Nothing says summer in New England like a weekend at the lake, and if you’re heading to New Hampshire, you’ve got a lot of lakes to choose from — 944 to be exact. And whether you’re seeking solitude, adventure, or relaxation, there’s a New Hampshire lake with your name on it.
Here are some our favorite New Hampshire lakes, plus some awesome outdoor adventures you may want to check out while visiting.
New Hampshire’s largest lake covers 72 square miles and includes more than 258 islands. Located in the Lakes Region near the center of New Hampshire, Lake Winnipesaukee has been a popular tourist destination for more than a century. For fabulous paddling and bird watching opportunities, rent a canoe or kayak and head to Back Bay near Wolfeboro, where you’ll find quiet coves and fewer people than on the rest of the lake. If you’re looking for a fun hike with incredible views, you can’t beat the Mount Major Loop near Alton Bay, which is 3.1 miles and gains 1,150 feet in elevation.
Not far from the shining waters of Winnipesaukee is the much smaller Squam Lake, which can actually be divided into two bodies of water, Big Squam and Little Squam lakes. Both lakes are naturally spring fed and are connected by a narrow channel. Together they encompass 7,200 acres with 67 remote islands. Paddlers can rent kayaks or canoes from the Squam Lakes Association in Holderness, and while motor boats are permitted on the lake, it is much more quiet than Winnipesaukee. For an easy hike with exceptional views, trek a mile to the summit of West Rattlesnake Mountain. The nearby Squam Lakes Natural Science center is perfect for those who want to learn more about local ecosystems and check out a few wild critters, including bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, and black bears.
This beautiful glacial lake is located in western New Hampshire and is a perfect spot for wild paddling, camping, and hiking. Pitch your tent at Mount Sunapee State Park, which also maintains a lovely sandy beach for swimmers and provides visitors with kayak and canoe rentals. A hike up the summit trail provides lovely views of nearby Lake Solitude, which is an important habitat for rare species and therefore off limits to dogs and swimmers. For more primitive camping, hiking, and paddling, visit nearby Pillsbury State Park, which provides access to several remote ponds, primitive camping, and lovely hiking trails.
The western side of Pawtuckaway Lake is lined by Pawtuckaway State Park, which provides visitors with a wealth of recreational opportunities, including waterfront (and island) camping, paddling, and hiking. While motor boats are allowed on Pawtuckaway Lake, it is quite shallow and strewn with boulders, making it more suitable for canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. For the best views of the park, hike the 5-mile loop to the 1915 fire tower on South Mountain.
This tiny lake in the White Mountains can only be accessed via hiking trails in Franconia Notch State Park. The Lonesome Lake Trail is a 3.2-mile loop that begins at Lafayette Place Campground. While it’s a steep ascent, you can reward yourself with a refreshing swim before heading back to your car or your campsite. For a more challenging hike, try the 4.6-mile hike on Basin Cascade and Cascade Brook Trails, where you’ll definitely work up a sweat. You’ll also be treated to views of several cascades, including spectacular Kinsman Falls.
With 22 miles of shoreline and an area of 4,451 acres, Newfound Lake is a dream for boaters, anglers, and paddlers. There are 22 species of fish found in the lake, including landlocked salmon, which were originally stocked back in 1890. Wellington State Park manages one of the state’s largest freshwater beaches on the shore of Newfound Lake and also provides visitors with lots of hiking options and a year-round boat launch. For even more hiking opportunities, check out nearby Cardigan Mountain State Park. The Holt Trail Loop is a challenging 5-mile loop up Cardigan Mountain with panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains.