Experienced campers know that New Hampshire is prime camping country. The Granite State is known for spectacular vistas, serene woodland settings, crystal clear lakes and rivers, and nothing gets you closer to these scenic wonders than camping. Under the stars, nestled in a tent, or parked at the junction of civilization and nature, camping is the jumping off point to a vacationer’s smorgasbord of rest, relaxation, and adventure.
For some, camping is the main event; for others, camping is a starting point. New Hampshire offers campers a huge variety in terms of campgrounds and vacation activities. The free New Hampshire Camping Guide, published by the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association (NeHaCa), provides campers with information to make well-informed decisions; the challenge will be to choose among great options. Visit ucampnh.com to order a hard copy or download an electronic version of the guide.
For the camper who prefers to make camp and settle in, the goal is selecting the campground with the ideal setting and amenities: remote or easy-access, natural or well-appointed, a neighborhood feel or isolated sites are all options in New Hampshire. Campers who look at the campground as a jumping-off point are encouraged to check out surrounding venues and attractions, from tax-free shopping to hiking above the treeline, family attractions to cultural and historic sites.
New Hampshire offers campgrounds within minutes of major cities, adjacent to the most popular tourist attractions in the Northeast, and at the edge of the wilderness. Wherever you want to go in New Hampshire, there is a campground nearby. New Hampshire’s proximity to many New England cities, including Boston (Massachusetts), Portland (Maine), Providence (Rhode Island) and Hartford (Connecticut) make it an easy trip for a weekend or longer. Interstates 93, 95, 91, and 89 make many campgrounds easily accessible. To find a campground, visit ucampnh.com/.
“The New Hampshire camping experience is limited only by the imagination,” said NeHaCa Executive Director Jeremy Sprince. “When you think of the elements that are part of your ideal camping weekend or vacation, New Hampshire delivers. From isolated wilderness sites to friendly neighborhood-style campgrounds, waterfront, woodland and mountain top setting, self-sufficiency camping as well as amenity-rich parks, you can find a campsite to call home here where we have been refining the summer vacation experience for nearly two centuries.”
While spectacular scenery, friendly local businesses, and an abundance of outdoor activities await you throughout New Hampshire, the state’s seven geographic regions each have some distinct characteristics and experiences. Visit the one that best suits your interests, or visit them all!
Monadnock Region: Small villages, farms, and rolling countryside are set to the backdrop of Mount Monadnock, one of the most frequently-climbed mountains on earth and a popular camping area.
Go hiking or biking at Miller State Park, Pisgah State Park, the largest in New Hampshire, offers 15 miles of trails that are available for ATV use. Area events include the Hillsborough Balloon Festival in July, the Cheshire Fair in Swanzey in August and the Winchester Pickle Festival in September. Keene, home to Keene State College and Antioch University New England, is a small city with an attractive downtown and a New England College Baseball League team, the Keene Swamp Bats, who play an eight-week season and a ticket that costs less than a major league hot dog.
Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee Region: Situated on the west side of Peterborough, or check out Pisgah State Park in the areas of Hinsdale, Winchester and Chesterfield, for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing, and boating; New Hampshire’s largest state park, with more than 13,000 acres, Pisgah has many campers come to this region to enjoy its natural splendor via foot, bicycle, horseback, kayak, and boat. Hikers enjoy the Appalachian Trail and Mount Sunapee, plus hundreds of other scenic trails ranging from easy to expert including more than 50 miles of Greenways (continuous, low-elevation hiking) that connect Ragged Mountain, in Danbury, past Lake Sunapee all the way to the southwestern corner of the state. A rail trail runs diagonally through this region, from Lebanon to Andover, offering miles of off-road, packed gravel, cycling. Golfers enjoy lush greens; and boaters and swimmers enjoy the nine-mile Lake Sunapee. The Mount Sunapee Resort Outdoor Adventure Park features Zip Lines, a Tree-top Obstacle Course, plus hiking, concerts, Segway tours, brew fests, and a renowned annual two-week craft festival. The region’s scenic byways provide motorists and cyclists with spectacular vistas and landmarks such as the Pier Bridge, the longest wooden covered bridge in the world.
Lakes Region: The largest of the region’s 273 lakes and ponds is Lake Winnipesaukee, encompassing 72 square miles, 274 islands and a 200-mile shoreline. Other popular waterways are Squam Lake, Winnisquam Lake, the Merrimack River, and Newfound Lake. Water enthusiasts enjoy boating, fishing, kayaking, swimming, and waterskiing. On Winnipesaukee, cruise aboard the M/S Mount Washington, or the M/V Sophie C Mail Boat, the oldest floating U.S. Post Office. Hikers can explore trails of all skill levels, and enjoy incredible views from Mount Major in Alton and Rattlesnake Mountain in Holderness. Families enjoy Squam Lake Science Center in Holderness, The Loon Center and Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, and The Wright Museum of World War II in Wolfeboro. Weirs Beach offers nightlife and entertainment, including one of the last drive-in movie theaters in the U.S. The region’s central location also makes it an ideal base for day trips to visit other regions.
