15 Adventurous Things to Do in New Hampshire

By Emily Leikam on October 30, 2023
9 min read

To explore New Hampshire is to discover a state abound with quaint towns, soaring mountains, and enchanting forests. The Granite State offers some of New England's most pristine and scenic outdoor locations. No matter the season, you’ll find exciting activities. Here are 15 adventurous things to do while visiting New Hampshire!

Don't forget to browse through our essential outdoor checklists before you go!

1. Hike Mount Monadnock

Mount Monadnock is a prominent 3,165 ft mountain in southern New Hampshire. Part of the Appalachian Mountains the state park offers gorgeous hiking trails for any nature lover.

There are plenty of options to choose from when deciding which trail to hike on Mount Monadnock. Start with the White Dot Trail, an easy two-mile hike through dense pine and oak forests. Mount Monadnock is not only a place to enjoy during the warmer months, but it also offers exhilarating slopes for snowboarding, skiing, and sledding in the winter.

brown wooden sign on tree
White Dot Trail on Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire. Photo by Doug Kerr.

2. Explore Franconia Notch State Park

Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway

Take a ride on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway for an unforgettable view of the park and beyond. A cable car ascends 2.1 miles to the 4,080-foot summit of Cannon Mountain in less than 10 minutes. Book a two-way ticket for a ride up and down, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, book a one-way ticket and hike down the mountain.

The Flume Gorge

This breathtaking natural wonder is a granite gorge that sits at the base of Mount Liberty. It's full of moss-covered granite walls, cascading waterfalls, giant ferns, glacial pools, and historic bridges. The Flume Trail is a one-way, two-mile scenic trail that provides you an up-close view of the natural surroundings. Visiting the Flume Gorge requires a reservation, so plan accordingly.

Things to do in New Hampshire 2
The breathtaking Flume Gorge. Photo by Kellyanne Latulippe.

Echo Lake Beach

Echo Lake Beach, situated at the base of Cannon Mountain, is the perfect spot to swim, sunbathe and enjoy the picturesque view. Rent a canoe, kayak, or paddle boat for a more relaxing adventure on this alpine lake.

Profile Lake

If you're an avid fly fisher, Profile Lake is the place for you. This beautiful spot is designated for fly-fishing only and can be found beneath the famous rock formation, Old Man of the Mountain, that collapsed in 2003. This is a great place to spend a day outdoors; even if you don’t catch anything, the views are worth it!

Hiking Trails

There are plenty of hiking trails in Franconia Notch State Park ranging from easy, 2-mile trails to 16-mile day hikes. Check out Artist Bluff Trail, Lonesome Lake Trail, Mt. Pemigewasset Trail, the Franconia Ridge Trail, and the Appalachian Trail.

The Basin

The Basin is a geological marvel formed over 25,000 years ago by erosion caused by a melting glacier. An easy hiking trail leads you directly to this beautiful, relaxing site.

waterfall near brown rocks
The Basin, New Hampshire. Photo by Mick Haupt.

3. Be Amazed at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

Get up close and observe forest animals like mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, black bears, river otters, and deer along the Live Animal Exhibit Trail. Spot bald eagles, hawks, turkey vultures, and the great horned owl. 

In the spring and summer months, take a walk through Kirkwood Gardens to view the gorgeous display of flowers. Or, check out Squam Lake Cruises and reserve a tour. Enjoy dinner and sunset while watching for bald eagles and loons.

brown otter laying on brown grass and leaves
Otter captured in Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. Photo by Christopher Amrich.

