Between Conway and Lincoln, 35 miles of tightly inscribed switchbacks, swooping valleys, and perfect mountain views make the Kancamagus Highway among the most iconic drives in New England. Route 112, affectionately known as “the Kanc,” rolls through the heart of White Mountain National Forest, following the twists and curves of the Swift River and climbing to almost 3,000 feet—at 2,855 feet, the Kancamagus Pass has fabulous views, especially when autumn turns the surrounding forest into a riot of color.
Kancamagus Highway Sights and Recreation
There are plenty of places to stop along the way on the Kancamagus Highway—look for clusters of cars along the side of the road, which often signals a favorite local swimming spot—including a series of scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and historic sites.
Driving from Conway to Lincoln, mile zero is at the White Mountain National Forest ranger station, making it easy to find landmarks along the way. Six miles after leaving Conway, the Boulder Loop Trail is a moderate, three-mile hike that takes 2-3 hours and has good views of rocky ledges and forest. A series of interpretive signs illustrates the geologic history, flora, and fauna of the White Mountains.
At 7.0 miles, Lower Falls is a popular spot for swimming in the Swift River and has bathrooms and a picnic area near a small, scenic falls. You can peer into daily life in 19th-century New Hampshire at 12.7 miles in the volunteer-run Russell-Colbath House, which is open when staff are available. It’s small but free, and docents are happy to share the mysterious story of Thomas Colbath’s years-long disappearance and possible reappearance.
Keep winding up to the Kancamagus Pass, which at 2,855 feet is the highest point on the road, then you’ll find the Otter Rock Rest Area at 26 miles, with restrooms and a short trail to another lovely swimming area in the Swift River.
Six miles west of Conway on the Kancamagus Highway are a pair of appealing campgrounds, the 49-site Covered Bridge (Rte. 112, 877/444-6777, mid-May-mid-Oct., reservations accepted, $22), as well as the smaller, walk-up only Blackberry Crossing (Rte. 112, 877/444-6777, mid-May-mid-Oct., $22).
Used initially by Native American tribes for their healing powers, Colorado’s mineral-rich hot springs are now popular spots for relaxing in some of the state’s most stunning scenery. Head to any of these choice hot springs below, all of which are beloved by locals and visitors alike.
Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa
Located five miles west of Buena Vista on a scenic road that heads up beautiful Cottonwood Pass, the laid-back “mom & pop” Cottonwood Hot Springs are a bit off the beaten track, and tend not to be as busy as some of the state’s larger facilities. In addition to five pools, which range in temperature from 94°F to 110°F, this complex has a therapeutic spa where you can book a massage to complement your leisurely soak. There is also a basic, western-style lodge on the premises.
Glenwood Hot Springs Resort
These iconic hot springs, which first opened in 1888, are one of Colorado’s best-known attractions. Home to the world’s largest hot spring pool, Glenwood Hot Springs Resort has it all: interstate access from Denver, a cozy hotel whose guests have unlimited access to the pools, a top-notch spa for pampering every inch of your body, a well-equipped athletic club, and a mini water park for the kids.
Iron Mountain Hot Springs
Colorado’s newest hot springs complex, Iron Mountain Hot Springs, opened in 2014 and has quickly become another popular draw to the Glenwood Springs/Aspen region. The facility features 16 rejuvenating pools at a wide range of temperatures, plus a large, kid-friendly swimming pool, and a small but reasonably priced restaurant. It is located along the north bank of the Colorado River a short distance from the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort
Located in the Arkansas River valley beneath two of Colorado’s highest peaks, including 14,196-foot-high Mount Princeton, the Mount Princeton Hot Springs are an ideal place to relax and enjoy some of Colorado’s most dramatic terrain. The complex includes a series of creekside pools ranging from 70°F to 120°F, a swimming pool with a 400-foot-long water slide, a variety of lodging options, and a heavenly spa. This popular facility is accessed via a spur road that leaves U.S. Highway 285 between the towns of Buena Vista and Salida.
Old Town Hot Springs
Located in Steamboat Springs, a.k.a. Ski Town, USA®, the not-for-profit Old Town Hot Springs is a community-oriented recreation center with eight hot mineral pools. Other fun perks include cardio equipment, fitness classes, aquatic climbing walls, tennis courts, and—for young parents—regularly scheduled childcare.
Ouray Hot Springs Pool
Nestled in a deep box canyon beneath soaring peaks in the San Juan Mountains, Ouray is known as the “Switzerland of America.” By far Ouray’s most popular attraction is its hot springs, which recently re-opened following extensive renovations. Its pools feature three separate soaking sections with water temperatures spanning 88 to 105°F. Because its waters are sulfur-free, there is no “rotten egg” smell like in some of the other facilities, and the scenery is spectacular.
