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Situated just outside the western boundary of White Mountain National Forest, Sugar Hill is the “newest” town in New Hampshire, having just been incorporated in 1962. While the town itself is new, the quintessential New England views and charm that Sugar Hill possesses have long attracted visitors. Named for its abundance of sugar maples and its hilltop locale, Sugar Hill’s pleasant blend of open mountain vistas and small-town vibes will quickly make this one of your favorite destinations for autumn adventures.
Sugar Hill’s hilltop location allows visitors to enjoy spectacular views out to the White Mountains with little to no effort at all. As its name suggests, Sunset Hill Road is a perfect spot to watch the setting sun illuminate the frosty summits of the White Mountains to the east. Sunrise from Sunset Hill Road can often be even more dramatic than sunset, though, especially when the mountains rise about layers of fog that often form in the valleys below.
Looking for a leg-burner to really earn those foliage views? Consider tackling the western approach to North Kinsman via the Mt. Kinsman Trail. At 8 miles round-trip and over 3,000 feet of elevation gain, this is a strenuous climb, but has the advantage of offering far more solitude and far fewer parking headaches than when approaching the Kinsmans from Franconia Notch State Park.
For a more mellow hike, park at Governor Gallen Memorial, which offers beautiful views of the forested slopes leading up to the rocky summit of Mount Lafayette, to access the Franconia Notch Recreation Path. Paved and open to hikers and cyclists, taking the path south from the memorial leads to landmarks such as Echo Lake, which beautifully reflects the slopes of Cannon Mountain bathed in warm light on calm mornings. Also, if the view of Mount Lafayette from the memorial inspires you to climb it, the Skookumchuck trailhead is just north of the memorial and is also the northern end of the Franconia Notch Recreation Path. It’s a 10-mile roundtrip journey with 3,600 feet of elevation gain to the summit of Mount Lafayette via the Skookumchuck Trail, and is a much more quiet trail to the summit than the Greenleaf Trail or Franconia Ridge.
Located a quick five-minute drive from town, Coffin Pond is a beautiful little pond with a forested shoreline that bursts with bright autumn foliage at the end of September to early October. Pristine views can be had right from the small parking lot, and perfect reflections can often be experienced at the pond, particularly in the morning. This is also a great place to launch a canoe or kayak, with a variety of birds and turtles often spotted enjoying the quiet waters of the pond.
To check out some waterfalls, drive about 15 minutes to the Basin Cascade Trailhead, which the aforementioned Franconia Notch Recreation Pathway passes by. The Basin itself is a beautiful little waterfall that falls into a polished bowl of granite that’s been created by eons of erosion. Continuing the Basin Cascade Trail to the west will lead to additional cascades and waterfalls such as Kinsman Falls and Rocky Glen Falls, which typically offer a little more solitude than the often-crowded Basin (aim for an early morning hike to beat the crowds, especially on a weekend).
Creature Comforts & Country Charm
Sugar Hill is blessed with several quaint lodging and eating options that make for a cozy and tasty ending to a day of outdoor exploration. Strategically situated on the aforementioned Sunset Hill Road, The Sunset Hill House (with on-site restaurant) and The Victorian On Sunset Hill B&B (breakfast and afternoon refreshments included) both offer plush lodging options and breathtaking views. The Sugar Hill Inn, a couple miles away on Sugar Hill Road, also offers luxe accommodations in addition to an onsite restaurant.
For visitors looking to camp or for accommodations that are a bit more rustic, the Littleton/Franconia Notch KOA is a great option and has tent/RV sites as well as a handful of small cabins. Situated along the banks of the Ammonoosuc River, the setting is very peaceful and is only a 10-minute drive from Sugar Hill.
No trip to Sugar Hill is complete without a visit to two town staples: Polly’s Pancake Parlor and Harman’s Cheese & Country Store. Polly’s, as its name suggests, is home to not only some of the best pancakes that you’ll ever have, but seasonally flavored lattes, delicious pastries, and other breakfast options such as eggs benedict and French toast. There’s also a souvenir shop where their pancake mixes and many other delicious treats can be purchased.
After a delicious breakfast or lunch at Polly’s, drive, bike or walk just over a mile to Harman’s, but make a pitstop of beautiful St. Matthew’s Chapel first to admire the incredibly picturesque white chapel surrounded by colorful autumn foliage. Once at Harman’s, it’s all about the cheese! Their cheddar in particular is regarded as some of the world’s finest, and their Really-Aged Smoked Cheddar is especially divine. Harman’s typically has samples of their different cheeses available to try, so be sure to take advantage of this before deciding which ones to stock up on. In addition to cheeses, Harman’s also has some souvenirs and general grocery items available, but if you have the need to really stock up on groceries, head to Littleton Food Co-op.
Last but certainly not least, if after a day of sublime scenery and delicious food the mood for a local brew strikes, nearby Iron Furnace Brewing crafts a variety of quality suds and also offers food like paninis, snacks, and pizza.
2 thoughts on “Explore Like a Local – Autumn Adventures in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire”
Marvellous post: those autumn colours, but the turtles win me over completely!
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Thank you! It is such a beautiful place to visit. The turtles were a great surprise!