Things to do from one end of the state to the other.The drive along Route 112 from border to border through the heart of the White Mountains could be whizzed through in a morning. But what fun would that be, when New Hampshire’s summer playground is filled with amusements, activities and places to get out and enjoy the great outdoors?
Begin at New Hampshire’s western border, in Woodsville, heading east on Rte. 10/302. In about two miles turn right onto Route 112. The Wild Ammonoosuc River ripples along beside the road, and crossing it in the village of Swiftwater is Swiftwater Covered Bridge, an 1849 Paddleford truss on the National Register of Historic Places.
Route 112 and the Wild Ammonoosuc are seldom out of sight of each other for nearly 10 scenic miles, where you may see people panning for gold in the shallow water. If you want to join them, you can buy panning supplies at Twin River Campground.
Route 112 enters the White Mountain National Forest and continues over Kinsman Notch, passing the entrance to Lost River Gorge. Explore its trails, waterfalls and boulder caves as you follow the disappearing river. Continue on Route 112, and shortly after leaving the National Forest look for Agassiz Basin on the right, a gorge carved by Moosilauke Brook.
A good lunch stop is Woodstock Station, housed in a former depot in North Woodstock, where Route 112 crosses Route 3. Stop at the White Mountains Attractions Association Visitors Center to buy a federal pass in order to park at sites along the Kancamagus. The center is a good stop for maps and information on all the attractions. You’re within sight of one of them, Hobo Railroad, and if you have kids with you they’ll love the clown that hops aboard as guide and stops traffic while their train rolls across Route 112.
Two more of the mountains’ summer highlights for kids are just up Route 3: Whale’s Tale Water Park and Clark’s Trading Post – popular with all ages for its happy crew of performing bears. Back on Route 112, Alpine Adventures offers thrills on its 1,200- foot-long zipline course.
Once you start up the Kancamagus it’s a long way to the next ice cream, so better refuel at Udderly Delicious Ice Cream, on the left in Lincoln. If you’re making a weekend of it, check the performance schedule at Papermill Theatre. On your right as you leave town, Loon Mountain Resort’s gondola carries passengers to the top for views and to explore caves and passages formed by a tumble of house-sized glacial boulders.
Route 112 climbs steeply, past two National Forest campgrounds, to a high ridge and a pullout with views of 4000-footers West Peak, Osceola and East Peak, along with Loon Mountain and several others. Just beyond the 2,890-foot summit of the Kancamagus Pass, another viewpoint has a picnic pavilion overlooking the eastern White Mountains. Route 112 descends gently into the Swift River Valley, leveling out before reaching the easy half-mile trail to Sabbaday Falls. Dropping in three stages, the long waterfall makes a right-angle turn before splashing into a pool.
About 3 miles on, Russell-Colbath House is a restored farmhouse illustrating the lives of 19th-century farmers. Signs on the half-mile Rail ‘n River Forest Trail through the woods tell about logging and railroads. At Rocky Gorge, also on the left, the Swift River forms pools as it tumbles over a series of water-worn ledges; Lower Falls, about 2 miles on, is also a popular place to cool off in the summer.
Opposite Blackberry Crossing campground, Swift River Covered Bridge crosses the river, and about 6 miles later Route 112 ends at Route 16/302 in Conway. If you just can’t resist going all the way to the Maine border, turn left and follow it through the village and north until Route 113 diverges to the right. This leads to Center Conway and the state line.