Located in northern New Hampshire, the Connecticut Lakes region is a popular vacation destination, especially for outdoor lovers. In this area, you’ll find plenty of hiking, fishing, hunting, and so many other great activities to enjoy. With stunning scenery and so much to do, it’s easy to fall in love with this part of the country. This post is a guide to this amazing region of our beautiful country.
A Note from the Authors
Through all this time, we have been discussing coolers: soft ones, hard ones, backpack ones….all kinds of them. What we haven't discussed though, was where to actually take your precious gear. Where to seek an adventure, unspoiled nature? After all, It's not only about buying coolers but using them doing fun things, right?
By launching a new Blog section here on bestcooler.reviews, we want to share our favorite outdoor hidden gems with you to make planning your next vacation trips fun and easy.
We thought we're going to start introducing our readers to one of the best regions for all things outdoors, a region you might have not even heard about: NH's Connecticut Lakes Region. Here’s everything you need to know about the Connecticut Lakes.
New Hampshire Region
This region is in the northeastern corner of New Hampshire, just west of the Maine border. It is also very close to the Canadian border – a half hour drive north will take you into Quebec (Google Map link).
This region is very secluded without many people living there, but it is still within reasonable driving distance of many major cities. It is three hours away from both Montreal and Quebec City on the Canadian side, and both of these cities are popular day trips from the Connecticut Lakes.
On the American side of the border, it’s three hours from both Burlington, Vermont and Portland, Maine, as well as a four-hour drive from Boston.
The town closest to the Connecticut Lakes region is Pittsburg, New Hampshire. It is a very small town with less than 1,000 people, but covers a very large area of nearly 300 square miles.
The population grows significantly in the winter, when thousands of people visit to take advantage of the area’s well-maintained snowmobiling and ATV trails.
Fishing, canoeing, camping, and hiking draw tourists to the area year-round. Lake Francis State Park and Connecticut Lakes State Forest are both within the boundaries of the town.
There is a small-town feel here, and you’ll find locally run markets and cafes instead of chain stores and restaurants. As you would expect, there isn’t any public transportation in the area, so you’ll need a car in order to visit. There are plenty of cozy cabin rentals in the area, which book up quickly during the winter.
Steakhouses and pubs are the most popular restaurant choices here for a meal out. The nearest international airport is Burlington International Airport in Vermont. However, if you’re traveling from far away, you’re going to be more likely to find direct flights into Boston Logan International Airport.
The Connecticut Lakes region is most well-known for its incredible natural beauty and abundance of things to do. The region receives a huge amount of snow in the winter, and there are excellent public and private trails for snowmobiling. In the summer, these trails are often used for ATVs.
The lakes in the area have been popular among fishermen for hundreds of years, and today you’ll find them stocked with fish.
Fly fishing is particularly popular here, as is kayaking and canoeing through the lakes. State parks and private campgrounds both support camping near the lakes during the warmer months.
This area is also well known for its wildlife. In fact, moose outnumber humans in Pittsburg, and you’re likely to see at least a few when you visit. Hunting is popular in the fall season, and many people come just to enjoy the wildlife year-round.
When to Visit Connecticut Lakes?
The best time of year to visit the Connecticut Lakes region depends on what you want to enjoy while you’re there. If you like to fish or hike, you’ll be happy anytime between the spring and the fall. The fall is a particularly popular time to visit because of the changing leaves, but temperatures are typically pleasant in the spring and summer as well.
Keep in mind that things can get muddy during the early spring when the snow and ice is melting, and you are likely to encounter mosquitoes and other bugs during the heat of summer.
For snowmobilers and powersport vehicle lovers, you’ll want to come in the middle of winter when the snow cover is thickest.
New Hampshire’s Connecticut Lakes
The Connecticut Lakes are a group of four lakes in northern New Hampshire. They are numbered numerically, starting with the southernmost lake and moving northwards. They are just north of the town of Pittsburg, New Hampshire, but south of the Canadian border.
There are two other major lakes nearby as well, Back Lake and Lake Francis. All of the lakes are stocked with fish, and they are deep enough for boating and swimming. The lakes are connected by the Connecticut River.
The lakes are the biggest attraction in the region, drawing visitors from throughout New England as well as eastern Canada.
First Connecticut Lake
- Surface Elevation 1.638 feet
- Area 4.8 square miles
- Length 5.3 miles
- Width 2.7 miles
- Average Depth 56 feet
- Maximum Depth 163 feet
First Connecticut Lake is the largest of all the lakes in the region. It covers over 3,000 acres and has an average depth of 56 feet, although at its deepest point it reaches 163 feet. It is the eighth largest lake located entirely in New Hampshire.
