Franconia Notch Recreation Path
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (AMC Books)
Address:852 Daniel Webster Highway
Hours:No hours posted
Fee: Free
Bathrooms: At the Flume, the Basin, and Lafayette Place Campground
Water/Snacks: At the Flume, the Basin, and Lafayette Place Campground

USGS Lincoln and Franconia quads; AMC White Mountain National Forest Map & Guide, G4–H4 (AMC)

With gentle grades, swimming options, and amazing scenery in one of New Hampshire’s most dramatic locations, this bike trip has everything you need for the perfect day.

There are few places in New Hampshire or even New England that can match the scenic vistas found in Franconia Notch. This bike ride, which can range from just a few miles to a full 17.6-mile day, lets you see this gorgeous area from the seat of your bike. It is recommended for experienced bike riders ages 6 and up, or any age at all in a bike trailer or child carrier. While much of it is gradual, there are a few short, steep sections that may be a safety concern for kids who are inexperienced with properly braking while descending. Younger children can safely walk down the steeper sections with adult supervision. Helmets are always recommended.

Depending on the ability of your group or how much time and energy you have, choose any of the following destinations as a turnaround point to create the perfect trip itinerary.

The Basin (1.8 miles)
By starting your ride at the Flume Gorge, you can pedal your way up the hill and coast home at the end of your ride. Head out of the parking lot on the paved trail, which is perfect for bikes of all types. Stay to the right if you are riding slowly so others can pass you.

In 1.8 miles the trail reaches the Basin, a unique and beautiful geologic formation in the Pemigewasset River featuring granite potholes and swirling clear water. If you’d like to explore the area and escape the crowds, refer to Trip 38 for a 0.5-mile side trip to Kinsman Falls.

Lafayette Campground (3.5 miles)
This beautiful 1.7-mile section of the trail follows the Pemigewasset River closely. Many brook trout have been caught in these waters, so bring along a collapsible rod to try your hand. Lafayette Campground is a hub of activity for summer day-hiking in the area. It is a major gateway to AMC’s High Huts, including Lonesome Lake Hut (see Trip 38, Plan B) and Greenleaf Hut, and you may see some scruffy hut “croo” members carrying loads of food and supplies up to the High Huts for dinner.

Profile Lake (5.5 miles)
This 2-mile section has many rolling hills and veers farther away from I-93. When coming down, be sure to stay on the brakes. As you head north from the campground, look for the beaver dam on your right. The path passes under the Cannon Cliffs (former home of the Old Man of the Mountain) and skirts Profile Lake’s northwestern shore.

Skookumchuck Brook Trailhead (8.8 miles)
This 3.3-mile section goes up and over the notch. From Profile Lake, ride north past the former Old Man viewing area, past Echo Lake, and beneath the ski area at Cannon Mountain. Just past Echo Lake, you will pass NH 118. For a great view of the notch, park the bikes just to the west on US 118 and scamper up Artists Bluff, a popular and beautiful walk.

Proceeding north, the path takes a beautiful, gradual descent to the Skookumchuck Brook Trailhead on US 3.

The Old Man of the Mountain
Forever enshrined on New Hampshire’s state seal, license plates, road signs, and even the state quarter, the Old Man of the Mountain was a unique geologic formation on the Cannon Cliffs in Franconia Notch that resembled an old man’s face if viewed from just the right angle. Beloved by generations of locals and visitors, the cliffs sadly collapsed in May 2003, due to gravity and natural damage from ice that formed in the cracks in the cliffs.

Since the 1920s the state park system and a local volunteer family, the Nielsens, had noticed the expanding cracks in the cliff and worked to preserve the cliffs and minimize the damage caused by ice and water. They used a mix of chains, cables, and concrete to keep the cliff together, but eventually the twin forces of water and gravity proved to be too much to battle.

Lovers of New Hampshire the world over mourned the loss of this symbol that represented the craggy, individualist, and tough nature of the state’s people. The symbolism of this rocky profile was perhaps best summarized hundreds of years ago by the famous statesman and New Hampshire native

Daniel Webster: “Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoemakers hang out a gigantic shoe, jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.”

Plan B:
The Flume has amazing wooden boardwalks that suspend you over the raging waters and falls. There is an admission fee, but it is a fun place to visit nonetheless. The Flume Scavenger Hunt, available online, is especially enjoyable. See for more details.
Where to Eat Nearby:

The sister towns of Lincoln and North Woodstock have dozens of restaurants and will be able to please just about anyone.


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