Lost River Gorge
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 Route 112, which runs west from North Woodstock along the Lost River, hopping over the crest and dropping down along the Wild Ammonoosuc. The main stop along this route is the privately owned Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves (603/745-8031, daily mid-May-Oct., $18 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 Cafe (802/429-2141) at I-91 exit 17, where you can enjoy fine chowder, charbroiled cheeseburgers, and great pies—24 hours a day. After eating here, backtrack four miles to the river and follow scenic Route 10 along its east bank, winding south toward Hanover. 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.