The First Lake Dam is located on the southwestern shore of the lake, and controls the water flow from the lake into the Connecticut River. Because of the dam, you may occasionally notice changes in water levels when you are boating or fishing.
The lake is located right off Route 3, and of the four lakes, this one is closest to the town of Pittsburg, so it is very accessible. However, the majority of the shoreline is completely undeveloped, so you’ll enjoy rugged scenery while you’re boating on this lake.
There are three public boat launches located at points around the lake. In this lake, you’ll find lake trout, perch, and landlocked salmon. Ice fishing is allowed here during the winter from January through March, when the lake is at its coldest.
There is a section designated for fly fishing that stretches from the Magolloway Bridge to Green’s Point inlet, and the salmon fishing is particularly good here in the spring and fall.
There is a pleasant beach on the south side of the lake, which is also a good starting point if you’re looking to canoe, kayak, or water ski. The beach area also has picnic tables, grills, and restrooms, making it a popular destination for social gatherings.
GPS: 45°5′37″N 71°14′52″W
Second Connecticut Lake
- Surface elevation 1,800 feet
- Area 1.722 square miles
- Average depth 20 feet
- Maximum depth 63 feet
The Second Connecticut Lake is smaller than the first, with a surface area of 1,102 acres. It is also much shallower, with an average depth of 20 feet and a maximum depth of 63 feet.
However, this lake is higher in elevation by over 200 feet than the First Connecticut Lake. Route 3 runs right along the western shore of the lake, so it is very accessible.
Like the First Connecticut Lake, it is connected to the Connecticut River and the other lakes by a dam. These dams cause monitored changes in water levels throughout the year. This lake was formerly known as Lake Carmel.
This lake has one public boat launch, which is located off Idlewilde Road. The lake is stocked with brook trout, lake trout, and landlocked salmon.
This lake also allows ice fishing from January through March, provided the ice coverage is good. This lake is much more secluded than the First Connecticut Lake, and is a great place to see wildlife. You may encounter loons, herons, fox, moose, and deer.
Near the boat launch, there is a path that runs along the shore of the lake, which is an excellent place to take in a sunrise or sunset.
Third Connecticut Lake
- Surface elevation 2,188 feet
- Area 231 acres
- Average depth 42 feet
- Maximum depth 101 feet
The Third Connecticut Lake is much smaller than its counterparts to the south. It has a surface area of 231 acres. However, it’s deeper than the Second Connecticut Lake, with an average depth of 42 feet, and a depth of 101 feet at its lowest point.
This lake is surrounded by the Connecticut Lakes State Forest right along Route 3, and is less than a mile south of the Canadian border. This lake was formerly known as Lake St. Sophia.
This lake is known for its rainbow trout and lake trout fishing. There is a public boat launch that is easily accessible from the road.
This lake is much more secluded than the first or second lakes, so you’ll have much more space to yourself when fishing here. Like the other two lakes, ice fishing is permitted here in the winter from January through March.
You will likely see loons and other beautiful birds while fishing here. There are some small sections of the shoreline that you can walk along, but generally, the area around this lake is undeveloped.
Fourth Connecticut Lake
- Surface Elevation 2,670 feet
- Area 2.5 acres
- Average depth between 2 and 4 feet
- Maximum depth 5 feet
This lake is the smallest of the four Connecticut Lakes, and it has the highest elevation of the four as well. It has an area of only 1.8 acres, but has a surface elevation of 2,670 feet.
Although it is very small, this lake actually serves as the feeder and starting point for the rest of the lakes and the Connecticut River. It is the closest of the lakes to the Canadian border, and is located to the northwest of the Third Connecticut Lake.
It is much harder to access than the other lakes, as it is set back from the road.
The Fourth Connecticut Lake is maintained by the Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy also maintains the Fourth Connecticut Lake Trail, which crosses into Canada and is how hikers can access the lake. The trail is a 1.7 mile loop, and is accessible from the parking lot of the border crossing station into Canada.
Since the lake only has a depth of about five feet, you cannot fish there. However, there are some fish that live in the lake, as well as some beavers and otters.
The Nature Conservancy preserves the trees and general habitat of the area to protect local wildlife. If you want a very tranquil hiking experience, this is one to visit.
- Surface Elevation 1,575 feet
- Area 348 acres
- Lenght 1.4 miles
- Width 3,168 feet
- Average Depth 7 feet
- Maximum Depth 15 feet
While not technically part of the Connecticut Lake system, Back Lake is another water body worth visiting while you are in the area. This lake is situated to the southwest of First Connecticut Lake in the town of Pittsburg, so it is very accessible.
There are many cabins as well as some restaurants and businesses located around the lake, so it is a very popular place to stay. There are also campgrounds near the lake for those who prefer to stay in a tent or RV.
