This itinerary is based on a trip to (1) photograph fall foliage, (2) eat well, and (3) relax, but it can work any time! It is a busy itinerary, so you can take it for what it is, or for some ideas for your own itinerary. You might decide this is a good week-long trip instead of a weekend. Depending on where you live and how flexible your schedule is, there’s as much luck involved as there is planning to catch the leaves in their prime.
Starting point: Boston on a Friday morning (you can also start this trip in Portsmouth, NH instead of Boston – this gives you another hour or so to photograph on the first day of the trip). Take Route 1 north and head to breakfast in Salem, MA at Red’s Sandwich Shop (insert website). If you’re lucky, you’ll find the lobster omelet on the menu. It’s decadent, and you’ve got to do it at least once in your life. From there, make your way via Route 114 to I-95 and head north. You’ll be on 95 until you reach the Spaulding Turnpike / Route 16 in New Hampshire – and you’ll head north/northwest on that as well to Conway, NH. You’ll soon enter the White Mountain National Forest.
Your next turn is a left on the Kancamangus Highway a.k.a. Route 112. There will be numerous photo opportunities on your right as you follow the Swift River. There are places where you can safely pull off the highway and make your way to the river’s edge for photos. Three must do locations are: Albany Covered Bridge, Rocky Gorge Park (don’t think about swimming) and the Lower Falls Scenic Area . There’s also a scenic view near the summit that provides a broad vista. Once your cross the summit, there aren’t as many opportunities, as the views tend to shift to the south side of the road, which would have you shooting into the sun.
As you head into Lincoln, it might be time for lunch. While there are probably other great places to eat, we’ve had some great meals at Gordi’s. If you’re into trains as well as leaves, the Hobo Railroad is in Lincoln.
Your next run is going to be a right: I-93 north. Consider the following: Clark’s Trading Post, which has a bear show and the White Mountain Central Railroad, The Flume Gorge (easy hike and well worth it), and the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway if the weather is cooperating.
Take I-93 North to Littleton, NH. The Frog has been staying at Thayer’s Inn in Littleton for over 20 years. Thayer’s has been there since before the Civil War. There’s probably not a square corner or a level floor in the place. It’s neat, it’s quirky, it’s got stories, history, and some say, ghosts. Baliwick’s Fine Restaurant features great food and an extensive Martini Menu! Dinner and a beverage followed by a short walk to your room are a great way to end the day.
Saturday morning can be spent wandering through Littleton. One can head to Chutters (world’s longest candy counter) or Fresh Salon and Day Spa for a massage – but start your morning at the Littleton Diner – their corned beef hash is without peer. Last we heard, the Littleton Grist Mill store had closed (lost their lease) but they still have their website. Littleton is a great, friendly small town, and a reminder that there is life outside the city.
Once you’ve decided that it’s time to move on, it’s time to head north and east to Lancaster via Route 116 and Route 3 where you can stop in at Fuller’s Sugar House where you can sample maple sugar in the same manner as some do wine! Hint: don’t look down your nose at Grade B maple syrup. Our first perception was it couldn’t be as good as Grade A if for no other reason than it was called “Grade B.” Well, we were wrong, and we left with a half-gallon of Grade B to prove it. It’s thicker, darker, and more dense, and preferred by many for cooking and baking purposes. And, a spoonful once in a while will cure any sweet tooth!
From Lancaster, it time to head southeast to Gorham via Route 2. Along the way, there will be several photo opportunities to capture the Presidential Range. You might even see Mount Washington in snow in early October!
The destination in Gorham is Libby’s Bistro (check days and hours first!) – a fantastic restaurant that you might expect to find in a trendy neighborhood in any major metropolitan area – but not necessarily in Gorham, NH. Go, enjoy, and indulge. You’ll probably want to stay in Gorham, as driving will not be high on your list of things to do after your dinner. We don’t have any specific recommendations for where to stay in Gorham, but after our first visit to Libby’s we learned that we didn’t want to have to drive back to Littleton after dinner! There’s also a railroad display and museum at the old Grand Trunk depot in Gorham.
Next morning, you might want to eat breakfast in Gorham, especially if it is a nice day, as you can spend a lot of time photographing your way south along Route 16 as you head south to Conway to finish your circle trip.
Along the way, you’ll pass the Mount Washington Auto Road on your right – a drive of your life if you’re up to it. If you don’t want to drive, you can be driven up in a van. Either way – a trip to the top of Mount Washington is well worth it! It’s the highest peak in the northeast, it’s got some of the worst weather in the world, and chances are, the weather will be different up top!
On your left will be the Glen Ellis Falls on the Ellis River in Pinkham Notch. Well worth the stop and short and sometimes steep hike to the bottom of the falls. If you don’t want to head down to the base of the falls, there are photo opportunities along the river and at the top of the falls. If you do head down, be prepared for both you and your gear to get wet from the spray.
Continuing south, you’ll come to Glen, NH. Make a quick right and head to Glen Junction Family Restaurant for lunch. If they’re still serving breakfast, the pumpkin pancakes with maple cream are well worth the calories, whatever they may be.
From there, check the clock and figure out where you have to be and when. You’ll continue south on Route 16 to Conway to complete the circle, and head back to your reality. If you have time, the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway is worth the stop if time permits.
And that’s an example of a weekend in New Hampshire. We’ve done it. It’s busy, and it’s fun. If you have never explored New Hampshire and the North Country, you could spend a week there. But… that’s a separate post.
And, if you can’t make it – you can check out the image galleries and get a picture, a mug, a phone case, or an aluminum print from Laughing Frog Images and tell everyone what a great time you had in New Hampshire (but we’d appreciate you fessing up and referring your friends to the Frog!).