For a adventure-loving travel writer like me, authoring a guidebook is a dream job. But long before I write the first chapter, I’ve put in weeks of research on the road, honing my highway skills, revisiting my favorite places, and exploring new ones.
Guidebook research, like most travel, depends on striking a balance between planning and discovery, impromptu adventures and some serious logistics. Here’s what I’ve learned about getting it right:
Make Your Own Map
My first step while planning a trip is to create a custom map on Google Maps, then start filling in the places that pique my interest. I drop pins for everything that intrigues me and organize them by category—restaurants with great reviews, odd-looking roadside attractions, or promising hiking trails.
Grouping destinations by geography means I can follow the roads that intrigue me and visit new towns on a whim. When I’m looking for a place to eat or explore, I call up the map and see what’s close.
Always Eat at the Bar
While guidebooks and research are great starting points, there’s no substitute for chatting up the locals. When I’m headed out to eat on a research trip, I skip the two-top tables and grab a seat at the bar, where I can meet regulars and ask for advice—if all else fails, bartenders usually know the most happening places in town.
Pack a Road Trip Emergency Kit.
Whatever you need on the road, chances are you can buy it once you’re there. But in a few cases, by the time you want it, you won’t want to put on pants and leave the hotel room or tent—mine include ear plugs, a sleep shade, and a basic first aid kit (with a couple of whiskey nips stuffed in for good measure).
Stick to Some Routines
Even on a wild, open-ended itinerary, it’s worth finding some order in the chaos. Skipping exercise, nourishing food, and sleep while traveling leave me feeling less than adventure-ready, so I’ve learned to plan for self-care. If you do daily yoga at home, bring a mat and make a point of visiting some local studios. And while I’m always ready for serious investigations of fried clams and diner fare, I alternate those feasts with trips to the salad bar (or risk losing steam halfway through the trip).
Bring an Alternate Means of Transport
Cars are great for covering distance, but you miss a lot at highway speeds. Pack a bicycle or running shoes, and you’ll get an entirely different perspective on the place you’re visiting, while reducing the environmental impact of your time on the road.
Lobster rolls and raw bars, classic deli sandwiches, high tea, and doughnut ice cream sandwiches—no matter what you’re craving, Boston’s best restaurants have you covered.
Sam LaGrassa’s (44 Province St., 617/357-6861, Mon.-Fri. 11am-3:30pm, $9-13): It’s worth the wait for classic deli sandwiches piled high with pastrami and all the fixings.
Downtown and the Waterfront
Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe (86 Bedford St., 617/482-1888, Mon.-Fri. 11am-6:30pm, Sat. 11:30am-7pm, $5-11): Broad, hand-pulled noodles are rolled in chili, garlic, and aromatic spices at this Chinatown landmark.
O Ya (9 East St., 617/654-9900, Tues.-Thurs. 5pm-9:30pm, Fri.-Sat. 5pm-10pm, $50-70): Creative sushi gets museum-quality presentation in a hushed, elegant restaurant.
Regina’s Pizzeria (11½ Thatcher St., 617/227-0765, Sun.-Thurs. 11am-11:30pm, Fri.-Sat. 11am-12:30am, $8-16): Just-thin-enough crusts, fresh ingredients, and a bit of North End attitude have made this neighborhood pizza place a true classic.
Neptune Oyster (63 Salem St., 617/742-3474, Sun.-Thurs. 11:30am-10pm, Fri.-Sat. 11:30am-11pm, $22-39): The lobster rolls alone would make this chic, North End restaurant a destination, and the raw bar is the best in the city.
Modern Pastry (257 Hanover St., 617/523-3783, daily 6:30am-11:30pm, $2-8): The debate over the North End’s best cannoli rages on, but the crispy, creamy version at this classic spot is a strong contender.
Fenway and Back Bay
Mei Mei (506 Park Dr., 857/250-4959, Sun. and Tues.-Wed. 11am-9pm, Mon. 11am-2:30pm, Thurs.-Sat. 11am-10pm, $7-19): Dig into a “Double Awesome” breakfast sandwich for the iconic experience at this eclectic, Chinese American café, or order from its creative, constantly changing menu.
The Courtyard Restaurant (700 Boylston St., 617/859-2282, Mon.-Sat. 11:30am-3:30pm, afternoon tea $39): Sip tea and nibble scones with a view of Boston Public Library’s gracious courtyard.
Blackbird Doughnuts (492 Tremont St., Mon.-Fri. 7am-6pm, Sat.-Sun. 8am-8pm, $3-5): Both sweet and savory doughnuts get rave reviews, but the doughnut ice cream sandwich is the real showstopper.
