It’s a short drive, but this loop around Mt. Washington is packed with glorious winter scenery, outdoor sports and maple sweetness. Drive it in either direction, but the best views are north through Crawford Notch and south through Pinkham.
Begin where routes 16 and 302 diverge in Glen, following Route 302 toward Bart-lett. On the left, White Mountain Cider Company is a good stop for a cup of hot mulled cider and snacks for the road. In Bartlett, look for the Josiah Bartlett School, turning left just beyond it to reach the little solar-powered sugar-house behind. Here students operate their own sugaring business, and are happy to tell you all about it.
Past Bartlett, Route 302 follows the Saco River, along which are beautiful views of the snow-blown summit of Mt. Washington. The Notchland Inn sits high on the left, and if you are traveling on the weekend of March 27-28, you can stop there to buy a $15 ticket to March Maple Madness, an inn-to-inn B&B and sugarhouse tour with maple goodies at each stop, inn tours, a scavenger hunt and prizes. This is a good chance to see the inn’s outstanding front parlor, designed by Gustav Stickley, a founder of the Arts & Crafts movement — and perhaps make reservations for their five-course dinner.
The road climbs through Crawford Notch to emerge at the AMC Highland Center, where winter packages include lodging, dining, skiing (equipment and gear provided free) and nature programs for the whole family.
In Twin Mountain, turn right onto Route 3 and right again onto Route 115, to Jefferson Highlands. Turn right on Route 2 for open views of the Presidential Range much of the way to Gorham. In a fine old mercantile building on Main Street, Libby’s Bistro and its downstairs Saalt Pub serve inspired food in the evening. Follow Route 2 to Shelburne to see the famed Shelburne Birches that line the road and stop at the historic Mount Washington B & B, where weekend packages include tickets to Maple Madness and dinner at Libby’s.
Backtrack to Gorham, turning left (south) on Route 16 for views of the other side of Mt. Washington. At its base Great Glen Trails offers winter outdoor fun for the whole family — snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snow tubing; the Glen View Café serves lunch. Or ride the Snowcoach up the Mt. Washington Auto Road to above timber-line to find a whole new winter world at your feet. For the best eye-to-eye view of Mt. Washington’s summit, step into your skis and ride to the top of the Wildcat Mountain Gondola.
Route 16 continues south through Pinkham Notch to Jackson, home to Jackson Ski Touring. Here 148 km of the finest cross-country ski trails in the eastern United States tour the meadows and woods, with views of the mountains and the picturesque village with its trademark red covered bridge. Non-skiers can while away time at one of the state’s most unusual shops, the whimsical Ravenwood Curio Shoppe. Art, home décor, fine crafts and well-chosen curiosities fill a little building that is a curiosity in its own right — indoors and out.
From the center of the village, drive the scenic loop past The Wentworth and ice-covered Jackson Falls, turning right toward Black Mountain Ski Area, and right again to descend through open meadows to Davis Farms Sugar House, where on Maple Madness Weekend they have goodies to sample and maple sap boiling inside.
Back in Jackson, follow Thorn Hill Road to the left to visit another friendly family sugarhouse at Thorn Mountain Maple Sweets. Thorn Hill Road ends at Route 16A, which leads back to Route 16/302 south of Glen.