Grand Canyon of New Hampshire: Franconia Notch

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Franconia Notch

Franconia Notch is the “Grand Canyon of New Hampshire” and I was fortunate to be able to spend a week in this beautiful part of New Hampshire.  A notch is a v-shaped cut that you make in a tree when you are cutting it down, and Franconia Notch was so named because the notch in the mountains of New Hampshire looks like the notches the early settlers made in trees. Franconia Notch is the mountain pass winding between the Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges.

In order to see the canyon part of Franconia Notch, you have to climb a mountain, and we climbed several while we were there.  We looked at Franconia Notch from the top of Cannon Mountain, from Bald Mountain, and from Artist’s Palette.  We explored this “Grand Canyon of New Hampshire” by climbing to Lonesome Lake, hiking around the Flume, spending time in the Visitor’s Center, walking along Profile and Echo Lakes, riding our tandem on the nine-mile Recreation Trail and enjoying the beautiful waterfalls along the mountain streams and rivers.

The primary river running through Franconia Notch is the Pemigewasett.  It cuts through the granite of the mountains creating luscious, green valleys filled with ferns, mosses, lichens, maple, oak, fir and pine trees.  Everything is very lush and green due to plentiful water and abundant rain.

I-93 runs through Franconia Notch but is only one lane through the ten miles of the State Park.  One of the challenges of building this road through the Notch was The Old Man of the Mountain, the giant granite face on the side of the mountain that is New Hampshire’s state symbol.  This beloved symbol is no longer a consideration because it collapsed in 2003 despite 100 years of effort to preserve it.  It is amazing that it clung to the mountain as long as it did.  The State Park set up Profile Plaza, trying to recreate the face on the side of the mountain.  Despite their very creative efforts, it is a sorry second to actually seeing the face.

There are two campgrounds in Franconia Notch State Park.  The Lafayette Campground is large but heavily wooded and suitable only for tents and very small RVs.  We stayed at the Cannon Mountain campground which only had seven sites but they were suitable for any size rig and had full hookups.  There are also several lodges close to the park.  The towns of Franconia and Lincoln are nearby and Lincoln is set up to accommodate tourists.  We especially enjoyed the Gypsy Cafe with its eclectic food and homemade desserts.

Franconia Notch doesn’t look much like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but it is definitely a grand canyon of New Hampshire.  One day isn’t enough time to see it.  To experience this wonderful state park you to get out into it and climb some mountains.

Looking north from Artist’s Bluff
Looking south from Cannon Mountain
The Notch in the background
Most of the hikes have sections that look like this!
The tree roots are works of art
A lovely gazebo along the Nature Trail
Looking west through the Notch
Echo Lake looking south