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Family Tent Camping in New Hampshire – Top 3 Campgrounds

Before “settling down” and having kids, I worked as a hiking and wilderness camping instructor. I chose a mate who also loved the outdoors. It’s no surprise then, that when we had our first child in 2016 he was tent camping by three months old. It didn’t take us long to discover that camping is different with kids! Pre-kids, I could fit a weeks worth of food, tent, sleeping bag, and cookware in my backpack. Now, with two toddlers in tow, we borrow my father-in-law’s pickup in order to transport the massive tent, toys, coolers, air mattress and other camp comforts. I used to choose a backcountry site eight miles off the road. Now, I prefer a pull-in site near showers and flush toilets.

Toddler in White Lake at White Lake State Park

White Lake State Park

New Hampshire offers endless choices of campgrounds for the family, but not all are created equal. If you plan on camping with children under five, I recommend places that offer the following:

  • Running Water Bathrooms – There are some beautiful national forest campgrounds in this state – but unfortunately their facilities are often limited to outhouse-style restrooms. This is NOT ideal for children. While camping is rarely luxurious, afford yourself the luxury of dragging your kids to the washroom when their fingers and face is covered in s’mores.
  • Play Opportunities – Camping offers children an opportunity to get away from the screens and explore nature. Campgrounds that offer access to safe natural swimming/boating areas, playgrounds, and beach give parents an additional bonus of natural entertainment for the trip.
  • Family Friendly Reputation – A good friend booked a campsite with her husband, three-year old, and infant. She didn’t know anything about it but was excited by the price and location. By nightfall, it was apparent that she was at a “party” campground. Drunk college students and late-night shenanigans by her camp neighbors turned the family trip into a nightmare. While even the family-friendliest of campgrounds can have night owls, campgrounds that cater to families are more likely to deter the party crowd.  
  • Reservations– I book my Labor Day weekend camping trip in January.  The last thing you want is a two-hour drive followed by a stressful “discussion” of where to stay when the campground is full.  Choose a campground that offers online reservations and save yourself the stress!

Don’t want to do the research?  Take my advice. Here are three, mom-approved New Hampshire campgrounds for tenting families.

White Lake State Park Campground – Tamworth, NH

Online Reservations: Yes.  Link Here.
Cost Per Night: $20-$30
Dogs: No

baby in front of tent

My daughter camping at 4 months

Located off Route 16 in Tamworth, White Lake has been a staple family campground for generations. I like its relative proximity to the Seacoast (less than an hour from my home in Rochester) as well as close to shopping and food (quarter mile to Dunkin’ Donuts). The lake has a safe sandy beach, two playgrounds, shallow-sandy swimming area, and easy trail around the lake. The camp store offers tube and boat rentals (non motorized allowed). Furthermore, I love the pristine mountain lake with White Mountains in the background. The campground offers online reservations, spacious sites for both tents and RVs, and public camp restrooms with running water and coin-operated showers. I visit this state park multiple times a summer as a day trip and camped there with my children the past three summers. Learn more at their website.

Glen Ellis Family Campground – Glen, NH

Online Reservations: No.  Call 603-363-4567 to reserve.
Cost Per Night: $48-$58
Dogs: None in summer season

toddler camping

My 2 year old camping

Located off Route 302 in Glen, NH, Glen Ellis Family Campground is a private family-owned campground in the White Mountains. It offers a lot of the luxuries not available at a state-run campground including laundry, a swimming pool, playground, sports courts, and rental RVs. For water lovers, the campground is located between two rivers- the Ellis and the Saco- known for lazy tubing adventures, fishing, and swimming holes. It’s also in my favorite pocket of New Hampshire! The White Mountains offer spectacular views, hiking, and are close to the bustling town of North Conway. Families of little ones can also take advantage of its proximity to Storyland Theme Park – just one mile away! This place fills up fast – some families make their reservations a full year in advance and online reservations are not available. More information on their website.

Pawtuckaway State Park Campground – Nottingham, NH

Online Reservations: Yes.  Link Here.
Cost Per Night: $20-$30
Dogs: No

Pawtuckaway campsite

Pawtuckaway waterfront campsite. Photo by Kristin Culum.

Pawtuckaway State Park is located 40 minutes west of Portsmouth. Nestled on the large Pawtuckaway Lake, this state park offers boating, swimming, fishing, beach, hiking, horseback riding, and a playground. The campground is similar to White Lake with public washrooms including flush toilets and coin-operated hot showers. Tent sights do not offer electricity. If you’re looking for something a little more comfortable, Pawtuckaway offers a few rustic cabin rentals that have electricity. I also love that they offer waterfront campsites! Shopping and amenities are a couple miles from the gates – so if you forget ice (or dinner burns), head into town. More information on their website.

For my family, camping is less about getting into wilderness and more about spending quality time together without the distractions of everyday life. Campground choice plays a big role in developing memories that we will cherish forever.

What are your favorite places to camp?

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3 Responses to Family Tent Camping in New Hampshire – Top 3 Campgrounds

  1. Avatar
    Angi May 2, 2019 at 8:42 am #

    Thank you for sharing. Another great place we love is Thomas Point beach in Brunswick, ME. Lots of sites and most times we have been there there were hardly any people. Road on grounds great for kids to ride bikes, playground, woods with fairy houses, cute little beach, horseshoe crabs, clam digging etc.

    • Avatar
      Lindsey May 2, 2019 at 12:03 pm #

      I have heard of it! Sounds GREAT! Maybe I should write one about Maine Campgrounds too!

  2. Avatar
    Sharon May 6, 2019 at 12:09 am #

    Great post and so helpful for families! Thanks!
    Sharon