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17 Best Things to Do in Lincoln, NH

Written by Barbara Radcliffe Rogers and Stillman Rogers
Sep 2, 2022

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Lincoln, New Hampshire, may not look like your image of a typical New England village, but few places in the region offer more things to do in a single town.

Romantic picnic spots and a vintage dinner train for couples, a water park and boulder caves for families, ziplines and mountain biking for thrill-seekers, trails and natural attractions for outdoor lovers – the places to visit and things to see in Lincoln could easily fill a vacation.

Loon pond atop Loon Mountain
Loon pond atop Loon Mountain | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

Lincoln began as a company town, operated solely for cutting timber in the vast wilderness (now safely protected by the White Mountain National Forest) and converting it to lumber and paper. The mills that once dominated the center have been converted for shopping and dining, and the rail line that served them now carries sightseers.

Many of the best things to do in Lincoln are related to the popular ski resort of Loon Mountain. Now a four-season center for outdoor activities, Loon Mountain is also a hub for upscale lodgings.

You'll find planning a family vacation easy with this list of the best things to do in Lincoln, New Hampshire.

1. Meet Clark's Bears

Clark’s Bears
Clark's Bears | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

A longtime favorite of families visiting the White Mountains, Clark's Bears is a happy blend of theme park, train ride, and circus, with a fair bit of history added to keep adults interested. The main draw, though, is the performance by the Clark Family's lovingly cared-for bears.

Five generations of the Clark family have welcomed and raised orphaned bear cubs too young to survive in the wild. As you watch these animals, now grown to adult size, balance on barrels, play basketball, eat ice cream, ride scooters, and play on swings, you can't help noticing that the bears are having as much fun as the delighted kids watching them.

A troupe of Chinese acrobats is also part of the show in the summer. Vintage fire engines, a fun-house, Segway rides, a splash park, and a ride in open cars of a steam train into a forest guarded by "Wolfman" are all part of the fun.

Address: US Route 3, Lincoln, New Hampshire

Official site: http://clarksbears.com/

2. Drive the Kancamagus Highway

Pemigewasset Overlook
Pemigewasset Overlook | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

Lincoln is at the beginning of New Hampshire's most scenic driving route, the 35-mile Kancamagus Highway, a two-lane mountain road that leads up (and up and up) over the crest of the Kancamagus Pass, at an altitude of 2,855 feet.

The climb from Lincoln is in a series of deep hairpin curves, and as you climb, be sure to stop at the scenic overlooks. Although you will see the same mountains, the view changes with each new perspective and altitude. The best panorama is from the Pemigewasset Overlook just before you reach the top of the pass.

As you descend the other side of the pass, you'll see an entirely different set of views over another part of the White Mountains. If you continue to the Conway end of the road, you'll pass the trailhead to Sabbaday Falls (it's a short, level walk) and Rocky Gorge, a good place for a picnic. This drive is especially spectacular in the fall foliage season.

Official site: https://kancamagushighway.com

3. Walk through the Flume Gorge

Flume Gorge
Flume Gorge

One of the top tourist attractions in New Hampshire, the Flume Gorge is an 800-foot slice carved by rushing water from melting glaciers. The water wore away a vein of softer rock, leaving almost vertical 80-foot walls.

A wooden walkway hugs one wall alongside the rushing stream, and climbs beside the waterfall at the head of the gorge.

As you walk to the Flume, you'll pass more evidence of the glaciers that once covered the White Mountains by as much as a mile of ice. Huge boulders, called glacial erratics, stand beside the trail, scraped from mountaintops and dropped as the glacier receded south.

You can take a longer route back to the entrance, crossing over Liberty Falls on a covered bridge.

Address: Route 3 (I-93 exit 34B), Franconia Notch, New Hampshire

Official site: www.cannonmt.com

4. Get Wet at Whale's Tale

Whale’s Tale
Whale's Tale | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

A perennial favorite for kids, and a refuge for all ages on a hot summer day, Whale's Tale has water play and thrills for all ages. Parents can relax on lounge chairs on the shady lawn while kids float down the Lazy River on tubes, or watch from the observation platform as their teens seek thrills in The Eye of the Storm.

Very young children can splash in the shallow waters and zero-grade entry of Whale Harbor, or ride the Beluga Boggin down a gentle 360-degree chute. The park's main feature is Willie's Wild Waves, a large gradual-grade pool where all ages can wade, swim, or ride waves in the deeper end.

Address: 481 Daniel Webster Highway (Rt. 3), Lincoln, New Hampshire

Official site: https://whalestalewaterpark.net/

5. Ski at Loon Mountain

Skiing at Loon Mountain
Skiing at Loon Mountain | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

One of the top ski resorts in New Hampshire, Loon Mountain covers three mountainsides in the White Mountain National Forest. Most of the 61 trails face north, which assures good snow retention, a plus in the Northeast's increasingly milder winters.

Natural snow is boosted by the most powerful snowmaking system of any ski resort in the state. The variety of terrain provides trails for all levels of skier, as well as a series of graded terrain parks that begin with one designed especially for young children trying boards for the first time.

