Northern Adventures: Family-friendly Opportunities to Explore the Outdoors
The Great North Woods
River Wild (or Mild)
Grab a paddle and take on Pancake Wave, Fluffy Bunny Hole and Grandma’s Revenge in the Errol Rapid section of the Androscoggin River. North Woods Rafting is open for the 2022 season, offering classic New England white-water fun for you and your family (for ages 5 and older). If tackling the class-two rapids doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, relax with a weekday nature float on the river, with chances to spot moose, loons, otters and more of New Hampshire’s northern wildlife (also for ages 5 and up). If you’d rather choose your own adventure, they also rent canoes, kayaks and gear, and will provide shuttle service to takeout and put-in spots.
North Woods Rafting
620 Milan Rd., Milan
Find more information at northwoodsrafting.com.
Reservations are taken by phone at (603) 449-4142.
Tall Timber Lodge, located in the beautiful wilderness surrounding Pittsburg, is the ideal place to unplug with the family. Rent a one- to four-bedroom retreat, such as a rustic log cabin or luxury cottage, and perhaps enjoy your own private deck or porch overlooking Back Lake. Lodging with kitchens is available, but if you don’t feel like cooking, adults and kids will enjoy the excellent Rainbow Grille & Tavern. It’s not all about relaxation (unless you want it to be), as Tall Timber is a four-season sporting camp resort. They employ professional guides for fly fishing and bird hunting, offer fishing boat rentals, moose-watching trips, ATV rentals and tours (via nearby Bear Rock Adventures), and plenty of advice for how to access the abundant hiking and mountain biking trails, where to paddle and more.
Tall Timber Lodge & Rainbow Grille
609 Beach Rd., Pittsburg
Four-Wheeled Fun Kate Sullivan of “New Hampshire Life” already sang the praises of Bear Rock Adventures, but we wanted to second her opinion. Whether you’re looking for thrills or a tamer family experience, the staff will bring out your inner trailblazer with a customized ATV rental itinerary. Stay nearby (like at Tall Timber) or take them up on their stay-and-play packages to better explore the nearly 1,000 miles of interconnected trails (OK, you probably won’t get to all 1,000).
Bear Rock Adventures
2638 North Main St., Pittsburg
Camping in the Wilds
There’s no shortage of excellent camping opportunities in the state, but if you really want to get away from it all, travel to remote Milan Hill State Park. Located 10 miles north of Berlin, it’s a beautiful spot for hiking, fishing, picnicking, canoeing or kayaking, looking for wildlife and more. The hilltop campground and fire tower offer a complete view of the mountain ranges stretching through New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and Canada. Once a fairly primitive spot, recent renovations added four yurts and relocated six campsites. Reservations are taken for yurts and the Adirondack shelter, though you can check in with the campground office for walk-in options.
See nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/milan-hill-state-park for directions and for more information on yurt and shelter rentals.
Camping in the Wilds: Lake Option
A pristine lake awaits in the wilderness of Coös County. The remote beauty of Lake Umbagog State Park, one of the newer additions to the state park system, is well worth the journey, and promises a summer adventure you won’t soon forget. Tucked away up north along the border with Maine, it has a base park campground offering 27 sites with electrical and water hook-ups, two cabins, 33 remote campsites and four remote cabins in isolated locations around Lake Umbagog accessible only by boat. The park offers a beach area for swimming, excellent fishing, wildlife viewing and boating. You can rent a canoe or kayak, as well as transportation for remote-site campers. A boat launch and fuel sales are available, as well as a park store.
235 East Route 26, Cambridge
Visit nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/umbagog-campground for park maps, information on rentals and more.
The White Mountains
Look, we probably don’t need to tell you about Mt. Washington. You know. But we’re betting there are a few of you out there who still haven’t experienced New England’s tallest peak, home to the “world’s worst weather.” New Hampshire Magazine’s own 15-year managing editor, Erica Thoits, admitted she hadn’t been to the top — ever — until last summer, when she finally chose one of the easier ways up via the Cog Railway. It was, she says, a stunning blue-sky day allowing for incredibly clear views of the Presidentials and all the way into Maine, Vermont and Canada. She adds that she was slightly disappointed the cold-weather gear she packed wasn’t necessary, having heard (and written about) for years how fickle the infamous weather could be. The Cog itself is a piece of history you can actually experience. The first mountain-climbing railway in the world is also the second steepest, and your journey up and down is narrated by guides who know the ins and outs of the train and the mountain.
If you’re more of a take-your-fate-into-your-own-hands type but still don’t want to hoof it, you can drive yourself up the Mt. Washington Auto Road. No reservations are needed to take your car, but two-hour guided tours are also available.
The Mount Washington Cog Railway
3168 Base Station Rd., Mount Washington
The Mount Washington Auto Road
1 Mount Washington Auto Rd., Gorham
OK, full disclosure, this is a real river, not a theme park, so it might not be entirely lazy, but a float down the Pemigewasset River is still pretty leisurely. Affectionately called “The Pemi,” Pemigewaset means “where side current is” in Abenaki. It runs for 65 miles and begins at Profile Lake in Franconia, then moves south through the White Mountains, eventually forming the Merrimack. Make your float even easier by staying at the Pemi River Campground, where guests can take advantage of a shuttle ride three to four miles up the river. Hop in and just let the current carry you back to your campsite.
Pemi River Campground
2458 Route 3, Thornton
Joe Dodge Lodge
What happens on ski slopes in the summer? In the past, the answer often was: nothing. Not so now, as many of the state’s ski areas offer adventurous summer fun.
260 Tramway Dr., Franconia
There’s likely no better view than the one offered from Cannon’s Aerial Tramway. Check out a different kind of scenery at the Flume Gorge, a natural granite gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. Walk along the path from the Visitors Center to the Flume and back among towering moss-covered granite walls, past cascading waterfalls, historic covered bridges, glacial boulders and much more. You can also hike to nearby Artists Bluff, rent bikes, check out Echo Lake Beach and more.
Cranmore Mountain Resort
1 Skimobile Rd., North Conway
Check out the Mountain Adventure Park at Cranmore Mountain in North Conway for family fun that includes the thrilling Giant Swing, Mountain Coaster, Soaring Eagle seated zipline and more. Experience the rush of downhill mountain biking in the lift-serviced park, or enjoy a relaxing scenic chairlift ride up to the summit Meister Hut.
Gunstock Mountain Resort
719 Cherry Valley Rd., Gilford
Find thrills on the mountain coaster, via an ariel tree-top adventure, on zipline tour or enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, scenic lift rides and more.
60 Loon Mountain Rd., Lincoln
There’s almost too much to do at Loon during the summer months. You can ride the zip line over the Pemigewasset River, pretend you’re an acrobat on the bungee trampoline, enjoy a scenic ride in the gondola, explore the glacial caves,
play disc golf, take a bike tour through Franconia Notch and much more.
Mount Sunapee Resort
1398 Route 103, Newbury
Offering an aerial challenge course, sky rides, archery course, mountain biking/hiking trails, disc golf, mini golf and more.
Mount Washington Resort Bretton Woods
Route 302, Bretton Woods
There’s sure to be something for everyone and every family at this beautiful resort in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, including the zip line canopy tour, horseback riding, fly fishing lessons, mountain biking, disc golf, scenic gondola rides to the new Rosebrook Lodge and Switchback Grille, climbing and much more.
Waterville Valley Resort
1 Ski Area Rd., Waterville Valley
Activities at this one-stop-shop for a great family summer vacation include disc golf, biking, chair lift rides, swimming, hiking, boating, the bungee trampoline and much more.
41 Main St., Lincoln
Apline Adventures isn’t a ski resort, but no list that includes zip lines and aerial fun is complete without this winner of multiple Best of NH awards. All in one place you can ride in a six-wheeled Swiss Army Pinzgauer, zip line across a 1,500-foot ravine, 240 feet above the ground at speeds up to 60 MPH, ride down a four-story ramp in a snow tube onto a BigAirBag Stuntzone and challenge yourself at an aerial course.