Mike & Patty’s (12 Church St., 617/423-3447, Mon.-Tues. 8am-2pm, Wed.-Fri. 7:30am-2pm, Sat.-Sun. 7:30am-2:30pm, $5-11): This itsy-bitsy shop serves Boston’s best breakfast sandwiches.
It’s easy to misjudge a country based on preconceptions. You hear a lot, you see a lot, and your imagination naturally makes assumptions. Some of what we’re told about a country is true, of course—but much of it isn’t. It’s up to travelers themselves to seek out what’s beyond the clichés, and discover what’s truly authentic.
Unfortunately, overcoming these becomes infinitely harder when the country in question is Italy—and countless works of art, famed history, world-renowned food, and a thousand other things come to mind. Before I arrived, I was positive its streets were filled with soccer balls and Marcello Mastroianni lookalikes. It didn’t take long for me to realize how wrong I was, and over a decade later, I’m still rectifying all my misconceptions. I learned to love Italy for its contradictions and imperfections, and discovered a country I had never imagined. It requires curiosity, an open mind, and comfortable shoes to escape stereotypes and distinguish between misconceptions and reality—but it is always worth the effort.
What do Italians eat?
Food is an essential part of Italian culture, but to the outside world, Italian gastronomy is often condensed to pizza and pasta. That’s not to say those dishes aren’t popular—but standard Italian diets include countless other dishes. In fact, there are parts of Italy where it’s difficult to find either. In regions like Alto Adige and Veneto pizza is only for tourists (locals prefer polenta and cicchetti). Northern Italy produces enormous quantities of rice, and menus in Milan and Turin are more likely to feature risotto than pasta. Even where pasta is king, it comes in sauces and shapes that are hard to imagine until you’re sitting down in front of a plate of tagliatelli or strozzapreti. To abandon culinary misconceptions requires finding small trattorie on quiet side streets, away from the crowds, and putting your gastronomic faith in the delicious dish of the day.
Is traveling in Italy expensive?
Getting to Italy can be expensive, but once you’ve arrived, food and accommodation are no more costly than they are in the United States—and often, in fact, they are cheaper and of higher quality. Currency fluctuations play a role, naturally, but the trend is favorable for travelers heading to Europe, with one dollar worth nearly one euro. That means you can drink espresso for €1, get a sandwich for €3 and order a three-course meal for under €25. The trick is to avoid tourists and adopt the practices of locals like drinking at bar counters and buying food in supermarkets.
Outside major cities, prices are even lower, and the farther south you travel the less you will pay for house wine or a good night’s sleep. Outdoor markets are ubiquitous throughout the peninsula and offer the best deals on clothes and original souvenirs. Water is always free, admission to monuments and museums minimal, and train travel surprisingly cheap.
What do Italians look like?
It’s easy to believe all Italians are the same. But in a country that wasn’t founded until 1861, many regional differences still exist. That doesn’t just mean menus are different. It means the words and expressions Sicilians use are different from the slang that rolls off Roman tongues, and a Puglian accent is distinct from a Tuscan dialect. Differences go beyond language, too—deep into the DNA of 60 million Italians whose family trees include incursions and invasions that brought Greeks, Normans, Arabs, Turks, Jews, and many more to the shores of this multicultural haven in the center of the Mediterranean. New faces are still arriving and adapting to Italy’s own particular melting pot, so don’t be surprised if your waiter has Polish origins or the man slicing your pizza was born in Bangladesh. That’s Italy too—and this misconception will be quickly erased as you discover the diverse communities that have made Italy their home.
How safe is it to drive in Italy?
Driving in any new city can be risky. It’s not that Italians drive better or worse, but they do have a different mentality about driving, and are accustomed to a different driving environment. Patience and courtesy are not always priority on Italian roads, and Roman or Neapolitan rush hour can leave the uninitiated commuter in a panic. But there are also many parts of the country where courtesy and kindness are the rule, and allowing a pedestrian to pass or giving precedence to a bicycle is second nature. It’s true that streets are narrower (and cars smaller) wherever you go, but country roads are often deserted—and the scenery along the hillsides of Tuscany and Le Marche will make you glad you chose to drive. Truthfully, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you feel comfortable behind the wheel or not, but you’ll be assured a thrill either way (and if you do—be on the safe side and always drive with caution).
Is soccer really that popular in Italy?
The quickest way to make conversation with an Italian is to mention soccer: that much is almost inarguably true. It’s also true that millions of Italians, from an early age until the grave, have an unwavering loyalty to a team. The most popular (or most despised, depending who you ask) is Juventus, and the one that has won the most trophies. Think of them as sort of the New York Yankees of Italy—except they’re never upstaged by basketball or football.
