Having spent a good amount of time in the White Mountains of New Hampshire growing up, I enjoy returning to the area whenever I get a chance. While many people opt for the shopping mecca of North Conway, I prefer to visit the “quiet side” of the mountains in the area around Franconia Notch.
No proper day trip can start without a great breakfast, and I found mine at Janie’s Uncommon Cafe this week. I’ve visited Janie’s in the past, and while they have an extensive breakfast menu – including many unique Bennies – I always end up with the French toast. They make their French toast using tea bread, yielding a richer and denser consistency. The summer special is the triple berry variety; just what I needed to fuel up before a fun day in northern New Hampshire!
If you know anything about New England, you know L.L. Bean is synonymous with New England (and Maine in particular). There are two L.L. Bean outlet stores just off of I-93, one in Manchester and one in Concord. Yes, definitely stop at both because the selections are different! From Concord it is an easy drive about 20 miles north to Tilton and the Tanger Outlet Center. This outlet mall is oddly designed, and I find it best to park on one side and then move my car to the other side. All of the usual suspects are here, plus it is right across the street from the Tilt’n Diner, in case you’re in the mood for food too.
From Tilton, my next stop was the small trailhead parking lot along Route 3 in Lincoln. I’m not a fan of long hikes, but I enjoy shorter hikes (2-3 hours) to vistas, overlooks, and waterfalls. Mount Pemigewasset was one I hadn’t before tackled, and at just under 2 miles to the summit ledges (via the Indian Head Trail; the Mount Pemigewasset Trail leaves from the Flume parking area), it offered a decent “bang for the buck” afternoon hike (2 of my other favorite shorter hikes are Mt. Willard in Crawford Notch and Lonesome Lake in Franconia Notch). The trail starts easily enough, passing through a meadow and under I-93. It follows a brook for about half of the hike, before climbing more steeply through the remaining mile or so to the top. The trail was muddy in places, and required a little scrambling over and around rocks, but the view at the top was well worth the effort. From the ledges, you can see southward to the southern Whites and the Lakes Region. Obstructed views toward the north showcase Mt. Liberty and Mt. Lafayette. The hike down was easier than the hike up, but careful footing proved necessary going down some of the steeper parts.
After getting back to the car, I drove up the Kancamagus Highway as far as Kancamagus Pass and stopped at the viewpoints on both sides of the pass. Puffy white clouds dotted an otherwise blue sky, making a perfect backdrop for the mountains. Heading back into town, I passed through the village of Lincoln before making it to my favorite dinner spot: The Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery. This is a great place to unwind after a day in the mountains. With an outdoor patio surrounded by flowers, and excellent food and staff, it’s an easy place to relax. The menu features pub style food, and I opted for a BBQ pork pizza with a Woodchuck cider.
After dinner, I headed up through Franconia Notch to my last stop for the day, Echo Lake. This is one of my all-time favorite places to kayak. Before I bought my own kayak several years ago, I rented them here to paddle around the lake. Now I bring my own and use the small boat launch at the beach on the south end of the lake as my starting point. The winds were blustery and it was a bit chilly, so I knew it would be a quick trip around the lake. Fortunately, the winds were coming from the north, so although it took some effort to paddle to the north side beach, the paddle back required very little effort. There is some sort of construction going on at the north end, so I wasn’t able to pull my kayak up to the beach, but other times I have pulled my kayak up and gone for a swim here. Cannon Mountain looms over the west side of the lake, and from the north end, you can see down through the notch. It was a perfect way to end my day in the White Mountains!