4. See the Waterfalls

New Hampshire has more than 100 waterfalls to explore, including these popular choices:

  • Purgatory Falls is a series of three different waterfalls known as the Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls in Merrimack Valley. Take the family-friendly hike to the Lower Purgatory Falls; continue north along Purgatory Brook for 3 miles to find the Middle and Upper Falls.
  • Trues Ledges is a natural area in Lebanon where you’ll find hiking trails, natural swimming holes and flowing waterfalls. This is a beautiful place to enjoy a hot summer day while exploring the forest.
  • Glen Ellis Falls is a powerful spectacle located in the White Mountain National Forest in Jackson. Glen Ellis is a popular attraction because of its easy accessibility; it’s only a 10-minute walk on a 0.3 mile trail.
  • Arethusa Falls is a breathtaking 140-foot, multi-tiered waterfall located in Crawford Notch State Park. Hiking to Arethusa Falls is very popular in the White Mountain National Forest. The trail is a moderate climb, but it will test the endurance of first-time hikers. The destination, though, is worth it! Two bonus waterfalls and a swimming hole sit about a mile downstream from Arethusa Falls.
waterfall on the brown rocks
Arethusa Falls - the tallest waterfall in the White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire. Photo by Cecilio Ricardo (USDA Forest Service).

5. Hike to the Lakes of the Clouds

Travel 5,000 feet above sea level to discover a series of lakes between Mount Washington and Mount Monroe. You’ll be amazed by this other-worldly site as you peer off over the clouds into a spectacular setting.

The Lakes of the Clouds Trail is a difficult 4.4-mile hike that begins near Jackson. The last mile of the hike is very steep and is considered treacherous at certain points. Reserve an off-the-grid bunk at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut where you’ll be able to stay the night and wake up to an unforgettable view.

Check out The Insider’s Guide to Mount Washington in Winter for more hiking opportunities and tips.

body of water near a mountain
Lakes of the Clouds and Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Photo by Tim Sackton.

6. Go Whale Watching

Head to the coast, and book a whale-watching tour on the Atlantic Ocean for good chance at viewing the North Atlantic humpback, as well as fin, minke, and pilot whales. These majestic mammals arrive in New England waters as early as March and leave in late November. Tours typically operate from late May through early October.

Whale-watching boats will take you as far as 30 miles offshore and offer a whale sighting success rate of 80-99%. Tours leave from both Rye and Hampton Harbors and last around 4 hours.

whale in the body of water
Fin whale a few hours from Rye Harbour, off the New Hampshire Coast. Photo by BingoBangoGringo.

7. Enjoy the Beaches

New Hampshire has great beaches where you can enjoy surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, and beach volleyball. 

  • Jenness State Beach in Rye is a popular spot for year-round surfing with smaller summer waves that are great for beginners.
  • Hampton Beach State Park is a family-friendly beach where many people go during the summer to cool off. Nearby shops offer paddle board rentals. There’s also an RV park at Hampton Beach where you can park your camper and wake up to the morning waves.
  • Seabrook Dunes and Beach is right down the road from Hampton Beach and usually less crowded, so if you’re looking for some quiet time this is the spot for you.
long sand beach with houses in the distance
Hampton Beach in winter by rickpilot_2000.

8. Ride a Horse up a Mountain

Black Mountain in Jackson is a well-known ski mountain in the winter time, but this charming ski mountain turns into a horse-riding wonderland in summer and fall. Book a trip to ride up and down the mountain through a beautiful forest. Lessons also available for beginners.

Check How To Dress For Horseback Riding for tips on the proper attire!

two brown bavarian horses at a farm
Besides trail riding, in winter you can get a sleigh ride with these Bavarian horses at the Nestlenook Farm. Photo by rickpilot_2000.

9. Hop on the Cog Railway

One of the easiest ways to reach the top of Mount Washington, which has the highest elevation in the northern Appalachians, is on the Cog Railway. This authentic coal-fired steam engine train has been carrying passengers up this steep mountain since 1869. On a clear day, you’ll have an unforgettable view from the summit that spans four states.

yellow and blue trail passing through mountains
The start of Mount Washington Cog Railway. Photo by Tony Hisgett.

