A beautiful wooded marsh in Pawtuckaway State Park with cloud reflections and autumn colors

Camping at Pawtuckaway State Park

Photo: Natalie Rotman Cote/Shutterstock

Head to Nottingham, N.H., for overnight adventures at this geological attraction and spacious activity hub.

Flee the city for nearby Pawtuckaway State Park, an idyllic 5,000-acre nature preserve just across the border in New Hampshire. It’s one of the state’s largest parks, and it’s a little over an hour from Boston and just 40 minutes from the picturesque coastal beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. At Pawtuckaway, visitors can hike or bike through forests and to mountain summits, or pitch a tent with prime views of the sparkling blue lake. Water lovers can set up camp for the day on a sandy beach or take out a boat and paddle around the 784-acre lake. Pawtuckaway is also a geological attraction. When the glaciers receded at the end of the last Ice Age, hundreds of large granite boulders were left behind. Today, those boulders are popular for climbers. No matter how you want to spend your next weekend, there’s plenty to do at Pawtuckaway State Park. 

Getting There

Head north from Boston for 70 miles (about 1 hour and 10 minutes) to Pawtuckaway. There are a few different parking areas depending on where you’re going, but for camping head toward the main entrance and then take the road to whichever lakeside campground you’ve booked. The park is open year-round, but during off-hours or the off-season, the park is not typically staffed and some bathrooms or gates might be closed. Entrance fees are $5 for adults and $2 for kids 6-11. Children 5 and under and New Hampshire residents over 65 can enjoy the park for free. 


There are almost 200 sites available to reserve at Pawtuckaway, including a handful of group sites, five cabins, a hike-in site, and dozens of tent sites. The sites are located in different areas around Pawtuckaway Lake on Horse Island, Big Island, and Neals Cove. The best part? Many of the sites have views of the lake. You can also expect to find a fire pit, picnic table, and a parking spot. While RVs are welcome, there are no hookups available. Campers have access to running water, toilets, coin-operated showers, a camp store, boat launch, and rentals of canoes and paddleboats nearby. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance at New Hampshire State Parks and start at $25/night (cabins are $65/night). Day users must make a reservation as well. These reservations can be made up to one month out. 

Summer adventures in New Hampshire kayaking in Pawtuckaway State Park Photo: Krista Gazzola/Shutterstock



Rent a canoe, kayak, or standup paddleboard at the camp store or bring your own and cruise around the lake. Kids kayaks are even available for rent so the whole family can go out together. Rent a boat by the hour, or $50 for a half-day or $85 for a full day. 


There are dozens of hiking trails in the park where walkers and runners alike can get some miles in. There are short routes with minimal elevation gain as well as more difficult options with more than 1,800 feet of gain. One of the most popular trails in the park is the 5-mile South Mountain Lookout Tower loop trail. From the summit of South Mountain you can get great views of the entire park. A shorter, less strenuous option is the 3-mile Boulder Trail. 


Beachgoers enjoying the sandy shores can cool off in the section of lake that’s cordoned off by rope (there’s no lifeguard on duty). The water is nice and warm and not too deep (about 7 feet). 

Mountain Biking

There are around 20 miles of mountain biking trails in the park. The popular 2-mile Woronoco Trail was made for bikers and two-wheelers will enjoy the winding singletrack and the trail can be linked with other trails for a longer ride. 


Ancient glaciers and volcanoes created the Pawtuckaway landscape and left a climber’s haven in their wake. The hundreds of granite boulders that were deposited there by glaciers are home to incredibly popular bouldering problems boasting a wide range of difficulty. Head to one of the main bouldering areas (Natural, Devil’s Den, and Round Pond) to try one of the problems like Cream (V0+), Hobbit Hole (V3), and Ride the Lightning (V6). In addition to bouldering, crack climbers will enjoy the trad routes’ in the area, like Lakeside Jam (5.7) and The Horn (5.9+).  


Anglers can cast for crappie, bass, pumpkinseed, and pickerel from the shore of the lake or from a boat (just don’t forget to grab a fishing license).

Nearby Highlights

If you’re in the area, make sure to leave enough time to visit New Hampshire's ocean beaches, which are just 30 minutes east of Pawtuckaway State Park. Sandy shorelines, sunshine, and warm waters await.


The Tuckaway Tavern and Butchery is a popular nearby eatery that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and is known for its house-made meats. 

More Info: nhstateparks.org

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.