There are many ways to enjoy the great outdoors, but when most people hear “camping,” they think of pitching a tent in the woods. While you certainly can go for a woodland campsite, there are plenty of other environments that are popular tent sites. The humble state of New Hampshire is home to many such locations, such as mountains, lakes, sea costs, and even the classic forests.
But even a small state like New Hampshire has dozens of potential campsites that allow for tent camping to choose from. Picking the right one can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. By narrowing the overwhelming number of options down to a few standout locations, you’ll easily be able to figure out the perfect destination for your next tent camping trip.
So, here are ten of the best New Hampshire campgrounds that allow tent camping and as a bonus, every one of these campsites is pet friendly!
1. Lake Francis State Park
A mid-sized camping sight situated on the coast of the 2,000 acres Lake Francis, this New Hampshire State Park campground is an ideal destination for any scenic freshwater enthusiast. Their camping rate is only $25 a night unless you want to reserve one of the nine sites that have water and electrical hookups or the limited waterfront campsite. Those both cost $35 a night.
This campsite is more on the remote side, tucked well into New Hampshire backcountry. A quiet weekend away will be well spent here, relaxing by the lake from the many picnic tables. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of some loons, resting on the lake. That being said, there are a few activities you can participate in at this park that are more than what you’d expect from the average remote site. There are a handful of ATV trails, and in the snowy months, you can try out riding a snowmobile and going snow-shoeing.
That being said, the lake activities are, undoubtedly, the main attraction of this location. You can swim, go fishing, hang out in the picnic space overlooking the water, and get boat rentals from the facilities. There are 2,000 acres to this beautiful lake, so even on its most crowded days, you can find space to be by yourself. If you’re a fan of calm water kayaking, you’re going to enjoy Lake Francis. But if you don’t want to worry about the hassle of kayak rentals, you’ll probably make use of this list of kayaks perfect for campers.
2. Crawford Notch State Park
While this sight is smaller by way of campsites, it is certainly not a small park. Crawford Notch features 36 wooden sites on their Dry River campground and nearly 6,000 acres of land. With no hookup sites, a reasonable array of amenities around the campground, and plenty of fire rings to roast s’mores at, this park is all but meant for tent campers.
Crawford Notch will likely catch the eye of hikers and mountain bikers. The park features miles upon miles of trails, most of which lead to a spectacular view of the mountains or one of the waterfalls situated around the area. One of these waterfalls, Arethusa Falls, is the tallest waterfall in the state and one of the tallest in the whole northeast.
The majority of the trails are not particularly difficult, but hardcore hiking enthusiasts shouldn’t be turned away just because of that. The hiking trails at Crawford Notch feature a section of the Appalachian Trail.
The park is also home to the famous Willey House. For those of you interested in New England history, it’s a fantastic place to visit.
3. Pawtuckaway State Park
This unique destination is only a short drive from Nottingham, New Hampshire. Spread out across several islands on the Pawtuckaway Lake, this expansive park is a prime destination for anyone who likes long walks and gorgeous sights. There are over 200 campsites to choose from, some of them being the larger family campground spaces, and they’ll all run you between $25-30 per night.
The big selling point for this campsite is the wide range of natural sights quickly available to the campers. Near one of the camping areas is a sizable marsh, where wildlife lovers might stumble upon deer, beavers, or blue herons. For those more interested in the beauty of the environment itself, Pawtuckaway has a field of unique rock formations called “glacial erratics.” If just looking at the rocks isn’t enough, there are a few faces on the campsite where rock-climbers can harness up.
The many islands of the campsite are connected by a series of walking bridges as well, which allow for some spectacular sights, especially of the fall foliage in the late months. There is a small sandy beach area on the lakeside, and even a field available for sports. Pawtuckaway State Park offers camping space reserved specifically for youth camping groups, complete with restroom facilities, parking, and a small boat launch.
4. Bear Brook State Park
Just outside of Allenstown, Bear Brook is one of the largest developed State Parks in New England by a considerable margin, with more than 10,000 acres of land. All that space means that the campsites at this park have a ton of activities to choose from.
You’ll find all of your standard outdoor pastimes here: hiking, boating, swimming, fishing, mountain biking, and nature walking. There is an expansive camp store that will have everything you’ll need and a wide selection of souvenirs. The more adventurous campers will likely spend lots of time at the archery ranges. Equestrians have plenty of horseback riding trails to choose from. During the winter, campers can enjoy more exotic activities like snowmobiling, snow-shoeing, and even dog sledding. If those activities caught your attention, you might want to find yourself a well-insulated tent for camping in the winter.
