A five-week RV trip out West was a trip of a lifetime for me and my family that opened our eyes to all the magnificent adventures waiting for us back home in New England.
Gorges, majestic mountains, caves. Stunning lakes, magnificent waterfalls, bears. A breathtaking aerial ride up a mountain, another heart-stopping mountain climb by train. A hot air balloon festival. Historic towns and national parks. Our Western adventures were all right here, throughout New England.
Using our trip as a guide, here’s a New Hampshire-focused “Out West” RV trip along Interstate 93, clustered around three RV campgrounds.
Out West: We went caving in Minnetonka Caves, Idaho.
N.H.: Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves, North Woodstock.
No matter your age, there’s adventure at Lost River: caves, a gorge, a waterfall, fauna, and wildlife to spot as you walk a boardwalk maze that leads you down and up and around the gorge. There’s mining, too, for a young audience. Just don’t get caught in the “Lemon Squeeze.” 1712 Lost River Road, 603-745-8031, www.findlostriver.com
Out West: We hiked a few mountains in Utah’s Zion National Park, in more than 100-degree heat.
N.H.: Cannon Mountain, Franconia Notch State Park.
Not only is it cooler, the views from Cannon’s 4,080-foot summit are stunning. On a clear day, you can see four states’ mountaintops and Canada. 603-823-8800, www.cannonmt.com/hiking.html
RIDE A GONDOLA
Out West: Telluride’s gondola in Colorado.
N.H.: Cannon’s Aerial Tramway.
What better way to see the sights than from the air? In under 10 minutes, Cannon’s 80-passenger cable car ascends to the 4,080-foot summit. Or hike up and ride down. Don’t rush. Pack a picnic. There’s much to see from the 360-degree observation deck. 603-823-8800, www.cannonmt.com/cannontram.html
TAKE A TRAIN UP A MOUNTAIN
Out West: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Colorado.
N.H.: Mount Washington Cog Railroad.
Chug up to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England, at 6,288 feet. It’s a thrilling ride. Base Station Road, Marshfield Station, 603-278-5404, www.thecog.com
PLAY IN A PICTURESQUE LAKE
Out West: Jenny Lake, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
N.H.: Echo Lake, Franconia Notch.
Pedalboat, kayak, canoe, swim, or fish at the 25-acre Echo Lake. As you boat around, you see Bode Miller’s beloved ski trails sloping right to the lake’s edge, in the “notch” created by the Kinsman and Franconia ranges. Cannon Mountain, 603-823-8800, www.cannonmt.com
TAKE IN A HOT AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL
Out West: Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally, Panguitch, Utah.
N.H.: Hillsborough Balloon Festival & Fair.
Mark your calendar for mid-July, so you don’t miss this annual event, only 30 minutes from Concord. West Main Street, 603-464-5858, www.balloonfestival.com
VISIT A PARK VISITORS CENTER
Out West:Centers at Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park.
N.H.: Franconia State Park Visitors Center at the Flume Gorge.
Before or after you explore the Flume, wander around the visitors center. Watch a 20-minute movie about the park, and enjoy views of Mount Liberty and Mount Flume. Route 3, Lincoln, 603-745-8391, www.nhstateparks.com/franconia
NO BISON, BUT BEARS
Out West: Bison roam freely across roads into Yellowstone.
N.H.: Clark’s Trading Post.
I have had a black bear cross my path while driving home from Santa’s Village in Jefferson. I prefer the trained black bears at Clark’s. Since 1949, the Clark family has held countless bear shows for visitors to the White Mountains. Besides the bears, you can re-create almost an entire “out West” RV trip here, there’s so much to do: a train ride, mining, a stroll down a Western-style downtown. A two-story rock-climbing tower, water blaster boats, and a new Segway park and “safari” keep teens occupied. Route 3, Lincoln, 603-745-8913, www.clarktradingpost.com
WALK UP A RIVER
Out West: The Narrows, in Zion National Park.
N.H.: The Flume Gorge.
We walked knee-deep in The Narrows, but at the Flume, you can keep your shoes dry, either walking through the Gorge, or leisurely on the boardwalk that meanders up, down, and around for a 2-mile loop, past waterfalls, covered bridges, and glacial boulders. Route 3, Lincoln, 603-745-8391, www.nhstateparks.com/franconia, www.cannonmt.com/flumegorge.html