Lost River Gorge to Route 10
With five main roads and countless minor ones connecting the Franconia Notch area with the Connecticut River Valley, there are nearly endless ways to get between these two places while staying more or less on the path of the hikers’ Appalachian Trail, which disappears into the woods for most of the way. All of the roads are partly pretty and partly yucky in about equal degrees, but one of the easiest to follow is the Lost River Gorge. This drive along Route 112, which runs west from North Woodstock along the Lost River, hops over the crest and drops down along the Wild Ammonoosuc River.
The main stop along this route is the privately owned Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves (603/745-8031, daily mid-May-Oct., $20 adults), where you can explore the jumble of glaciated granite boulders that seem to swallow up the river, giving it its name. Many of the big moss-covered boulders have been given names (Guillotine Rock and Lemon Squeezer, to name two), and you can see these (and smell the fragrant pine trees) from the comfort of a wooden boardwalk, or go wild and explore some of the many caves formed by the huge piles of rocks.
Continuing west from Lost River Gorge, which sits at the top of Route 112’s spectacular run through wild Kinsman Notch, the highway drops down into the Connecticut River watershed toward the Vermont town of Wells River, which happens to be home to the best truck stop in all New England: the P&H Truck Stop Café (802/429-2141) at I-91 exit 17, where you can enjoy charbroiled cheeseburgers and great pies—24 hours a day. After eating here, backtrack 4.5 miles to the river and follow scenic Route 10 south toward Hanover.
Optional route: A parallel route along the Vermont side of the river, along old US-5 through the town of Fairlee (which has a nice diner and a unique drive-in movie theater-motel), is another nice alternative to the I-91 freeway.
Route 10 to Hanover
While hikers along the Appalachian Trail have to struggle up and over several mountaintops, we drivers get to amble along a few miles to the west, following scenic Route 10 along the east banks of the lazy Connecticut River. Winding past pastures and cornfields, Route 10 is a nonstop pleasure to drive (or cycle); uneventful, perhaps, but giving seemingly endless pastoral views framed by white rail fences, occasional farmhouses, and the voluptuous peaks that rise to the east and west. The first hamlet you reach along this part of Route 10, North Haverhill, is a real museum piece, with a necklace of distinctive colonial-era homes flanking an oval town green.
On Post Pond, the fine restaurant, rustic lodge, and cabins of Loch Lyme Lodge (800/423-2141, $105 and up) have been welcoming generations of New Englanders since 1946. Swim, paddle, or float out on the small lake, which has an idyllic location between the mountains and the river.
Farther south, 10 miles north of Hanover, the tidy town of Lyme presents yet another Instagram-worthy scene, with a Civil War Monument standing at the east of a slender green, a large church at one end and an equally large stable behind it.