Northern Loop: Franconia, St. Johnsbury, Peacham
I was up early on a Friday morning in late September and drove north up route 93 to Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, because leaf spotters for New Hampshire said it had “fantastic color!” I found that it was very nice color and all the hillsides were covered in colored trees, but not at peak yet.
While this area is pretty, it’s also sterile. It’s a planned community and doesn’t have the New England character that we love to find. Then I drove up through Franconia Notch and the color is definitely ready to go peak in the next few days. I stopped at the Moore Reservoir, just off route 93 before crossing into Vermont.
I stopped at the rest stop (my first time at this one) and signed their visitors’ log. Make sure to stop in and say hi. These places in New Hampshire and Vermont are on the chopping block for state funding. We need to let the states know that we use them and need to have them, both for a break on the road and for all the information provided.
I left the rest stop and jumped on route 18 and took two roads that were suggested by the official at the rest stop. First was Lakeside Cemetery Road and then Shadow Lake Road, which led me to several others. I suggest taking the smaller farm roads to find really great scenes to photograph.
Then I traveled over to route 93 into Vermont and got off at exit 1 (route 2, towards St. Johnsbury) and stopped at “Farmer’s Daughter Gift Barn” in St. Johnsbury. I pass many general stores just because I don’t need a cup of coffee or it’s not time for lunch, but this is one of those places you just have to stop at.
Then I jumped on route 5 and headed north from St. Johnsbury and found the color was good to near peak in a few small areas. Those small areas need some real cool temperatures to make the colors brighter. I basically followed route 5 north to route 5A past Lake Willoughby (not peak yet) but later this week should be (crossed fingers). I came back down route 16 to route 5 on the far side of Crystal Lake (also pretty, but not peak), near Barton, VT.
I drove south on route 5 to Peacham, VT, and stopped at the Peacham Store where proprietor Karen says a Friday night frost will really bring on the colors this week. I had a sandwich and took a few more pictures and got back on the road south. At this point I did divert onto route 302 to go over route 117 to Sugar Hill, NH. The afternoon light was fading but it’s still early in Sugar Hill, so I’m thinking that with a few nights of frost it will peak this week.
This drive was adapted from Jeff Folger’s 2009 blog post on the northern loop.
Have questions on where to find the best foliage for your trip? Check in with our foliage spotters on Yankee‘s Foliage Facebook page.