15 Best Lakes in New Hampshire

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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This New England state is home to some of the largest ski areas in the East Coast, giving it its nickname ‘The White Mountain State’. In fact, there are so many ski resorts that it is a major tourist destination, with visitors coming to New Hampshire from all over the world. Still, it is a small state, being the fifth smallest in the country, but its plethora of outdoor activities makes is a popular holiday destination.

New Hampshire’s mountainous region spans across the entire north-central portion of the state, with the rest of it being made up of woods, valleys and ocean coast. It actually has the shortest coastline of any state, though still attracts beach lovers in the summer months. New Hampshire is also home to the Lakes Region, which sits in the middle of the state. This area is home to the majority of its lakes, though there are lakes spread across the entire state. Many of them are well worth visiting not only for their recreation, but also for their beauty. These are the 15 best lakes in New Hampshire.

1. Lake Winnipesaukee; Belknap & Carroll Counties

Lake Winnipesaukee, New HampshireSource: Micha Weber / shutterstock
Lake Winnipesaukee

The largest lake in New Hampshire is located in the Lakes Region and consists of a number of bays. Lake Winnipesaukee is home to more than 250 islands and numerous small inlets, and is an extremely popular tourist destination.

The 18,000 hectare lake has a shoreline of over 460 kilometres that is dotted with towns, villages and lakeside communities. Laconia is the main commercial city and home to the lake’s largest beach; Weirs Beach.

There are so many things to do at Lake Winnipesaukee that many people stay for days on end at one of the lakeside resorts, inns, hotels, private cottages or campgrounds. A few things that can be enjoyed here include canoeing, swimming, fishing, hiking, skiing and snowmobiling.

2. Squam Lake; Grafton, Carroll & Belknap Counties

Squam Lake, New HampshireSource: Karen Wunderman / shutterstock
Squam Lake

Also located in the Lakes Region, Squam Lake sits just south of the White Mountains and northwest of Lake Winnipesaukee. Visitors may recognise the 2,748 hectare lake as the location of the Academy Award Winning film ‘On Golden Pond’.

Squam Lake is a great place to see common loons, as they use it as a nesting ground. Bald eagles and great blue herons also nest here, making it a haven for birdwatchers.

The scenery around the lake makes it quite tranquil and an ideal place for camping. There are also a number of vacation rentals and inns along its shoreline that offer access to go boating, canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

3. Pawtuckaway Lake; Rockingham County

Pawtuckaway Lake, New HampshireSource: rickpilot_2000 / Flickr
Pawtuckaway Lake

Officially known as Pawtuckaway Pond, this small lake is located in south-eastern New Hampshire and makes up for the entire west end of the Pawtuckaway State Park. The east side of the lake is lined with private home and summer residences, some of which are rented to lake visitors.

The Pawtuckaway State Park is the lake’s biggest draw, offering swimming, boating, fishing and camping. It is also a well-known canoe orienteering spot, with many events being held on the lake.

Tourists that prefer land-based activities can go hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. There are also picnic areas, a playground and a fire lookout tower.

4. Lake Sunapee; Sullivan & Merrimack Counties

Lake Sunapee, New HampshireSource: SawBear / shutterstock
Lake Sunapee

Lake Sunapee is the fifth largest lake that is entirely in the state of New Hampshire. The 1,700 hectare lake sits in the western part of the state at the foot of Mount Sunapee, resulting in some beautiful scenery.

There are a total of seven sandy beaches along the lake’s 110 kilometre shoreline, as well as six boat ramps, three lighthouses and a private marina. The lake is also home to the Lake Sunapee Yacht Club, which hosts the largest unofficial sailing event in the country.

Mount Sunapee State Park sits along the north end of the lake, which offers numerous recreational activities within Lake Sunapee. There park also has an extensive trail system that offers hiking and snowshoeing in the winter.

