NH Foliage drives - Back roads and Stinson Lake

Paula Tracy July 23. 2013 1:15PM

No fall foliage tour bus has even been over the dirt on Ellsworth Hill Road.

Off the beaten path lined with tour buses and still only a few miles from Interstate 93 just north of Plymouth is a quick little trip back in time, over a covered bridge, along a valley floor lined with farmhouses then up a steep mountain road to a beautiful high-elevation lake. Continuing on, you duck into a tunnel of brightly colored hardwood trees on a narrow dirt road, and past a waterfall in the White Mountain National Forest. The road then drops down a hillside to breathtaking views of Franconia Notch before rejoining Route 93.

Start this trip by Taking Exit 26 off Interstate 93 on to Route 25, better known as Tenney Mountain Highway to the locals. If you need gas, the Tenney Mountain Quick Check on the right, just past Hannaford usually is competitively priced for the region. This is the last gas station on this route.

Two through the Whites

Just past the gas station, take a right on to Smith Bridge Road. You will go over the Baker River on one of the state's most recently built covered bridges, the Smith Millenium Covered Bridge. Get out of the car on the west side and park the car for a moment to look at the fabulous construction of this bridge, and the beautiful surroundings. This is a great photo.

Above the corn fields you will see Stinson Mountain, elevation 3,571 feet, which is what you will be driving up, or at least halfway up, as part of this tour.

At the fork in the road stay straight on Quincy Road and follow the river as it passes a little grass patch airport, a fabulous farmstand with pumpkins galore.

At the town square in Rumney, take a right, and head up Stinson Lake Road to Stinson Lake, about four miles from the village.

Past the lake, the pavement ends and the fun begins. This is Ellsworth Hill Road, which is closed in winter to traffic. It meanders through a wild section of the White Mountain National Forest and is narrow, barely passable by two cars at times.

Stop at the waterfall if you brought a picnic, and walk up the little path along the stream to stretch your legs. When you get back in the car, continue on until the road hits pavement and begin your descent into Campton. At the Armont Inn, pull into the circle and take a look at the view. It is perhaps the finest view of Franconia Notch, only about 20 miles to the north.

If you don't stop, the route will take you about 45 minutes, but go ahead and take your time. You won't miss the traffic.

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