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Home > New England Part 3 - White Mountains of New Hampshire

Part 3 - White Mountains of New Hampshire

We crossed the State border to New Hampshire on the not very busy Interstate 93 and reached Franconia Notch State Park in the White Mountains where the weather changed to steady drizzle then heavy rain. After a detour to Lincoln for some shopping we continued south to Campton to find our third accommodation, a modern condominium set in woods about five miles from the main road and twenty miles south of Lincoln. The condo was well equipped and overlooked a river and small waterfall.  
waterfall in the backyard
Waterfall in our backyard
Our Campton condo
Our condo
autumn leaves
autumn leaves
For our first excursion we drove into Campton for lunch then south towards Plymouth, the largest town in the area with a university college and larger shops, then we continued west to Rumney, a spread out town of white clapboard houses, one of which was a home of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science sect, now a small museum. We headed for Stinson Lake but it was mostly surrounded by private houses so we took the dirt road through the woods passing a small waterfall and on to Ellsworth where there was a traditional white wooden church and school house, then back to the condo.

Ellsworth church
Ellsworth church
The next day was bright and sunny but rather cold with snow on the hilltops. We set off to Lincoln and the excellent visitor centre for the White Mountains National Forest. Armed with leaflets and a $5 one week parking permit we drove past the many holiday residences by the popular skiing area of Loon Mountain and joined the famous Kancamagus (locally called the Kanc) Highway, a picturesque 34 mile road which climbs to over 3000 feet through wooded hills to Conway. The road is now a good two lane surface with easy bends and gradients and with many stopping places and overlooks. It is best to get the free map as some of the turnouts aren't well signposted in advance. This is one of the main tourist trips in New Hampshire with many cars and coaches. After admiring the view from the Pemigewasset Overlook across to the snow capped hills we pulled in for a short walk up to the Sabbaday Falls. The information boards told us they were one of the first tourist attractions dating back to the 19th century. After a further stop to look at the Rocky Gorge Falls and tranquil Falls Pond we reached the end of the highway at Conway where we stopped at the Swift River covered bridge. Rather than the long drive north to Crawford Notch and Mount Washington we retraced our route along the Kanc.

Swift River covered bridge Conway NH
Swift River covered bridge near Conway

The Saturday started sunny but very cold as we drove up to Franconia Notch State Park and took a ride on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway (cable car) up to 4100 ft to be greeted by snow and -4C. After a quick venture outside to admire the extensive views across to Mount Washington, at 6288ft the highest point in New Hampshire, we returned to the base station and a tour around the interesting ski museum. After lunch we drove on a winding circuit on back roads, thanks to our Garmin sat nav, to arrive at the town of Lisbon and on to Bath where the Brick Store, the USA's oldest continuously open general store was located. This is a popular tourist stop with a mix of homemade fudge, maple syrup and gift items for sale alongside clothing and everyday provisions. Adjacent was the At the Hop ice cream parlour with an amazing interior covered with pop records and posters, signed photos and other memorabilia. On the way back from Bath we came across a Redstone missile on the green at Warren, anoher small town of white clapboard buildings. It was bought as Army surplus and transported to the town by a retired army officer in 1971. 

More grey skies the next morning so rather than elusive mountain views we drove to Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in New Hampshire. It is mostly surrounded by private land but there is public access at Wolfeboro, the largest town on the lake. We were able to take the last trip of the season on the Winnipesaukee Belle, a small replica paddle steamer. Although by now the rain had set in we enjoyed the cruise passing many exclusive residences including the grand summer house of Mitt Romney (the losing Republican Presidential candidate in the 2012 election) and some of the picturesque islands. Despite its vast size of 21 by 9 miles the lake freezes in winter usually from December to April.

Winnipesaukee Belle paddle steamer
The Winnipesaukee Belle


After lunch and a walk around the pleasant town centre with an interesting statue in the gardens we visited the fascinating Wright Museum of American Life during World War 2.
There were several room settings depicting life in the 1940's and many posters, displays of items from homes and schools and a timeline explaining the increasing involvement of the USA in the war effort - certainly a different take on events compared to similar museums in Britain. They also have an impressive collection of military vehicles many in full working order. Driving back to Campton we passed many Halloween displays of pumpkins, witches and ghosts.

waterfall near Ellsworth   Ellsworth countryside near Campton
near Ellsworth

View from Kancamagus Highway
Snowy hills from the Kanc Highway

  The Kanc Highway     Sabbaday Falls   
Kancamagus Highway                      Sabbaday Falls

Red leaves     Maple leaves
maple leaves

Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway
The Brick Store oldest general store in USA
The Brick Store, Bath    
Bath church and libraryBath church Warren missile on the Green
Redstone missile at Warren
Island on Lake Winnipesaukee
Island on Lake Winnipesaukee

Jetty at Wolfeboro
Jetty at Wolfeboro

Wright WW2 museum at Wolfeboro
Wright Museum at Wolfeboro

Poster Rosie the Rivetter        WW2 poster        WW2 poster        WW2 poster VJ day
Famous US WW2 posters at Wright Museum, Wolfeboro

statue at Wolfeboro       Halloween witches       Halloween ghosts near Wolfeboro  
The next day we drove to the Sculptured Rocks State Park near Hebron, rather lower key with a small river flowing over boulders hollowed by the water over thousands of years and probably more impressive when the river is at full flood. We continued a a few miles further south to Newfound Lake, supposedly containing the cleanest water in New Hampshire, and the deserted Wellington State Park on the lakeside with a small beach and a nature trail around the headland with good views and more Autumn colours, no doubt a popular place in the summer with a large carpark, cafe and barbeque hearths. We returned via the larger towns of Bristol and New Hampton and back on the interstate highway which never seemed to be busy at the times we drove along it.

Sculptured Rocks State Park
Sculptured Rocks . . .
Sculptured Rocks
. . . close up
Newfound Lake autumn colours
Newfound Lake

On our final full day in New Hampshire we took a short walk around the roads near our condo admiring the large detached houses and cabins set in the woods with several for sale as we had found everywhere, then drove about fifteen miles to Waterville, a modern resort of hotels, condos and chalets set in the pleasant wooded Mad River valley, built for the winter sports and summer holiday seasons. If the weather had been better there were some good walks over the hills and mountains from here.

Despite the many warning signs we didn't see any moose or bears, nor hear any loons (noisy ducks) on our trip but it was worthwhile for the spectacular foliage colours. Some places especially higher in the mountains were past their peak as the turning colours spread south through October and catching the best in any one area is a gamble. We were told by a forest ranger that this season was better than the last couple of years when Hurricane Irene devastated much of Vermont, and also the red leaves of the sugar maple are not so plentiful due to a fungal disease. Nevertheless we were able to find plenty to interest us - especially the rural American way of life and the distinctive New England architecture - over our seventeen days in the USA.

Part 1              Part 2              Holiday details and costs