5. Newfound Lake; Grafton County

Newfound Lake, New HampshireSource: FindJackHere / shutterstock
Newfound Lake

Newfound Lake is the deepest lake in the Lakes Region as well as the rest of the state. It is one of the cleanest lakes in the country, being fed by eight underground springs.

This 1,801 hectare lake boasts a 35 kilometre shoreline that is home to a number of towns, private estates and the Wellington State Park. The park happens to be home to the largest freshwater swimming beach in the state!

Swimming, fishing, kayaking and canoeing are all offered at the lake. There are also a number of hiking trails in the area surrounding Newfound Lake, some of which are in the Wellington State Park.

6. Ossipee Lake; Carroll County

Ossipee Lake, New HampshireSource: A.F.Smith / shutterstock
Ossipee Lake

This 1,318 hectare lake is located in the communities of Ossipee and Freedom in western New Hampshire. It is the sixth largest lake in the state and is fed by four different rivers.

Ossipee Lake is a popular destination, and as a result has numerous vacation rentals, cabins and resorts along its shoreline. There are also a few beaches, many of which are private beaches in development areas.

Apart from the beaches, Ossipee Lake is also a major fishing site. Anglers come here to catch land-locked salmon, rainbow trout, lake trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, sunfish and chain pickerel.

7. Spofford Lake; Cheshire County

Spofford Lake, New HampshireSource: Matthew McLane / shutterstock
Spofford Lake

Spofford Lake has been a popular recreational destination since the late 19th century. Actor-comedian George Carlin, New Yorker cartoonist Leo Cullum and Saturday Night Live director Dave “Wacky” Wilson all spent their childhood summers here.

The north end of the lake is predominately lined with private residents and home to a resident’s only beach. The southern portion of the lake is home to Wares Grove beach where there is a public boat ramp and hiking trails.

In addition to a public beach, the south side of the 296 hectare lake is home to cabins, cottages and camping grounds. There is a golf course at the east side of the lake (Grove Springs Country Club), while the Spofford Yacht Club can be found along its northeast shoreline.

8. Winnisquam Lake; Belknap County

Winnisquam Lake, New HampshireSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
Winnisquam Lake

Sitting in the Lakes Region, Winnisquam Lake is the fourth largest lake in New Hampshire. The lake has a surface area of 1,705 hectare and is 52 metres deep, making it a popular fishing destination.

There are both cold and warm water fish species living in the lake, including whitefish, landlocked salmon, trout, pickerel, bass, perch and walleye. It is also a beach lover’s haven, offering two swimming beaches that are open to the public.

Winnisquam Lake is surrounded by a number of quant towns, making it a picturesque vacation destination. Plus, the Ahern State Park lies along the eastern shoreline of the lake, offering hiking, picnicking, mountain biking and snowshoeing in the winter.

9. Great East Lake; Carroll County

Great East Lake, New HampshireSource: Ken Gallager at English Wikipedia / Wikimedia
Great East Lake

Great East Lake sits in the very east side of New Hampshire and is shared with the neighbouring state of Maine, however the majority of the lake sits within New Hampshire. At 740 hectare, it is the largest lake in the Salmon Falls River area.

The lake is prime fishing destination, being home to 21 different fish species. These include rainbow trout, lake trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, hornpout and American eel.

Over 75 per cent of Great East Lake’s shoreline is lined with residential properties and camps, most of which sit within 15 metres of the shoreline. Some of these properties are available for visitors to rent, making the lake a comfortable place for a holiday.

10. Conway Lake; Carroll County

Conway Lake, New HampshireSource: Tara Ballard / shutterstock
Conway Lake

Conway Lake is just a small lake, but it is a great place to enjoy recreational activities. The lake is home to a public beach, a campground and a boat ramp, with swimming, canoeing, boating and fishing being offered.

The beach sits at the very north tip of the lake in the town of Conway, where there are also cottages to stay in. There is a car park just across the street from the beach, making it quite popular amongst the local communities on hot summer weekends.

The lake is quite tranquil, sitting just east of the White Mountains between the towns of Conway and Eaton. It is home to some magnificent local wildlife, including herons, deer, loons, turtles, eagles and snakes.