Soccer dominates the Italian sporting panorama, and nothing comes close to receiving even a fraction of the media attention. Nevertheless, a large portion of the population doesn’t care if Inter won, or how many points Roma needs to qualify for the Champions League. Plenty of Italians don’t even know what offside is and live perfectly pleasant lives without ever watching or listening to soccer. That being said…television audiences for a World Cup match featuring the Azzuri (Italian national side) are astronomically high, and Italians love to win (which they often do).
Is smoking everywhere in Italy?
Tobacco is definitely prevalent in Italy. Scanning the pavement near any bus stop will reveal a plethora of stomped-out cigarette butts. Cigarettes are sold in dedicated shops (tabaccherie) and the price of a pack is quite reasonable compared to most western countries. Still: contrary to popular depictions, Italians don’t have free reign to smoke anywhere they like. Smoking in bars and restaurants is banned, and it’s one rule Italians overwhelmingly respect. Public messages couldn’t be clearer regarding the dangers of nicotine, but be aware that smoking culture persists and is unlikely to be eradicated anytime soon.
Better known as the Kingsroad on the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, the Dark Hedges, a tunnel formed of gnarled old beech trees, are shiveringly picturesque. The owner of nearby Gracehill House planted more than 150 of them in the late 18th century to create a pretty avenue, though today only 90 or so beeches remain. The Dark Hedges have their own ghost, an unidentified “gray lady” who vanishes as she passes the last tree on the avenue.
Driving from Belfast to the Dark Hedges en route to the Causeway Coast is fairly straightforward: from the A44, once you reach “the Drones” near Armoy, turn left and follow signs for the Gracehill Golf Club. The lane is always accessible because it’s actually a public road (Bregagh Road), so you may find yourself driving down it before you even realize you’re there.
For more on the history of the Dark Hedges and Gracehill House before you go, visit the Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust website. Gracehill’s nearest neighbor is The Hedges Hotel (139b Ballinlea Rd., Stranocum, Ballymoney, tel. 028/2075-2222), which is an option for lunch or tea. You might just want to make a quick pit stop en route to the coast, though, since the place has a bit of a strange vibe.
Hardcore fans of the TV show will definitely want to reserve seats on a daylong Game of Thrones Tour (21 Botanic Ave., Suite 180, Belfast, 028/9568-0023), which are usually led by former extras. You have a choice of three itineraries, two Belfast-based (Iron Islands and Stormlands, departing at 8am daily, or Winterfell, departing 9am daily; both tours £40 pp) and one Dublin-based (Winterfell locations, departing 8am daily, €55). Cosplay is encouraged!
Nestled at the foot of the lofty Rocky Mountains, the friendly college town of Boulder, Colorado is a hub of fitness, health food, and entrepreneurship that has garnered many accolades, including America’s Most Active, Happiest, and Healthiest city. Blending in with Boulder’s lively pedestrian shopping district and flavorful food scene are several “teattractions” worth savoring while you’re in town.
Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Nearly 35 years ago, a small group of Boulderites decided to defrost the icy relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union by lobbying Soviet officials to establish a sister city. They eventually selected Dushanbe (the current capital of Tajikistan) and doggedly pursued officials there. The group’s persistence paid off in 1987, when the mayor of Dushanbe visited Boulder to cement the relationship and announce a fabulous gift—a handcrafted traditional teahouse—as a lasting gesture of goodwill and friendship.
Erected in 1998, the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse is a stunning display of Tajik culture and art. The only Persian-style teahouse in the Western Hemisphere, the handcrafted building features traditional Persian designs, including a central hammered-copper sculpture that highlight gardens and water. Along the sides, intricately carved white plaster panels form elaborate frames for the mirrored walls.
Visitors and locals all enjoy gathering at Boulder’s teahouse to sip a pot of premium tea and gaze at the intricately painted ceiling, which is supported by hand-embossed cedar pillars carved by master craftsmen. The teahouse is also a full-service restaurant with a full bar and a rotating menu of savory international fare.
During the summer of 1969, a small group of young entrepreneurs from Boulder began to pick and dry Rocky Mountain herbs and mix them to create their own brand of tea. Originally housed in a barn, the operation quickly blossomed into North America’s largest specialty tea manufacturing operation, which now produces more than 1.6 billion tea bags a year.
Still based in Boulder, Celestial Seasonings offers free 45-minute tours of one of the industry’s most technologically advanced facilities. The tours begin in the cheerful visitor center, where you can sample any of the dozens of teas the Hains Celestial Group currently makes, and then explore the factory, where you can see boxes of your favorite flavor whizzing through the space age-looking production line.
