Tap…tap…tap. Can you hear it? The sounds of spring are on their way, and the most welcome of all might be the gentle plinking of sap filling up steel buckets, carefully hung on trees throughout the White Mountains.

There are many fine sugarhouses in our region, but if you’re looking to hear those sap buckets in action and also play “I Spy” searching for more modern plastic lines, head to The Rocks in Bethlehem, NH. During March (aka NH Maple Month), this Society for the Protection of NH Forests property is the place to be.

The Rocks with Snow

With its many sugar maples, historic buildings, and educational tilt, it's no wonder that The Rocks plays host for the NH Maple Experience. On select weekend dates in March, as well as the first Saturday of April, this sprawling estate invites paying guests to try out tree tapping, sample maple syrup boiled onsite, and enjoy a tractor-drawn or horse-drawn wagon ride (depending on road conditions). There’s also a phenomenal mini museum filled with antique tools of the maple trade, and knowledgeable staff at every snowy turn, making it one of the best places to visit during NH Maple Month.

Recently, our White Mountains crew got a firsthand peek at the NH Maple Experience courtesy of the legendary Nigel Manley, Senior Outreach Manager at The Rocks.

Nigel Manley

The day started off as most March days do, with a gray, blanketed sky and weighty piles of snow on the ground. After introductions, we set off to visit the Sawmill & Pigpen, a circa 1906 structure that once served a dual purpose as a – you guessed it – sawmill/pigpen. Now, one side of the building houses a sap boiling setup (dubbed the Glessner Sugar House), while the other displays the Charlie Stewart Collection. This assemblage includes buckets, spiles, and other maple implements; coupled with the addition of the Forest Society’s informative panels, guests can quickly get a feel for the enduring history and culture of maple syrup production in the White Mountains.

The Rocks Museum (Sawmill & Pigpen)

Did you know that it takes forty gallons of sap from a sugar maple to make ONE gallon of maple syrup? Did you know that ratio increases to sixty gallons of sap for one gallon of syrup when you’re dealing with red maples? These are just a few of the staggering maple facts we gleaned from this part of our trip.

Keep an eye out for a roughly hewn log situated between the two sections of the Sawmill & Pigpen; this piece in particular has a great story behind it (and a great view beyond it!).

As we transitioned to the second leg of our tour, we remarked on the pink sap lines running through select areas in the woods. Manley let us know that the pink denotes product that will be sold in support of breast cancer; see if you can spot these special lines during your visit, and throw an extra bit of love towards the trees that feed them. Also, marvel at the fact that The Rocks has 1,100 regular taps going at any given time – isn’t that astounding?

Sugar Maple Stand (Winter)

After a bit of driving, Manley and our crew found the perfect sugar maple stand for the next part of our signature NH Maple Experience: tapping a tree.

A special, hand cranked drill, a hammer, a spile, and a metal bucket complete with cover are a must for this task, as is a good amount of gumption. Luckily, Manley brought the tools and expertise, and we came eager to place the first few buckets of the season. After locating a good drill spot and explaining some of the finer details (“don’t place more than two drill holes per tree”, “keep the drill holes far apart”, etc.), we got to work. Sugar maple shavings decorated the snow, and the crisp sound of hammer strikes mixing with our laughter was the perfect pick-me-up on a cold March morning.

Woman Drilling a Sugar Maple Tree

That’s one thing to remember if you plan on visiting The Rocks or any other sugarhouse during NH Maple Month – the weather, more likely than not, will be chilly. This time of year, you will want to forgo the cute ensembles and opt for warm layers, mittens, and good winter boots. The snow was very present during our visit, and probably will remain so for at least several more weeks!

Sampling Maple Syrup

For the last part of our NH Maple Experience, we sampled the property’s signature treat: a hefty, homemade sour pickle complemented by a plastic shot glass full of maple syrup. Admiring the beautiful amber color, we were reminded of the amazing, complex process that goes into distilling all that sap into one sweet sip. In celebration of the season, we drank with gusto. It was, quite simply, divine.

Girl Sipping Maple Syrup in Winter Clothes (Red Barn in Background)

Photo Credits: WMAA Staff Member Colleen Eliason


Reservations for the NH Maple Experience at The Rocks are highly recommended, but walk-ins are welcome if space allows.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for children, or $70 per family with a maximum of 2 adults and 2 children. Weekend dates include 3/11, 3/18 & 3/19, 3/25 & 3/26, and 4/1. Tours are ongoing from 10am to 2pm, and last an average of two hours. Each tour can accommodate up to 16 people.

For reservations, email info@therocks.org or call 603-444-6228.


Celebrate NH Maple Month to the max, and see if you can visit every single one of our White Mountains sugarhouses! For all the sweet details, click here. We also urge you to shop local, buy your own maple syrup, and recreate these seasonal recipes at home.