The dedicated terrain park is one of many reasons Loon Mountain is popular with families. A vintage train carries day skiers from the parking lot to the lifts, and for non-skiers, the Adventure Center offers snow tubing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice-skating.

Ski-in-ski-out lodging is at the base of the lifts. The Mountain Club on Loon is a full-service hotel with family suites, restaurants, indoor parking, a swimming pool, and spa.

Address: 60 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.loonmtn.com/

6. Soar above the Treetops at Alpine Adventures

Thrillsville at Alpine Adventures
Thrillsville at Alpine Adventures | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

Three miles of ziplines, some as high as 100 feet above the forest floor, carry thrill seekers to speeds of 75 miles per hour on tours with Alpine Adventures. The Treetop Tour is designed for families and beginners, with five separate ziplines, from 250 to 1,000 feet long, and a 30-foot suspension bridge. This ground-to-ground experience reaches heights of 60 feet above the forest floor.

If you want a little more excitement in your ride, the SkyRider begins at a height of 70 feet and soars as high as 200 feet off the ground as it carries you over valleys and high above the treetops. The longest of the five separate ziplines is 1,600 feet.

At the base alongside Route 112 in the center of Lincoln, Thrillsville is a self-guided aerial course featuring rope ladders, bridges, a treehouse, and a 50-foot rappel.

Address: 41 Main Street, Lincoln, New Hampshire

Official site: https://alpinezipline.com

7. Ride the Loon Mountain Gondola

Loon Mountain Gondola
Loon Mountain Gondola | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

While skiers use it to access the upper trails, the Loon Mountain Gondola is also a summer tourist attraction. At 1.3 miles, it is New Hampshire's longest scenic gondola ride, and it accesses sweeping views of the western White Mountains.

Climb Herbert's Observation Tower for even wider views, extending from Mt. Moosilauke to Mt. Washington. From a lower observation deck adjoining the Summit Café, you look down on Loon Pond, a pristine mountain lake.

Play a round of disc golf at the nine-hole course at the summit, climb through the glacial caves (see below), or hike the loop Summit Trail for even more views. You can also follow hiking trails back to the base.

Address: 60 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.loonmtn.com/

8. Hop aboard the Hobo Railroad

Hobo Railroad
Hobo Railroad | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

Designed largely for children, Hobo Railroad has proven among the most popular things to do for all ages. Restored vintage passenger cars make a leisurely 15-mile journey along the tracks of the railroad that once carried the paper and wood products produced in Lincoln's mills.

As the train follows the East Branch Pemigewasset River along its wooded banks, narration points out landmarks and adds a little history of the region and the railroad line.

A real kid-pleaser is when a clown hops off the trail to stop traffic on busy Route 112 in Lincoln. Good natured (mostly) motorists wave back at kids as the train slowly crosses. The clown hops back aboard to amuse the kids with his antics, and occasionally pass out treats.

Special Christmas trips include visits from Santa.

Address: Route 112, Lincoln, New Hampshire

Official site: https://hoborr.com

9. Stop at The Basin

The Basin
The Basin | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

One of the free things to do in Lincoln, The Basin is a round pool carved into the granite by torrents of water raging down this valley as the glaciers melted at the end of the last ice age. As the meltwater dropped in waterfalls, the rocks and gravel carried in the swirling water at the bottom scoured out the deep 20-foot basin.

A small waterfall still pours into the pool, and you can watch its swirling currents working away at the rock even today. View The Basin from its rim at the base of the falls, then walk along the bike path to look down on it from above.

Follow the short Cascades Trail to find another mountain stream that drops over a long series of ledges. The Basin is handicapped accessible.

Address: Route 3/I-93, Franconia Notch, New Hampshire

Official site: www.cannonmt.com

10. Bike the Trails on Loon Mountain

Biking at Loon Mountain
Biking at Loon Mountain | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

Trails at Loon Mountain's Bike Park are designed for all levels, from first-timers to seasoned riders. The Kancamagus 8 chairlift accesses 11 miles of purpose-built downhill mountain bike trails. From Mainline's straightaways and gentle corners to the Rock gardens on Steam Punk, there's a trail for everyone.

The trail network grows each year, and the newest, Narrow Gauge, opened in August of 2022. The half-mile technical trail incudes rocks, roots, and off-camber turns as it drops through the woods. The park is open on most Friday evenings in the summer and fall.

Rentals include cross-country and e-Bikes; the resort's large network of cross-country trails is open to bikers in the summer.

Address: 60 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.loonmtn.com/

11. Learn about the National Forest at the Gateway Visitor Center

Moose at Gateway Visitor Center
Moose at Gateway Visitor Center | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

Your first stop on exiting I-93 in Lincoln should be the Visitor Center on Route 112. As you walk in, stop to look at the large map of the national forest on the floor. Then learn more about this vast wilderness, its attractions, and history, through the engaging interactive exhibits.

Few visitors can resist having their photo taken with the large stuffed moose. In the gift shop area is a relief map of the White Mountains, and staff members can answer your questions and suggest the best places to visit in the White Mountains.

