NEW HAMPSHIRE'S NATIONAL PARK
Did you know that New Hampshire has a National Park??
That's because we don't.
But, it's National Park Week and all the National Parks are closed indefinitely.
So, as a National Park aficionado and a resident of a state that has a total of 0 National Parks, I'm bringing the National Park to New Hampshire.
Now, if you live in Southern New Hampshire (like me), listen up. It's time to break out the khakis, dust off that walking stick, and grab a good ole compass. 'Cause this weekend, we're heading to New Hampshire's National Park.
CATCH THE SUNRISE
One of my absolute favorite things to do is watch the sun come up. And I must not be the only one. Head to any National Park and you'll see crowds gather at the sunrise vistas. In some parks, visitors are required to purchase Sunrise Permits days in advance since the demand is so high.
Lucky for you, you can catch the sunrise (and do some stargazing) with minimal effort--no permit required. Drive up South Uncanoonuc, Goffstown all the way to the summit. Parking is free, and you'll just need to follow a dirt path to the scenic vista. Watch the sun rise over the Boston skyline--jutting out on the horizon.
WATCH THE BUFFALO ROAM
In 1951, the National Parks Service chose the bison as their symbol to represent America's wildlife. And if you've ever seen a buffalo in person, it's really not hard to understand why. They're big, imposing, resilient, and just embody America's frontier spirit.
When most people think of bison, they think of Yellowstone National Park--home to herds of bison. But, you don't have to trek all the way to Wyoming to catch a glimpse of these amazing creatures. Pack up the family and head up to Warner, NH. Yankee Farmer's Market is home to one of New Hampshire's few bison herds. These bison are pasture raised, hormone/antibiotic/chemical-free, 100% all natural, and 110% delicious. Stop by the farm during operating hours, check out the animals, and enjoy curbside pickup on their high-quality meats.
Waterfalls draw people in from far and wide. And I get it. There's something really cool about cascading water. And while we don't have anything quite on the same scale as Niagara Falls, we do have some waterfalls of our own in Southern NH.
Cue Purgatory Falls. Purgatory Falls is a set of three waterfalls on Purgatory Brook in Lyndeborough, NH. The most popular waterfall, called Lower Purgatory Falls, is the easiest to access. Just a short hike from the car, the falls await--ready for an eager photographer, water-loving dog, or for your family picnic.
HEAD TO THE LAKE
Most National Parks revolve around some kind of body of water. The seacoast is out commission due to COVID-19. That only leaves us with ~1,000 lakes to choose from. Bummer. Now, you probably have your favorite, go-to lake. But, that doesn't mean you can't switch it up every once in a while.
This weekend, try something new, and head to Wellington State Park at Newfound Lake. Fed by 8 springs, Newfound Lake is among the cleanest lakes in the world. With 22 miles of coastline and spanning over 4,000 acres, you certainly won't get bored. Try your hand at fishing, kayaking, or just enjoying the scenery. Maybe even catch a glimpse of Newfound Lake's two lighthouses--Newfound Lake Lighthouse in Bridgewater and Reed Lighthouse in Alexandria.
GO FOR A HIKE
If you're heading to a National Park, you better have packed your hiking boots. Hiking and National Parks just go together. Like peanut butter and jelly. Or maybe like trail mix and beef jerky.
It's no secret that New Hampshire is home to a lot of hiking. Flocks of tourists head up to the White Mountains from all over New England (I'm looking at you Massachusetts). But, as winter conditions prevail in the Whites, you might want to consider a hike closer to home. If you're looking for a short climb, head to Pats Peak in Henniker. No, not to ski. To hike. People tend to write off ski areas in the off-season, but I think that's a mistake. If you're bringing the whole family along, try out one of the outback trails. You'll have a more gradual ascent. If you're looking for a workout, take one of the double black diamond trails up. No matter which way you ascend, you can't beat the view.
CLIMB A FIRE TOWER
Okay, I haven't exactly come across a National Park with a fire tower, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. And let's be candid, fire towers are cool. New Hampshire has its fair share. But by the number of mountaintop hotels that have burned down in New Hampshire's history, maybe we could've used a few more.
On your last stop on your National Park Weekend, head East to Pawtuckaway State Park. There are three different routes to the fire tower, located atop South Mountain. It's a moderate hike, and it may be a little muddy (don't forget your hiking boots). But the view from the top is well worth a little mud on those boots!
Well, there you have it boys and girls. We've reached the end of our journey together. I know we weren't able to travel to a real National Park. But, I hope you enjoyed our own little taste of Mother Nature, right here--close to home.