5. Sabbaday Falls
With the Pemigewasset and Swift rivers as its companions, the road dips for several miles on its way to Sabbaday Falls, another nice place for a picnic, and Lily Pond. Spring transforms the pond into a floating garden. Just a short distance from the picnic grounds are the falls themselves, a three-level cascade that plunges to a pool where swimming, unfortunately, is not permitted. Named for the Sabbath, the falls remain a popular destination on any day of the week.
Several miles ahead lies the historic Russell-Colbath House, where a half-mile trail parallels an old railway grade that skirts neighboring woods and swamps. You can gain access to another nature walk at Bear Notch Road (just past the Jigger Johnson campground), which winds into ethereal evergreens and rock grottoes that on cloudy days are sometimes shrouded in mist.
6. Rocky Gorge Scenic Area
Sculpted by the erosive forces of the Swift River, this rocky medley of clefts, caves, and ledges can be explored by means of a footbridge that crosses the gorge. Nearby, another bridge—this one covered—leads back to Rte. 112, which continues east along the Swift River until it reaches Conway.
At Conway, where the mountains give way to rolling uplands, the drive makes a sharp turn north. Several miles ahead lies its sister town of North Conway. Both villages have a quintessential New England charm, complete with 19th-century covered bridges, swimming holes, waterfalls, and a host of inviting inns. The stretch of Rte. 16 between them, however, is another story. Dominated by fast-food chains and factory outlets, the road can be a motorist’s nightmare—especially on rainy days and weekends, when bargain hunters abound. North Conway offers two consolation prizes to those who brave the traffic: a grand view of Mt. Washington and a scenic railroad that tours through the surrounding valley.
8. Echo Lake State Park
From the north end of North Conway, River Road winds west to Echo Lake State Park, a 400-acre recreation area huddled beneath White Horse Ledge. A scenic road leads to another dramatic rock formation, 700-foot-high Cathedral Ledge. The drive returns to North Conway and heads north on Rte. 16/302, then branches northeast on Rte. 16A toward Intervale. The two-mile Intervale Resort Loop circles up and around the towns of Intervale and Lower Bartlett, affording more fine views of Mt. Washington. The drive continues north on Rte. 16A to Jackson.
With its skating pond, country inns, and covered bridge, Jackson is a Currier and Ives print come to life. Although its population is barely 650, each winter thousands of Nordic skiers come here to enjoy a 95-mile network of trails. In fact, some Jacksonites park their cars for the winter and ski to work.