Twenty Things to Do in the NH Monadnock Region
Thinking about spending some time in the Monadnock Region? This southwestern part of the state offers rolling hills, white-steepled churches, and small New England towns. There are many attractions here and there, including the popular shopping district of the Colony Mill Marketplace. But slip off the "beaten path," and you'll discover some of the "other" great things that this region has to offer. We've picked out Twenty Things to Do in the Monadnock Region to get you started. For a more expanded list of ideas, see our list of the 101 Things to Do in NH.
Climb the Twins
There are two "Monadnocks" in the Monadnock region. Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, which is considered one of the most-climbed mountains in the world and the lesser known "Pack Monadnock," located in Peterborough's Miller State Park. Although the 2,290' Pack Monadnock is the smaller of the two, it is less popular so you'll encounter less traffic. But, it's also (perhaps) a bit more steep in places. The view from the top of either mountain is worth the hike. On Pack Monadnock, you'll find a 27' fire tower that offers views as far away as Boston on a clear day. The bigger Monadnock comes in at 3,165' and offers 40 miles of well-maintained trails. We say tackle them both. Feeling lazy, take the auto road at Pack Monadnock. It leads to the summit and a picnic area at the top.
Your senses will come alive at Frye's Measure Mill in Wilton, where the smell of freshly planed wood lingers and a history of craftsmanship and ingenuity is honored. The mill has been producing Shaker and Colonial boxes since 1858, when a young man by the name of Daniel Cragin purchased a small building on the property of the Putnam Bobbin Factory. The enterprising young man began making knife trays, toys and "dry measures." The mill acquired hydroelectric power in the 1850s, when water power began to be used for manufacturing. Today the mill is on the Register of Historic Places. But the work continues, and a gift shop onsite carries reproduction boxes from the Shaker Village in Canterbury. Take a historic tour of their water-powered shop and see how the boxes were made, what kind of tools are used, and how water power was harnessed from nearby ponds.
Make It to Mason
You'll want to go to Mason for the pancakes at Parker's Maple Barn, but if you're there in the early spring, you can watch them create maple syrup in their wood-fired sugar house. While you wait for breakfast (served all day), wander around in their gift shop. It's worth the ride to town. Make the most of your trip to Mason and wander down Route 123 to see the historic Uncle Sam's House. The house is the boyhood home of Samuel Wilson, who became known as "Uncle Sam." Wilson's likeness was used in the famous "I Want You!" army recruiting poster in WWI. A plaque points out the spot. Wilson's grave can be found at the Oakwood Cemetery in nearby Troy.
Water Under the Bridges
Take a scenic drive through the Monadnock Region's many covered bridges. There are four of them in the Town of Swanzey, and we suggest you take a tour through all four. The bright red Slate Bridge was rebuilt in 1993, after the original (c. 1800) was lost to a fire. The West Swanzey Bridge located on Main Street, is closed to traffic but a covered sidewalk will take you across on foot. The Carleton Bridge was originally built around 1789 and later rebuilt in 1869. And, the Sawyer's Crossing Bridge, located off Route 32, was built in 1771 and reconstructed in 1859. All four bridges span the Ashuelot River.
The Wapack National Wildlife Refuge is located on the north side of Pack Monadnock Mountain. The refuge is home to migrating hawks and other wildlife. It was New Hampshire's first refuge. Wapack contains 1,672 acres of wilderness and the 21-mile Wapack Trail, which offers panoramic views of surrounding mountains. You can access the trail from the parking lot at Miller State Park and Old Mountain Road at its northern edge.
Dine Al Fresco at Luca's
Luca's Mediterranean Cafe in Keene is well-known for its quaint atmosphere, and its artsy and elegant urban dishes like Ahi Tuna en Croute and Shrimp Cilantro. Owner Gianluca "Luca" Paris, who came to the United States from Italy, grew up in New York. His restaurant serves up flavors from Italy, but also from places like Spain and Greece and France. It has been named "Best Restaurant in the Region" by NH Magazine for 2006, and rated "Best Fine Dining Restaurant in New Hampshire" in 2005. Why not check it out for yourself? And, don't forget dessert!
Pick a Pitcher of Blueberries
Pick wild blueberries at Pitcher Mountain, a fire tower peak in Stoddard that offers excellent views of Mount Monadnock in the distance from the ledges and 2,163' bare summit. Also on the summit are thousands of blueberry bushes. The blueberries have flourished atop Pitcher Mountain after a 1941 forest fire wiped out all of the mountaintop vegetation, providing the rich soil required to grow blueberries. While most of the land at the top is state owned, some of the land is privately owned by the Faulkner Family, who also own Pitcher Mountain Farm and its long-haired Scottish Highland cattle. Leave a donation for blueberries in the box at the trailhead, which can be reached via Route 123. The best time to pick blueberries is mid-July through Labor Day.
Visit the Bakery
Bellow's House Bakery, New Hampshire's largest mail order bakery, offers tours of their facility so you can watch them make all their delicious cookies, brownies and other yummy confections. Tours run Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Every visitor gets a free sample. Their cookies come in two sizes, 2.25" and a jumbo size of ¼ pound. Try the Mike Chocolate Butterscotch or Triple Chocolate Chunk. Their brownies and blondies feature flavors like Macaroon and Caramel Pecan, Butterscotch Chip and Milk Chocolate Caramel Nut. Delicious. You can find the bakery on Church Street in North Walpole.
