The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Cold River Camp in The White Mountains

The Appalachian Mountain Club's Cold River Camp in a family oriented lodge in the White Mountain National Forest

The AMC’s Cold River Camp provides guests with a comfortable and affordable way to bring their entire family to the White Mountains for a week of hiking, swimming, and multi-generational activities. Nestled in beautiful Evans Notch on the border between New Hampshire and Maine, guests usually stay for a week at a time, sleeping in private cabins with their families, while all meals are cooked and served by the camp staff. If a multi-day Hut-to-Hut Traverse is too adventuresome or strenuous for your kids and aging parents, Cold River Camp provides an attractive family-oriented alternative that should appeal to you.

See the Cold River AMC Reservation Page for rate information and availability. Kids stay free during the first two weeks of camp, which is an excellent deal!

Guests congregate in a central lodge where all meals are served family style so people can mingle and get to know one another.
Guests congregate in a central lodge where all meals are served family style so people can mingle and get to know one another.

Managed by volunteers, but staffed by a professional crew, Cold River Camp has been open since 1919. While it shares many of the traditions of the AMC Huts, it’s a residential compound where meals are served in a central lodge (and the food is awesome). A wide range of daily activities is offered for guests to participate in, including multiple hikes by hiking leaders and naturalists, with different levels of difficulty and duration. Participation is not required though and guests can launch their own hiking adventures or hang out, play in camp, or read on the lodge veranda, where guests congregate to sip lemonade and ice tea during the day.

The AMC's Cold River Camp is located on the New Hampshire and Maine Border, close to Conway and Gorham New Hampshire
The AMC’s Cold River Camp is located on the New Hampshire and Maine border, close to Conway and Gorham, New Hampshire

Located in Evans Notch

Cold River Camp is located in Evans Notch about 30 minutes outside of North Conway or Gorham, New Hampshire. The least developed of the White Mountain’s notches or mountain passes, it is surrounded by two Wilderness Areas, the Wild River Wilderness, and the Caribou Speckled Wilderness, which have a rich network of hiking trails and gorgeous peaks. With little traffic, Cold River Camp is peaceful, quiet, and private since it’s only open to registered guests and not the general public like the AMC’s other lodging facilities.

Guests stay in private cabins, each unique, at Cold River Camp
Guests stay in private cabins, each unique, at Cold River Camp

Staying at Cold River Camp

Staying at Cold River Camp is very different from sleeping in an AMC Hut bunkroom because guests have their own private cabins, many with a wood stove or built-in fireplace. While some of the guest houses have electricity and indoor plumbing, they’re reserved for guests with special needs. Instead, lanterns are provided for light, and chamber pots for guests and children who don’t want to travel to the camp bathrooms at night.

All bedding is provided, along with free towels. Hot showers are also available, and even private bathtubs in the men’s and women’s bathrooms. There’s also a camp drying room for guests to dry bathing suits, hiking shoes, and wet clothing. Electric power is available in the lodge for recharging electronic devices and there is a WiFi network near the camp office for people who want to plug-in and download email.

Guests mingle on the front porch of the the lodge during the day
Guests mingle on the front porch of the lodge during the day

Daily Life

Daily life at Cold River Camp is communal in nature since everyone eats meals together and participates in camp sponsored activities, although there’s plenty of room for private time or excursions if you want to do your own thing. Many of the guests come at the same time, year after year, to see old friends, although newcomers to camp are quickly welcomed into the fold.

Each day begins with a sounding of “the rising horn” at 7:00 am to wake guests up and come to breakfast which is served at 7:30 am. Coffee and tea are also available for early risers in the lodge beginning at 6:30 am.

The camp’s hiking leaders and naturalists announce the day’s scheduled activities which include hikes and nature walks, many that can be reached by walking from camp since it’s located adjacent to many local trails. A paddling trip is usually offered each week as well as trips to local swimming holes, noted for their freezing cold water, which is a welcome relief on hot summer days.

Guests make up their own trail lunches was a wide variety of breaks, cheese, lunch meats, fruit, and baked goods. No one goes hungry at Cold River Camp!
Guests make up their own trail lunches was a wide variety of breaks, cheese, lunch meats, fruit, and baked goods. No one goes hungry at Cold River Camp!

After breakfast, guests assemble their own lunches from a buffet that includes bread, cheese, lunch meats, fruit, cookies, and cake. Lemonade, cold water, iced tea, hot coffee, and tea are also available all day in the lodge on a self-service basis.

Most hikes, nature walks, and organized activities leave camp between 8:00 am and 9:00 am.

Dinner is served at 6:00 pm.

Evening entertainment, ranging from sing-a-longs and square dancing to the Friday night camp talent show starts between 7:30 and 8:00 pm.

Quiet time runs from 9:30 pm – 7:00 am.

Beth sings at the Friday Night Camp Talent Show
Beth sings at the Friday Night Camp Talent Show

My First Stay at Cold River Camp

I stayed at Cold River Camp this June, for the first week that the camp was open during the regular summer season, and found it to be a wonderful experience. I was working as a hiking leader in the camp, running guest trips, in exchange for room and board. I definitely plan to go back next year and work as a hiking leader again.

The location in Evans Notch is fantastic and far less crowded than the other regions of the White Mountains which have become popular in summer. I also met and worked with the most wonderful people in the camp, who were both professional, but very relaxed, making it a very restorative experience for me.

Group hikes led by experienced leaders are a unique attraction at Cold River Camp
Group hikes led by experienced leaders are a unique attraction at Cold River Camp

One of the things that really appealed to me about Cold River Camp was the multi-generational nature of the camp. Young and old, I found it very pleasant to meet and interact with kids, their parents, and grandparents over meals and during camp activities. Next year, I hope to bring my extended family to Cold River Camp so they can experience this unique atmosphere in my beloved White Mountains.

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its backpacking gear reviews and hiking FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the 36th person to hike all 650 of the hiking trails in the White Mountain Guide, a distance of approximately 2500 miles, completing a second round in 2021. Philip is the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire.

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