Mount Sunapee is a road trip-worthy New England hidden gem

From Dartmouth to the mountains, there's no end to the adventure in western New Hampshire

  • 11
  • 04:07
  • 164 mi
  • $24

Created by Visit New Hampshire - March 21st 2018

Let's talk about character. A place with character is a place with personality that sticks in your memory. The Dartmouth/Sunapee region of New Hampshire has character in spades. Dartmouth, the pre-colonial Ivy League college, lends a distinctive, historic vibe, but nothing about the region feels stuffy. Instead, the whole area is filled with a sense of wonder. There are many unexpected gems to discover as you make your way from Dartmouth to Mount Sunapee that all add to the character. From covered bridges and inspired art, to lakeshore beaches nestled at the base of mountains and secluded stone gorges to explore, you'll never expect this corner of New Hampshire to be so unforgettable.

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Hanover, NH

First up in this exciting road trip through New Hampshire's one-of-a-kind roads, trails, and rivers is a legendary Ivy League school, Dartmouth College. Consistently ranking among the world's greatest academic institutions, Dartmouth is a New Hampshire centerpiece and hotspot. In addition to the college's academic achievements, the campus and its historic buildings are a sight to see. Whether you are taking a stroll through The Big Green, College Park, or along the grassy areas of the Connecticut River, there is always something to see on this 237-acre campus. The library features gorgeous murals, and other historical buildings give off a vibe that feels straight out of a classic movie. Having been around since 1769, this Ivy League beauty is more than just a place of education; it’s one of historical significance.


Hanover, NH

Trucking along to see some of the best historic landmarks and sights in New Hampshire, next up is the Hood Museum of Art. This museum displays the works of American, Native American, European, African, and Melanesian art, as well as a unique collection of indigenous Australian contemporary art. In addition to the variety in the 65,000-piece collection, the museum also offers programs, puts on events, and hosts fascinating lectures. Feel free to bring children along to peruse the works, and take advantage of the informative tours to help teach them about the wonderful pieces of art. When in the area be sure to stop by this wonderful museum, located right next to Dartmouth and the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

The former home of one of America's greatest artists, the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is an artist’s dream. Named after nationally-renowned sculptor Augusts Saint-Gauden, this historic site contains over 100 of his works. Take a stroll on the grounds to see his outdoor pieces, then peruse the galleries of the buildings, and check out the gold coins he designed that changed the looks of American coinage forever. This wonderful site also hosts sculpture classes great for anyone looking to sharpen their skills or unleash their creativity. If you or the family isn't quite up for sculpting, there are other options. The site also offers the chance to listen to various concerts, participate in scenic walks, and learn more about the native birds.

Built in 1866, the Cornish-Windsor covered bridge is a unique landmark. Today, only a fraction of the covered bridges that once spanned streams and creeks across the country remain. After over 150 years, this bridge, one of the longest in the country, is still working. Spanning the Connecticut River, this rustic bridge connects the towns of Cornish, New Hampshire, and Windsor, Vermont. With a length of 449 feet, a width of 24 feet, and a vertical clearance of nearly 13 feet, it is a sight to behold. If you cross to the west you will be near the American Precision Museum; to the east is the Cornish State Wildlife Management Area. Whichever way you cross, you will be near something thrilling to do with friends or family.


Charlestown, NH

Sitting on the New Hampshire/Vermont border near the Connecticut River, The Fort At No. 4 was once a plantation. First settled by brothers Stephen, Samuel, and David Farnsworth in 1740, it was the northern-most settlement in the colonies at the time. After about 6 years, the Farnsworths decided to build a fort for protection, thus earning their land the name "The Fort at No. 4." Realistic, interactive learning/experienced-based tours are offered to help visitors feel what it was like to live in the remote fort. Visitors will be able to see what settlers, learn about significant events that took place in the fort, and walk where some of the first white settlers of the New World walked. This treasure trove of early American history will leave you wishing you could go back in time.


Mount Sunapee, NH

Next up is the action-packed Mount Sunapee State Park. The park's Mount Sunapee State Beach is on a 4,085-acre lake, and is a super-popular destination for visitors to the area, whether you're looking to rent a boat, camp for the night, or just sun yourself on the sand. There's also a massive network of trails that lets hikers immerse themselves in the landscape; the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway is a 75-mile loop trail that links four New Hampshire state parks: Sunapee, Winslow, Rollins, and Wadleigh. Whether you take on the whole thing or just traverse part of it, the trail is a classic New Hampshire experience. However you choose to explore, get there early to snag a campsite before they sell out!