The tour follows the entire tea bag-making process, from sourcing exotic ingredients like hibiscus and acai, to cleaning, cutting, and blending the herbs, to packing them in biodegradable bags. The highlight, however, is visiting the famous Mint Room, where the normally invigorating aroma is so strong that it can make eyes water.
Following the tour, you can visit the tea shop, which offers discount products and specialty tea items, and enjoy a housemade breakfast or lunch in the vibrant Celestial Café.
No visit to Boulder is complete without stopping by one or more of the dozens of local coffee shops to enjoy a steaming hot (or iced) chai: a mixture of tea, spices, and milk that traditionally hails from India. Boulder-area brewers have put their own spin on this refreshing beverage by “microbrewing” small batches under strictly controlled conditions to maximize its characteristic flavor.
Bhakti Chai is a brew of Fair Trade tea, pepper, fennel, cardamom, and clove mixed with cane juice and lots of fragrant ginger. Sanctuary Chai’s traditional blend features green or black tea mixed with tangy cayenne, and Third Street Chai has several delicious flavors made with freshly ground spices, including Mystic Masala Spice and the evocatively named Dragon Tongue Ginger. While in town, enjoy sampling one—or all—of them!
For more tips on where to eat and drink in Colorado, check out Moon Colorado.
A great loop through American history, high peaks, and picture-perfect countryside, this two-week New England road trip is a “grand tour” in every sense. The full itinerary means quite a bit of time on the road, so those looking for a more leisurely vacation should snip out bits of this route in exchange for extra beach days, hikes, and free time to explore along the way. But if you’ve got an itchy pedal foot and the urge to put in miles, this gives you the lay of the land and the very best of New England.
Days 1-2: Boston
Get a crash course in Revolutionary history on the Freedom Trail, which stretches from the shiny dome of the Massachusetts State House to the Bunker Hill Monument. Don’t tackle the whole thing at once—the trail isn’t complete without a lunch break in the Italian American North End neighborhood. Try Italian ice, cannoli, or a classic submarine sandwich before crossing the Charles River toward the USS Constitution.
On your second day, hop a ride on a swan boat in the Boston Public Garden. Then explore Back Bay’s art and architecture; duck into the sanctuary of Trinity Church, soak up the scholarly atmosphere in the Boston Public Library reading room, then stand in the center of the world at the stained glass Mapparium. Spend the afternoon in one of Boston’s fabulous museums, taking in ancient artifacts and contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, or head to the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum to reenact the city’s favorite piece of colonial-era sabotage.
Days 3-5: Coastal Maine and Acadia
270 miles, 5.25 hours
Stop by Caffe Vittoria in the North End for an old-world cappuccino before picking up some wheels and heading to Portland, an easy, two-hour drive up the interstate. Before you reach the city, make a short detour to a trio of lighthouses in Cape Elizabeth. Portland Head Light is easily the most picturesque, but the pair of lighthouses known as Two Lights are a stone’s throw from classic lobster rolls at The Lobster Shack.
Get a taste of Portland’s maritime life on a boat tour of Casco Bay—hop a historic schooner or take a ride on the mail boat that connects the bay’s islands to the mainland—then kick off the evening by visiting some of the city’s award-winning microbreweries.
On your second day on the coast, make an essential breakfast stop at Portland’s Holy Donut, then hit the road for a day of lighthouse-hopping and harbor-strolling. Drive up to Bath and work your way through the Maine Maritime Museum, or go a bit farther to Rockland and take in three generations of Wyeths at the Farnsworth Art Museum before visiting nearby Owls Head Light. Pick up a picnic lunch to eat near Rockport’s idyllic harbor, then visit the nautical boutiques in downtown Camden. Make the final push to Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, and turn in early if you’re planning to catch sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, a pilgrimage place where you can see the first sunlight hit the coast.
After your morning’s start, mountaintop sunrise or not, enjoy the rest of the day car-free in the national park; rent a bike, hop the free Island Explorer shuttle, and cruise the extensive network of carriage trails that link great stone bridges, viewpoints, and rolling mountains. For the real experience of a Maine lobster dinner, cross the island to Thurston’s Lobster Pound to get one with all the fixings at the edge of a scenic harbor.
Days 6-7: White Mountains
215 miles, 4.75 hours
The route to the White Mountains crosses the dark, deep forests of inland Maine, ticking off a series of towns that recall the state’s immigrant heritage: Pass Naples, Sweden, and Denmark on your way to the outdoor mecca of North Conway. Stretch your legs after the long drive on the easy walk to Diana’s Baths, a series of small waterfalls perfect for an early evening dip (if there’s enough water). Fortify yourself for a day in the mountains with dinner and a locally brewed beer in town.