11. Christine Lake; Coos County

Christine Lake, new HampshireSource: TimothyLev at English Wikipedia / Wikimedia
Christine Lake

Christine Lake is completely surrounded by the protected Kauffmann Forest. This makes it quite a beautiful lake, as well as an unspoilt one.

This is a very small lake, being just 80 hectare. Still, it is a spectacular place for a quiet day of scenic canoeing or kayaking.

Fishing is allowed on the lake, while bird watching is enjoyed in its surroundings. It should be noted that only boats powered by engines with a maximum of 10 HP are permitted on the lake.

12. Lake Wentworth; Carroll County

Lake Wentworth, New HampshireSource: Dougtone / Flickr
Lake Wentworth

This 1,253 hectare lake is located in the town of Wolfeboro in the eastern part of the state. Lake Wentworth is New Hampshire’s seventh largest lake and is home to at least 18 islands.

Lake Wentworth has a 32 kilometre shoreline, with the Wentworth State Park sitting along its northeast corner. The park offers public access to the lake, as well swimming, canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

The park is also home to picnic tables, grills and public toilets. The Governor Wentworth Historic Site is also on the lake’s eastern shoreline, which is a historic site as well as a picnic area.

13. Umbagog Lake; Coos County

Umbagog Lake, New HampshireSource: E.J.Johnson Photography / shutterstock
Umbagog Lake

This wilderness lake is shared with neighbouring Maine, though the majority of the 3,180 hectare lake sits within New Hampshire. The lake is part of the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, which includes the Umbagog Lake State Park.

The state park has a swimming beach as well as offering canoeing, fishing, picnicking and camping. In fact, there are 27 campsites with hook-ups and 33 primitive sites that are only accessible by water.

The entire area surrounding the lake is home to an abundance of wildlife, including wild turkey, coyote, bald eagle, bobcat, moose, osprey and bear.

14. Canobie Lake; Rockingham County

Canobie Lake, New HampshireSource: Fletcher6 / Wikimedia
Canobie Lake

Canobie Lake is located in southern New Hampshire between the towns of Windham and Salem. In fact, the west half of the lake is part of Windham and the east side is within the town of Salem.

The 152 hectare lake is best known for being the home of the Canobie Lake Park. This amusement park occupies a big portion of the east shoreline of the lake.

Although the amusement park is the lake’s main draw, it is also possible to enjoy the lake itself. Canoeing and fishing are offered, and there is a public boat ramp at the very north tip of the lake.

15. Echo Lake; Grafton County

Echo Lake, New HampshireSource: Jon Bilous / shutterstock
Echo Lake

Echo Lake is located in Franconia Notch in the White Mountains. It sits at the foot of Cannon Mountain at an elevation of 588 metres above sea level.

This is one of the most stunning lakes in all of New Hampshire thanks to its surrounding mountain peaks. You can enjoy magnificent views of the lake when skiing on the Cannon Mountain ski slopes, which are directly above the 15.5 hectare lake.

There is a swimming beach along the north shore of Echo Lake that boasts amazing views of the mountain. The Artist’s Bluff Loop hiking trial is just beyond the beach and boasts views of the lake and Franconia Notch.

15 Best Lakes in New Hampshire:

  • Lake Winnipesaukee; Belknap & Carroll Counties
  • Squam Lake; Grafton, Carroll & Belknap Counties
  • Pawtuckaway Lake; Rockingham County
  • Lake Sunapee; Sullivan & Merrimack Counties
  • Newfound Lake; Grafton County
  • Ossipee Lake; Carroll County
  • Spofford Lake; Cheshire County
  • Winnisquam Lake; Belknap County
  • Great East Lake; Carroll County
  • Conway Lake; Carroll County
  • Christine Lake; Coos County
  • Lake Wentworth; Carroll County
  • Umbagog Lake; Coos County
  • Canobie Lake; Rockingham County
  • Echo Lake; Grafton County