One of our favorite campgrounds – Dolly Copp – is tucked away in the White Mountain National Forest, just outside of Gorham, NH. Kendra camped here as a young kid with her parents and brother. She introduced it to me before we were even dating, and I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the woods. After I got over my initial trepidation (as an inner-city kid, I rarely spent time in the woods as a child), I fell in love with camping (and Kendra), and we became Dolly Copp regulars. Addie’s first camping trip was at Dolly Copp, making her the third generation in the family to experience this beautiful, historical campground.
Originally the homestead and farmland of Hayes Copp (1806-1889), and his wife Dolly Emery Copp (1807-1891), the land was first used for camping in the late 1800’s. The formation of the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1876 signaled a growing interest in hiking the White Mountains. As more trails were cut, hikers sought overnight refuge, and many of they found it on the Copp homestead. In 1915, the land became protected by the United State Forest Service, and not long after, in 1921, it was formally recognized as a public campground.
Culhane Brook, an offshoot of the Peabody River, cuts though the campground, providing a great place to cool down during hot summer days. Keep in mind, no matter how high the air temperature, the water is always freezing. We like to sit on the rocks and dip our toes into the frigid water.
Our favorite campsites are along the brook – #82-#84 in the Brook Loop, and #104-#107 in the High Woods Loop. All of these sites are relatively secluded, are a quick walk to the water, and best of all, the rushing sounds of the brook lull you to sleep each night.
Nestled at the foot of Mt. Madison, and a short drive from Mt. Washington, Dolly Copp is a great home base for day hikes in the Presidential and Carter ranges. You can reach the summit of Mt. Madison by following the Daniel Webster Trail from the campground.
We often hike the Imp Trail, a moderate-to-strenuous 6.6 mile loop that follows the Imp Brook up North Cater Mountain to the Imp Face – an outcropping of rock that can be seen from the Dolly Copp Campground. On a clear day, you can see the entire Presidential Range from that vantage point.
If you’re at Dolly Copp for a long stay, and craving civilization, nearby Gorham provides a rustic, New England feel. There’s a small coffee shop, diner, bookstore, a few gear shops, and a number of gift shops. A 30-minute drive in the other direction takes you to North Conway, home to theme parks, ice-cream stands, mini-golf, and tourists. We like to drive through here on the way home from Dolly Copp so we can hit up the outlet stores.
Each campsite features a fire ring with a grill top and a picnic table. There are no showers at Dolly Copp, but there are flush toilets and running water. (There are coin-operated showers at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center just 5 miles down Rt. 16.) Firewood and ice can be bought at the registration desk.
Season: Mid-May through Mid-October
Reservations: Call 1-877-444-6777 (International 518-885-3639 or TDD 877-833-6777) or reserve on-line at Recreation.gov
Cost: $20 per night (includes one car – an additional car is $5/night)
There are frequent wildlife sightings in the campground. Last year we saw a moose! Be aware of the local wildlife – black bears, moose, deer, and other wild animals.
From Gorham, NH: Travel south 6 miles on NH Route 16. Turn right onto Dolly Copp Road, travel 1/2 mile to campground.
From North Conway, NH: Travel north 23.5 miles on NH Route 16. Turn left onto Dolly Copp Road, travel 1/2 mile to campground.
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