To take your adventure at Mount Sunapee to the next level, check out Mount Sunapee Resort. It offers a variety of activities in both winter and summer. During warmer months, take advantage of ziplines, aerial ropes courses, scenic chairlift rides, mini and disc golf, a bike park, and more. Winter is prime time to visit. Ski or snowboard on the wide variety of trails here, and don't worry if you have never skied or snowboarded before. The beauty of this resort is that there are a wide range of terrains to try out. Coast down the mountain on an easy course, amp things up on rails and jumps, participate in competitive snowboard cross, or even hop into the pipelines for freestyle challenges. After checking out these various programs, feel free to check in and relax in the ever-accommodating Bed and Breakfasts nearby.

Road trips are meant for stopping at unusual but surprisingly awesome little museums, and New Hampshire has a few. The New Hampshire Telephone Museum is home to over 1,000 phone-related artifacts, and is one of the biggest museum attractions in the state. Founded by Alderic O. "Dick" Violette, the museum houses items he found over the course of his life, working for different telephone companies in the area. Since the museum's establishment in 2005 in the town of Warner, the collection has grown. From early devices to rotary phones to kitschy shaped telephones and early mobile phones, exhibits are in chronological order and provide tons of insight. As part of a society obsessed with phones, everyone should come by this amazing museum to learn more about the history of the items we use every single day.


Warner, NH

Rollins State Park is at the southern base of Mount Kearsarge, and due to its location, the park is a great place to gear up to climb, hike, or soak in the sights. If you are the more adventurous type and love to hike long distances, this park is on the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway. If you are up to traversing heights, Rollins offers the perfect base camp for climbing Mount Kearsarge. The main attraction here, though, is the auto road to the top of the mountain. There's a stunning picnic area called The Garden that's nestled in a glen below the mountain's granite ledges. A half-mile trail right to the summit leaves from the picnic area, making it a great stop for a quick hike to the top of Mount Kearsarge. You can see from Mt. Monadnock to the hills of New Hampshire's coastal plain and maybe even to Boston!


Enfield, NH

Moving on to Enfield, New Hampshire, the Enfield Shaker Museum is a local outdoor museum rich in history and sights. Beautifully nestled in between Mt. Assurance and Mascoma Lake, this property has been around for over 200 years.... and it's calling your name. The museum is dedicated to preserving and telling the history of the Shakers (aka the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing), a unique Protestant denomination known for their celibate communal lifestyle, pacifism, equality (including prominent female leaders as far back as the mid-18th century) and "ecstatic" behavior during worship, which earned them their name. Home to the largest Shaker dwelling house ever constructed, the Great Stone Dwelling, the Enfield Shaker Museum is certainly a sight to see. In addition to the Dwelling, the property is home to beautiful flower gardens, fields, and hills, and tours are offered on-site. If tours aren't your thing, feel free to enjoy concerts, explore exhibits, experience special programs, or see craft demonstrations. After taking part in the awesome programs, round out your visit with a hike through the local Shaker Feast Ground for a spectacular vista of the Shaker Village next to Mascoma Lake. This was one of only a few active Shaker communities in the U.S., and has been incredibly well preserved.

Rounding out this trip is the Sculptured Rocks Natural Area. Spanning 272 beautiful New Hampshire acres, this area demonstrates nature's best qualities. This is where the Cockermouth River flows to Newfound Lake within a narrow canyon of beautiful bedrock. The twisting, mossy gorge carved by nature gives the area its name, and many come to soak up the delightful views. Additionally, this pet-friendly park has many winding trails to fulfill avid nature-goers' appetites. If you find yourself craving more woodland beauty after a visit here, there are other wonderful parks nearby, including the Arthur S. Flint Memorial Forest, Cockermouth Forest, and Providence Road State Forest.

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From adventure-packed resorts and fascinating historical sites to just plain stunning views of water and mountains, New Hampshire is a place that one could go on for hours and hours about, and still not come close to describing everything that there is to do and see. Everywhere you find yourself, you will appreciate your surroundings, and taking in all that beauty is an opportunity those who immerse themselves in will be glad they did.

Visit New Hampshire

With seven distinct regions and so much to see and do, there’s no wrong way to visit New Hampshire. Hike one of our 4,000 footers and inhale crisp mountain air. Take a boat ride on a glassy lake, or a refreshing dip in the Atlantic Ocean.

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