Where in New England can you find hard-core hiking opportunities, a world-famous scenic byway, spectacular waterfalls and swimming holes, and a relaxing resort that will turn your New Hampshire road trip into a true vacation?
If you said Lincoln, New Hampshire, you’re spot on! This quaint resort town is nestled in the Western White Mountains of New Hampshire, and it’s a mecca for hikers, campers, road trippers, and family vacationers. We had the pleasure of visiting Lincoln in August and were thrilled to find out that the town is extremely dog-friendly as well.
So whether you’re embarking on a family road trip, a weekend getaway, or a serious outdoor adventure in the White Mountains, there are so many amazing things to do in Lincoln, New Hampshire year-round.
Lincoln truly is a four-season destination, but the suggestions below are for visiting Lincoln in the summer and fall. For things to do in the winter, check out the suggestions from RiverWalk Resort.
The Best Things to do in Lincoln, New Hampshire
Cascading waterfalls. incredible hiking trails. Mind-blowing fall foliage. The White Mountains of New Hampshire are an outdoor lover’s playground in the summer and fall. Whether you want to pitch your tent in the White Mountain National Forest or relax poolside at RiverWalk Resort, you won’t run out of things to do in Lincoln, New Hampshire during your summer or fall vacation.
Drive the Famous Kancamagus Highway
Locals love it when you can pronounce this famous scenic byway correctly, so the first thing you should know is that it’s “Kank-ah-mah-gus”.
The Kancamagus Highway is a 34.5-mile stretch of pavement that winds from Lincoln to Conway, New Hampshire. It cuts through the White Mountain National Forest, providing spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
“The Kanc”, as it is affectionately called, is particularly lovely in the fall, and has been named one of the most gorgeous fall-foliage drives many times over. There are no stores, gas stations, or lodging on the Kancamagus Highway, so it’s a bit like stepping back in time, if only for a brief time.
If pitching your tent in this ancient forest sounds like fun, you can choose from six front-country campgrounds right off the Kancamagus Highway, running between $20 and $25 per night. Big Rock and Covered Bridge Campground have sites that can be reserved ahead of time on Reservation.gov. The others are first-come, first-serve.
There are plenty of adventures to be had on the Kancamagus Highway, but unless you have days and days to spend hiking and camping, it can be hard to choose what to see and do.
Here are some beautiful Kancamagus Highway attractions that don’t require an all-day hike or an above-average fitness level. They are listed from east to west. Take a full day to explore the Kancamagus Highway if you have time.
Lincoln Woods Trail and Franconia Falls Trail
The Lincoln Woods Trail to Franconia Falls is an easy hike and an even easier bike ride. This is one of the most popular hiking trails on the Kancamagus Highway, crossing the Pemigewasset River on a suspension footbridge, and traveling into one of the largest tracts of wilderness in the northeastern United States.
The most popular destination on the Lincoln Woods Trail is Franconia Falls, which is a series of waterfalls, natural rock slides, and swimming holes, perfect for exploring on a hot summer day. This trail is an out-and-back trail that totals 6.8 miles. Leashed dogs are welcome.
The Hancock Overlook provides one of the best views on the Kancamagus Highway. There’s a little covered gazebo where you can take in the views and eat your lunch, and we were smitten by the tall, lonely “heart tree” near the parking lot. You may not spend more than 15 minutes at this delightful viewpoint, but it’s definitely worth the stop, especially if you want to take some photos.
Sabbaday Falls is one of the most popular Kancamagus Highway attractions. Normally, we try and stay away from huge crowds at natural attractions, but this one is worth visiting even if the parking lot is full.
The short path to Sabbaday Falls is wheelchair accessible, and after a five-minute walk, you will be greeted with two plunging waterfalls and a five-foot-high punchbowl. There are boardwalks throughout, and visitors can view the falls from many different angles.
The only downside to visiting this gorgeous waterfall? The incredibly clear waters are perfect for swimming, which unfortunately isn’t allowed.
