Spelunking. Caving. Exploring. Whatever you call it, wandering through a cave is one of the best ways to adventure (and stay cool!) in the White Mountains. Here’s our list of the top caves in New Hampshire plus some honorable mentions well worth a side trip.
LOON MOUNTAIN RESORT (Lincoln, NH)
Loon Mountain Resort is known for a lot of things. During the summer, mountain biking, gondola riding, and ziplining are the adventures du jour. Come winter, tubing, skiing, and snowboarding take center stage. But we’ll let you in on a little secret – Loon’s summit caves are second to none.
Book your ticket for the Gondola Skyride, where you will be zipped to the top of Loon Peak in a matter of minutes. From there, take a short walk to Loon’s series of boulder caves. Each cave is comprised of towering chunks of granite, leaning against each other to form Ice Age-era enclaves. It’s a great spot for squeezing and scooching, so dress accordingly with athletic footwear and clothes you don’t mind getting a bit dirty.
LOST RIVER GORGE & BOULDER CAVES (North Woodstock, NH)
If the late summer heat feels inescapable, your best option is to head up in elevation. Lost River Gorge & Boulder, located in North Woodstock, NH’s Kinsman Notch, is a great escape. Here you’ll find plenty of moss-draped rocks and towering conifers, plus tiny trout to spot in the Lost River and 11 fantastic boulder caves to explore. The top cave to crawl through? The famous Lemon Squeezer, complete with a wood gauge at the beginning to see if you can fit through the tightest spots.
Lost River Gorge is great fun for the whole family, with a 1-mile boardwalk offering bypasses of all the caves for those less adventurous folk. In addition to the caves, we’d recommend taking a group picture in the Giant Birds Nest, walking the Forest Adventure Trail, and trying out the mining sluice during your time at this phenomenal stop.
POLAR CAVES PARK (Rumney, NH)
Head about half an hour south of the Lincoln area for this next adventure. Look for Route 25 heading west through Rumney, NH. Keep your eyes peeled for some truly big polar bears, and you’re at the start of your next epic experience – Polar Caves Park!
This family-run affair is one of our top things to do in the White Mountains. Just like Lost River Gorge, Polar Caves Park has its own Lemon Squeeze experience, plus another cave aptly named Orange Crush. All told, there are 9 fun glacial caves to crawl through. We are big fans of the cool temps found in each cave, plus the breezes brought on by Polar Cave’s boardwalk (which winds up the impressive slopes of Hawk’s Cliff).
Before you leave, take some time to enjoy the small animal park on Polar Caves’ grounds. The herd of Fallow deer and waddle of ducks are reason enough to walk away delighted.
While these two locales might not count as true caves, they certainly deserve a spot on the list.
BEAR'S DEN (Franconia, NH)
Don’t be dubious – the Bear’s Den is worth the price of admission! This rocky slot is located at the top of Franconia Notch State Park’s Flume Gorge, meaning you can experience one of the White Mountain’s best natural wonders along the way.
BOISE ROCK (Franconia, NH)
Those looking for a 100% free experience alongside a little history lesson should head to Franconia Notch State Park’s Boise Rock, located just a little further north on I-93.
This rocky behemoth is named after local legend Thomas Boise, a teamster traveling through the notch in the early 1800s. During his journey, a deadly blizzard struck. Boise was forced to kill and skin his horse, wrap himself in the hide, and crawl beneath a rocky overhang to wait out the storm. A search party located Boise the next day, miraculously alive inside the frozen hide.
Relive history minus the grim details, and make sure to crawl under Boise Rock’s massive overhang during your visit. Admire the views of Cannon Cliff across the way and give a moment of gratitude for the benign weather. Then, head out on your merry way!
Now that you’ve read up on all kinds of caves, we imagine you’re hankering for more outdoor options to stitch together one standout itinerary. What about swapping some cave crawling for some scenic sky rides, a little bit of biking, or some camping? If you’re still a bit too toasty, here’s some more ways to beat the heat during the last few weeks of summer. We'll see you out there, adventurers!