Cannon Mountain Aerial TramwayLesson Plans > Field Trips > United States > New Hampshire
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
Cannon Mountain is both beautiful and historical. The historical part is: Cannon Mountain was the first passenger aerial tramway in North America, built in 1938. In addition, Cannon Mountain was (until 2003) home to the natural rock formation known as "The Old Man of the Mountain" There are several historical museums at or around the mountain. In the lower tramway station, there is a small "Old Man of the Mountain" museum which tells about the history of the feature, as well as the new "memorial" center for the collapsed formation. Next to the station there is a free skiing museum, which also has one of the original tramway cars you can walk through.
The beautiful part is obvious: this is a 4,000 foot peak in Franconia Notch of New Hampshire. It is across the road from the beautiful Mount LaFayette, and from the summit, rows upon rows of mountains receding into the blue distance can be seen in all directions. The view down the notch is particularly spectacular.
We found the prices for everything, from the tramway ride to the summit cafe, to the gift-shop ice cream to be fairly reasonable. Perhaps because this is not a privately owned enterprise, but run by the state of New Hampshire.
As of 2017, this is the up-to-date information for the aerial tramway (not all of which can be found on the Cannon Mountain website)
Operation dates: June 2 - Oct 15 *
Operation times: 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
13+ price: $18 ($13 one-way)
6-12 price: $13 ($10 one-way)
5 and under price: free
Ride length: Between five and ten minutes
Embarking times: every 15 minutes (in theory, on the hour, quarter past, etc).
* The website doesn't mention that the tramway is also open during the winter months for skiers.
Purchase your tickets when you arrive at the station, and you won't have a very long wait to board the tramway. The staff are friendly and helpful. They'll tell you wnat to expect, what you'll see, and answer any questions you have.
Once the car is loaded, the door will be locked, and off you'll go!
There are only a few seats in the car, so most people will stand. There are bars on the walls and loops from the ceiling you can hold on to if you're nervous, but the ride is fairly steady, so most of us (once we realized how steady it was) walked around the cabin so we could take pictures out the windows as we went higher and higher.
For the most part, you won't really have the dramatic feelings of motion, since you're riding at a fairly steady rate. The only change to that is when you reach the towers, and the tramway swings back and forth a little bit. The staff on board warned us it was going to happen, and reminded us just before we got to the tower. Since I was standing, I grabbed hold of a bar at that point, because I wasn't sure what to expect. It wasn't a big deal, but I'm sure people who are more nervous about heights and motion will be glad to either sit or hold onto something.
At the top of the mountain you'll slide gently into the receiving station, which is only a very short distance from the actual summit.
There is a cafe there, and although it is a little pricey (about $10 for any sandwich, not including a drink), considering all the supplies, staff, and food have to be carted up the mountain, I thought it was very reasonable. The food was good, and they do have a few gluten free and lactose free options for people who need them. If anyone in your party has a severe alergy, you should contact the cafe's general manager directly (there is contact information on the site).
Once you've eaten, there's a nice rim trail that loops around the summit, and also takes you to the observation tower, which is very accessible. I've been on observation towers that freak out people who are nervous about heights; this one was a piece of cake. Several flights of stairs leading to an observation deck that's about as big as a small building, with a fence all around. And the views are wonderful. Being up there has inspired me to want to hike LaFayette, which is the most prominent mountain visible from the summit.
When your group has finished exploring, head back to the tramway station, and catch the next ride down. Be sure to visit the museums before you go. If you're heading south on 93 after your visit, you can stop at Profile Lake to see the memorial for the Old Man of the Mountain. We weren't able to do that on our trip, but at some point I hope to get back there - if we do, I'll write it up!