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10 secret places to enjoy New Hampshire

The Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge in Jefferson and Whitefield, N.H., a low-lying, wet, wooded area on the edge of the White Mountain, is a great place to canoe.Phil Brown/NH Audubon Society/NH Audubon Society

New Hampshire’s hidden beauty spots are known to but a few, those lucky enough to spend their days amidst her glorious landscape. We asked several Granite State outdoorspeople — including fishing guides, trail developers, and folks at the Appalachian Mountain Club and The Nature Conservancy — to share theirs. Here are 10 of their top recommendations, places sure to renew the spirit and remind you why it’s so great to live in New England.


Phil Brown, director of land management, New Hampshire Audubon

“Pondicherry is the wetland counterpart to the [adjacent] White Mountain National Forest in terms of beauty, wildness, and accessibility,” Brown says. “It is relatively pristine, offers bountiful recreation and wildlife viewing opportunities, and it is picturesque beyond the imagination.” The refuge offers trails that are suitable for adventurous types and the weekend walker as well, encompassing about 6,000 acres of protected land between the White Mountains and the Upper Connecticut River Valley of New Hampshire’s North Country.

“From my first visit, I was captivated by the diversity of wildlife and the natural communities, especially the boreal forests, and the northern feel of the place. I’ll never forget how an aggressive pair of Northern goshawks dive-bombed me — the unsuspecting hiker — because I unknowingly ventured too close to their nest location,” Brown recalls. This is a place where nature rules.



Nate Shedd, visitor services supervisor, AMC Pinkham Notch visitors center

“More popular ravines like Tuckerman and Huntington get all the attention and visitation, but King Ravine rivals its southerly sisters in both beauty and majesty,” Shedd says. “With its massive boulder field and the soaring ramparts of Mount Adams and the Durand Ridge, King Ravine immediately asserts its sense of scale and size.

“I was first attracted to King Ravine by its reputation for steep and challenging trails,” Shedd recalls, but he has come to appreciate its subtle beauty, things like the blur of a pine marten dashing through the stillness of the fir trees. “Ultimately, what I have come to admire most about King Ravine is its sense of remoteness and isolation. Despite being close to the Appalachian Trail and many of the more popular peaks of the Presidential Range, there is no doubt that when you are standing on the floor of the ravine, you are in a very wild and beautiful place.”



Nate Shedd

“The White Mountains offer countless views and vistas, but one of my favorites is the view from Mount Hight in the Carter Range,” Shedd says. “Like most of the Carter Range, the peak flirts with the treeline, mingling alpine wildflowers and lichen with the more familiar elements of the boreal forest.” Shedd recommends this hike to folks who wish to discover some lesser-known areas of the White Mountain National Forest. “The view from the summit will often inspire hikers to visit the more remote sections of the forest, like the Wild River Valley and Evans Notch,” he says. “You can really get a sense of the scale of the wilderness and the vast opportunities that exist for exploration.” Mount Hight won’t get you a check mark on your 4,000-footer list (it is too close to Carter Dome to be considered a separate peak), but “it will reward you with beguiling beauty and a distinct sense of place.”



Nancy Ritger, naturalist and AMC guide, AMC Huts and Cardigan Lodge program manager

“The ramparts are a jumble of rocks created by the grand forces of nature and surrounded by Wildcat and Carter Dome, towering 1,000 feet above,” Ritger says. “It is a remote, peaceful spot that reminds me of the power of the mountain-building processes and, in this case, the power of freeze/thaw and rock slides. It makes human presence seem inconsequential.” Her favorite time to be at the ramparts is early morning, as the sun comes over the ridge. While all seasons are beautiful there, Ritger loves the soft green of summertime, “with the added appeal of a quick, cold dip in the lake.”


