Day trippin’ in the White Mountains

When you think of the White Mountains, chances are you see yourself schussing down a Double Black diamond run making tracks in the powder. But the area has just as much – maybe even more — to offer by way of adventure in the summer.

I thought I’d put together some day trips around the region’s summer spectacles because there’s more to summits than snow.

Trip No. 1: Kancamagus Highway

The Drive: Route 112, aka the Kancamagus Highway, is one of the most beautiful drives in the state. Towering trees and towering mountains above them, little riverlets (or big ones), are everywhere. There’s probably more “Kodak moments” per mile on the Kancamagus than just about anywhere in New Hampshire. Getting to the Kancamagus is a straight shot up Interstate 93 to Exit 32 (Route 112). If you want a more leisurely pace to your drive, you can skirt around Lake Winnipesaukee on Route 16 to Conway and drive it “backwards.”

The Doin’s: There are dozens of state parks, campgrounds, scenic lookouts and trailheads along the Kancamagus. The Albany Covered Bridge just north of the Kancamagus Highway, six miles west of Route 16 on Dugway Road spans the Swift River. Nearby are the Lower Falls on the Swift River. While only a 10-foot drop, they are easily accessible, making for some spectacular photos.

The Eats: There aren’t too many places eat on the Kancamagus itself (i.e., none), so your best bet is to stop at either end. In Lincoln, check out the Indian Head Profile Room (800-343-8000) at the Indian Head Resort, where you can get a great homestyle meal and see the famous Indian Head stone profile, too. The Flatbread Company (356-4470) at the Eastern Slope Inn in North Conway features all-natural pizza baked in a wood-fired earthen oven. The dough is tossed in an exhibition kitchen, the veggies are organic and the meat is chemical- and nitrate-free.

Trip No. 2: Mt. Washington Valley

The Drive: Route 302/Route 16. Unlike its sister to the south, Route 302 is nearly as scenic as the Kancamagus, minus the switchbacks. If you stay on Route 302 heading southeast-ish, you’ll hit Route 16 in Glen. Going north on Route 16 takes you through the congested Conway tourist area, but just be patient and keep heading toward Gorham and you’ll pass through the stunning Pinkham Notch area and views of Tuckerman Ravine. You can make a complete loop heading back west on Route 2 or come back into the Conway area for a breather.

The Doin’s: Appalachian Mountain Club’s new Highland Center (466-2727) at Crawford Notch in Bretton Woods on Route 302 has all the information you need to do some communing with nature. The Center also has lectures and guided tours everyday. Of course, there’s the Rock Pile itself, Mt. Washington. To get to the summit, Mt. Washington offers the Cog Railway (278-5404) off of Route 302 near Bretton Woods if you need a break from driving. However, it’s not exactly cheap. Adults are $49, kids $35 and seniors $45. It’s also popular, so you might want to make reservations. If you’re a glutton for driving punishment, head to the opposite side of the mountain, north on Route 16 to Glen House and do the Auto Road. It’s $18 per vehicle and driver, and $7 for each passenger (ages 13 and up). Be sure to check your car’s engine and brakes, though, for the eight-mile road (averaging a 12 percent grade) can put a significant strain on your vehicle. They are NOT kidding. At the top, you can stop by the weather observatory’s visitor’s center

Also at the summit is the Tip Top House, a historic hotel, which offers tours in the summer months, and numerous TV and radio antennas (my better half is an amateur radio operator, so this is cool for him). And of course, the view.

For those who don’t want to replace their brake pads when they return home, try a visit to Heritage New Hampshire (383-4186) in Glen. Sort of a “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride come to life and moved north a few thousand miles, Heritage New Hampshire is a living history museum that re-enacts moments in the Granite State’s 375 years of history. OK, so it’s really not on the scenic drive per se, but where else could you experience a sea voyage to New Hampshire, George Washington drumming up support for the birth of a nation among the locals and a ride on a Segway, all in one location? Oh, and watch out for the chamber pots.

The Eats: The 1790 Homestead Restaurant (356-5900) in North Conway was actually built in 1793, but who’s counting? The original heavy timbers and wooden pegs can still be seen in the dining room. The 1790 offers American cuisine and some great seafood entrees. There is also a $12.95 Prime Rib special on Wednesdays. Fabyan’s Station Restaurant (278-2222) in Bretton Woods, was once a train station for well-heeled Victorians on holiday in Crawford Notch, Fabyan’s serves casual American cuisine in the heart of the Bretton Woods ski area. It also just happens to be the entrance to the Cog Railway.

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