10. Explore Market Square and Portsmouth’s Historic Houses

Exploring Market Square is a must for any history buff. This historic center in Portsmouth is well known as the location of New Hampshire’s Colonial Legislature. Not only is this area an important part of the city’s development, but it also contains historic buildings. Wind your way down the brick-paved streets to discover more than 70 of the city’s historical sites and scenic attractions. 

One popular attraction is the Strawbery Banke Museum, an engaging 10-acre outdoor history museum. Meet costumed role-players, watch traditional crafts being made, explore heritage gardens, and participate in hands-on activities. The museum also contains a complete neighborhood of historic homes on their original foundations that you can explore.

white building with dark green windows and door
One of the houses of the iconic Strawbery Banke Museum. Photo by Lee Wright.

11. Fly in the Sky with Morningside Flight Park

If you’re searching for an exhilarating aerial adventure that will take you above the trees, check out Morningside Flight Park. Learn how to hang glide, paraglide, or power paraglide. If that isn’t enough, Morningside offers zip-line canopy tours, guided kayaking journeys, and outdoor laser tag!

12. See the Ancient Polar Caves

The Polar Caves were formed about 50,000 years ago as the third continental glacier glided across New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The glacier left behind a series of caves and passageways known today as Polar Caves Park. Enjoy a self-guided walk through a pine forest, and learn about the local tribes that used to call this area home.

13. Check out America’s Stonehenge

Atop of a hill in Salem is a site shrouded in mystery: America’s Stonehenge. This site contains many different man-made rock formations, stone walls, and caves.

Carbon dating estimates that part of this site was built over 4,000 years ago, though archeologists are still uncertain who built it. There is, however, significant evidence that some of these rock formations align with solar and lunar occurrences, creating an astronomical calendar. This is the perfect place to check out for a mysterious outdoor adventure!

gray rock formations in the woods
A very unusual collection of stone structures - America's Stonehenge. Photo by Richard Haddad.

14. Tour the Castle in The Clouds

Castle in the Clouds is an elegant estate atop Ossipee Mountain in Moultonborough. Offering surreal views of lakes and forests, this 16-room estate was built in 1913 and offers tours in and around the property. There are over 5,200 acres and 28 miles of hiking trails that wind through forested areas and waterfalls. Guided horseback or carriage tours take you around the property while telling the story of the Lucknow Mansion history.

estate with red roof on green lawn
Castle in the Clouds, New Hampshire. Photo by massmatt.

15. Go Whitewater Rafting

Rivers and streams are plentiful in New Hampshire. Once the lifeblood of the state, and filled with logs making their way to the paper mills, they now serve a different purpose.

New Hampshire rivers are perfect for whitewater rafting. You'll find everything from family-friendly Class II rapids on the Androscoggin to wilder, more arduous levels on surrounding rivers and streams. Several outfitters are available to take you out for a guided adventure, as well as provide you with the needed gear and instructions.

Do you know what are Class II rapids? Check out Whitewater Rafting 101 for a quick introduction!

clouds and trees reflecting in the river
You can find many whitewater rafting opportunities on the beautiful Androscoggin River in New Hampshire. Photo by Mark Bonica.

Gear Up for the Granite State

New Hampshire may be the 5th smallest state, but it offers big adventure. From the White Mountains to its coastal beaches, have the time of your life exploring this part of the country.

If you're hiking the mountains, it’s important to know that the weather can change rapidly, so be prepared with all the proper gear needed to keep you safe and warm. If you are camping be sure to follow the leave no trace rule and pack out whatever you pack in.

Enjoy your travels and have fun in the peaceful, yet adventurous state of New Hampshire!

Featured image - Deephaven, Holderness, New Hampshire by Anand Khatri.

Emily Leikam
Emily Leikam

Emily is an avid traveler and has been all around the world from Alaska and Iceland to Peru and Bali. Her home base is Nashville, TN and when not traveling you can find her hiking, practicing yoga or cooking/baking!


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