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Over hills and down vales in the national parks of New Hampshire and Maine

Visiter les parcs naturels du New Hampshire et du Maine

Surrounded by wild beauty in the cradle of the United States

Set off to discover wild nature in northern New England, a region in the northeastern corner of the United States.The national parks of New Hampshire and Maine are equally rich treasure troves, with fabulous forests and majestic mountains, hills and valleys, jagged coastlines, lakes and rivers.

Get away from it all in the White Mountain National Forest, the green lung of New Hampshire

A forest of leaves as far as the eye can see pierced by mountains studded with white cliffs: the White Mountains, the steepest region of the “Granite State”, are a spectacular sight to behold! Part of the long Appalachian mountain range, the White Mountains of New Hampshire pull their weight with 48 peaks clocking in at altitudes of over 1,200 metres. But the mountain peaks aren’t the full story, with bases blanketed in greenery, notched with gorges, mountain streams and waterfalls with crystal-clear water, and criss-crossed by countless hiking trails. Here moose reign supreme. And as soon as autumn comes around, it’s time for fall foliage: the White Mountain forest gets decked out in the colours of an Indian summer. Maples and birches put on their red and gold coats, while pines and conifers insist on staying green.

Explore the Appalachian Trail

Setting foot in White Mountain territory is an opportunity for hikers to follow a few kilometres of the legendary Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine, spanning 14 states and over 3,200 km.

The presidential ascent of Mount Washington

Ascending Mount Washington is one of the most popular routes in the region and is unmissable. With a peak of 1,917 metres, the mountain overlooks Mount Washington State Park, contemplating the whole of New Hampshire with authority. If you’re feeling brave, climb it on foot – it has an elevation gain of 1,000 metres over 14 kilometres – if not, drive up or take the historic and picturesque Cog Railway, built in 1869. The slope known as “Jacob’s Ladder” climbs at a nearly 38% grade! Make sure you bring a jumper for when you get to the top – even in summer, the weather is temperamental, and that’s putting it mildly! But even when it’s windy or raining and the peak is covered in clouds, Mount Washington is still one of the most mythical and mystical locations in the White Mountains.

Ridge trail to Lafayette

Another section of the Appalachian Trail is one of the best hikes in New Hampshire: the Franconia Ridge Loop in Franconia Notch State Park, in the northern White Mountains. The magnificent 5-km ridge trail links Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette. But before that, the Falling Waters Trail, flanked by a host of waterfalls – including the impressive Cloudland Falls – takes you up Little Haystack Mountain at an altitude of 1,451 metres. What follows is pure magic: the entire ridge offers breathtaking 360° panoramic views. After easily reaching Mount Lincoln (1,551 metres), you hike to Mount Lafayette (1,603 m), which, on a clear day, enjoys wonderful views of Mount Washington.

Pay a visit to the Old Man of the Mountain

Franconia Notch State Park is also the home of the Old Man of the Mountain, a strange granite curiosity and former New Hampshire State emblem: a series of five granite cliff ledges on Cannon Mountain, which, when viewed from the side, look like the profile of an old man’s face. Although it partially collapsed in 2003, the famous rock formation is still a fascinating historical attraction and place of pilgrimage for many of the region’s residents.

Take a break by the water on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee

Alternatively, head south along the White Mountains to Winnipesaukee, the “smile of the Great Spirit”, the largest lake in New Hampshire (which has 273!). With 253 islands and a shoreline of nearly 500 kilometres, the lake is a nautical paradise and the oldest holiday destination in the United States. In summer, when the temperature of the water ranges from 20°C to 26°C, visitors come to fish or lay their towels on the sand at Weirs Beach for a stylish picnic. You can also enjoy a dinner cruise on the water: the ideal viewpoint to appreciate the full beauty of the lake and its shores, sprinkled with magnificent houses. Winter is an opportunity to try ice fishing. And nature completely surrounds the lake, with no less than three nature reserves on its shores. The charms of Lake Winnipesaukee can be enjoyed all year round!

Visiter les parcs naturels du New Hampshire et du Maine

Explore Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park

Welcome to Maine, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, at the northeast end of New England and the United States. Bar Harbor, a charming coastal town on the shores of Mount Desert Island, is one of the gems of Maine. The island is the beating heart of Acadia National Park, which is one of the oldest national parks in the US. It is where the mountains meet the ocean, offering green hills and rocky coasts, where great horned owls, white-tailed deer, bald eagles, moose, beavers and coyotes live side by side.

Scout out the Park Loop Road

This 43-km one-way panoramic loop takes you on a tour of the park along a winding road with spectacular views. It follows the coast, explores the heart of the dense forests and climbs the mountainside, showing off all the splendours of this sanctuary of greenery.

Spotlight on Bass Harbor

Acadia National Park also has miles of craggy coastline, closely guarded by 65 lighthouses that are always on alert. Perched on its rock on the southwest tip of Mount Desert Island, Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse has been watching over the entrance to Bass Harbor since 1858. A true icon!

Climb to the top of Mount Katahdin

Did you think we’d forgotten about the Appalachian Trail? We haven’t! You can find its northern terminus in Baxter State Park. The section leads you up to the top of Mount Katahdin (1,605 metres), Maine’s highest peak, standing proudly over the lakes and forests. One clarification: although it is one of the best ascents in northeast America, it is also one of the most challenging, so it is only recommended for experienced and knowledgeable walkers. Also, remember to book in advance! If that doesn’t sound like you, there are also more accessible trails with just as grand panoramic views, like those at Little Niagara Falls, North Brother, Doubletop and South Turner Mountain.

Photos credits : © Istock

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