A Local, Scenic Highriser, of a Bypass
Of all the high altitude roads in New England, the Kancamagus Bypass in New Hampshire is one of the most quintessential Central New England routes.
Branching from Lincoln to Conway, snaking through the White Mountains of Central New Hampshire, the Kancamagus Bypass is a wonder of natural beauty. One of which that is not only a wonder worth stopping to enjoy the scenery, but one to appreciate every corner and feel when driving on such a half twisted road surrounded by the forest.
The road (from my last few visits since childhood to my first year of college in 2012) from the Lincoln side starts as you pass Loon Mountain, later crossing a bridge (over the East Branch Pemigewasset River) with a ranger station to the left for information and resting. You're surrounded by trees until you reach the Hancock Branch, a river that branches off the Pemigewasset from earlier. You follow the Hancock Branch for a few miles until you reach the East Pond Trailhead, which you start to notice the first few major turns that gives the road its "petrolhead cruise" feel (as long as you don't have any traffic that is). A long and loose left turn impartially followed by a right hand hairpin as you continue to elevate higher and higher.
Right after the hairpin there is the first overlook (the picture above is just a about 1000 feet from it). The Hancock Overlook oversees your first cleared view of the mountains offering a small space to stop to take in the view.
After the overlook, about 2000ft later you reach a few more twists (which looks like looking at a railroad rail from the front). Four smooth turns of all and still gaining elevation until you reach the Pemigewasset Overlook, the highest point in the bypass and largest overlook here, view filled with a range of mountains with Mt. Osceola on the left. This is where the elevation starts gradually lowering. Passing the overlook leads into.... another overlook, but the CL Graham Wangan Overlook as it's called is just as different as its brother overlook higher of the same hill. Unlike the "roundabout" style of Pemigewasset, the GL GW overlook has parking lots on BOTH sides of the road! The upper lot acts like overflow parking for the main lot at the overlook, one of which that gives appreciation of the view on the other side of the mountain looking eastward instead of westward. After the overlook you snake around the hillside with a steep drop to the left, as a kid it scared the living hell out of me but nowadays I love the sight of it in the daytime.
The "cliffside drive" continues until you near Lily Pond Vista, a small trail that loops a pond to the left of the road. Other than stopping to appreciate the trails the drive from here on in can get a little tiresome with a large slew of loose turns and just forest (however the Sugar Hill Overlook is worth a visit for a view of mountains and a valley with a slight view of the Swift River, named for its white water rapids upstream). Once you reach the Sabbaday Falls Observation Site (I once visited and it's a great hike along a small fast-flowing stream) you notice some openings to your left, these openings is the Swift River slowly creeping in on your view as you drive closer to Conway. Once you pass the Champney Falls Trailhead, a mile and an additional 500 feet later you will begin to see the Swift River riding beside the Kancamagus for the next few miles.
Here is the last of the most scenic parts of the bypass before officially entering Conway. Remember what I said about the Swift River called for it's white water rapids? Well here they are! Some of the roads here either sway left to right, teasing the idea that either the river, or you, will pass each other and be on the opposite side of each other (granted the sensation of danger here with the winding roads is also a factor here). Sometimes a long turn will also tease you thinking the river has left your site until said part of the road straightens out and the river comes back into view, almost like it's toying with you, taunting you about the end of the bypass (which is actually not too far from this area to be honest, which is saddening from a tourist point of view of course).
The river and the bypasses dance of coexistence ends once you pass Abenaki Way, a residential road (that I think is full of lucky people that live on the bypass themselves but that's just me). After passing the street, it becomes a more straight forward drive until you reach Main St. Now, you've reached the end of the Kancamagus Bypass and are now in Conway, NH.
NH route 112 is a half windy road that is enjoyable is a variation of ways. Hiking trails, landscape viewing, and the normal cruise (however if you want to drive hard in some parts of the road do take caution for both traffic and weather conditions, the bypass is known to have either "summer ice," an oily slick that shows after temperament and rain in the right conditions, and sometimes actual ice in any time of the year based on elevation). The bypass is the quintessential New England road because of its strong ties to the beauty of nature tied in with human urbanization on both the Conway side (a few residential areas along the road with about two inns at the end) and the Lincoln side (Loon Mountain to the Ranger Station).
If you want to read about the bypass a little more go to here for more of its history:
I hope you enjoyed my first piece here, this is reminiscent of my first post from Carthrottle.com, where I asked the community if the Kancamagus Bypass counted as a touge. Knowing a touge is a scenic pass, it's an obvious yes, minus any narrowness that is.
If you liked or hated the piece let me know (I just learned this is something you can do on my posts here!)