Foliage and driving go together like a hand in a driving glove and with the fall colors coming on, our roads are going to rock with leaf peepers.
There is no shortage of drives to choose, from the White Mountains Trail, looping through small towns and scenic notches to the incomparable Kancamagus Highway, linking Lincoln and Conway.
But a fellow familiar with this neck of the woods once wrote about ‘the road less traveled’ and how it makes a difference. We don’t know if Robert Frost may have been writing about foliage season, but we do know that it’s turned out be good advice.
A good rule to follow is this: If everyone is turning right, go ahead and turn left, onto a road less traveled, a shun-pike, as they’re called. Here are our four favorite roads less traveled:
Route 112 west, from North Woodstock to Haverhill
Travelers heading east on Route 112 are on the Kancamagus Highway. In the opposite direction, you’ll leave North Woodstock on a pleasant drive that will eventually connect with Route 302.
Along the way, the road climbs up to Kinsman Notch, home of Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves, which is a great place to enjoy a fall day. Further on, the Beaver Pond catches the autumn colors as they spill down the steep slopes of the mountains surrounding it. Be sure to stop for photo!
As you continue east, you’ll enter the White Mountain National Forest, so there are few houses, but lots of history. You’ll pass through one-time settlement of Wildwood and the Wild Ammonoosuc River will shadow the road. You may see people here and there along the water panning for gold.
Route 116 south, from Franconia to Woodville
This is a lovely drive through the Easton Valley and the national forest. A few miles outside of Franconia is a grass field airport, home of the Franconia Soaring Association. On nice fall days, you’ll see gliders being towed up to the clouds.
A few times a year, mostly in the late winter or early spring, the area channels an unusual wind called the Bungay Jar … “a phantom roar like an avalanche, accompanied by high winds that gallop up the Easton Valley.”
Continue following Route 116 through the little town of Benton and as the road begins to descend into Woodsville, you’ll come upon Windy Ridge, a lively orchard where you can stop for a bite to eat and take the kids out to pick apples and enjoy other fun activities.
Bear Notch Road, from the Kancamagus Highway to Bartlett
More than a century ago, the Bartlett and Albany Railroad brought supplies to a logging camp and departed with goods from the sawmill in Bartlett. The railroad is long gone, but the road passes through the unspoiled forest that reclaimed the land. There are a couple of turnouts, where you can look out over a mountain panorama, down into Bartlett, so be sure to grab photo!
West Side Road, Bartlett to North Conway
This road will bypass much of the traffic that stays of Route 302 heading east to North Conway.
It goes by several working farms that are a part of the scenic landscape, including the Lady Blanche House. She was the daughter of English royalty who eloped with the commoner who was organist at the church on her father’s estate and they settled here in Bartlett. Lady Blanche became a respected writer of the day, contributing to well-known publications including Harper’s and the Atlantic Monthly.
This is also where Diana’s Baths is located, a series of little waterfalls that are a part of Lucy Brook.
Further along the road is Echo Lake State Park and Cathedral Ledge. You can drive to the top of the cliffs. Park your car, grab your camera and take the short walk to the top of the ledge, protected by sturdy fencing. This is a popular destination for rock climbers, so don’t be surprised if a climber or two pop up a few feet away from your feet!