Bill Downey, owner, Portsmouth Kayak Adventures

“One of our favorite spots [to paddle to] in the Little Harbor area of Portsmouth is Frost Point,” Downey says. “Frost Point is actually the backside of Odiorne State Park in Rye. It’s a gentle expanse of sandy beach that overlooks the Gulf of Maine on one side and beautiful Little Harbor on the other.

“It’s a great place to pull up, take a walk in the woods, go for a swim, or just hang out,” Downey adds. Plus, it’s easily accessible and the waters are relatively safe, he says. Frost Point’s other secret: “Sunsets are spectacular from this vantage point.” www.portsmouth



Lainie Castine, trail developer and maintainer for Cohos Trail; winner of the 2010 American Trails Trail Worker Award

“This is a dam-created bog on the Connecticut River, with one remote tent site that can be reached by canoe or kayak,” Castine explains. “Last summer, I became the park ranger at Deer Mountain Campground and have the honor of maintaining the state park, including tent site No. 28.” The best way to appreciate its beauty is to hike in from the campground or from Sophie’s Lane at dusk and “listen to the calm,” she says. Even parents with young children can experience this gorgeous and remote locale. “Parents can launch their canoe just 1/8 mile up Route 3, and carry their tents, gear, and children for a short distance on flat water to reach the campsite,” Castine says. “It’s an experience they will never forget.”


Laurie Gabriel, trustee, the New Hampshire Chapter of The Nature Conservancy

“There may be no better value-for-the-effort hike in the valley than Black Cap,” Gabriel says. “It offers a panoramic view from Cathedral Ledge to Mount Washington, which is breathtaking in every season.” Black Cap, along with Middle and Peaked mountains, is protected as part of the Nature Conservancy’s Green Hills Preserve. “Although the hills provide a lovely backdrop for the town, most people don’t realize that there are miles and miles of trails to explore, just steps away from North Conway Village. I love hiking here with my family and friends, as do my dogs, Lily and Maggie.”



Marti Mayne, PR manager, Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce

Supposedly named after the Roman goddess of nature, Diana’s Baths is a series of small waterfalls along Lucy Brook. It isn’t hard to imagine a goddess frolicking here, or fairies at play in tiny grottoes. “During the summer, the baths are a great place to enjoy the tranquillity of nature, and explore the rock ledges, cascading falls, and pools,” Mayne says. The easy hike to the baths is less than a mile. “On a clear, full moon night, the moon will light the way for the walk into the [75-foot high] falls,” Mayne says. “Many people like to do a little skinny-dipping by moonlight, because the location makes for a particularly private place to go au naturel. On a hot summer evening, sit in the rocky pools and let the water cascade over your shoulders — it’s a lovely way to cool off.”


Gerry Crow, New Hampshire Rivers Guide Service

“The Pemigewasset from Bristol to Franklin is remote enough that it feels wild, but it is easy enough to access if you know where to go,” Crow says. (Get there via Coolidge Woods Road in Bristol.) “It is beautiful water, with rapids and pools, bordered by untouched forest. You are likely to see fish and other wildlife, but not many people.” Crow’s favorite moment there was with a client who had just caught and released a salmon. “We looked across the river toward the far shore, [taking in] the whitewater rapids, the deep pools, the colors of the foliage, and the mist burning off in the sunlight on top of the ridge. There were no buildings or other signs of civilization in sight.

“We were just a couple of people, soaking in the best of New Hampshire on a perfect morning.” www.nhrivers


Jim Norton, New Hampshire Rivers Guide Service

“The Androscoggin is a fantastic river, not only for fishing but scenery,” Norton says. “We’re there just about every night in June, fishing the river or a pond. There’s nothing quite like being on the water at sunset.” In some spots, the nearest paved road is several miles away, so “there’s nothing but woods between us and Canada,” Norton adds. “On the drive back to the lodge we often see moose, deer, foxes, and rabbits. The nearest major city or town is over 30 miles away in any direction so there is no artificial light. Back at the lodge we often sit on the porch and look at the Milky Way and other stars.”

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at bair