South Central Region: This region is home to the vibrant cities of Concord, Manchester and Nashua. Campgrounds are nestled along scenic byways, yet just a short distance from museums, fine dining, theater, attractions and shopping. Enjoy history and art at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, the Capital Center for the Arts and the Museum of New Hampshire History in Concord. Performing arts come alive at Manchester’s Palace Theater and the Dana Center for the Humanities at St. Anselm College. Families enjoy Canobie Lake Park in Salem, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, and Manchester’s SEE Science Museum and Aviation Museum of New Hampshire. There is tax-free shopping at the Merrimack Premium Outlets, and malls and specialty shops throughout the region. Delight in scenic drives throughout quaint New England towns; enjoy “Rail Trails” in Goffstown, hiking at Mt. Uncanoonuc also in Goffstown, and canoe outings on the Merrimack River in Boscawen. Tours and tastings are offered at the Anheuser-Busch Plant in Merrimack, where you can see the famous Budweiser Clydesdales in their stables, pasture and, on occasion, in their shower or grooming stations.
White Mountains Region: Avid hikers seek out this region for its 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest, home to 48 peaks over 4,000 ft. as well as the northeast’s tallest peak, Mount Washington at 6,288 ft. But you need not hike to enjoy the area’s grandeur. Spectacular views are yours via the historic Mount Washington Auto Road and the Mount Washington Cog Railway; or get a better view of the White Mountains from ski area gondola, chairlift, aerial tramway rides, or small plane, helicopter and glider tours. Outdoor recreation opportunities abound including myriad short hikes, learn more at one of the two Appalachian Mountain Club lodges, in Pinkham and Crawford Notches. Take a drive along the 30-mile Kancamagus Highway and National Scenic Byway (Route 112), or enjoy a ride aboard the Conway Scenic Railroad. Canoe, kayak, swim or fish in the Saco River. Zoom down a zip line at White Mountain-area resorts such as Bretton Woods, Cranmore, Loon, and Wildcat. Bicycle or mountain-bike along meandering paths or challenging trails. Play tennis or golf at one of the region’s nine courses. Bring a picnic and relax at Arethusa or Franconia Falls or the spectacular Flume Gorge. Family attractions range from Story Land and Santa’s Village to the Polar Caves, Lost River, Clark’s Trading Post, and the Mount Washington Observatory and Weather Discovery Center.
Great North Woods: Stretching up to the Canadian border with 97 percent of the land covered in forest, the Great North Woods region offers some of the best hunting, hiking, and rock climbing in New Hampshire. Here, trails outnumber highways including a massive, dedicated ATV and snowmobile trail system, Jericho Mountain State Park, with more than 100 miles of trails for the power sports enthusiast. The Connecticut lakes and the upper Connecticut River offer great trout and salmon fishing. Scenic drives are a leading attraction, so bring a camera to capture the natural splendor which will greet you at every turn in the road. Head up Route 3 to view rolling farmland along the Connecticut River, and enjoy a picnic at Beaver Brook Falls in Colebrook. Drive across Route 26 through Dixville Notch and you’ll pass the site of the historic Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, where many first-in-the-nation primary votes were cast in the Ballot Room. Then head north to Lake Umbagog, where bald eagles nest. Heading south on Route 16 is Thirteen Mile Woods, a stretch of untouched forest along the Androscoggin River, a favorite for kayaking, canoeing and fishing. As you approach Berlin you’ll see the towering Nansen Ski Jump in Milan, a tribute to the Official State Sport, skiing, and a newly restored historic site.
Seacoast Region: This region features 18 miles of Atlantic coastline, with long sandy beaches, working ports, offshore islands, and popular resort towns that date back nearly 400 years. At the hub of the region, the old port and downtown areas of the city of Portsmouth are home to brick-paved streets, historic buildings, art galleries, specialty shops, sidewalk cafes and award-winning restaurants. Strawbery Banke Museum and Prescott Park provide a historic recreation of life in Colonial days. A short drive away, Redhook Ale Brewery offers tours and casual dining. Tour the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire in Dover, the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, Great Bay Discovery Center and Great Bay Wildlife Reserve in Greenland, or Flag Hill Winery in Lee. History buffs will enjoy Exeter, one of the first four settlements in the state and its capital during the Revolutionary War. Hampton Beach offers shopping, dining, and a variety of entertainment, such as concerts and weekly fireworks throughout the summer. Rent a kayak and explore the Great Bay; stroll the paths of the region’s many public gardens including the Urban Forestry Center, Fuller Gardens and the Moffatt-Ladd House and Garden; or hop on a boat for a whale watch, river tour or trip to the historic and remote Isles of Shoals, located six miles off the coast.
About the New Hampshire Campground Owners' Association (NeHaCa)
Established more than 50 years ago, by New Hampshire campground owners the primary purpose of the New Hampshire Campground Owners’ Association is to promote camping in New Hampshire. NeHaCa is comprised of 143 campgrounds that offer overnight or seasonal campsites. NeHaCa publishes and distributes over 190,000 copies of its annual camping guide, The New Hampshire Camping Guide.