For the campers that love to learn, Bear Brook State Park also hosts many educational programs and is home to a museum complex that features an antique snowmobile exhibit.
This location will probably seem touristy and overdeveloped at first, especially to campers that favor smaller, naturalist feels to their campsites. Don’t let all the park’s amenities fool you though, the tent sites are much less busy. There are less than 100 total camping sights, and none of them are equipped with hookups. Your quiet retreat to the wilderness will be no less relaxing in Bear Brook than any other camping destination.
5. Connecticut Lakes State Forest
The Connecticut Lakes region covers a wide area, so rest assured that this location is in fact in New Hampshire. The campsite itself is called Deer Mountain Campground, and since it is housed inside a State Forest instead of a State Park, the site is a much smaller and more relaxed location.
This campsite is ideal for campers trying to isolate in nature as much as possible. There are only twenty-five camping sites in the area, some of which are platformed locations. None of the campsites have hookups, but there are more than enough places to set up a campfire. The entrance to the sight is five miles to the Canadian border and eighteen miles from Pittsburg, New Hampshire.
There is only one established hiking trail, which will disappoint the active campers. However, that one trail does lead to a promising fishing and canoeing spot. Campers are also close to Moose Alley, which means you’re likely to find some prime locations to go moose-watching.
Anyone interested in cabin rentals should be advised: Deer Mountain does have a cabin available, but due to allergy concerns, it is not pet friendly.
Deer Mountain Campground isn’t going to be the ideal campsite for many people. It’s meant for the campers that want to hide in a glen for a few days and just spend time in nature itself. If you happen to be one of those hermit-type campers, check out Connecticut Lakes State Forest.
6. Jericho Mountain State Park
Built along next to the shores of Jericho Lake and partway up Jericho Mountain, this destination is a perfect compromise between two popular camping biomes. This is one of the newest additions to the New Hampshire State Parks system, and the campsite is one of the smallest. There are only twenty campsites to choose from, and only four of those are tent sites. This is almost more of an RV park than it is a general campsite, but all the sites are equally gorgeous.
Jericho Mountain may be limited on space, but it certainly has plenty to offer the lucky campers that can get their spots. This park has everything you could expect from a combined lake and mountain location: fishing, swimming, picnicking by the sandy beach area, walking trails, and year-round gorgeous mountain views. While those are all plenty attractive on their own, what sets Jericho Mountain apart is the riding trails.
Jericho Mountain has several miles of trails for everything from mountain biking to horseback riding, but most of them are meant specifically for riding ATVs. Jericho Mountain is so synonymous with ATV riding, its state park seal has an ATV on it. The park event hosts the annual Jericho ATV Festival. For campers that want to go a bit bigger than an ATV, you can also venture onto the 2.5 miles long 4×4 off-road trail.
Jericho Mountain state caters to a particular niche of campers well. If you like gorgeous scenery, a small campsite experience, and plenty of space to rev your engine, then it’s hard to imagine a better location in New Hampshire.
7. Franconia Notch State Park
Centered in the White Mountain National Forest and not far from Woodstock, Franconia Notch is home to several unique attractions. Literature fans will get to visit the site of “The Great Stone Face” written about by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the Old Man of the Mountain. There is also an aerial tramway that allows for unrivaled views of the forests and mountains.
The park’s campsite, Lafayette Place Campground, is on the larger side. There are ninety-seven total campsites and all of them are for tents specifically. Two of these sights are pre-designed to be handicap accessible and can only be reserved by a party that has accessibility needs. The campsite itself is an ideal hub for people to access the spectacular hiking trails the run through the Great North Woods available at the park. There are plenty of other attractions at the park, including cross-country and downhill skiing, but the scenic trails are certainly the main reason you’d want to go to Franconia Notch State Park campground. Many of these trails lead to rock faces that are popular for bird watchers and rock climbers.
Of the many trails accessible to campers, the premier one is Flume Gorge. The trail is 2.5 miles that feature an 800 foot stretch of seventy to ninety-foot high granite walls that are about fifteen feet apart. The gorge features some gorgeous rock formations and running water. Fair warning: this trail involves a lot of stairs, so it is not that accessible and it can be physically demanding in places. For those that can walk the trail, it promises to be an unforgettable experience.
