New Hampshire

8 Epic Camping Spots in White Mountain National Forest

white mountains New Hampshire camping
Photo: Winston Tan / Shutterstock

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Within White Mountain National Forest’s 750,000 acres, you’ll find nearly endless woodlands, alpine lakes, and the highest mountain in the Northeast.

There are also 48 “4Kers” (mountains that are over 4,000 feet above sea level) within New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. Many visitors come here repeatedly to bag all 48 summits, but it’s not just peakbagging that’ll lure you to the White Mountains.

You can fish in the park’s dozens of lakes or visit a gorge carved by ancient molten rock and constant erosion. You can also check out some Polar Ice Caves in the dead of summer to beat the heat, or swing by Story Land (a children’s theme park) or head up the Cog Railway to the summit of Mount Washington if you need a break from sweating for one day.

The White Mountains are also known to occasionally have some of the worst weather in the country, so watch the forecast. Mount Washington has clocked wind speeds up to 231 mph and at least 135 people have died trying to make it to the summit. So come prepared with the right gear if you’re going to be on mountain summits. And while you’re unlikely to have winds that strong at your campsite, you’ll still want some stakes and extra layers to sleep in.

Grab an interagency pass before heading out so you can snag some discounted entry fees. Make sure to also buy a New Hampshire Hike Safe Card to ensure you’ll be set in case of emergency.

1. Lakes of the Clouds Hut

lake of the clouds white mtn nf camping
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Good luck drinking your morning coffee somewhere with a prettier view.

  • Reservations: Required
  • Best season: Summer
  • Campsite type: Hut
  • RV hookups: No

Lakes of the Clouds Hut is likely the Appalachian Mountains’ most well-known hut. It’s the highest and most visited one due to its popular location along the trail to Mount Washington’s summit. You can also summit Mount Monroe, hike the famous Tuckerman Ravine, or traverse the Presidential Range in its entirety from this jumping-off point.

When you stay here overnight, the fee covers your dinner, bunk, and breakfast the next morning. It’s the best of backpacking because you don’t have to worry about a tent or food (though you should bring some snacks). It’s popular though, so expect to be sharing the space with strangers. Need something to talk about? The hut is rumored to be haunted. Don’t forget your headlamp if you plan to play “Ghost Hunters” at night.

Check Availability

2. Hancock Campground

Hancock campground white mountains
Photo: John Rosset / Flickr

Why you should camp here: Convenient basecamp to the largest wilderness area in the White Mountains.

  • Reservations: No
  • Best season: Late spring, summer, early fall
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping
  • RV hookups: No

Pemigewasset Wilderness Area is the largest wilderness area, and one of the largest campgrounds in the White Mountains. It once contained the largest logging railroad systems in the Whites as well. Luckily, most of the area has regrown after decades of unsustainable logging operations. If you’re driving along the scenic Kancamagus Highway (one of the prettiest drives in NH), grab a spot at Hancock Campground on its western edge.

It’s a first-come, first-served campground, so get there early or on a weekday to secure your spot. It’s also one of the few campgrounds open year-round, so you can brave the frigid temperatures if you’re so inclined.

3. Dolly Copp Campground

Photo: www.recreation.gov

Why you should camp here: Amenities galore and perfect for families.

  • Reservations: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping
  • RV hookups: Yes

There’s a reason Dolly Copp campground is the largest campground within the White Mountains; it’s at the start of some of the most epic day hikes in the area. The campground itself has every amenity you can think of: showers (coin-operated), toilets (that actually flush), and potable water (no filtering needed). It’s also one of the most popular campgrounds in the White Mountains for the same reasons.

There’s plenty to explore at camp even if you don’t want to head out on any trails since the Peabody River and Culhane Brook pass right through the campground. You can dip your feet in the frigid water, check for macro-invertebrates under the river rocks, or flyfish for brook trout.

4. Lost River Campground

white mountain camping lost river valley
Photo: www.lostriver.com

Why you should camp here: Remote-feeling campground that’s actually pretty close to town.

