From ice cream cones to country stores ...
May is a good month to play in the Lakes Region, before the summer beach traffic and just as places are opening for the season. It’s a good time to stretch our legs a bit and look at the lakes from some different perspectives.
Begin at Ashland, at I-93 Exit 24 and follow Route 3 to Holderness, where the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has just opened for the season. Its trails and exhibits are always interesting, and it’s tempting to begin the season with a cruise of Squam Lake on their pontoon boat, but our goal is the hour-long walk on the Center’s Mt. Fayal Trail to the 1,067-foot summit for views of Squam Lake. On the way are the cellar hole and stonewalls of the old Piper Homestead.
Just past the Center, turn left onto Route 113, skirting the shore of Squam Lake and watching for the trailhead for the Old Bridle Path to the ledges on West Rattlesnake Mountain. These rise right from Squam’s shore, overlooking Rattlesnake Island is just a short 1-mile hike. Back on Route 113 continue into Center Sandwich.
It’s hard to be in the middle of a Sandwich and not think about food, so this is a good time to start the ice cream season with a stop at Sandwich Creamery. To get there, leave the center of town on Grove Street, turning right to follow Mt. Israel Road as it wanders through the woods before becoming Wing Road. Watch for the sign-posted left turn onto Hannah Road, to the Creamery. Say hi to the cows and choose your favorite flavor or cheese from the honor-system cooler.
Return to Wing Road and continue until it ends at Route 113A. Go right, then left on 113 to Bennett Corners, turning right on Route 25 to Moultonborough. After stopping to admire the Concord Coach at the Old Country Store, turn left on 109.
After Melvin Village, bear right when Route 109A forks to the left, and watch for the entrance to the Abenaki Tower on the left. Built about 1929, the tower was later used for aircraft spotting during World War II. From its top are views over Lake Winnipesaukee.
Unfortunately, the delightful little Libby Museum, shortly beyond it, doesn’t open until June, so console yourself with a stop at Winnipesaukee Chocolates, on North Main Street in Wolfeboro, just ahead. One of their chocolate bars, spiced with a pinch of cayenne, is named for Rattlesnake Island. Or if all the walking has worked up an appetite, Downtown Market Grille at 11 Railroad Ave. serves an impressive list of sandwiches.
Continue south on Route 28, which stays near — but out of sight of — the lake most of the way to Alton. Head back north with a right on Route 11, which is rarely out of sight of the lake through Glendale, where a right on Route 118 follows the lake to Route 3. Weirs Beach is just waking up after winter’s nap and touching up the paint on the row of Victorian cottages along the boardwalk.
Route 3 continues to Meredith, where a right on Route 25 leads through Center Harbor. After passing Moultonborough Neck Road on the right, look for Red Hill Road to the left. Follow it to the trailhead for Red Hill Trail, on the right. The trail to the fire tower on top is less than two miles long, gaining about 1,400 feet of altitude. A loop trail circles around for more views.
To return to I-93, backtrack to Meredith and turn right on Route 3.