The visitor center is where you should get your National Forest Pass, needed to stop at any of the trailheads or attractions along the Kancamagus or elsewhere in the national forest (America the Beautiful Passholders don't need these).

Address: Interstate 93, Exit 32, Lincoln, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.visitwhitemountains.com

12. Challenge Your Friends at Hobo Hills Adventure Park

Mini golf at Hobo Hills Adventure Park
Mini golf at Hobo Hills Adventure Park | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

At first glance as you drive past, Hobo Hills Adventure Park looks more like a landscaped garden than a mini-golf course. Surrounded by lawns and planted with shrubs and flowers, the 28-hole course rises to a hilltop with waterfalls and a stream winding at its base.

The three-acre course, New England's largest adventure golf park, features a realistic cave, water hazards, and greens with unique designs that make play here appealing to all ages. The beautifully landscaped park and mountain views invite family photos.

Address: Main St. (Route 112), Lincoln New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.piratescove.net/locations/new-hampshire/lincoln/

13. Dine on the Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train

Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train
Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

Bring back the Golden Age of travel by rail, with a five-course dinner served as the train rolls through the forest alongside the scenic Pemigewasset River. Dinner is served on board beautifully restored 1950s dining cars and features a seasonally changing five-course menu. Guests can choose from four appetizers and four entrees.

The two-hour train ride covers 20 miles at a leisurely pace for sightseeing, crossing the river on historic iron trestle bridges, and cruising through a golf course and a Christmas tree farm before returning to the North Woodstock station.

Address: Route 122, North Woodstock, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.nhdinnertrain.com/

14. Explore Glacial Caves

Loon Mountain Glacial Caves
Loon Mountain Glacial Caves | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

Not as well-known as the easily accessed natural wonders of The Flume and The Basin alongside I-93, the glacial caves near the summit of Loon Mountain are a well-kept secret. The caves, like the other two attractions, were formed by glaciers, but in a different way.

The giant boulders, some the size of a house, that lie in a tumble down the side of Loon Mountain were torn from the once taller peak and dropped below as the glacier moved on. Some were worn and rounded by the journey, some have split in the intervening centuries due to weathering or the growth of tree roots into cracks.

Between and under the boulders are caves, dark passages to squeeze through, and moss-covered nooks to explore. Wooden ladders and stairways lead through this granite maze, creating a natural fun-house for kids and a fascinating look at the work of glaciers for adults.

You'll want to wear good sturdy shoes here, not sandals.

15. Picnic at Otter Rocks

Otter Rocks
Otter Rocks | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

With your attention riveted on the winding two-lane Kanacamagus Highway ahead, it's easy to miss the sign for Otter Rocks, on the Lincoln end before the first hairpin curve. The Hancock Branch, a tributary of the Pemigewasset River, cascades over a granite bed worn smooth and carved into curves and bowls by glacial melt and millennia of spring runoff.

The small pools and waterfalls invite splashing children on a hot day, and there are few more romantic spots for a picnic for two. Few people stop, so you're likely to have this lovely spot to yourself. Two picnic tables sit in a pine grove overlooking the pools.

16. Play at Loon Adventure Center

Climbing Wall at Loon Adventure Center
Climbing Wall at Loon Adventure Center | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

Challenge yourself on the region's biggest outdoor climbing wall or whiz across the river on a zip line at the Loon Adventure Center. Located at the base of the mountain, along the banks of the East Branch Pemigewasset River, the center is one of the resort's most popular summer activities.

Safely secured with ropes and harnesses, children as small as 40 pounds can test their head for heights and their muscle power on the 30-foot wall, while spectators cheer them from below.

The zipline stretches 750 feet across the river to a tower on the opposite bank. The minimum weight on the zipline is 50 pounds.

Address: 60 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln, New Hampshire

Official site: https://www.loonmtn.com/

17. Walk through Lincoln Woods and the Discovery Trail

Suspension Bridge at Lincoln Woods
Suspension Bridge at Lincoln Woods | Photo Copyright: Stillman Rogers

Two level walking trails just off the Kancamagus Highway invite visitors to explore and learn about the woodlands of the White Mountain National Forest. The Lincoln Woods Visitor Center is the trailhead for the Lincoln Woods Trail, which begins with a 180-foot suspension bridge across the East Branch Pemigewasset River.

The trail, which follows the rocky river, is the gateway to the Pemigewasset Wilderness, the largest in the northeast.

Beyond the 1.8-mile section of a former rail line (to follow it farther means a river crossing), more challenging trails branch off to Franconia Falls and backcountry hiking terrain.

Not far beyond Lincoln Woods, just past Big Rock Campground, the Discovery Trail is a 1.4-mile loop trail with interpretative panels that offer a mini-course in forest ecology, both natural and managed.

Big Rock Campground, with beautiful tent sites in the woods, is a good choice for campers and also worth a stop to see the large glacial erratic near the entrance.

Address: Kancamagus Highway, Lincoln, New Hampshire

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