Day two is all about mountain peaks and rugged scenery: Chug to the top of Mount Washington on the 150-year-old cog railway, or hike the mountain yourself—on a clear day at the summit you’ll have views stretching from Maine to New York’s Adirondack Mountains, and you can watch a steady stream of Appalachian Trail through-hikers pose for photos at the top. For all of the mountain scenery and fewer crowds, opt for a trek up Franconia Ridge instead, choosing from a series of 4,000-foot peaks with views of the valley below.
Days 8-9: Southern Vermont
165 miles, 3 hours
Take the Kancamagus Highway for a swooping, scenic drive through the mountains on your way to Woodstock, where you’ll find a classic village green, art galleries, and farm-to-table restaurants in a lush river valley. Hop a wagon ride, learn to churn your own butter, and get friendly with some Jersey cows at the Billings Farm & Museum, then spend the afternoon visiting classic covered bridges.
Watch the mountains taper into gentle hills as you make your way south, and choose a couple of the region’s best destinations for a classic Berkshires day: Spend the morning with cutting-edge modern art in North Adams at the MASS MoCA or follow in Thoreau’s footsteps to the top of Mount Greylock. After lunch, continue south to Lenox to visit the elegant home of Edith Wharton, then spend a quiet evening in the Brava wine bar, mingling with musicians from nearby Tanglewood.
Day 11: Newport
165 miles, 2.75 hours
Keep pointing for the coast and you’ll wind up in this pretty port city, where the waterside Cliff Walk cuts past some of the grandest Gilded Age estates in New England. With just one day in town, pick a single mansion to explore before hitting the beach for clam rolls, sand, and sun. When the sun begins to slip, hop on scenic Ocean Drive to take in the coast with a stop at Castle Hill Inn for sundowners on The Lawn.
Days 12-13: Cape Cod
120 miles, 2.5 hours
Drive all the way to “the end of the world”—that’s colorful, creative Provincetown to you—to spend your last days exploring Cape Cod. Make a beeline for the Cape Cod National Seashore when you arrive, where you’ll find the finest beaches in New England, crumbling cliffs, and historic lighthouses, and spend a day wandering the sand.
The next day, get a taste of Provincetown’s artistic heritage by strolling the downtown galleries, then join a tour of the rustic artists’ shacks scattered through the rolling dunes. See if you can keep up with the locals at a raucous tea dance, then spend a night on the town in true P-town style with tickets to a drag show.
Day 14: Boston
115 miles, 2.25 hours
Start your last day of New England adventures with some pastries from the Portuguese Bakery, then hit the Cape Cod Rail Trail for a morning of exploring on two wheels. If you have time, break up the return drive to Boston with stops in one or more of the villages that line the Inner Cape: Visit Chatham’s pretty lighthouse, play a round of pirate-themed minigolf in Yarmouth, or see a classic saltbox home in old-fashioned Sandwich.
Anchored along the Lake Superior shore in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (33303 Headquarters Rd., Ontonagon, 906/885-5275, annual Recreation Passport required, $11 Michigan residents, $31 nonresidents, day-use $9) covers 59,020 acres, the largest in Michigan’s excellent state park system. The Porcupine Mountains were considered for a national park in the 1940s and were quickly preserved as a state park in 1945 when loggers threatened their virgin timber before the federal government could take action.
Some years ago, the pitted and rugged landscape of low mountains and tall pines reminded locals of the silhouette of a porcupine. The name stuck, and today the area is endearingly dubbed “the Porkies.” It’s a destination for casual hikers and hard-core backpackers, with 90-plus miles of well-marked, well-maintained trails.
In this case, bigger also means better. The park preserves the largest tract of virgin hardwoods between the Rockies and Adirondacks and vast stands of virgin hemlock and pine, along with secluded lakes, wild rivers, and some of the Midwest’s highest peaks (Summit Peak tops out at 1,958 feet). The Porkies truly provide a sense of wilderness and serenity, an escape from the civilized world.
Hiking in the Porcupine Mountains
Many park visitors head immediately for the justly famous Lake of the Clouds Overlook. From the parking lot at the end of Highway 107, it’s just a few steps to the overlook, where the placid lake slices a long sliver of blue through a thick mat of jade forest hundreds of feet below. The view is the stuff postcards are made of and is probably the most photographed scene in the UP.
[pullquote align=”right”]In winter, the park’s many hiking trails double as cross-country skiing trails.[/pullquote]The overlook also serves as the trailhead for some the park’s most rugged and scenic routes. To properly soak in the Lake of the Clouds view, hike the aptly named Escarpment Trail, which winds east and skims over Cloud Peak and Cuyahoga Peak. Bordered by a sheer cliff, the four-mile trail is considered by many to be the most beautiful in the park. Allow ample time to stop and enjoy the shimmering lake and valley floor spreading out around you. If you’re fortunate enough to visit in the fall, the vista of color is beyond breathtaking.