  • Reservations: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping, cabins
  • RV hookups: Yes

If you’d like to be close to but still far from civilization, look no further than Lost River Campground. In Woodstock, the campground is only a few miles from shopping and restaurants, but sits in the secluded Lost River Valley. It’s the perfect campground in White Mountain National Forest if you want the feeling of being remote but the security of having amenities and help just a few miles down the road.

The campground is an experience itself, with great family amenities, glamping cabins, a games room, and an on-site general store. It also has electricity, showers, bathrooms, and even a laundromat, so you don’t have to rough it too much. The unique Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves is a favorite attraction for visitors to this area. It gets busy, so buying atickets in advance is highly recommended.

5. White Lake Campground

white mountain camping white lake state park
Photo: www.nhstateparks.org

Why you should camp here: Make all your boating and watersports dreams come true.

  • Reservations: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping
  • RV hookups: Yes

Tucked in a pitch pine forest, White Lake State Park offers seclusion and relaxation from the hustle and bustle of the more popular White Mountain attractions. The lake, like many in the White Mountains, formed during the Ice Age as glaciers moved through the mountains. And if you like wildlife, take the wonderful footpath around the lake that goes past evidence of current beaver activity in the area.

This large campground can accommodate even the biggest of families at group sites without feeling over-crowded. You might even be able to hear resident loons in the evenings and throughout the night. You go swimming, float around the lake, or rent anything from kayaks to canoes to paddleboats to stand-up paddleboards to cruise across the usually calm water.

Reserve here.

6. Covered Bridge Campground

Photo: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Is it possible to be any more “New England-y?” Maybe if you bring a whoopie pie for dessert.

  • Reservations: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping
  • RV hookups: No

The campground at the Covered Bridge off the Kancamagus Highway (known locally as “The Kanc”) provides everything for a quintessential New England camping experience. The covered bridge was constructed in 1858 and spans the Swift River. Grab your fishing rod or swim trunks, because the Swift River is home to several great swimming holes and world-renowned fishing.

The campground is only a short drive to the town of North Conway. You can walk the main street and pop into Zeb’s General Store for a honey lollipop or ride the Scenic Railroad. There’s coffee shops, restaurants, book stores, and even a classic Bavarian chocolate house. This is a great White Mountains campground if you want to camp but don’t want to be in the woods all day since there’s plenty to see and do in the surrounding towns.

Reserve here.

7. Sugarloaf 1 Campground

white mountains sugarloaf camping
Photo: Paul A Smith / Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: If you’re keen on spotting some moose or bears..

  • Reservations: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall
  • Campsite type: Tent, RV, car camping
  • RV hookups: No

There are two Sugarloaf Campgrounds, but the first one (also known as Area 1) off Zealand Road is the quieter and more remote of the two. It’s a more rustic campground, though it does have water spigots and accessible restrooms. Bear-resistant containers are provided for you, but you can also bring your own.

This is a great spot as a basecamp for fall hiking. Just up the road is the trailhead to North and Middle Sugarloaf Mountains, which is a short hike with astounding views. The surrounding tree-topped mountains are covered in hardwoods that burst into color each autumn. Remember that it can get pretty chill at night in the fall, so definitely bring a down jacket and big socks.

Reserve here.

8. Literally Anywhere Not Within 200 feet of a Trail

Photo: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: You can literally camp (almost) anywhere.

  • Reservations: Definitely not
  • Best season: Spring, summer, fall, winter (just as long as you’ve got the right gear)
  • Campsite type: Backcountry tent, hammock, bean bag chair, whatever you want to carry out.
  • RV hookups: Ha. No.

OK, this is only here because it’s good information to know. On land managed by the United States Forest Service, camping is allowed pretty much anywhere. There are exclusions, obviously, like no camping within 200 feet of a trail or waterbody or within .25 miles of a shelter or hut. Check out all the regulations here.

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