Take it from this camping enthusiast: Lost River is just the right balance of active family adventure and the quietude of nature in the White Mountains.
The Lost River Valley Campground was featured as "The Best Family Camping" in a 2005 issue of Yankee magazine for good reason. Situated just four miles west of the scenic Kancamagus Highway (Route 112) in North Woodstock, New Hampshire, Lost River offers a mountainous getaway for families of all vacationing objectives. By far, the fall season is one of the most spectacular times to visit the White Mountains as the reserved rustic landscape transforms into a brilliant display of reds, oranges and gold.
All 125 campsites on the grounds are suitable for families pitching tents or traveling in RVs. Lost River's property is meticulously maintained by the dedicated grounds crew who erase any signs of previous guests. Wooded and waterfront sites (from $26-$36/day + tax) are situated along the banks of Lost River, for which the campground is named, or Walker Brook.
Cabins are a popular choice for traveling families. Lost River offers one-room cabins ($55/day + tax) with a double bed and one bunk bed, or two-room cabins with a double and a set of bunks ($69/day + tax) for those with more in tow. The cabins function mostly as sleeping quarters; there is no kitchen — all cooking must be done outside on the fire ring. Electric heaters are in each cabin so that keeping warm, even in fall, does not present much of a problem. However, there is not much in the way of storage so long stays may be more challenging. Campsite fees include the adult fee of $6/day and $2 for kids. If you park your car in the parking lot the fee is $3.50/N. Weekly campers can receive a 10% discount on site fees.
Smaller families traveling with five people or less might want to try campsite #90. The private, wooded site is slightly set back from the main camping area and on a low incline. It is the only campsite with running water and cleared paths in the unpopulated forest in the rear. The clearings in the woods lead to the picturesque Walker Brook where visitors might catch sight of frogs baking in the sun or schools of trout passing by.
A Campground Busy with Kid-Focused Fun
The inclusiveness of the campground earns its solid reputation. Lost River Valley Campground is a proven example of self-sufficiency. Firewood, ice, an assortment of groceries and any last minute or overlooked purchases can be made at the Camp Store before passing through the gate to the campground. Showers are available for a small price and dumping stations are located at the campground entrance.
Directly across from the main entrance is a large playground comprised of a wooden ship, swings and slides designed to keep kids entertained and ward off any bouts of cabin fever. Families can partake in a range of onsite activities from kayak/paddleboat rentals to volleyball, tennis and badminton, all with stunning views of the White Mountain peaks. A large recreation area and TV/reading room are good diversions for families who want a comforting dose of home during their stay.
Events & Activities in the White Mountains
Nearby Lincoln, New Hampshire, the eastern hub of the Kancamagus Highway, is complete with all the conveniences any modern camping family may require during both short term and long term visits. Restaurants of all varieties, from international cuisine to irresistible pancake houses, outdoor, grocery and recreational stores, a movie theatre and hotels line the main drag that runs through Lincoln. Here, families can climb aboard the Hobo Railroad and witness the scenery of the White Mountains by train while enjoying the ice cream sold in transit.
There are a few other recommended areas for first time visitors or return visitors looking to explore the White Mountains in more depth.
The Kancamagus Highway is a gorgeous 34-mile-long, two-lane byway that extends from the town of Lincoln in the east to Conway on the west. North and south of the stretch is the 800,000-acre protected White Mountain National Forest, home of over two dozen hiking trails, stunning overlooks, caverns, swimming holes and outdoor activities of all kinds. Since the highway was paved in 1964, it has been a draw for people who enjoy the quiet and natural simplicity of the exceptional area. The timeless and untouched quality of the National Forest is accentuated by the original 1960s era signage informing drivers and hikers of entry and exit points in the park, as well as indicating trailheads and overlooks along the byway.
The granite carved mountainside, low valleys and pristine lakes make Franconia Notch State Park a prime destination for leaf peeping in the White Mountain National Forest, not to mention one of the best places to bike ride in the area. The Flume Gorge, a deep ravine with a powerful rushing river two million years in the making, is deservingly one of the most popular attractions in the Notch and a worthwhile visit. Open daily beginning May 9th from 9am-5pm with adult admission of $12 and $8 for kids 6-12 years old. Kids 5 and under are free.
It is also worth the hour-long drive to Glen to visit Story Land, especially if traveling with younger children. The fantasy-rich children's theme park is full of playgrounds with popular childhood favorites like Peter the Pumpkineater's House, talking tree houses and a sandcastle maze. Children will be thrilled to see storybook characters like Cinderella, Mother Goose and the Three Little Pigs step out of the book and into life. The park opens Memorial Day weekend for their 55th season.
Though families could easily spend days or even weeks without leaving the Lost River campground, those who wish to venture offsite should begin at the White Mountains Visitor Center, just a few short minutes from the campground. The friendly and knowledgeable staff is happy to help visitors make the most of their time by distributing an abundant supply of information, maps, guides and pamphlets pointing families to virtually anything they want to accomplish during their stay.
The Lost River Valley Campground is at 951 Lost River Road, North Woodstock, NH 03262 in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Call ahead for reservations at 603/745-8321 or visit the website; several months' lead time is recommended for July or August stays.
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