There’s no better way to see the White Mountains  than to get on their level. And the quickest way to do that is the breathtaking Cannon Aerial Tramway (I-93, exit 34B, Franconia Notch State Park, 603/823-8800, www.cannonmt.com , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily mid-May–mid-Oct., $13 adult, $10 children 6–12, free children under 6) that rises to the 4,180-foot summit of Cannon Mountain in just eight minutes. On that rhetorical “clear day,” it’s said you can see straight through to Canada and New York .
You’ll have enough work on your hands to gawk at the more immediate scenery, which includes the granite-capped peaks of the Franconia Range and the shimmering surface of Echo Lake far below.
The base camp for the Cannon Aerial Tramway was once also the best viewing area for the White Mountain’s most famous resident: The Old Man of the Mountain, a 40-foot-long stone visage in the rocks high atop Cannon Mountain that looked shockingly like the profile of a goateed old man.
Alas, the rocks came down in a landslide in 2003, a tragedy from which the state (and its tourism base) is still reeling. You can relive the long life of the venerable symbol at the Old Man of the Mountain Historic Site, which features a small museum dedicated to the rock profile and the heroic efforts of the engineers who saved it from falling for more than 100 years.