Back Lake has an average depth of 7 feet and a maximum depth of 15 feet, so it is popular for swimming, boating, and fishing in the summer.
In the lake, you’ll find a number of fish species, including brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and brown bullhead.
The lake is stocked by the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department, and is classified as a cold water fishery. Fly fishing on this lake is excellent during the spring and early summer.
Because of the shallow depth of the lake, boats are restricted to 10 miles per hour, and water skiing is not allowed. The Philbrook Town Park is on the eastern shore of the lake, and has a small beach as well.
GPS: 45°04′49″N 71°21′07″W
- Surface Elevation 1,379 feet
- Area 3.02 miles
- Lenght 5.4 miles
- Width 1.3 miles
- Average Depth 40 feet
- Maximum Depth 82 feet
Lake Francis is a very large reservoir that is connected to the Connecticut Lakes by the Connecticut River. It is the southernmost of the lakes in the area, and is nearly 2,000 acres in size.
This reservoir is contained by the Murphy Dam. This lake is incredibly popular for boating and fishing, and there are two public access boat ramps, one of which is easily accessible along Route 3.
Lake Francis is a cold water fishery, with many different species of fish available throughout the year. You’ll find lake trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, salmon, and pickerel in this lake. As on many of the Connecticut Lakes, ice fishing is allowed in the winter from January through March.
On the southern edge of the lake is Lake Francis Wildlife Area, which was created to preserve the plant and animal species in the area. Lake Francis State Park is on the north side of the lake.
This state park has a campground, a boat launch with canoe rentals, hiking trails, ATV camping, and much more, making it a very popular destination in the area for recreation.
GPS: 45°5′37″N 71°14′52″W
There are so many excellent outdoor activities to explore in the Connecticut Lakes region. No matter what season you visit, there’s always plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the area. Here are some of the notable outdoor activities to try in the Connecticut Lakes region.
Because there are so many well-maintained bodies of water in the area, it’s no surprise that the Connecticut Lakes and the surrounding region have become a very popular destination for fishing.
You can fish in three of the four Connecticut Lakes, as well as in Back Lake and Lake Francis. There are also points along the Connecticut River itself where you can fish, as well as small streams, bogs, and ponds connected to the Connecticut River system.
There are many species of fish available in the area. Trout species are the most common, but you are also likely to encounter salmon while fishing here.
This area is also a popular place for fly fishing, and there are a total of five miles along the Connecticut River that are designated as fly fishing only.
The fishing season in the area starts at the beginning of May, when the ice melts. Salmon quickly start to hatch, closely followed by many species of trout.
The summer season is particularly great for fly fishing. One of the most popular spots for fly fishing is near the Murphy Dam in Lake Francis. You’ll continue to find good fishing on the lakes and rivers all the way until the fall season. Ice fishing is very popular during the winter season as well.
Fishing Rivers & Streams
- Connecticut River
- Androscoggin River near Errol, NH
- Indian Stream
Noteworthy Fishing Ponds
- Boundary Pond
- East Inlet
- Scott’s Bog
- Moose Falls Flowage
- Moose Pond
- Terrill Pond
- Middle Pond
- Harris Pond
- Coon Brook Bog
- Clarksville Pond
- Big Brook Bog
Because of the varied wildlife in the area, there’s plenty of excellent hunting near Pittsburg and the Connecticut Lakes. There are several private lodges and hunting preserves in the area where you can hunt, as well as public areas maintained by the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department.
Before you go hunting, you will need to get a New Hampshire hunting license, which you can do online. You should also check the regulations for the specific type of game you are hunting. Regulations change frequently and are posted on the NH Fish & Game website. Once you get the permit, you're free to grab your rifle, your hunting cooler, and go for an adventure.
In the woods surrounding Pittsburg and the Connecticut Lakes, you’ll find excellent black bear and whitetail deer hunting. Bears tend to hide in the woods, while you’ll be more likely to find deer near stream valleys or beech stands.
The hunting seasons for these two animals are in the fall. The area is known for very large game and is a fun challenge for any hunter. You’ll also find plentiful grouse, pheasant, and woodcock hunting in the North Woods. Pittsburg also has a huge moose population, and moose hunting is very popular here.
However, moose hunting is managed differently than other types of hunting in New Hampshire. You will need to apply for a moose hunting permit online, and then the permits are chosen through a lottery system.
The Connecticut Lakes region is in areas A-1 and A-2 for moose hunting.
The wildlife in Pittsburg and the surrounding area is varied and fascinating, and many visitors come to see the area’s huge moose population.
There are more moose than people in Pittsburg, and you’ll find many of them along ‘Moose Alley’. This is a stretch along Route 3 between First and Second Connecticut Lakes that is home to thousands of moose. Many companies in the area offer tours where you can see them.