Sabbaday Falls, along with dozens of other waterfalls in the White Mountains, can be found in the fabulous book, New England Waterfalls by Greg Parsons and Kate B. Watson. This is one of the most dog-eared books I own. I promise you will find it useful if you live in New England or visit often!
Rocky Gorge Scenic Area
Not only is Rocky Gorge an awesome spot for a picnic, the area also provides access to trails for long and short jaunts into the White Mountain National Forest. Cross a wide footbridge over the Swift River as it narrows into Rocky Gorge, then hike the one-mile trail around Falls Pond.
When you get back from your jaunt around the pond, you can venture out on the rocks to get a better view of the cascades. There is no swimming within 400 feet of the gorge, but we saw lots of people swimming upstream.
Albany Covered Bridge
The Albany Covered Bridge crosses 120 feet over the Swift River and was built in 1858. It’s a beautiful bridge to photograph, especially during the fall foliage season. You can drive over the bridge in three seasons, and pedestrians are welcome year-round.
Driving through the Albany Covered Bridge on Dugaway Road will take you to Covered Bridge Campground. You can also access the Boulder Loop hiking trail from the parking area, which is a 2.8-mile loop with fabulous views of the surrounding mountains.
Explore Franconia Notch State Park
Located just north of Lincoln, New Hampshire, Franconia Notch State Park spans 6,693 acres in the White Mountains. This is one of those state parks that rivals many national parks in the United States.
New Hampshire State Parks recently implemented a reservation system for many of the most popular natural attractions. In Franconia Notch State Parks, you will need to make reservations and pay an extra fee to visit Flume Gorge, Echo Beach, and Cannon Mountain Aeriel Tramway.
Dogs are permitted on the trails in Franconia Notch State Park, but they aren’t allowed on the Flume Gorge or in campgrounds.
Entrance fees are $4 per person ($2 for kids). Here are the highlights that you won’t want to miss in Franconia Notch State Park.
The three hiking trails mentioned below are definite highlights, but there are dozens of trails for every type of hiker. If you will be spending more than a few days in the White Mountains, I highly recommend AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains, which includes eight awesome hikes in Franconia Notch State Park.
- Ride the Cannon Mountain Aeriel Tramway: Want the views without the work. Ride New Hampshire’s only Aerial Tramway to the top of Cannon Mountain (4,080 feet). Open May 28 – October 17, 9 am – 5 pm. $25 per person, and totally worth it!
- Hike up Artist Bluff: This popular hike is a 1.5-mile loop that gains 436 feet in elevation. Once at the top of the bluff, you can look out across Echo Lake toward the surrounding mountains.
- Flume Gorge Trail: This busy, 2-mile loop takes you along Flume River into a natural gorge with numerous cascading waterfalls and beautiful rock formations. $18 per person ($16 for kids 6-12).
- Basin Cascade Trail: Not quite as dramatic as Flume Gorge, but you will get to see several beautiful waterfalls with fewer crowds and no fee. 2.6 miles round-trip.
- Rent a kayak or canoe on Echo Lake: This small lake is nestled in the mountains and includes a sandy beach and canoe and kayak rentals. Reservations were required to park at Echo Lake in 2021 to minimize crowds. Canoe and kayak rentals are $20 per hour, and unfortunately, you can’t bring your own boats.
Cool Off in a New Hampshire Swimming Hole
As long as you don’t mind cold, clear, mountain water, you will find plenty of spots to cool off near Lincoln, NH. Our favorite swimming spot of the trip was in the Pemigewasset River at the Hancock Campground. There is a short trail leading from the campground to the river. The swimming area is large, deep, and cold, plus there are lots of spots to spread out on the shore for an all-day adventure.
If you happen to be staying at RiverWalk Resort and don’t want to swim in the beautiful, heated pool, you can meander along the J.E. Henry Trail behind the resort until you come to a small, private swimming hole. This is on also the Pemigewasset River, and it’s a great way to wake up on a summer morning.