Long before the Porcupine Mountains were preserved for their virgin timber and natural beauty, miners harvested the rich minerals buried in their bedrock. At the east end of the park, the Union Mine Trail provides a glimpse into the 1840s, when the Porkies pulsed with the excitement of the area’s copper rush. Marked with white mine shovels to indicate points of interest, this self-guided interpretive trail forms a one-mile loop along the spring-fed Union River and the site of an old copper mine, now largely swallowed by nature. In the shadow of lofty hemlocks, you’ll see how miners tunneled shafts into the riverbank, and learn about their life in the wilderness—still untamed today.
In winter, the park’s many hiking trails double as cross-country skiing trails. Be careful on the higher ones: On days when the strong north wind is blowing, you’ll feel the extreme cold.
Camping in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness
Campers have their choice of two campgrounds ($14-25), both with a number of sites overlooking Lake Superior: Union Bay (with full hookups and modern restrooms), at the east end of the park, or rustic Presque Isle (no hookups), near the mouth of the Presque Isle River on the park’s western edge. In addition, three rustic campgrounds (called “outposts”) with three to eight sites each are located off the South Boundary Road, accessible by car, but with no facilities. They tend to offer more privacy than the regular campgrounds.
As another option, the park has 19 hike-in rustic cabins ($65). These are great retreats after a day on the trail. They come with two to eight bunks, mattresses, a woodstove, basic utensils, and protection from the elements, but no electricity or running water. Bring your own stove for cooking. Cabins situated on inland lakes even come with a rowboat, so you can finish the day with a lazy drift across the water. Three yurts ($60) and a lodge are also available. Reservations (800/447-2757) at any of these can be made as much as a year in advance.
Getting to the Porkies
Two roads lead to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the headquarters of which lies about 58 miles northeast of Ironwood. From Wakefield, drive north on County Road 519, which leads to the park’s western edge and the Presque Isle River Area, a 17-mile trip that will take you about half an hour. From Bergland, reach the park headquarters via Highway 64 through Ottawa National Forest; arriving at Lake Superior, the road converges with Highway 107 near the park’s eastern boundary. Turn left onto Highway 107 toward the park headquarters, or continue toward the Lake of the Clouds Scenic Area; the 30-mile trip between Bergland and the park headquarters takes 40 minutes. South Boundary Road connects County Road 519 and Highway 64 along the southern edge of the park.
Start your visit at the park’s visitors center at the junction of Highway 107 and South Boundary Road. Rangers on duty can provide you with maps and suggest trails. A gift shop has topographic maps and a good selection of nature guidebooks.
Labrador’s northern coast evokes images of another world. It’s the Labrador you might imagine: raw and majestic, with the craggy mountain ranges of Torngat, Kaumajet, and Kiglapait rising to the north.
[pullquote align=right]The entire park is above the treeline, so instead of trees, its valleys are carpeted in a variety of tundra vegetation, including wildflowers.[/pullquote]The 1763 Treaty of Paris ceded the Labrador coastline to Britain’s Newfoundland colony, but the imprint of European architecture only reached the northern seacoast when the Moravians, an evangelical Protestant sect from Bohemia, established mission stations with prefabricated wooden buildings in the early 19th century. It is in these remote north coast villages—Rigolet, Postville, Makkovik, and Nain—that the original inhabitants, the Inuit, have settled. Few aspects of these towns have changed over the last century, and the lifestyle of northern peoples here remains traditional.
Access to Labrador’s north coast is by air or sea. The communities are linked to the outside world by Air Labrador (709/753-5593 or 800/563-3042) from Goose Bay, or by a cargo and passenger ferry that takes two days to reach its northern turnaround point, Nain. Riding the ferry, the MV Northern Ranger, is a real adventure. The one-way fare for an adult between Goose Bay and Nain is $185. A single berth in a shared cabin costs $90, while a private cabin costs from $320-650 s or d. For more information, call 800/563-6353. The website www.labradorferry.ca lists a schedule and prices.
After stopping at Rigolet, the MV Northern Ranger starts its long haul through open ocean, reaching Makkovik (pop. 400) 18 hours after leaving Goose Bay. The ferry makes a 90-minute stop on the way north and a three-hour stop on the return journey.