8. Autumn Hills Campgrounds
The first private campground on this list, Autumn Hills is a wonderful spot for a family vacation. The park prides itself on being family-friendly and has the amenities to back up these claims. All of the standard features are available at Autumn Hills along with Wi-Fi, on-site laundry, and a propane filling station.
Autumn Hills also has many recreational spaces that put it above and beyond as space where families can enjoy time together. The outdoor game spaces include basketball courts, a volleyball court, a multi-sport grass field, horseshoe pits, and a playground for younger kids. There is also a lending library, an arcade, and an indoor recreational space with billiard tables, dart boards, and foosball tables.
Outdoorsy folk need not fret, though. Autumn Hills still has plenty to do for them. You can do some laps in the nearby Daniels Lake, or go fishing or kayaking. They even have a swimming pool so you can enjoy the water year-round. There isn’t much by way of hiking or other trails, though.
The location of Autumn Hills is also perfect for people who are a fan of public attractions. Campers are an hour’s drive from Boston; a two-hour drive from Portland, Maine; and forty-five minutes away from the NASCAR track in Loudon. Depending on the season, you’ll be only a short drive away from state fairs, local festivals, and Canobie Lake Park — a local amusement park.
Autumn Hills will encroach on “glamping” for some people, and that’s okay. Not everyone is going to want to rough it in the woods, and not everyone is going to want Wi-Fi access from their tent. If you’re one of the latter group or are looking for a great place to plan a family vacation, check out Autumn Hills Campground.
9. The Green Gate Campground
The Green Gate is another private campsite. It is a bit less extravagant as Autumn Hills, but it still features plenty of wonderful amenities. All of the tent sights have water and electricity available to them, and there is even a discount available to people that want to book a whole week. They also have a camper loyalty program that offers rewards like a complimentary bundle of wood for a campfire, a smores kit, and free extra nights that can be added to future stays.
Visitors to The Green Gate will be only a short drive away from the Hampton Beach seacoast and may be lucky enough to catch the seafood festival hosted there, depending on the time of their stay. You can also pick up a few games of golf — miniature or otherwise — at many of the nearby courses. For the wine enthusiasts, there is a winery not too far from the campsite. There are a few raceways that are less than ten miles away.
Fans of racing won’t even need to leave The Green Gate’s grounds to find their thrills, though. This campground hosts pine box derby car races for children. These aren’t the full-size ride in pine box cars from a forgotten era, which is bound to disappoint some people. The cars are about the size of a standard Hot Wheels, but kids do still get to build them and race against each other on a miniature track. It might not help older camp goers relive their youth exactly, but it can be a great way to bond with younger family members.
For the tent campers that have family who isn’t as big a fan of roughing it, many of the tent sites are next to an RV site.
The Green Gate feels like a comfortable in-between of resort camping and naturalist camping sights. It creates a wonderful environment for families looking to get away for a weekend, or maybe even start a regular tradition. One foot-note to be aware of: while they are pet friendly, campers are only allowed one pet per sight rental.
10. Monadnock State Park
The final campsite on this list a bit of a one-trick-pony, but it does that one trick well. This State Park is named after the mountain it calls home, Mount Monadnock.
Monadnock doesn’t have the most amenities in the world, though there are some fire pits and RV hookups. That’s because people really only go there for one purpose: hiking. Most of the trails lead to the peak, which clocks in at 3,165 feet above sea-level. On a clear day, a hiker can view a large portion of New England, including the also popular Mount Washington.
The campsites themselves are along the base of the mountain. If you aren’t a diehard hiker, Monadnock won’t be your speed. But if you are a diehard hiker, you wouldn’t want to pass up this tent camping site.
New Hampshire is one of the smallest of the States and one that is not known for a whole lot to those that don’t live there. This means there will be far too many people that overlook it as a potential place for their next tent camping trip. Hopefully, this list will remedy that, or help out someone looking to narrow down all of their options for tent camping sight in New Hampshire.
The state has hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness to explore, mountains to climb, lakes to paddle across, wildlife to watch, and sights to see. For nature and outdoor enthusiasts, the public camping sites available at the state and some local parks will be the best option. These places are meant to help you relax and escape into the wilderness. For more information and more park listings, visit nhstateparks.org.
There is also plenty of local history and attractions to enjoy. Private parks usually have more interactive attractions that make them ideal for people looking more for a fun vacation in a natural setting, or for families with younger children who aren’t quite comfortable in the wilderness just yet.
Bonus tip: While you’re at it, check out this epic video of what it’s like to camp at Coleman State Park!