Given its long standing position in American history, New England has its fair share of historic thoroughfares. Many of you are likely familiar with the Boston Post Road linking Boston with New York City, while others may know of the Bayley Hazen Military Road in northern Vermont. In the scenic White Mountains, the historic Sandwich Notch Road was at first a trading route in early 19th Century New Hampshire, linking Thornton and the Waterville Valley area with the town of Sandwich, and ultimately towards southern New Hampshire using roads of its day.
Originally built in 1801, the Sandwich Notch Road was the first major commercial road through the White Mountains, using the location of the Sandwich Notch as a shortcut to go to the Pemigawasset River Valley as goods like meat, hides and apples would work their way south and items like sugar, salt and molasses would work their way north. The Sandwich Notch Road was predominately used to transport goods during the winter in its early heyday, as the snow made the road the smoothest during the year. This is in contrast to today, where the Sandwich Notch Road is closed during the winter. The Sandwich Notch Road was also used during the summer months after mud season ended, as there were about 300 families that once made their homes along the road. As you drive the road today, you may see the stone walls and cellar holes are the evidence of former settlement. In addition to its residents, Sandwich Notch was also home to two sawmills, two schoolhouses and a still. Over time, as better farming and other economic opportunities became available, the number of families moved on and there is only one private residence still remaining along the road outside of Center Sandwich.
After the families of the Sandwich Notch had moved away, the land sat empty for many years until it was bought up by lumber companies and during the early 20th century, the Beebe Valley Railroad was constructed up the Beebe River Valley from Campton to Sandwich Notch to get the lumber out to the sawmills for production. In 1942, the railroad tracks were taken out and a portion of the land was sold to the White Mountain National Forest. During the 1970s and 1980s, there were concerns that the land around Sandwich Notch would be developed into condos and other vacation residences. As a result of conservation efforts, a successful campaign to "Save the Notch" was successful and led the owner to sell most of the remainder of the land to the White Mountain National Forest. Today, the entire length of the Sandwich Notch Road is along protected private property as well as local and federal government land.
Today, the Sandwich Notch Road is a 9 mile road that runs between NH 49 in Thornton to Center Sandwich. For the most part, it is a slow, rough and at times steep dirt road that meanders through the forest, with ample hiking opportunities and some scenic views of the White Mountains along the way. While I had no issues making my way up the road from south to north in low gear in my SUV, the Sandwich Notch Road could be difficult for some vehicles that are low to the ground.
|The southern end of the Sandwich Notch Road in Center Sandwich, New Hampshire.|
|A patriotic painted barn in Center Sandwich.|
|A view of Squam Lake from Center Sandwich.|
|A warning to not trust your GPS on the Sandwich Notch Road. In winter, the road is used as a snowmobile trail.|
|Where the famed Sandwich Notch Road meets the White Mountain National Forest.|
|There are a number of hiking trails along the Sandwich Notch Road. The hike to Beede Falls and Cow Caves is a short hike, but a nice way to stretch your legs. As a hiker and waterfall enthusiast as well as a road enthusiast, I managed to get to the waterfall during low water flow.|
|Driving up Sandwich Notch Road.|
|Driving north up the Sandwich Notch Road.|
|The only remaining residence still on Sandwich Notch Road. They receive U.S. Male here, apparently.|
|White Mountains views.|
|Looking east towards Waterville Valley near the north end of the Sandwich Notch Road.|
Sources and Links:
Sandwich Historical Society - Auto Tour of the Sandwich Notch
Waterville Valley Realty - Driving on Sandwich Notch Road
New England Waterfalls - Beede Falls
Scenic NH Photography by Erin Paul Donovan - Sandwich Notch Road, New Hampshire
The Heart of New England - Step Back in Time as you Travel Sandwich Notch in New Hampshire's White Mountains
Nutfield Genealogy - Sandwich Notch Road, New Hampshire (1801 to 2015)