Our last recommendation for awesome swimming is just off the Kancamagus Highway at the Lower Falls Scenic Area. It’s closer to Conway than Lincoln, but it’s a lovely place to picnic, swim, and take pictures. Truly a beautiful spot!
Drink Local Beer and Wine
Another one of our favorite pastimes is exploring the craft beer and wine scene in the small towns we visit across the country. During our trip to Lincoln, we were lucky to find One Love Brewery, which was a five-minute walk from RiverWalk Resort, and the patio is dog-friendly!
Order a flight to get started – a selection of six One Love beer samples for $11. This is our favorite way to try new beers. Our favorite was the Oktoberfest, but all of the One Love beers were pretty tasty.
The menu is pretty interesting, but we can only vouch for the burgers. One veggie, one regular. Very tasty, although the veggie burger was on the dry side. They have a full selection of gluten-free items too!
Located right at RiverWalk Resort, Seven Birches Winery features local New Hampshire wine, a shop with unique gifts, and tastings on the balcony overlooking the pool. The tasting room at Seven Birches is open daily in the afternoon and evening. Try a flight of five different wines along with a plate of local chocolate.
Surprisingly, our favorite wine was the blueberry, which reminded us of sweet port wine. We bought a bottle to take home as a souvenir of course — it was so delicious!
Things to do with Kids in Lincoln, New Hampshire
Obviously, kids will enjoy all the natural attractions that we’ve covered so far, but there are some incredible not-so-natural attractions that families will love too! Here are some of our favorite ways to spend time in Lincoln with kids.
Play a Round of Mini Golf at Hobo Hills in Lincolcn
Is it me or is mini-golf only fun when you do it on vacation? I love the course at Hobo Hills. It’s within walking distance of downtown Lincoln, New Hampshire (including RiverWalk Resort), and it features 18 holes surrounded by lush landscaping. There’s even a stream running through the course with waterfalls. We love relaxing at Hobo Hills after a day of hiking.
Hobo Hills is located at 127 Main Street in Lincoln, NH. A round of golf is $9.50 for adults, $8.50 for kids 4-12. They are open seasonally from spring until fall.
Spend a Summer Afternoon at Whale’s Tale Waterpark in Lincoln
Between June and August, you can get wet and wild with your family at one of the best aquatic amusement parks in New England. Visit Whale’s Tale Waterpark, where you can play in the surf, defy gravity, or relax in the lazy river. Whale’s Tale Waterpark has been providing family fun to New Hampshire visitors for more than 30 years.
In addition to the dozens of water rides and attractions for all ages, Whale’s Tale also offers dining in two restaurants, a changing area with lockers, a surf shop for purchasing towels, bathing suits, and sunblock, and free parking.
Dogs are not permitted, and you are welcome to bring in coolers with your picnic lunch – just no glass or alcohol. General admission is $50 per person and $10 for toddlers and seniors. Be on the lookout for discounted rates and sales on the Whale’s Tale Waterpark website.
Discover Loon Mountain, New Hampshire
Loon Mountain Resort maintains an aerial adventure park, a gondola ride to the summit, zip lines, disc golf, bike rentals, and a climbing wall. These adventures will keep you and your kiddos busy for days without having to venture too far from Lincoln.
Whether you’re visiting Lincoln with kids or not, I highly recommend taking the gondola ride to the top, as it offers up one of the best views in the Whites. From the summit, you will see the Kinsmans and the Cannonballs, Moosilauke, Liberty, Flume, Lincoln, Lafayette, Big Coolidge, Whaleback, Owls Head, Guyot, Jefferson, Adams, and Tecumseh.
If you want more of a workout, you can hike up the Lower and Upper Walking Boss Trails — it’s about 2 miles to the top, and quite a climb!
