Sugar Hill Lupine Festival | Must-See Event in New Hampshire
The small village of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire is tucked away in a quiet corner of the White Mountains. It’s not really on the way to anywhere, and like so many small New England hamlets, there wouldn’t ordinarily be any reason that you would necessarily need to find yourself there. Sure, there’s a few eclectic shops and a charming inn, but to the passer through, it’s a classic New England town like so many other, right down to the white-steepled church and country store.
Over the course of the last few decades though, Sugar Hill has slowly positioned itself as THE must-visit location in Northern New England during the month of June. It has done this simply by managing its most striking feature, the beautiful land and landscape, for the growth of lupines.
With great support and effort by the entire community, the many gardens in the village, the vast fields and farms surrounding the town, and even the roadsides leading to and from are covered with this large, showy, purple or pink flower.
After a long winter, the explosion of color and the beauty of the changing landscape is something that deserves celebration, and so it is celebrated. This year, the Annual Fields of Lupine Festival turns twenty, and though there are many great events scheduled for the festival, the flowers themselves are still the greatest attraction.
The 2013 festival kicked off on Saturday, June 1st, just as the lupine spires were beginning to open. The blooms typically last a few weeks, with the festival running throughout the bloom cycle, ending on the 15th, with scheduled events spanning three weekends.
As a photographer, my days during the festival begin early, up before dawn to watch the first light sparkle through the flowers while they are covered in morning dew. I’m rarely alone. Some are clearly other professional photographers, but many though are there just to take in the beauty and greet the dawn. There are few more beautiful sights to see in all of New England, at any time of year.
Whether or not you greet the sun, some time during the morning you will inevitably find your way to Polly’s Pancake Parlor on Sugar Hill Road (Rt. 117) for breakfast or brunch. It’s legendary for its rustic atmosphere, amazing views and out of this world pancakes served with a variety of local maple products.
Festival activities usually begin by 10AM, and this year include an open air market with many local vendors, an art show, concerts and a town dance. But the main attraction is the flowers themselves, and year after year, they always put on a good show. The most popular location to take in the flowers is a large field up on Sunset Hill Road, with parking at the Sugar Hill Sampler. The field has wide walking paths winding through it, inviting you to stroll, or take a horse drawn carriage ride through, and enjoy the views over the flowers to the mountains that surround the village.
One of my favorite things about the Sampler Field is that along the way there are a few placards with verses by the poet Robert Frost, who had a homestead in the town and where he spent nineteen summers. The farmstead, located on Ridge Road, is now a museum and visitors center, and it is also, of course, surrounded by abundant and beautiful lupines.
The Franconia Notch Chamber of Commerce publishes a guidebook to the festival every year, available for a few dollars at various locations around the village, and it includes a map of all the places where the lupine are growing that year. But they won’t be hard to find. A ride down to Pearl Lake, a loop around Lovers Lane, a drive across Carpenter Road, lupines are everywhere. For more ideas, and to stay updated on this years blooms, Harman’s Cheese & Country Store maintains a daily blog with pictures before and during the festival!
Accommodations for the festival are wide ranging. The Sunset Hill House is very popular among attendees, notoriety which is well deserved. There are other motels down the road in the village of Franconia, and a few miles further up the road in the larger town of Littleton. For more rustic experience, the Fransted Campground is within a short drive, and has many modern conveniences and a great swimming hole on the property!
As this blog suggests, I love to ‘Explore New England’, and am always looking for new places to visit and new events to experience. But this will be my ninth consecutive year visiting the Fields of Lupine Festival. It’s beautiful, it’s quaint, and it’s something I make it a point not to miss.
I’ll hope to see you there!