Finding America by RV—Connecticut River National Scenic Byway—Part II

In a previous post, we shared the attractions to be found on the Connecticut River Byway’s southern half, from Hadley, MA to Bellows Falls, VT. For this post, we’ll pick up the Byway there and follow it all the way to West Stewartstown, NH, where this storied route bids us farewell.

How Do We Get There?

As we mentioned in our earlier post, this section of the Byway combines state highways on both sides of the Connecticut River, the geographic boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire. This gives RV travelers the chance to experience double the historical attractions and natural areas as they travel, camp and play along the way.

To experience the Byway from the Vermont side of the river, you can follow US-5 until it connects with US-2 near Lunenburg, and then pick up VT-102/US-3 and follow it north all the way to where you cross the Connecticut River for the final time at West Stewartstown, NH.

But what we haven’t said is that, whether you follow this Vermont route or choose to travel the New Hampshire side along NH-12 to NH-10 and finally US-3 to the northern end of the

Covered bridge, New Hampshire

Covered bridge, New Hampshire

Byway, you’re going to want to slow down and travel across at least some of the twenty  bridges that span this scenic state border. It’s the only way to fully appreciate the important role this waterway has played in the history, culture and industry of the region.

What Will We See Along the Way?

Before you leave the Village of Bellows Falls (part of the greater Rockingham area), be sure to cross Arch Bridge into North Walpole, NH. You’ll see Fall Mountain rising above the river gorge on the New Hampshire side, where a trio of quaint villages is waiting to be explored. If you travel back to the Vermont side of the Byway, be sure to visit the Connecticut River Byway Waypoint Center near the Bellows Falls Canal for more information on the region.

You’ll notice as you travel north by RV on either side of the Connecticut River that it splinters into numerous tributaries in this mountainous, mostly rural area. Hiking, fishing and paddling opportunities are abundant along these waterways.

You’ll also find the Connecticut River Byway Waypoint towns of Claremont and Windsor, NH. There’s an excellent Heritage Trail that starts in Claremont, with both walking and driving tours leading to historic districts, covered bridges and the Augustus Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, a fascinating collection of buildings, memorials and gardens that tell the story of the sculptor who created some of the best known public monuments of the Civil War era.

Back on the Vermont side of the Byway, there’s a nicely scenic campground at Mt. Ascutney State Park near Windsor. Being a typical state park RV campground, you won’t find hookups there, but you will find a quartet of hiking trails that lead through hardwood forests to rocky overlooks for fantastic views of the countryside. For further outdoor adventures along this section of the Byway, be sure to make a stop at North Springfield Lake Recreation Area, just across the river from Claremont, NH. It’s a favorite of area paddlers, and there’s historical interest in the trail markers where Crown Point Military Road once lead between forts during the French and Indian War, as well as the site of an 18th century cemetery.

As we roll farther north into Vermont and New Hampshire, we’ll reach White River Junction, a village within the town of Hartford, VT. Plan to spend some time here to connect with the region’s railroad, commercial, educational and natural heritage. This village is the epicenter of each, with Dartmouth College just up the road, several major railways intersecting here, reminders of the mills that once dominated the region, and historic districts enough to keep you busy for days.

You’ll also soon find, as you drive north along the Byway, that the Appalachian Trail intersects it just north of Hartford. Why not hike at least a mile or two along the epic footpath before moving on? Another popular way RVers play outdoors along this section is with a stop at Quechee State Park near Woodstock, VT. Camping, hiking trails and breathtaking views of Quechee Gorge make it well worth the short jaunt west from the Byway.

Farther north, we encounter the twin towns of Wells River, VT and Woodsville, NH, joined by yet another Connecticut River bridge you’ll want to cross. Paddlers will soon learn the white water along this stretch is legendary, so pencil in extra time for water play. If your interest is history, instead, spend your time waiting for them to come in off the water by exploring the river valley in search of covered bridges, eighteenth century villages and uniquely New England features such as village forests.

You may also want to plan a side trip into White Mountain National Forest on the New Hampshire side, for a chance to hike wooded trails to summits, past gorges and through mountain meadows rich with wildlife. Campgrounds in White Mountain NF (PDF) are sprinkled from New Hampshire to Maine, offering plenty of opportunity to discover all ‘The Whites’ have to offer.

As we travel by RV into Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and the corresponding wilderness areas of New Hampshire, you’ll find the Connecticut River making more turns than a sidewinding snake. In this final run to the Canadian Border, the Byway loops up to St. Johnsbury (home to the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium) then east to Moore Reservoir before swinging north again to Lancaster, NH.

This is your chance to learn, if you haven’t been RV camping in New Hampshire’s Great North Woods, why it draws outdoors enthusiasts year-round. A perfect first stay is at Coleman State Park near Colebrook, NH, close to the Byway and located on a pristine trout fishing pond.

What will you see as you complete the final leg of the Connecticut River Byway? Wildlife! Thousands of moose walk the woods and mountain slopes, so keep an eye out for that giant symbol of the northern wilderness. You’ll also encounter scenic mountain towns such as Colebrook, once populated by loggers and the workers who ran the paper and saw mills along the Connecticut River. You’ll be surrounded by scenery unlike that of any other US region, with the White Mountains framing vast stretches of hardwood forests.

And when you make your way to the Byway’s northern terminus, you’ll find a chain of four Connecticut Lakes from which the mighty Connecticut River gets its start. Whether you choose to spend time exploring those northern lakes and the Pittsburg, NH area or to turn your RV toward home, you’ll leave with a renewed sense of the role this waterway plays in providing recreation and historical interest for millions each year.

Ready to go? Let us know how we can help you plan your RV camping journey along the Connecticut River National Scenic Byway.

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