After exploring the coast of Maine, it was time to turn inland to visit the forests and mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. We drove across Maine into the White Mountains and the Cathedral Ledge State Park in New Hampshire. Cathedral Ledge Scenic Lookout offered gorgeous views of the valley, lakes, and across to the ski resort on Attitlash Mountain.
As we ogled the scenery, we realized that right below us were climbers, ascending the face of the ledge. We wandered out onto a massive rock surface for a different view and happened upon the culmination of a wedding ceremony. What a magical spot to begin a new life together.
Our home for the night was at the Cathedral Ledge Distillery and our parking spot behind the buildings afforded us a view back up to the rock formation where we had just been. An added bonus was the delicious spirits and cocktails available at our doorstep.
North Conway and the Kancamagus Highway
Just south of the Cathedral Ledge area is North Conway, a cute little town that wears its history with pride. It’s difficult to miss the colourful Conway Scenic Railroad station, and the shops like the No. Conway 5¢ and 10¢ Store are full of character.
From North Conway, one big draw for us was a drive west along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, a 35-mile path through the White Mountain National Forest. The drive, dotted with waterfall viewing stops, is supposed to be one of the best drives for fall foliage viewing but we were a little too early. Still very scenic, but only a few turning leaves teased us with visions of what would be (and what we wouldn’t see).
We had several days to spend in Northern Vermont leading up to a short house sit in the south of the state. Scenic drives abound in this area with plenty of things to do so we planned out a rough circle route staying a night in each of four locations.
Ben & Jerry’s factory is in the area and, though we passed by it on two different days, on both days the factory was closed. We parked anyway and wandered through the Flavor Graveyard where discontinued ice cream flavours are put to rest, but we missed out on the tour and tasting. Oh, well. We didn’t miss out on fresh apple cider and cider donuts at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. On the same property is a little restaurant and cider (alcoholic version) tasting bar.
One fun drive was through Smuggler’s Notch between Cambridge and Stowe. We weren’t sure that we could do it in the van, but a chat with some folks at a neighbouring campsite who had done it in a vehicle larger than ours gave us the courage to give it a try. We really had to wonder given the unmissable flashing sign as we approached the route:
The three-and-a-half mile drive, often only wide enough for a single vehicle, winds around rocky outcroppings and up and over hills that offered no visibility to what might be coming. Thankfully, we drove it in the off-season with ski resorts and ice-climbing not yet started and summer activities over and done in the cool damp weather. Even still, it was a bit of adrenaline-fueled fun. Unfortunately, with no place to pull over safely, there are no pictures to prove that we did it.
One night we stayed at the North Campground in Burlington on Lake Champlain. The weather allowed for a pleasant bike ride along the lake-side pathway. We thought we’d explore the historic town a little as we headed out the next morning, but traffic was crazy and wildly dressed people carrying coolers and lawn chairs packed the sidewalks. A quick Google check confirmed it–it was Pride Day in Burlington. Parking Artie would be impossible, so we decided instead to skedaddle out of town and missed out on the fun.
Though we were a bit early for fall foliage colours in this part of our trip, the pumpkins and squash offered startling bursts of colour as we drove past farms and farm stalls. Though we didn’t really go looking for them, covered bridges popped up on the scenic roads and byways. Near our house sit in Brattleboro is the Vermont General Store filled with an eclectic mix of old-time, country-themed and local products, and its own historic covered bridge.
Stays (for camping program details, see CampingPrograms)
- North Conway, NH: Cathedral Ledge Distillery Harvest Host (suggested $20 purchase for all Harvest Host locations)
- Waitsfield, VT: Hartshorn’s Organic Farm Stand Harvest Host
- Burlington, VT: North Beach Campground ($49 USD per night)
- Morristown, VT: Rock Art Brewery Harvest Host
- Jeffersonville, VT: Golden Dog Farm Harvest Host
- Brattleboro, VT: Housesit ($0)