Makkovik was first settled in the early 1800s by a Norwegian fur trader; the Moravians constructed a mission here in 1896. Today this two-story building hold the White Elephant Museum (709/923-2425, July-Aug. Daily 1pm-5pm, or by appointment). Local shops such as the Makkovik Craft Centre (709/923-2221, call for hours) sell Inuit crafts, including fur caps, boots and mittens, parkas, moose-hide moccasins, and bone and antler jewelry.
Right on the water, the Adlavik Inn (7 Willow Creek Ln., 709/923-2389, $120 s, $150 d) has the only five guest rooms in town, so call ahead if your itinerary includes an overnight stay in Makkovik. Rooms have TVs and phones, and meals are served in an adjacent dining room.
About 110 nautical miles north of Makkovik and 122 miles short of Nain, the MV Northern Ranger makes a two-hour stop at Hopedale, just enough time to go ashore and visit the 1782 Hopedale Mission National Historic Site (709/933-3864, adult $5), containing the oldest wooden frame building east of Québec. Here, a restored Hudson’s Bay Company storeroom has been converted into a museum; other site highlights include huts, a residence, and a graveyard. It generally opens whenever the ferry is in town.
Accommodations are provided at Amaguk Inn (3 Harbour Dr., 709/933-3750), which charges $159-209 s or d for its 18 rooms. Meals are available at the inn for both guests and nonguests.
Nain and the Far North
With stunning coastal scenery, stops at remote villages, and the chance to see whales and icebergs, the long trip north aboard the MV Northern Ranger ferry is a real adventure, but after two days on board, the captain’s announcement of imminent arrival in Nain, administrative capital of Nunatsiavut, is welcome. In the early 1900s, an epidemic of Spanish flu—introduced from a supply ship—destroyed a third of the indigenous population on the northern coast. The Inuit who survived resettled at Nain, which now has a population of just over 1,000 and is the northernmost municipality on the Labrador coast. Life is rugged this far north—electricity is provided by diesel generator; fuel and wood are used for domestic heat; local transportation is by boat in the summer and snowmobile in the winter. The only roads are within the town itself.
For an overnight stay, there’s just one option, the Atsanik Lodge (Sand Banks Rd., 709/922-2910; $155 s, $165 d). Each of the 25 rooms has cable TV, a phone, and a private bathroom. The lodge also has a lounge, restaurant, and laundry. Other town services include a couple of grocery stores, a post office, and a takeout food joint.
If you’ve arrived on the ferry, you’ll have just three hours ashore to explore the town before the return journey. The alternative is to take the ferry one way and an Air Labrador (709/753-5593 or 800/563-3042) flight the other. The one-way fare to Goose Bay is around $480.
Prior to the cod-fishing moratorium, the fishing industry dominated Labrador’s Far North Coast, but now mining at Voisey Bay, 35 kilometers south, appears to be the economic engine of the future. It is home to the world’s largest known deposit of nickel and copper. The main processing facility was completed in early 2006, and now around 6,000 tons of nickel and copper concentrate are mined daily by over 400 workers.
Hebron Mission National Historic Site
Labrador’s northernmost remaining Moravian mission is protected at Hebron Mission National Historic Site, on the shores of remote Kangershutsoak Bay, 140 nautical miles north of Nain. Building began on the mission complex, including a church, residence, and store, in 1829. The mission remained in operation until 1959. Nature Trek Canada (250/653-4265) can make a stop here on its custom guided tours along the northern Labrador coastline.
Torngat Mountains National Park
Established in 2006 as part of the Nunatsiavut land claim, the remote wilderness of Torngat Mountains National Park protects 9,700 square kilometers of the remote coastline and rugged Torngat Mountains at the northern tip of Labrador. Glaciation dominates the park’s geology; its mountains are separated by deep fiords and lakes that have been carved by retreating glaciers, many of which are still present in pockets scattered through the park. The entire park is above the tree line, so instead of trees, its valleys are carpeted in a variety of tundra vegetation, including wildflowers, which cover large expanses during the very short summer season. Huge herds of caribou migrate across the park’s interior, while polar bears are common along the coast.
Unless you are a long-distance kayaker, the only way to reach the park is by charter flight from Goose Bay to Saglek and then a boat transfer into the park. Flights and all ground services are arranged by The Torngats (855/867-6428). Owned by a branch of the Nunatsiavut government, and with a season extending from mid-July to early September, this company’s on-site camp is at the south end of the park. Although used mostly by park staff and researchers, the facility also offers a variety of services for park visitors. Expect to pay around $4,000 for flights from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the boat transfer, tent accommodation for four nights, meals, and limited guiding.
The main park office (709/922-1290; Mon.-Fri. 9am-4:30pm) is in Nain, although the best source of information for planning your trip is www.pc.gc.ca/torngat, where you can download a visitors’ guide and hiking maps.