Fall is here, and with it comes cooler air, shorter days, and the bright, vivid displays of colorful foliage — which means it is time for some foliage tours!
While most of my foliage tours are off the beaten path in areas with ponds, bogs, rivers, or lakes, this time I decided to drive a loop south on some main roads from New Hampton to Sanbornton, and then head back north from Franklin to Bristol, a route that features lots of scenic areas and recreational activities for a variety of different interests.
I headed south from New Hampton on Route 132, which is one of the favorite routes that I enjoy traveling on as an alternative to I-93. Route 132, also known as Stage Road, is a very scenic, winding country state highway that always has exceptionally vibrant fall foliage. The road takes you past Spectacle Pond and then Hermit Lake, both on the left, and both of which are popular with canoeists and kayakers and are very scenic with great fall foliage.
If you are touring around on a weekend and would like to check out a unique vineyard and winery, Hermit Woods Winery is located just a couple of miles from Route 132 on Taylor Road. The winery makes a variety of award-winning, hand-crafted wines, and, during the fall season, their wine-tasting room is open on weekends from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. through Nov. 3.
To get there from Route 132, take a left just past Hermit Lake onto Hermit Woods Road, which forks after one mile, and then bear right and head up Eastman Hill Road for about 1.2 miles to the junction of Taylor Road. Take a left onto Taylor Road to Hermit Woods Winery. For more information, log on to http://hermitwoods.com or call 603-253-7968.
Back on Route 132 and heading south, you go past Cawley Pond, another scenic area, before reaching the area of Sanbornton known as Gaza. I took the sharp right at the junction of Routes 132 and Route 127, and continued south on Route 127 toward Franklin.
Just before you pass underneath I-93, Perley Hill Road, on the left, takes you to Surowiec Farm. At the farm, you can pick your own favorite varieties of apples, such as Macintosh, Cortland, and Ginger Gold apples, as well as pumpkins. The farm also has colorful mums, as well as a farm store filled with fresh, home-baked goods, honey, several other varieties of apples, pickles, relish, and produce, as well as cheese and ice cream from the Sandwich Creamery. Surowiec Farm is open through mid-October, seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Contact them for current picking conditions at 603-286-4069.
Heading south on Route 127, the Den Brae Golf Course is located on the right, on Prescott Road, where, if you are a golfer, you can enjoy a round of golf on a course that has been open and run by the Craig family since 1958.
Continuing toward West Franklin on Route 127, I decided to stop and check out the Franklin Falls Recreation Area. The flood control dam was built in the early 1940s on the Pemigewassett River, and the construction of the dam required the relocation of the entire village of Hill, located a few miles to the north, to make way for a flood control reservoir — a reservoir in which most of the town would end up underwater.
The Franklin Falls Recreational Area has more than 4,000 acres of wooded areas around the river valley that are available for recreational activities, including hiking, mountain biking, and picnicking, all of which you can do for free. There is even a newly built playground on the dam premises. Or you can simply enjoy the wonderful view of the river valley below from the top of the dam access road, which is open during daylight hours.
After admiring the view, I left the dam and continued south on Route 127 toward West Franklin, turning right onto routes 3/11 and crossing the Pemigewasset River which joins the Winnipesaukee River to form the Merrimack River as it heads south.
If you are looking for a scenic adventure and a chance for some easy exercise, turn left, instead, and go to Trestle View Park on Central Street where you can access the multi-use Winnipesaukee River Trail. The Winnipesaukee River Trail parallels the Winnipesaukee River for five miles from Franklin to Tilton. It is restricted to non-motorized uses and the route passes by the remains of a unique “upside-down” covered bridge that featured train tracks on the top of the sulphite bridge, instead of inside of it.
Reaching West Franklin at the junction of routes 3, 11, and 3-A, I took a right onto Route 3-A and headed north toward Hill. There are several small parks in West Franklin where you can pull over and enjoy the scenery, including one at the Ledgeview Overlook on the right which offers views of the Eastman Dam on the Pemi river. The area also has grills and picnic tables.
Continuing north up Route 3A, Route 11 splits off to the left, going west toward Andover and New London. If you are looking for a good place to fish, swim, or boat, you can take Route 11 and head over to Webster Lake, just a short distance from the junction of Route 3-A. Webster Lake is a 600-acre body of water that features two public beaches, boat access ramps, and picnic areas. There is a road that goes all around the lake, affording visitors many viewing opportunities of the scenic lake. The lake also is well-supplied with bass and trout, which should delight most fishermen.
I continued north on Route 3-A to the town of Hill. The “new” town of Hill is located right along Route 3-A, but if you take a right onto New Chester Road and drive further back a bit along some of the back roads, you can find places to park to explore what is left of “Old Hill” that the construction of the Franklin Falls Dam and the creation of the Franklin Falls Reservoir in 1941 left under water during spring runoff. Most of the year, there are miles of walking, skiing, and biking trails, with markers in place to show where some of the old buildings once stood. It is a nice area to explore along the Pemi — just be careful of the poison ivy, which is pretty prolific along the river!
Just north of the town line between Hill and Bristol on Route 3-A, you can take a right onto Profile Falls Road to get to the Profile Falls Recreation Area. The parking area gives you access to easy trails along the Smith River and great views of the 40-foot, fan-shaped falls, which are very scenic and photogenic year-round. The recreation area also is popular with swimmers, picnickers, and fishermen. If you are looking for longer hikes or bike rides, many of the roads lead back into Old Hill Village.
I then headed north on Route 3-A into the revitalized downtown area of Bristol (which has a wonderful shop with homemade ice cream and fudge for those who are sweet of tooth), and completed the loop by heading east on Route 104 toward New Hampton. The entire 60-plus-mile-long loop is very scenic, with many opportunities for recreation and cultural activities for people of all ages and interests to enjoy. Of course, if you are a wine lover, you can always reverse this loop and save the visit to the Hermit Woods Winery for last…!