1. Travel

New Hampshire's Best State Parks

I am responding to your request for the director's pick of the top three New Hampshire state parks. The three state parks that come to mind as being especially unique in  New Hampshire are Mount Washington State Park, Odiorne Point State Park and Franconia Notch State Park. 

Mount Washington State Park , a 59-acre parcel perched on the summit of the Northeast's highest peak, is surrounded by the extensive 750,000-acre White Mountain National Forest. On a clear day views from the 6,288-foot summit extend beyond New Hampshire as far as 130 miles to Vermont, New York, Quebec, Massachusetts, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean. Truly the most outstanding feature of Mt. Washington is its weather, considered by many to be the "worst in the world." The highest land wind velocity ever measured on earth, 231 miles per hour, was clocked on the summit on April 12, 1934. 

A second exceptional state park is Odiorne Point which is the largest undeveloped stretch of shore on New Hampshire's eighteen mile coast. The park offers an extensive array of habitats. On the south end of the park, sheltered tidepools of the Sunken Forest give way to an exposed rocky shore. Just north, the shore evolves into a pebble beach which shelters a fresh water marsh. Habitats also include a small sand dune environment and part of a salt marsh. Odiorne Point's social history is as rich as its natural history. In addition to its being the site of the first European settlement in New Hampshire, and the site of a small, well-to-do resort community, the property was purchased in 1942 by the federal government to become a military installation designed to protect Portsmouth Harbor during World War II. Hidden in the encroaching vegetation visitors can find evidence of old Fort Dearborn, including the large concrete bunkers. Today, Odiorne Point is home of the Seacoast Science Center, which houses exhibits of the natural and social history of the park, and which offers an array of educational programs. 

Franconia Notch State Park, located in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest is a third truly unique state park. Franconia Notch is a spectacular mountain pass traversed by a unique interstate parkway which extends through the notch for eight miles, between the high peaks of the Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges. Franconia Notch is the home of the famous Old Man of the Mountain, the same "Great Stone Face" immortalized by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Daniel Webster. The Flume, an 800-foot natural gorge is located at the south end of the park, while Cannon Mountain is located at the north end. An aerial tramway, popular with visitors in the summer and downhill skiers in the winter, ascends the 4,200-foot mountain. An extensive network of trails traverse the park and extend to the high peaks on both sides of the notch, making it a popular destination of hikers. 

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