White Mountain Wonderland: New Hampshire Road Trip

from The Most Scenic Drives in America | 217

10. Pinkham Notch
From Jackson the highway climbs to Pinkham Notch, a scenic pass offering a breathtaking view of Mt. Washington. Meandering through the woods, the Glen Ellis Falls Trail leads to a scenic overlook of the Ellis River as it crashes 80 feet to a churning pool.

11. Mt. Washington Auto Road
They call Mt. Washington “the most dangerous small mountain in the world,” and with good reason. Despite its relatively modest height, this central peak of the White Mountains has such fierce weather conditions—the highest gust of wind ever recorded on land was clocked here at 231 miles per hour—that Himalayan climbers use it for survival training.

Yet for all its hazards, Mt. Washington remains one of the most accessible summits of its size in the United States. Some of the thousands who visit it each year arrive by way of a well-maintained hiking trail, while others opt for a thrilling ride on the Cog Railway, which departs regularly from Bretton Woods on the western side of the mountain. But most come by way of the Mt. Washington Auto Road (open from May to October, weather permitting), which spirals eight miles up the eastern slope.

Hailed as a masterful feat of engineering when it was completed in 1861, the road was originally designed for stagecoaches from the Glen House Hotel, a stop once located at its base. Nowadays an assortment of vehicles—including unicycles, wheelchairs, and, of course, automobiles and trucks—tackle the same 12-degree grade during occasional scheduled races. If your car is not in tip-top shape, however, you would be well-advised to take one of the regularly scheduled chauffeured vans to the summit.

However you tour Mt. Washington, the trip will be worthwhile. “No other mountain,” claims one admirer, “can boast of having a carriage road, railway, four hotels, two weather observatories, a radio station, and a television station.” In addition to all that, there are the splendid views that can be enjoyed at the summit. From the peak of the mountain, you can see parts of Maine, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Canada, and the Atlantic Ocean.

12. Moose Brook State Park
After exiting the White Mountain National Forest, Rte. 16 passes through Gorham. A short side trip west on Rte. 2 leads to Moose Brook State Park, which is located in the heart of the Presidential Range. Despite its name (which comes from a brook), the 87-acre park is not inhabited by moose, but these massive antlered relatives of deer can be seen nearby on tours hosted by the Gorham Chamber of Commerce during the summer.

13. Milan Hill State Park
Continuing north, the drive passes through Berlin, where the scent of sulfur dioxide—rotten eggs—announces the presence of an enormous paper mill. But a breath of fresh air is just minutes away at Nansen State Park Wayside and, farther ahead, Milan Hill State Park, both ideal spots for hiking and picnicking.

Continuing north beside the Androscoggin River, Rte. 16 eventually enters the Thirteen-Mile Woods Scenic Area, where forested hills inhabited by moose, deer, and bear stretch for miles. Alternately lazy and wild, the river along this stretch of the byway lures fishermen as well as white-water canoeists.

14. Androscoggin State Park Wayside

Perched on a bluff overlooking a bend in the river, this pretty park—once the site of logging drives that floated logs downstream—abounds with picnic spots that offer bird’s-eye views of canoeists braving the rapids far below. Just ahead is Errol, a tiny town that is surrounded on all sides by wilderness.

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