You know, I haven't done this route before, but I have driven around NH enough that I think it might be the quickest and least frustrating route. From Woodstock, take Rte 4 back to I-91 and then head north on I-91 to St. Johnsbury, VT. Cross into NH on I-93, through Littleton and down into Franconia Notch. This will be major highway all the way and thus quick. I think that, from the time you get on I-91 to the Notch will take about an hour and 20 or 30 minutes.
The perhaps more likely alternative route would be to head south on I-89 into NH at Lebanon and down to Concord where you would get on I-93 north to Lincoln and Woodstock, NH. I think this drive, from the same starting place at I-91 and I-89 would be about 2 hours of driving, probably a little more, and that is to the lower end of Franconia Notch.
You could also try cutting across the state on small roads, but your speed will be slower especially as the roads wind around and head through various small towns. It would be veryt picturesque and entertaining, but you may be a bit more road weary when you reach the Whites.
As for what to see, I would consider that the Whites are crossed by a triangle of raods that cut throuogh the notches. (BTW, folks refer to the are above the Whites as North of the Notch, or Notches.) From I-91 in the north, Rte 3 crosses to Twin Mountain where you can take Rte 302 through Crawford notch, past the Mt Washington Hotel and access to the Mt Washington Cog Railroad to the summit. You may want to do that, but it will involve several hours of the ride up and back, and time at the summit. Worth doing, but with a day trip, every activity eliminates another.
Rte 302 will continue down to Rte 16 in Glen. Heading north on Rte 16 will take you to through Pinkham Notch and past the Mt Washington AMC Base Station. This is the starting point for hiking the mountain. A little beyond this is the entrance to the road where, for a fee, you can drive to the summit (much less than the $52 or so on the Cog). Continue north to Gorham and you can cut back across Rte 2 to Twin Mountain and back to Rte 3.
The bigger triangle route would be to turn south from 302 onto 16 and throuogh North Conway and Conway. North Conway is very touristy, with hotels, restauarants, outlet shopping, mini golf, etc. But the valley is quite lovely. If you want to avoid the Conway areas, watch for River Road along 302 about a mile or so after passing Attitash. This sweet little two lane road will bypass the Conways. It is also the access road to Diana's Baths, Cathedral Ledge, and other hiking trails. It will drop you in the town of Conway, not far from the entrance to The Kankamagus Highway, Rte 116, the very picturesque highway throught eh White MOuntains. Plenty of hiking available along the road. A great stream to swim in, and incredible views. The road is a tourist attraction in itself, and free of charge.
The Kanc drops you in Lincoln/Woodstock. There are plenty of restaurants there, and you can head up through Franconia Notch. In the Notch, there is a short hike to The Flume, and a pleasant mile or so circuit hike through the woods as an option. There is also the interesting geologic feature of The Basin. And at the top of the notch is the viewing area for the former Old Man In The MOuntain, a natural rock outcrop that collapsed a few years ago. There is a museum commemorating it. Also there is the Cannon Mt (ski area) Tram, a cable car to the 4000+ foot summit with spectacular views and some little hikes. The road up through the notch, by the way, is I-93. So you are back on your route.
As you head back up and out of the Notch, you will pass through the town of Franconia, home of American downhill skiing sensation Bode Miller. But mroe spectacularly, from Franconia you can take Rte 117 up to the little town of SUgar Hill, emphasis on Hill. As you reach a breakfast restaurant called Polly's Pancake Parlor, you will be treated to one of the most spectacular views in the state, looking east to the entire Presidential Range, which you will just have spent the day driving, riding and hiking in, on around and through. Get there before sunset, and the mountains should be illuminated by the setting sun. BTW, Polly's is a well loved breakfast place, but crowded. There is usually a waiting line.
Thank you for your extensive reply to my post. I think I will take I-91 to St Johnsbury and then to I-93 as suggested. I agree that the Cog Railway will probably take up too much time, so we are skipping that. I think I will visit Franconia Notch State Park and drive the Kangamagus Hwy instead. Unless of course there is rain, in which case, the trip is of, as I can't think of what to do in the area in bad weather.
NOOOOO...don't go all the way North to St. J....get off I-91 at Exit 17....follow Rte 302 over into NH and pick up the Western end of the Kancamaugus Hwy just North of Haverhill....take 112 through the valley...stop at Lost River Gorge along Rte. 112....then continue into the town of N.Woodstock and Lincoln....Visit Clarks' Trading Post and then head either North through the Franconia Notch...hitting the Flume and Cannon Mt. Tramway...or continue East across the Kanc... to North Conway...hop off the Kanc and take the local route (Bear Notch Road) North to Bartlett and come into N. Conway on Rte 302...The drive north to St. J and then back tracking south through Littleton will add 45 minutes to your travels....
ramblinman, that is a good option to consider. The drive across the western portion of Rte 112 (I mistakenly called the Kanc 116) is certainly picturesque. My experience is that it is a slow road, but it will take you into some fairly rustic and desolate woods, which is what is so enticing about it. It is a feeling of wilderness you do not readily get in many other places in the state.
Taking that route, as with any route you take, may define where you do and don't go in your day. Given the trip over and the time avazilable, you may end up with more of an east-west traverse, with the option to explore Franconia Notch and/or North COnway. One of many excellent options in the Whites. I've never been attracted to Clark's. It always struck me as a cheesy tourist joint. It's a matter of taste and preference. Yeah, they have the bears, but driving some of these routes, you stand a very good chance of seeing them live in the wild, along with moose, turkey, deer, fox and more. I have never been to Lost River, either, but that one does intrigue me. Definitely worth checking out.
BY the way, if it rains, spend some time in Hanover, NH, home of Dartmouth College. There is a great museum and performing arts center - The Hopkins Center (The Hop), some nice shops, The Dartmouth Co-op which has a great bookstore, and plent of good restaurants and cafes.
Thank you all for such great itineraries. Dartmouth bookstore is a great option for a rainy day also. I am leaving tommorow and can't wait.
Hoping to catch you before you go...we were in NH last week up the the 18th May and Bear Notch Road was still closed so avoid that. The Flume and The Basin are well worth the trip. Have a good day out.
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