Twenty Things to Do in the New Hampshire Great North Woods
April 25. 2011 4:48PM
Take a Moose Tour
Sure, Moose Alley might be where all the leggy land-lubbers gather for photo-ops and roadside parades, but you'll find these amazing creatures throughout the North Country. Other hotspots include the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, which covers more than 8,500 acres, and Route 16 along the Thirteen Mile Woods.
One of the most dramatic waterfalls in the state sits in a state park known as Beaver Brook Falls Wayside in Colebrook. The falls, at more than 80' high, cascade over a rocky ledge. But the best part about it is that you can bring a picnic and enjoy lunch at one of several picnic tables with the waterfall in sight. Other Waterfalls in the Great North Woods worth a look include the stunning Dixville Flume and Huntington Cascades. There is a parking area and the short walk to view the Dixville Flume is worth it. Similar to the waterfalls that flow at The Flume Gorge, these are part of striking geological formations created during the ice age. Garfield Falls in Pittsburg is also rather striking; the falls are 40' in height and drop down into a scenic gorge. A short walk from the parking lot, the area is also covered with fantastic hiking trails and glorious swimming holes greet you in the East Branch of the Dead Diamond River.
It's easy to fall in love with the solitude of the North Woods. To experience it more fully, stay overnight by pitching a tent at any of the area campgrounds. One to try: Coleman State Park on the shores of Little Diamond Pond in Stewartstown. Take a day to explore the nearby hiking trails by foot and take in the beauty of the wilderness.
Ride the rapids of the Saco or Androscoggin Rivers. You can rent a raft at Saco Bound in North Conway and bring the family along on a cruise down the gently rolling rapids of the Androscoggin or sign up for any of their programs in the region. These are generally guided tours, although kayak and canoe rentals are available for more placid waters like Lake Umbagog. For the more advanced rafters, there are Class II and III rapids available at Pontook Rapids and Mollirgewok to Brown Bridge.
Stop at the Shrine
Take a moment on your dash through the woods to pay homage to the Shrine of Our Lady Grace, which is located on NH Route 3 in Columbia. The monument has stood since 1948; it was originally built as a tribute of thanksgiving to Our Lady of Grace for 25 years of blessings and protection of the Oblates in northern New Hampshire. Today there are more than 50 monuments at the site, which has become a spiritual center. Every June during Laconia's Bike Week, hundreds of motorcycles make the trek to the shrine for the annual "Blessing of the Bikes."
Standing at the 45th Parallel might not seem like such a thrilling enterprise. But think about it; at this spot on Route 3 in Stewartstown, you are standing halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. Now that's one for the scrapbooks. There is another "45th Parallel" marker in Clarksville at the Junction of Route 145 and Clarksville Road. Don't forget to take a picture!
APB for ATVs
The new and improved Jericho Lake State Park in Berlin is now a haven for ATV-ers of all types. The 7,200-acre site is in the planned development stages of a dedicated trail system that will offer 150 to 200 miles of riding opportunities. So hop on your moto-cross bike, mountain bike, snowmobile or other recreational vehicle and enjoy the vast space of this unique land.
Dance on the Table — If You Dare!
Acrophobes can skip this one. Table Rock is a granite outcrop that literally hangs 2510' (no railings to grasp with white knuckles!) over the deep gorge of Dixville Notch. If you have children with you, it's best to skip this little adventure, and instead explore the spectacular and dramatic beauty of Dixville Notch State Park, where a hiking trail leads to the table in the sky.
You have to see the remains of a 171-foot ski jump at Nansen Wayside State Park in Milan. The skeletal steel-framed Nansen Ski Jump with its 225-foot vertical drop still stands at the park, a structure that was originally built in 1936 and was used for major championship ski jumping competitions. In 1938, the first Olympic Trials were held at Nansen. It was at the time the largest ski jump in the country and remained so for more than 50 years. It closed down in 1988. Whether you are a ski buff or not, take a peek at this historical object and admire the ingenuity of its architecture.
You want to log some hours at the Northern Forest Heritage Park in Berlin. The museum features a full scale re-creation of an 1880-1920 logging camp. This was big business in Berlin, which is known as the "city that trees built." The "working forest" of the Northern Forest Heritage Park is the oldest continuous logging operation in the United States. It's worth a peek into this once profitable and magnanimous operation. Open May to October.
Mount Magalloway in Pittsburg offers panoramic views of Canada, Maine and Vermont from the summit. Climb to the top of the fire tower and you'll take in the breathtaking scope of the surrounding wilderness. There are two trails to the tower, Bobcat and Coot. The more strenuous of the two is the "Coot" trail. But whether you only make it to the summit or climb to the top of the tower, the prize is the view from the top.
