THINGS TO DO > GREAT OUTDOORS
The Franconia Region is unsurpassed as the threshold to scenic drives and day trips in Northern New Hampshire.
Situated in the Western valley from the top of Franconia Notch State Park, all the scenic routes and roads form loops in every direction. It is no coincidence that this location is just East of the signature geographical jutting chin as New Hampshire narrows her shape from this point upward to Canada along the Connecticut River that defines the state line with her sister state, Vermont.
After all, it was here that natural glaciation formed the Old Man of the Mountain that jutted out over Franconia Notch symbolizing the ruggedness of the people that settled here. Over 400 years ago, these scenic loops were paths of necessity and survival for early explorers and settlers who followed the surreptitious trails of native American Indians – the first people to find and protect the traverses around and through the great expanse of forests, mountains and cliffs.
Follow any loop and you’ll be back in the Franconia Region at your favorite destination before dinner.
Route 117 Franconia to Sugar Hill Loop - And beyond
A New Hampshire Scenic and Cultural Byway where the views of the mountains from Sugar Hill and Sunset Hill Road, are the Postcard Views of the White Mountains – Not to be missed! Get a local area map at the Welcome Center on Main Street in. Pick up a New Hampshire map or a map of the White Mountain Attractions while you are there to show you the back roads and clearly marked routes to the best New England scenic tour on the western side of the White Mountains, through villages, rivers, waterfalls and working covered bridges that still connect both sides of entire villages.
From Route 117 at the end of Sugar Hill village, turn left onto South Road which leads onto Lafayette Road. Turn left onto Ridge Road, a dirt road passing the historical Frost Place. At the end, turn right onto Route 116 and follow it to the intersection of Route 112. Pick up Route 116 again on your right which will take you over Benton, winding through hills and valleys coming down to North Haverhill. Turn right on Route 10 to Woodsville, pick up Route 302 to the intersection with Route 112 which follows the Wild Ammonoosuc River past covered bridges over “ole swimming holes” and back to Route 116 back to Franconia; or stay on 112 all the way through Kinsman Notch, past Lost River and Ruggles Mines to North Woodstock. Turn left to Route 3 which will bring you North to Clark’s Bears, past the Indian Head rock formation and Resort and back through Franconia Notch State Parkway.
Exit 32 from I-93 North or South leads to Lincoln, and the Eastern side of Route 112 that is called The Kancamagus Pass, or Scenic Byway.
The “Kanc” climbs to nearly 3000 feet and is one of only two such roads in Northern New England. Allow an hour for this 35 mile trip, as the highway winds and turns through the valley below the mountain ranges, making the going slow.
There are many wild animals like moose and deer as well as smaller mammals to see. Moose collisions are common and dangerous- remember to brake for moose!
There are hundreds of miles of trails accessible from the highway with numerous trailheads as well as US Forest Service campgrounds that are great for introducing kids to the wonders of the Whites.
Boulder Loop is a National Recreation Trail along the Kanc that features a guided tour of White Mountain ecology. It’s a great way to learn about the history of the beauty that surrounds you.
Cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and fishing are popular sports. Fishing is very popular in the Swift River and the many brooks and streams that flow out of the mountains.
The White Mountain Trail /Multi-Notch Trail is New England’s Most Scenic 100 miles. The trail is a loop that incorporates varying topography, mountain and river views and a variety of vegetation areas from ledge to wetland and woodland, passing 18th and 19th century buildings and historic sites. The view alone is worth the trip and you will want to discover the “Trails Within the Trail; the History Trail (a treasure trove of historical fact, legend and lore), the Covered Bridge Trail (an integral part of the White Mountains landscape rich in romance and lifestyles past), the Waterfalls Trail (More than 100 waterfalls are visible from the road; others may require a hike that necessitates proper preparation), the Steel Rail Trail (from vintage streamlined restorations, to mountain climbing cogs, elegant dining cars, scenic loop rail rides and even a “ride the rails” event ala a transient lifestyle past).
From Franconia, take Rte 93 South to exit 36 to Route 141, turn left, follow to a T, turn left to Route 3 North. This is the White Mountain Trail and leads to the town of Twin Mountain with its beautiful views of the Presidential Mountain Range. Take a right at the lights onto Route 302 that passes the Bretton Woods Ski Area, the base Station of the Cog Railroad at Fabians, and the famous Mount Washington Hotel. Route 302 climbs to the top of Crawford Notch, the location of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) headquarters and the final destination train depot of the scenic railroad train from Conway. As you pass AMC’s Highland Lodge, Saco Lake is on the left (the source of the Saco River), then Elephant Head. As you head down from the notch, there are two cascading, sparkling waterfalls on your left. Further on is the Willey House and welcome center. There are numerous hiking trails off Route 302 through Crawford Notch before it ends at North Conway. North on Route 16 will take you to Storyland, Santa’s Village and Glen Ellis falls. South on Route 16 will bring you to Conway and the entrance to the Kancamagus Highway East to West back to Lincoln. At Lincoln, go right to I-93 North and head to Franconia Notch- where the word notch was first coined and became the colloquial name for all of New Hampshire’s five mountain passes to get North, South, East and West of the great White Mountains. The sheer cliffs and mountain peaks in this narrow pass formed a familiar “V” from every angle, reminding early settlers of the notches they chinked out of the logs for fitting them together to build their cabins and homes. These pathways, or passes, through the mountains were soon referred to as ‘notches”, each picking up family names or names of familiar places to complete their identities. Franconia Notch is the most awe inspiring and beautiful notch of the five because of the narrowness, eight-mile length from Cannon Mt. to the Flume Gorge, challenging ski slopes that seem to end in Profile or Echo Lakes and the roadway, but mostly – for it’s glacial rock formations- the Old Man of the Mountain, the Cannon Balls and Cannon, the Old Lady, the Dog, the Basin, Boise Rock and the Flume Gorge- all carved and created over ice age glaciations between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago. Mt. Liberty, Little Haystack,Lincoln, & Mt. Lafayette make up the Franconia Ridge on one side, Kinsman Ridge, home to Mt. Kinsman, the Cannon Balls and Cannon Mt. on the other, form the tight “V” notch as six of these are over 4000 feet in height. Follow I-93 North to Exits 37 and 38 bring you back to the village of Franconia.