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A Recommended Drive: New Hampshire

A Recommended Drive: New Hampshire
2 votes, 3.50 avg. rating (72% score)
by in Jul 2007

The most dramatic way to enter the White Mountains region is to follow I-93 and Route 3 north through Franconia Notch, then head east along Route 302 to Route 16. The 75-mile winding drive is one of sweeping views, turnoffs to dirt logging roads and hiking trails, babbling brooks, waterfalls, and covered bridges.

Just north of Lincoln, the road narrows as it snakes between the majestic peaks of the Franconia and Kinsman Ridges. Cannon Mountain’s rocky face drops straight down to Profile Lake, over which the Old Man of the Mountain once presided.

Franconia Notch State Park offers much to explore, including the Basin’s glacial potholes carved by the Pemigewasset River, the granite walls dripping with moss in the Flume, and the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC’s) Greenleaf and Lonesome Lake high-mountain huts. The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway is a favorite. Its 15-minute ride whisks you to within a short walk of the 4,200-foot summit, where on a clear day you can see into Vermont, New York, Canada, and Maine.

After the road skirts the Twin Mountains, Garfield Ridge, Mount Hale, and the Sugarloafs, the grand Mount Washington Hotel, a fixture of the landscape since 1902, comes into view. Stop here, if only to walk the wraparound porch and take in the magnificent view of the namesake mountain, with the track of the cog railway climbing up its left shoulder.

Now the road widens, edged by wildflower meadows and boggy ditches — a favorite habitat of moose — before narrowing again through Crawford Notch. As you round the deep curve just north of the needle (marking Crawford Notch’s height of land), you come to the AMC’s Highland Center, which carries on the tradition of pioneering, guiding, and hospitality. New trails crisscross the property, introducing visitors to hiking basics and the concept of ecological stewardship. Inside the center, mountaineering photos by Bradford and Barbara Washburn rival big-city exhibits.

As you start the descent to the Mount Washington Valley, look for rock climbers at the popular Elephant Head and Willey’s Slide ascents.

At about the halfway point of this scenic tour, The Notchland Inn’s Tudor-style roofline pokes up out of the thick green of the 778,000-acre White Mountain National Forest. Turn up the drive and discover a refined retreat in the wilds of New Hampshire. The dining room serves a five-course meal most nights, and afterward you can relax with a book or work on a puzzle next to the Gustav Stickley fireplace. In the morning, the Davis Path beckons from across the road.

For most of the remaining drive, the road parallels the Saco River and the Conway Scenic Railroad. In Bartlett, a side trip takes you along Bear Notch Road to several stellar viewpoints. Or continue on Route 302, looking for the slopes of the Attitash ski area. In the summer, a full-day value pass gives you access to 11 activities, including the alpine slides and a scenic chairlift, which is another fun (and easy) way to see the surrounding terrain.

Back on the road, a southbound Scenic Railroad train whistles. The first billboards in 25 miles appear, and the number of businesses increases as the blacktop winds into Glen, North Conway, and Conway. Here there are myriad options for a bite to eat and shops to browse while still being able to see the mountains.

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Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

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6 Responses to A Recommended Drive: New Hampshire

  1. Marie C. Lynch June 26, 2008 at 11:56 am #

    I have seen NH as often as I can get there. Conway, Franconia and Mt. Washington are some of my favorites as well as the restaurants. They aare GREAT!!. Pancakes with a variety of syrups and fresh ham right off the bone. Please consider me for a win. I can’t wait to get back.

  2. Claire Albert July 26, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    We have stayed many times in Jackson and love it…just a little way out of the hustle and bustle of No.Conway…beautiful area…

  3. BOBBI POWERS September 12, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    Born in Lancaster, NH…Where I also went thru High School…Raised by Father’s parents in VT…Moved to Enfield, CT (after graduating from hi-school in NH.) I married & brought up 3 children there~~Thus spent most of my life & my career in CT…Lived inside the DC Beltway (in VA) for 5 years~~BEAUTIFUL ! ! Have now lived in SC for 5 yrs because I didn’t want any more SNOW…it’s too unpredictable & I’ve seen enough snow for this lifetime ! ! ! BUT~~NH & VT are truly beautiful States ! ! ! Need I add that BOTH NH & VT raise VERY INDEPENDENT people ! ! ! I’m pleased that I happened upon this “Site” as I was searching for something else this afternoon ! ! ! THANK YOU ! ! !

  4. September 4, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    Would also like to recommend spending time in the Lakes Region of NH – one of the greatest places to stay is on Squam Lake – visit http://www.cottageplaceonsquam.com for a simple and relaxing stay with a beautiful beach and view of Evans Cove. Nice outside firepit and the cottages are so charming – most have fireplaces. ENJOY!

  5. Warren Vendt September 26, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    My wife and I and 6 children Lived in Twin Mt. N.H for 30 years before moving to eastern South Dakota 23 years ago. We still have 4 children in NH. Two in Twin Mt.
    We really miss the foliage each year. The height of color in TM was on the last weekend of Sept., our oldest son’s birthday. Wish we could return to see the color but our health won’t permit it. But God is good to us and we are happy where we are.

  6. nguyet nguyen September 29, 2012 at 12:29 am #

    This is my favorite place to stay in NH,missing it so,i hope to come back very soon.

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