Finding America by RV—Connecticut River National Scenic Byway-Part I

Here’s some motivation to follow this week’s route by RV—the chance to visit three New England states while tracing the path of a wonderfully scenic waterway. The Connecticut River Byway charts a course from near the Canadian border, along the Vermont/New Hampshire line, all the way south into western Massachusetts. It’s just short of a five-hundred-mile journey altogether, but we’re going to break it down into two parts, to allow RV travelers time to savor the experience.

How Do We Get There?

The Byway’s northern terminus is just across the border from Quebec in West Stewartstown, New Hampshire. You’ll be following the Connecticut River from near its headwaters in the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Natural Area, all the way to the Byway’s southern-most point at South Hadley, Massachusetts. That’s the big picture, but remember, for this itinerary, we’re only taking in half the Byway.

The Byway invites RV travelers to find the treasures in villages, natural areas and historic sites throughout the region. We’re going to wind our way back and forth across the Connecticut River from Vermont to New Hampshire once we leave Massachusetts, but don’t worry, we won’t leave you stranded. You can get a complete picture of the route from bottom to top at the America’s Byways website.

What Will We See Along the Byway?

One of the reasons so many travelers follow the Connecticut River National Scenic Byway more than once is that there are hundreds of points of interest along the route. As we start our journey in South Hadley, MA, we find the first Byway signs at the intersection of MA-116 and MA-47. You’ll follow MA-47 north through the villages of Hadley, North Hadley and Sunderland, but let’s take a minute to talk about the sights you’ll see along the way.

South Hadley, a pre-Revolutionary War town, is home to Mount Holyoke College and invites you to wander its streets for memorable finds such as Village Commons, home to nationally-famous Odyssey Bookshop.

Skinner State Park, MA

Skinner State Park, MA

As you travel north on MA-47, be sure to stop at Skinner State Park south of Hadley, MA, where a one-and-a-half mile hike up Mount Holyoke will reward you with stellar views of the Connecticut River, as well as the chance to see historic Mount Holyoke Summit House (open for tours on weekends).

The rolling hills surrounding Hadley are home to farms owned by the same families for generations. During the summer, you’ll find the Byway dotted with abundant farm-to-table offerings from local fruit and vegetable stands, creameries and bakeries.

You’ll also find access points for launching canoes and kayaks all along the Massachusetts section of the Connecticut River. Use this handy interactive map to the Connecticut River Paddlers Trail to plan your water excursions.

Another excellent way to explore the state’s Connecticut River Valley is along hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails. These can lead to a multi-day New England adventure, or simply a pleasant day spent hiking or cycling through forests, hills and glorious river frontage. Besides the trailheads within the region’s many state parks and reservations, the Norwottuck Rail Trail is a popular path for cyclists and hikers to follow.

We’ll finish this leg of the Byway by following MA-63 north to the town of Northfield, on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire or Massachusetts/Vermont border, depending on which side of the river you’re driving, to Bellows Falls, VT.

Once you’ve crossed the state line, you can visit historic villages, nature preserves and historic sites in both Vermont and New Hampshire by crossing back and forth across the river. Some RVers may decide to stick to one state on the journey up to the Canadian border and follow the other route on their return trip south.

Or you could stop for a few days and explore the entire Connecticut River Byway between the Massachusetts border and Bellows Falls. From the fascinating walking tour through the Village of Bellows Falls, VT to the swimming beach on the south shore of Spofford Lake, there’s something for everyone in your crew to enjoy.

Where Can We Camp?

Private campgrounds create a cozy home on the road for RV campers who explore the Connecticut River National Scenic Byway. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Brattleboro North KOA-East Dummerston, VT
  • Kampfires Campground-Brattleboro, VT
  • Northampton/Springfield KOA-Westhampton, MA
  • White Birch Campground-South Deerfield, MA

While traveling the southern half of the Byway, choose one of these RV campgrounds as your home base and then journey to mill towns, nature preserves, historic town centers and mountaintop aeries to your heart’s content.

Next week, we’ll move up the Byway to explore the north woods and the wild beauty of the Connecticut River. In the meantime, start reserving your campsites and get in touch to plan your RV rental in Pennsylvania. You’re going to love this RV camping itinerary!

Photo attribution:  By User:Magicpiano (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This entry was posted in Massachusetts RV Camping Vacation, New Hampshire RV Camping Vacation, State Parks, Vermont RV Camping Vacation. Bookmark the permalink.

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