If you want cool in both senses of the word, head to Kinsman Notch.
It's notable for the number of steps it has - there are 1,000 of them. They first take you deep down into Lost River Gorge, some 300 feet down, and then gradually take you back to the top. (Don't say you can't do it - an 85-year-old man has done it.) While you're on the 3/4-mile journey, you witness the incredibly beautiful jumble of rocks and water that the Ice Age left behind.
And, yes, it's cool temperature-wise, too - at least 10 degrees cooler, plus there's usually a breeze.
The ancient gorge - with its cascading waterfalls, an underground (or "lost") river and rock formations with numerous caves - sat undiscovered in the wilderness (though, surely, Native Americans must have seen it) until one day in 1852.
Two brothers, Royal and Lyman Jackman, were looking for a fishing hole when suddenly Lyman disappeared. His brother would find him waist-deep in water in a cave 15 feet below ground. The cave, now called Shadow Cave, was just one of many the boys discovered. The enterprising Jackman brothers went on to give guided tours of the gorge. It's been a tourist attraction ever since.
And no wonder, says Deb Williams, general manager of Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves: "No matter where you look, you see something beautiful." Paradise Falls (see photo above) is the most photographed spot, but there are any number of spots that rival the falls, especially so in the summer.
The adventurous love the caves, especially one that's called "The Lemon Squeezer," a cave tight enough that you have to crawl through on your belly.
Ask Williams if anyone has ever gotten stuck and she says, "No, there hasn't been a Winnie the Pooh incident. We haven't had to starve anyone yet."
This article appears in the October 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine