Newfound Lake: Most Beautiful Lake in New Hampshire
Pause if you’d like, but then push on 2.8 miles from Hebron toward Groton to Sculptured Rocks Natural Area. (Follow the signs from town.) The Cockermouth River flows through a cleft in the granite here, but that simple description doesn’t do it justice. The river was once the outflow of a great glacier, and the currents tossed car-sized boulders around like cherry pits in a sink drain. The force carved out all sorts of fantastical, cloudlike shapes in the rock. Older kids with a strong crawl—both aquatic and terrestrial—love to start at the bottom of the gorge and, salmonlike, swim and scramble their way as far upstream as they can go.A 1912 postcard showcases Sugarloaf’s Ledges, on the west side of the lake, as a local bit of worthy natural drama. And this 200-foot static cascade of gray rock, plunging down the hill and into the lake, still has the power to impress as you drive by, slowly, mindful of oncoming cars and the rock wall between you and the lake.
Farther along is Wellington State Park, a handsome crescent of sand capping the end of a cove. Bustling on weekends and quieter on weekdays, this park—carved out by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s—is a fine destination. You can expand your view nicely by crossing the road and hiking up the Elwell Trail, which will take you to the top of those ledges you recently passed by.
Bristol is the market town hereabouts, and, like the lake, it packs a lot into a little. The town was once known for the high quality of its glacial sand and the bricks that were made from it. Today, it’s known for … well, not much. (A wry someone on Wikipedia saw fit to tout the appeal of the local convenience store, where “the main attraction is the ability to buy a 32 oz slushie for $0.69.”)
Actually, there’s more to Bristol than that. The compact brick downtown has a deli, a diner, a bakery selling a creditable corn muffin, an antiques mall, and a dinner place called Joe’s Restaurant and Sports Bar.
Before completing the loop back to the hotel, take time to stop at Iron Horse Metal Works, where co-owner Victor MacAdam makes his handsome, sometimes whimsical, and generally affordable garden sculptures. They’re for sale at Earthly Treasures (run by Victor’s wife, Elaine), the adjacent gift shop that carries “nature-inspired, American-made” goods including jewelry, lamps, furniture, and other crafts, many of which are made in New Hampshire and all from small producers.
And small, as you will have come to know by now, is good.