Cannon Mountain, Franconia Notch

Franconia Notch State Park - Cannon Mountain during the late autumn months in the White Mountains, New Hampshire.
Cannon Mountain from Artist Bluff – White Mountains, New Hampshire

Cannon Mountain, Franconia Notch State Park – Located just south of Bald Mountain in Franconia, New Hampshire, which I wrote about last week, is the centerpiece of Franconia Notch State Park, the state-owned Cannon Mountain ski area. Franconia Notch State Park would be much different today if Cannon Mountain wasn't included in a land purchase back in the 1920s. Rich with ski history, Cannon offers world-class skiing.

Did you know that the 6,440-acre Franconia Notch State Park, which includes Cannon Mountain, was privately owned up until the 1920s? The Profile and Flume Hotel Company owned most of it. The Flume House was located in the southern section of Franconia Notch and wasn't rebuilt when it burned down in 1918. And the Profile House was located in the northern section of Franconia Notch, and it burnt down in August of 1923. Each of these grand hotels lasted for about 70 years.

Franconia Notch from Eagle Cliff in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Cannon Mountain Ski Area & Tramway Parking Lot (middle)

After the Profile House burned down in 1923, the owners decided not to rebuild and put all 6,000 acres they owned up for sale. There was great concern that the logging companies would buy up the land, so the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) started a fundraising campaign to purchase Franconia Notch. SPNHF and the state of New Hampshire worked for a number of years to purchase Franconia Notch. The New Hampshire Federation of Women’s Clubs was also heavily involved in the campaign.

Enough funds were raised, and the state purchased the land. And in September of 1928, the Franconia Notch Forest Reservation and Memorial Park was dedicated to the New Hampshire men and women who served the nation in times of war. Franconia Notch is more than just a “state park”; it is a tribute to our Veterans.

Franconia Notch, New Hampshire.
Cannon Mountain from Route 18 – White Mountains, New Hampshire

Since the 1800s Cannon Mountain has been known by many names. According to “Place Names of the White Mountains” By Robert and Mary Julyan, Cannon has been referred to as Freak Mountain, Frank Mountain, Jackson Mountain, Old Mans Mountain and Profile Mountain. In 1972 Cannon Mountain, named after a rock formation on the southeast side of the mountain that looks like a cannon, became the official name.

The Old Man profile was the main attraction of Franconia Notch until it collapsed on May 3, 2003.
Old Man of the Mountain – Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire

The most significant piece of Cannon Mountain history is the Old Man of the Mountain profile (above). The Old Man profile is the official state emblem of New Hampshire. It represents what the Live Free or Die State is all about. Discovered in 1805, the Old Man of the Mountain profile, also known as "The Great Stone Face" and "The Profile” was a natural rock feature on the side of Cannon Mountain. The Old Man profile was the main attraction of Franconia Notch for 198 years before collapsing on May 3, 2003.

Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway at the summit of the mountain in Franconia Notch State Park of the New Hampshire White Mountains.
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway – White Mountains, New Hampshire

Cannon Mountain was the site of the first passenger aerial tramway in North America. The original tramway was built in 1938 and was in service until 1980 when it was replaced. A great feature of Cannon Mountain is that the aerial tramway (above) operates outside the winter months. During the spring, summer, and fall months, visitors to the area can ride the aerial tramway to the summit and view firsthand the incredible views of Franconia Notch State Park.

Mittersill Mountain from the summit of Bald Mountain in White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Mount Jackson (Mittersill Ski Area) – A Saddle of Cannon Mountain

Cannon Mountain is home to the historical Richard Taft Trail. Named for the proprietor of the Profile House that was once in Franconia Notch, the Taft Trail is an alpine ski trail located on a saddle of Cannon Mountain known as Mount Jackson (Mittersill Ski Area). Designed by Duke Dimitri von Leuchtenberg, construction of the Richard Taft Trail began in 1932 and was completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. Today, skiers can still ski this historic alpine ski trail.

Snow making in Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire.
Making Snow at Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire

Cannon Mountain is highly regarded as being one of the best ski mountains in New Hampshire. And you will find that many locals that ski the mountain are very passionate about Cannon Mountain. Cannon is also popular with hikers because it is one of the forty-eight mountains listed on the White Mountain four thousand footers list. One of my favorite times to photograph the mountain is when the ski area is making snow (above).

Trail ladder along the Hi-Cannon Trail. This trail leads to the summit of Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire.
Hi-Cannon Trail – Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire

There are a number of excellent trails that hikers can use to hike to the summit of Cannon Mountain. One of the more interesting and rugged trails on Cannon Mountain is the Hi-Cannon Trail. A trail ladder (above) along the trail helps hikers climb a steep section of the trail. The Kinsman Ridge Trail and the Mittersill-Cannon Trail are great alternatives.

Scenic view from Old Bridle Path in New Hampshire.
Cannon Mountain from Old Bridle Path – White Mountains, New Hampshire

How Franconia Notch State Park came to be is a perfect example of conservation. In the 1920s conservation wasn’t that big yet, but a group of people recognized the importance of preserving Franconia Notch. You would think that Franconia Notch being designated a state park would mean the park is safe from commercialization, but it isn't. Leasing of the Cannon Mountain ski area to a private operator has been on the table for years and is an ongoing issue. Can you imagine leasing out the centerpiece of Franconia Notch to the highest bidder?

Cannon Mountain from Greenleaf Trail, near the summit of Mount Lafayette, in New Hampshire.
Cannon Mountain from Mount Lafayette – White Mountains, New Hampshire

In 1928, the State of New Hampshire, with the help of conservation groups, established Franconia Notch State Park. And the purpose of the land purchase was to ensure no part of Franconia Notch ever fell into the private sector. Leasing Cannon was back on the table in 2012 with SB217, but it didn't pass. And in an April 2016 article, State Sen. Jeb Bradley proposed taking another look at leasing Cannon. It's ass backwards thinking.

The state legislature should focus on conserving New Hampshire, not tearing the state park system apart. How about ending the senseless vandalism happening in the White Mountains. Vandalism is ruining the mountains.

A hiker enjoys the view of Franconia Notch from Bald Mountain in the New Hampshire White Mountains.
Franconia Notch from Bald Mountain – White Mountains, New Hampshire

At the moment, there’s not a bill to lease Cannon Mountain, but that can change. The character of Franconia Notch State Park will be ruined if Cannon is leased to the private sector, and all the history I mentioned above will be meaningless. The issues with the state-owned Mount Sunapee (leased to the private sector) warns us of what could happen if Cannon is leased. Visit the Save Cannon Mountain website for more information.

To license any of the above images for usage in publications, click on the image. And you can view more images of Cannon Mountain here.

Happy image making..


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