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A Scenic Fall Drive Up Route 175

Christine Randall - October 14, 2013

Pemi River

Foliage along the Pemigewasset River was beautiful during the drive along Route 175.

In a word: The fall foliage this year has been spectacular in New Hampshire.

I can’t remember a recent fall season that has had such a long stretch of beautiful weather, uninterrupted by tropical storms, hurricanes, or — the unmentionable — snow! So it’s been hard to resist just jumping into the car and taking off on scenic foliage tours around the lakes and mountains regions; but, recently, on yet another beautiful fall day, I asked myself, “Hey, why resist?” So, I jumped into the car with my camera and decided to head north on one of my favorite scenic roads, Route 175.

Route 175 was once a major access road to the White Mountains from the Lakes Region, running from Holderness to Woodstock. Now it is still a great alternative to I-93 if you have a moment to enjoy the ride (and this year, it’s also been a stress-free alternative to the on-going bridge and highway construction projects and traffic backups all along I-93 from Ashland to Campton).

In Holderness, Route 175 starts from the junction of Route 3, somewhat in between the Little Squam and Big Squam Lakes. Heading north on Route 175, the scenic road meanders through parts of Holderness and Ashland, going past Chris Owens’ roadside farm stand where you can stop and pick up pumpkins, corn stalks, and late vegetables.

A few miles further up the road, Route 175 goes past the Holderness School, where the road then intersects with Route 175-A which heads toward Plymouth. I took a sharp right instead, staying on Route 175, and almost immediately pulled over to look at a historical marker. The State of New Hampshire has erected about 240 such markers throughout the state, with short snippets of interesting information about significant historical events, people, and places in local history. A lot of people do not take the time to stop and look at the markers, but they are a great way to learn about the region and New Hampshire history.

This marker gives a brief biography about Samuel Livermore, an 18th century statesman from the area who owned more than half of the Town of Holderness. The marker says that Livermore, a jurist, congressman, and senator, was New Hampshire’s first attorney-general and its second chief justice. In 1788, he was instrumental in getting New Hampshire to approve the proposed federal constitution which led to its ratification and the eventual formation of the United States government.

Scenic Views

There are plenty of scenic views along the Pemigewasset River.

I continued north on Route 175, heading toward Campton. On the left, I passed a parking area for accessing the beach at scenic Livermore Falls on the Pemigewasset River — a very popular spot in the summer for swimmers and rafters, but it is pretty quiet this time of year.

I soon came to an intersection with Blair Road which leads to Route 3 after crossing the Pemi through the Blair Covered Bridge — which, unfortunately, is closed at the moment while undergoing repairs of the structural damage caused by Hurricane Irene a few years ago. You can still get close enough to the bridge to take pictures, however, and hopefully the bridge will re-open to traffic sometime soon.

A few miles north of this intersection, I came across the Chalet Antiques and Collectibles Shop, which is hard to miss, as it features a large Kodiak grizzly bear in front of the building. In addition to the antiques and unusual collectible items, the shop is home to a very interesting little museum filled with historical items from Alaska. The shop is open seasonally, generally from May to November, and hours are very flexible.

After taking a sharp left around the corner near the shop, I passed by another farm stand on the left in an area of Campton referred to as Beebe River, and the stand was filled with an assortment of gourds, pumpkins, colorful Indian corn, and cornstalks.

I continued to enjoy the fall foliage as I arrived at the Campton Pond and dam, a very picturesque little pond with mountain views, situated in the heart of Campton at the junction of Route 49. A right turn would take me into Waterville Valley and a left would lead back to the interstate and/or Route 3. I continued to head straight, staying on Route 175 toward Thornton and Woodstock.

Route 175 travels through the rural areas of Thornton, paralleling Route 3 on the opposite side of the Pemigewasset River, and there are a couple of places where you can actually cross between the two scenic rural highways, such as Cross Road. I stayed on Route 175 and encountered very little traffic, allowing me to enjoy the wonderful fall colors.

Steel Span Bridge

Route 175 crosses an old steel span bridge over the Pemi to the intersection with Route 3 in North Woodstock.

As I got closer to Woodstock, the Pemi became more and more visible and, along with the river views, I enjoyed the vibrant fall foliage that so often is located along riverbanks. I soon came up to Tripoli Road on the right, a scenic and rustic seasonal road that leads from Thornton to Waterville Valley which I often enjoy exploring when I have the time.

In Woodstock, I saw a road on the right off of Route 175, called Staple Rock Road, which led to a small community park adjacent to the Pemi. It’s a beautiful little spot which, as many times as I’ve driven down this stretch of Route 175, I have never noticed, so I decided to stop and explore a bit.

Staple Rock Park has picnic tables and two rustic “rest rooms” for visitors, and it is said to be a popular swimming hole in the summer. Abandoned bridge abutments on both sides of the Pemi indicate that there once was a bridge across the river at this spot, and I later learned that it was a 190-foot, single-span covered bridge. The bridge, referred to locally as the “Old Lattice Bridge” according to Woodstock resident and public library aide Barbara Avery, was built in 1878 and it featured flying buttresses and a laminated arch. It was destroyed by arson in 1971.

I noticed a fire station on the other side of the river and wondered if it had been built in response to the arson of the bridge, but it apparently was primarily built in the late 1980s or early 1990s to allow quicker access to any accidents on nearby I-93 than the main fire station located in North Woodstock would probably allow, in addition to being a more convenient station for several firefighters living in the area.

Route 175 in Woodstock is also called Eastside Road before it crosses an old steel span bridge over the Pemi to the intersection with Route 3 in North Woodstock. The bridge has narrow sidewalks on both sides which provide photographers the opportunity to take pictures of the scenic river and the surrounding mountains. It is best to brace yourself, however, because the bridge vibrates whenever vehicles cross on the metal grid deck.

From the junction of routes 175 and 3, you can head back south on either I-93 or Route 3, completing the scenic, 60-mile foliage loop tour from Holderness to Woodstock. 

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