wilder
One of the beautiful things about the Granite State is that you can experience so much variety in landscapes in just one state. In less than three hours you can drive from the craggy cliffs of the White Mountains to the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. According to the USDA, roughly 88% of New Hampshire is covered in trees, making it the most forested state in America. Even much of the land area that isn’t covered by trees is either mountainous terrain above the tree line, or lakes. It’s an amazing place to experience the wilderness so close to civilization.
In addition to its natural beauty, New Hampshire has a wide variety of agricultural activities, as well as a few small cities and cultural centers, and of course winter sports. Most of the towns are relatively small, and many pride themselves on their small local businesses. Visiting some of these towns can sometimes give the impression of stepping back in time several decades, or even centuries. This New England state might be small, but it has bountiful opportunities for all who visit.
This guide has been broken up into a few general sections to help you find what you’re looking for. Some things overlap, but I think that’s part of the beauty – one experience can you help appreciate multiple aspects of the state you’re traveling to discover.
Two interpretations of the origin of the lake’s name translate it as “The Smile of the Great Spirit” or “Beautiful Water in a High Place.” Either name is fitting for the jewel of New Hampshire’s aptly named Lakes Region. The largest lake in the state, this body of water and the surrounding towns offer recreation all year round. In the summer you can find people paddle-boarding, kayaking, and water-skiing. In the winter you’ll see the lake dotted with ice-fishing cabins and sight-seers gazing across the icy beauty. In addition to water sports there’s plenty of shopping and eating to do in the area. If you’d like to enjoy the lake but don’t feel like getting wet, there are cruises many months of the year that offer tours and entertainment. My wedding and honeymoon took place in this beautiful area, and I highly recommend spending a weekend (or more!) enjoying a local B&B and the relaxing atmosphere by the lakes. There is a host of quaint lodgings in the area, many of which have some sort of waterfront access and their own boats, or small hiking trails attached.
No matter the day of the year you’re likely to find at least a few cars at the trailhead of Mt. Major. This hike is extremely popular, and for good reason. The parking lot is right off a main road, and though the walk up definitely constitutes a hike, it’s not too strenuous and can be accomplished by people of a wide range of skill levels. I’ve seen small kids and eighty-year-olds, fit Siberian huskies and little French bulldogs all reach the summit. Besides being an accessible trail, the views at the top are absolutely stunning. There are sweeping panoramas of Lake Winnipesaukee, as well as the surrounding towns and forests. There are many wide boulders at the top that are a perfect spot for a picnic. The hike itself will probably only take you an hour or two.
The main trail and mountain can become a bit bogged down by crowds, especially on sunny days. If you’re looking for a quieter hike to the same spectacular views, you can take the longer Brook Trail that winds around the back of the mountain, or you can turn down Jesus Valley Road (just south of the main parking lot) and hit a trailhead that offers the same natural beauty, with fewer tourists. For that one, you’ll just park on the side of the road. All the trails are well-marked with colored signs.
TOP REASONS TO BOOK THIS TRIP
Mountains: Are you just getting started in outdoor sports? Or are you looking for challenging climbs and adventures? No matter – the mountain ranges of New Hampshire have something to challenge and inspire every one of us.
Forests: The most forested state in the Union has un-paralleled opportunities to get up close and personal with our country’s natural beauty.
Small Towns: Experience a unique lifestyle throughout New Hampshire’s small towns.
History: As one of the original thirteen colonies, many of New Hampshire’s towns are older than this country.
Colleen moved to New Hampshire for college almost a decade ago, and has never left. She is a freelance writer as well as a teacher. She loves to travel internationally, as well as going on daily adventures near her home. She enjoys wildlife-watching, outdoor education, and reading.