Shop at the Colony
The Colony Mill Marketplace in Keene is a converted textile mill that was originally built in 1838. It produced fine woolen garments, including uniforms for Union troops during the Civil War. It was converted into a shopping district in 1983. Since this is an area of the state without Shopping Malls and major commercial shopping districts, the Marketplace offers something for everyone, while still maintaining the character of the region. You'll find the candy shop, Ye Goodie Shop, the popular Toadstool Bookshop, several gift shops, clothing stores and restaurants. You'll find the Colony Mill Marketplace right off Main Street.
The best time to visit the 16-acre grove at Rhododendron State Park in Fitzwilliam is mid-July, when the fragrant clusters of flowers burst into bloom. A wildflower trail within the 2,723-acre park is in perpetual bloom from early spring through fall. The trail runs adjacent to the Rhododendron grove, which is the largest in New England. Gardeners will admire the setting, and bird lovers will appreciate hearing the songbirds that make their home here. You can find the park on Route 119W.
The Peterboro Basket Company in Peterborough doesn't offer tours of the manufacturing facility at this time, but go ahead and take a trip to the factory anyway, to do some shopping at their outlet store. These made-in-NH baskets are put together by skilled New England craftsmen. At the factory outlet you'll find a wide selection of their hand-crafted baskets and accessories, as well as gift items and New Hampshire made food products and slightly imperfect baskets at huge discounts. The company has been at it for more than 150 years - and their attention to detail and quality craftsmanship is a Yankee tradition!
The 42-mile long Cheshire Rail Trail is thought to be the second longest rail trail in New Hampshire. It runs from Keene to Winchester. Mostly a dirt trail for mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking, the trail offers a variety of settings including the Stone Arch Bridge that crosses the Ashuelot River. The Cheshire Railroad Stone Arch Bridge was an important link into Keene from Fitchburg, Mass. During the winter, cross-country skiers, mushers and snowmobilers also enjoy this old railroad bed for recreation. There are many water views and you will travel through towns like Troy and Fitzwilliam which offer a place to take a break and grab a snack along the way.
To the Cathedral!
The Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge is a national memorial to patriotic sacrifice as well a spiritual place for people of all faiths. The Altar of the Nation was built in 1946 and recognized by congress in 1957 as a National Memorial to all men and women who lost their lives in a war. The stones that make up the main body of the altar came from all fifty states and from every United States President since Harry Truman. Many other stones from historic battles and sites around the world are also embedded into the altar. Bring a stone and leave your own mark to pay homage to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The beauty and serenity of this site is truly sacred.
The Barrett House in New Ipswich, built in 1800 by Charles Barrett as a residence for his son, Charles "Jr." pays tribute to the family and to the 19th century textile industry. The nearby Barrett Textile Mills produced cotton fabric for domestic and export usage. It was the first cotton mill in the state. The home itself, which was also known as "Forest Hall," is built in the Federal style. Today it is a museum and historic site and contains period furnishings.
The Chesterfield Gorge Natural Area is a 13-acre hiker's paradise. Cross bridges, listen to running water, stand beside cascading waterfalls stemming from Wilde Brook, and make your way across small streams and scenic paths. Look for plentiful wintergreen leaves on the forest floor as you walk. You'll know it's wintergreen by its smell when crushed. Well-maintained bridges will help you view the steep gorge and beautiful cascades and waterfalls. Enjoy this recreational area that is more reminiscent of the White Mountains.
One Room, much history Who doesn't want to step foot inside a one-room schoolhouse, one of only a few left standing across the state? In Jaffrey you can do just that. It was once known as Schoolhouse No. 11 and stood alongside Dublin Road from the time it was built in 1822 (at a cost of $200!) until 1960 when it was moved to the present location - at the Meetinghouse (another building of historical significance) on the Town Common. It was then restored by the Jaffrey Historical Society and finished with authentic benches, school books, a blackboard, globes and the tall schoolmaster's desk. Come visit during summer afternoons from 2-4 p.m. and other times by arrangement.
Stonewall-ing in Keene
The Stonewall Farm in Keene is an agricultural gem. It's a working farm using both historic and modern farming techniques and also an educational center that offers an animal feeding program, a Learning Center, a Discovery Room and more. There are Belgian draft horses in the horse barn, a dairy barn where you can observe a daily milking, an exhibit of antique farm equipment, a solar greenhouse and a sugar house. Starting in March with maple sugaring and through the rest of the season(s), there is always something happening at the farm.
A Memorable Childhood Cottage Plan a visit to Pickity Place in Mason and take a peek at the bookstore onsite. The cottage was the inspiration for the book, "Little Red Riding Hood," and a museum is also housed here. Built in 1786, the little red cottage is also a gourmet restaurant, complete with five-course luncheons prepared with herbs harvested from the grounds. There is a garden shop and greenhouse too. The grounds alone a sight to behold, with five acres of perennial and herb gardens surrounding the cute little cottage.
The Mariposa Museum and World Culture Center in Peterborough offers a number of exhibits and programs throughout the year. From Russian Matryoshka dolls to Pisanki Eggs from Poland to qraqeb from Morocco, there are many historic and cultural artifacts on display. There are also many dance, musical and other cultural live shows on a regular basis at the museum. Come and get culture-fied!
Meet Fred Marple
Ken Sheldon portrays Fred Marple from the fictional New Hampshire town of 'Frost Heaves' which is somewhere in the Monadnock Region (we think). Frost Heaves is your typical Yankee town and Fred Marple is a one-man-show (sometimes). The shows he puts on do include music (with original songs like 'The Yankee's Lament' and 'Leaves From Your Tree'). A video, 'Yoga For Yankees' went viral, and the show, which can often be found at the Peterborough Players Theatre has been a huge success. His commentary on living in the Granite State is dead on. Careful, you might hurt your funny bone!