Make it Grand
The Balsams Grand Resort, located in Dixville Notch, is the site of the first (midnight) Presidential Primary Vote in the Nation every four years and undoubtedly sits in the midst of the most beautifully carved mountain notches in the state. The resort is one of the few Grand Hotels left in New Hampshire and its legacy is legendary. It is currently under renovation but definitely take a peek at the grounds while you are in the region. When it reopens, it's going to be (an even better?) sight to see. They are billing it as the rebirth of a legend. Indeed!
Into the Wild
Lake Umbagog State Park in Cambridge is a haven for those that love the outdoors. The park offers bird and wildlife watching opportunities, canoe, kayak and rowboat rentals, 35 campsites with electric and water hook-ups, 3 cabins and 34 remote campsites that are only accessible via boat. Swim, fish, canoe and camp all in one spot while you are surrounded by the seclusion and peace of the Great North Woods. The park was rated the #5 top kayak spots in New England by the Boston Globe.
Boom, Boom, Boom
The Boom Piers historic marker in Berlin refers to a series of small man-made rock "islands" that were built (during the winter months) in the Androscoggin River and were used to secure a chain of boom logs which divided the river during the annual log drives. Because two paper mills shared the river for logging, the logs were stamped to identify who they belonged to. They were sorted at a 'sorting gap' further upriver. The log drives ended in 1963 but the old piers serve as a reminder of the hey-day of logging in the North Country. Each year, an event called "Riverfire" is quite a sight when the boom
A trio of trusses
Pittsburg, a town that comes alive during winter primarily with snowmobilers and other winter sports enthusiasts, has something else to brag about: three covered bridges. They span two different bodies of water and all three are closed to automobile traffic, but the bridges each offer a unique peek back in time. The Pittsburg-Clarksville Bridge stretches from Pittsburg into the town of Clarksville at a length of 88'6". Originally built in 1876, the bridge is the furthest covered bridge north over the Connecticut River and is one of seven covered bridges built in the town of Pittsburg. Only three survive today. The Happy Corner Bridge has many legends surrounding its name. Built in the mid-1800s across Perry Stream, it is one of the oldest bridges in the North Country. The River Road Bridge, also crosses Perry Stream. Little is known about the 50'6" long Queenpost covered bridge but records indicate that it was built in 1858.
Although the Thirteen Mile Woods is not technically on our list of forests in the region, you'll find it between Errol and Berlin along Route 16, a fantastically scenic drive but also an excellent area to explore on foot. The "Woods" encompasses 5,316 acres as it crawls along the Androscoggin River, which offers some of the best whitewater paddling in the state. Hiking trails are aplenty, and there are hundreds of snowmobile and cross-country trails that run through the area. It's also prime territory for fishing and hunting.
It Takes Weeks
Check out the John Wingate Weeks Historic Site in Lancaster. The estate was built under the direction of U.S. Senator, U.S. Congressman, Secretary of the War under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, and leading conservationist John Wingate Weeks. The main house, known as the "lodge" is made of fieldstone and stucco and sits atop Mt. Prospect. It offers 360 degree panoramic views of the Presidential Range, the Kilkenny Range, the Percy Peaks and the upper Connecticut River Valley as well as the Green Mountains of Vermont. There are hiking trails on the site and a series of weekly programs through the summer — relating to the North Country — are also offered. It's a gem, perched atop the beauty of this unspoiled wilderness.
An Artistic Adventure
Fiddleheads, a unique gift shop in Colebrook, offers products made specifically by New Hampshire artisans as well as items made around New England. It's only 8 miles to the Canadian border from here so it makes sense that they would offer products made in Canada too. It is one of the only galleries of its kind in the north country and offers unique products that cannot be found elsewhere in the region. Visit downtown Colebrook and stop in for that one-of-a-kind keepsake or locally-made gift. You'll find items like decoys, glass oil lamps, ornaments, hand marbled silk scarves, pottery, wind chimes, jewelry, hand-carved gourd bowls and baskets, handmade soaps and oils, and more.
Listen for the loons
Listen for the loons on Clarksville Pond at Rudy's Campground and Cabins, a family-owned and operated business for more than 70 years, and one of the few places you can camp in the area. The pond is also known for fantastic fly-fishing and can be found along the Cohos Trail, a 165-mile trail network of untamed wilderness that twists away from the White Mountains, through the Great North Woods and to the Canadian border. You can hear loons almost on or near any water body within this region so keep an ear open for their distinctive call.