Take a Train Ride on the Hobo Railroad
The Hobo Railroad in Lincoln, New Hampshire offers 80-minute round-trip train rides along the Pemigewasset River. Take in the gorgeous scenery in a vintage coach on a historic railroad from the 1800s. This is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon in the White Mountains, whether you’re traveling with kids or not.
The Hobo Railroad is open between late May and October, and again from Thanksgiving through mid-December for a Santa Express excursion. Trains run rain or shine and cost $20 for adults and $17 for kids 4 to 17.
Loon Mountain Lodging: RiverWalk Resort
RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain is located in the heart of Lincoln, New Hampshire. We always try and find lodging that allows us to explore local communities on foot, as it’s one of our favorite things to do.
The resort is set at the base of South Peak, and its dazzling presence makes quite a striking impression. It is affectionately known as the White Castle, with its massive, snow-white exterior and bright-red roof.
All of the rooms at RiverWalk Resort are spacious suites, with fully-stocked kitchens, modern bathrooms, balconies, and electric fireplaces. Whether you need a small studio for one, or a spacious penthouse suite, there’s a room at the RiverWalk for you and your family.
The furnishings are modern and bright, and the views are spectacular. Dogs are even welcome in many of the rooms, and we were so happy that we got to bring Flynn along on our Lincoln, New Hampshire getaway.
While you may never want to leave your suite at the RiverWalk Resort we urge you to do a little exploring. Feeling worn out after a long day of hiking? Book a treatment at the Solstice North Day Spa or unwind with a wine tasting at Seven Birches Winery.
RiverWalk Resort maintains year-round heated pools and hot tubs, a full-service fitness room, an awesome game room (with a pool table and arcade games), and an ice-skating rink in the winter. Be sure to visit La Vista Italian Cuisine Restaurant for awesome wood-fired pizza.
More Lincoln, New Hampshire Hotels and Vacation Rentals
While RiverWalk Resort is a fun hotel and great for families, there are plenty of other choices. Check the map below for hotel and vacation rental options in Lincoln, New Hampshire and the surrounding communities.
Resources for Visiting Lincoln, New Hampshire and the Western White Mountains
- The Kancamagus Highway – For a complete overview of scenic vistas, campgrounds, and trailheads, check out the Kancamagus Highway Info website.
- Western White Mountains Chamber of Commerce – A great resource for planning your White Mountain adventure, the Western White Mountains Chamber of Commerce website has a complete overview of attractions, dining, lodging, and shopping opportunities. We used it to plan our hikes and our meals, which was super helpful!
- White Mountains, New Hampshire – For more expansive trip planning, check out Visit White Mountains, where you’ll find trip-planning resources for all of the White Mountains. It’s definitely worth looking into the lodging deals if you are planning a visit.
- AllTrails – We use the AllTrails app whenever we’re planning hikes in areas we don’t know well. The summaries and up-to-date reviews give us great insight, and just about every trail we’ve looked for has been covered.
Books and Maps for Planning Your New Hampshire Vacation
Some people can do all of their vacation planning online. If that’s you, then I am full of admiration. I will often buy a travel guide, hiking guide, and set of trail maps before a trip, especially if I know I will be visiting the area multiple times.
Since I live in New England, I’ve invested in several New Hampshire guides and maps. Here are the ones I find most useful.
- AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains: This is our favorite day-hiking gude for this part of New Hampshire. It’s available in paperback and on Kindle.
- Waterfalls of the White Mountains: I love exploring waterfalls when I travel, and the White Mountains has a lot of them – available in paperback and kindle.
- New Hampshire Off the Beaten Path: Cool attractions, museums, and historic sites for your next trip to New Hampshire.
- White Mountain National Forest West Trail Map: Includes trails around Lincoln and Franconia Notch State Park. Updated in 2020, this map is waterproof and tear-resistant.
Follow us on social media!
Pin for Later?
Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She is the co-author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont and currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers and Vermont Explored, where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone.
Check out our Lincoln, New Hampshire web story!