If you plan on driving through this area, be sure to move slowly for the safety of yourself and the moose in the area.
There are a number of other fascinating wildlife species in the area. The wooded areas are home to bears, deer, foxes, and rabbits, which you may encounter while exploring the area. The lakes in the area also attract a wide range of bird species, including loons and heron.
You also may see thrush, grouse, finches, osprey, and even eagles. Driving along Route 3 is a great way to watch the birds, as is exploring one of the area’s many hiking trails. These scenic drives and hikes are particularly stunning during the winter, when the leaves start to change color.
The Connecticut Lakes region has beautiful rolling hills that lend themselves perfectly to hiking. During the warmer months, there are several beautiful trails to explore.
A great place to start is Lake Francis State Park (website), which has a number of gentle walking trails around the lake and the surrounding woods.
For a more challenging trail, head east of town to the Mount Magalloway Trail. This will take you to the top of a mountain with a beautiful vantage point. From the top of the mountain, you’ll be able to see the Connecticut Lakes as well as the Canadian border.
The Falls in the River trail is another beautiful trail that takes you along the Connecticut River and is wonderful for wildlife watching. You can also hike from the border patrol station to the Fourth Connecticut Lake for a very secluded stroll.
The Coho Trail also runs through the Connecticut Lakes area. This trail runs for 170 miles through New Hampshire all the way up to the Canadian border, and is a popular trail for backpackers.
Paddling, Canoeing, and Kayaking
With so many large bodies of water in the area, it’s no surprise that canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding are all popular activities here.
The water here is relatively calm, particularly on the smaller lakes, so it’s a good place for beginner paddlers. It’s also an excellent place to try stand up paddleboarding, since you won’t be battling intense waves.
However, if you are looking for more challenging waters, there are some routes along the Connecticut River that will give you a faster, more intense experience. You can even take paddling trips along the Connecticut River between the dams.
There are boating and fishing outfitters throughout town where you can rent equipment if you do not have it already. Each of the lakes has public access boat ramps, which is the easiest way to get out onto the water.
In addition to the major lakes in the area, there are some smaller bodies of water that lend themselves well to kayaking.
For example, Scott’s Bog and East Inlet are both located east of Route 3. They are very calm and are more secluded than the larger lakes. You may even see moose wading along the shoreline as you paddle in East Inlet.
For day-long kayaking trips, be sure to pack some food and drinks into a cooler – like a soft-sided Yeti, Igloo or any other Yeti-like one. Packing a softshell jacket can be worth recommending as well, in case of the sudden weather changes (it happens).
Snowmobile and ATV trails are one of the biggest draws in the Connecticut Lakes region. Because these activities are so popular, there are several rental companies in town, as well as tour guides for beginners.
The Great North Woods ATV Club is the official ATV club in Pittsburg, and they maintain an extensive network of trails through the town. The ATV trails are open from Memorial Day weekend until September 30th.
In the winter, the Pittsburg Ridge Runners maintain snowmobile trails throughout the area. There are also many privately owned trails. Since the area sees so much snow during the winter, the trails are open for a large portion of the year.
There are over 200 miles of snowmobile trails in the Pittsburg area, running around the lakes and ponds, as well as through the deep woods.
The extensive snow cover also lends itself well to cross country skiing and snowshoeing. There are many lodges that maintain their own snowshoe and cross country ski trails through the area.
The gently rolling terrain of the area makes it ideal for both skiing and snowshoeing, and there are trails available for all levels.
Lake Francis State Park also maintains public snowshoe trails near the lake. The snowmobile trails are also open for cross-country skiing, but you should be very careful when using them due to the high volume of snowmobile traffic.
Dining & Lodging
You have many options when looking for a place to stay in Pittsburg and the Connecticut Lakes area.
One of the most popular options is to rent a cabin – there are so many rentals with varying sizes and amenities throughout the area. Many cabins have lake or river views as well.
There are also several bed and breakfasts in the area, as well as motel-style lodges. There are no large chain hotels in the area, which means you get the coziness and excellent customer service of staying at small establishments.
There are also many well-maintained campgrounds in the area, with options for both RV and tent camping. Camping near the lakes is a very popular option during the spring and summer when the weather is warm.
NH's Connecticut Lakes – The Bottom Line
The Connecticut Lakes region is a must-visit for outdoor lovers, whether you enjoy fishing, hiking, or snowmobiling. Although the region is very secluded, it’s still accessible from New England as well as eastern Canada with a reliable car.
The beautiful scenery and fascinating wildlife is a huge draw as well on top of the many incredible outdoor activities.
- The Official Web Site of New Hampshire State Government – NH.gov
- Visit NH – visitnh.gov
- Connecticut Lakes Region at TripAdvisor
- NH Fish and Game – www.wildlife.state.nh.us
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