A Getaway to New Hampshire’s White Mountains

A Romantic Weekend at Sugar Hill Inn, Fraconia, NH


The morning sun seemed as lazy as we were, hiding behind mountain mist and a curtain of clouds until well into the morning. When the sun finally showed itself, its rays glistened on the snow outside our window and made the ice on the nearby mountains sparkle with their own internal fire. Even the lone apple tree in the field across the road cast its own artwork of shadows across the snow at its feet.

It was only the tantalizing aroma of gingerbread pancakes and the sizzle of sausages that got my wife and me out of our comfortable bed and downstairs to breakfast.

And what a breakfast!  Breakfast for us turned out to be cinnamon raisin bread French toast with locally produced maple syrup, sweet breakfast sausages, grapes, juice, and Orlo’s homemade muffins.

Just like everything at Sugar Hill Inn, the breakfast exceeded our expectations. I suspected that our host even baked the raisin bread used in the thick French toast, since he had baked the previous evening’s dinner bread, along with cookies and scones for afternoon tea and of course the muffins that are featured in every morning‘s breakfast. I love fresh bread! And muffins. And scones. And cookies….

We took our coffee from the spacious dining room into one of the inn’s cozy living areas to plan our day. Sugar Hill Inn features a small tavern to one side of the lobby is where they serve afternoon tea. To the other side is the dining room, large enough for a wedding reception or a Christmas banquet, and another living area with the inn‘s only television set. But no television for us, we had New Hampshire to explore, and romance to discover.

Our ambles through the countryside took us through Franconia Notch State Park, the home of, what used to be New Hampshire’s famous natural stone face — the old man of the mountain. We rode the high-speed tram to the top of Cannon Mountain, over 4000 feet in elevation, and gazed in amazement at other mountains that still towered over us. Once we were back at the foot of the Cannon Mountain, we toured the ski museum and made plans to come back tubing on Sunday. The Bear Peak, Attatash, and Bretton Woods ski areas are within driving distance, but with Cannon right around the corner and with the discount lift tickets available from the inn, it’s difficult to imagine going anywhere else for skiing.

It’s amazing how quiet the mountains are. The city noises are so constant, you seldom stop to think about the incessant whir of motors and air conditioners, the noises of traffic and fire engines, or the roar of planes as they ferry people from city to city. But New Hampshire’s White Mountains were quiet — almost silent — in the snow.

A pleasant drive took us through the back roads looking at the snow, then a stop at the Harman’s Cheese and Country Store for two-year aged cheddar cheese, a look-see at their albums of historical postcards, and a few samples of salsa and jams, and then back to Sugar Hill Inn for dinner.

Saturday’s dinner began with a ginger-spiced pumpkin soup and a basket of warm fresh bread. Mesclun greens and julienne vegetables in the salad were complimented by the light cider-shallot vinaigrette dressing. My entree was grilled black angus sirloin with cracked black pepper and grilled tomatoes. My sweetheart chose the grilled tuna steak with a maple-balsamic glaze, served with red cabbage. The recommended wine for the tuna was the Chateau St. Michelle Johannisberg Reisling, while the Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon was recommended for my sirloin. For dessert, we chose a chocolate pâté so deep and rich that the chocolate liqueur wafted up from it as we ate it with our coffee.

The inn was wonderfully romantic, with fireplaces, quiet corners to read, and beautiful mountain views. We had come for Sugar Hill Inn’s Valentine package, featuring two nights at the inn, with gourmet dinner, wine, afternoon tea, and, of course, breakfast. And romance was practically guaranteed, with nothing but beautiful scenery in quiet New Hampshire’s White Mountains, cozy chairs and fireplaces, and a big bed waiting for us at night. Our room had wonderful views of the mountains and Franconia Ridge, and several of the rooms in the inn have been upgraded to include Jacuzzis and gas fireplaces.

Sugar Hill Inn features a variety of packages throughout the year, from March’s Maple Sugaring Weekend, to packages for autumn “leaf peepers”. A sure favorite will be the inn’s “Guest Chef Series”, that features dinners prepared by some of New England’s finest chefs as part of a weekend to remember. These special packages keep the inn’s 15 rooms filled, making early reservations important almost any time of the year.

From spring through autumn, the inn’s wide, slate paved veranda with its planters and deep overhang draws visitors to its shade, cool breezes, wicker furniture, and wonderful views of the mountains. During the winter, the inn’s cozy lobby, intimate tavern, and modern living room are the visitor’s favorites.

The subtle tilt to the floors and occasional unexpected steps up or down remind visitors that the Sugar Hill Inn had started as a farmhouse in 1789. It began service as an inn in 1929, with the addition of the dining room and rooms above. With other additions over the years, including the separate cabins with their own wide front porches, the inn has maintained the feel of the original farmhouse, with heavy ceiling timbers and hardwood floors.

Franconia was established as a center of iron production during the early 1800’s. The old furnace for the iron mill still stands like a stone watchtower on the bank of the Gale River, though its encompassing mill building has long ago vanished. Feeding this mill charcoal made from local timber, along with building fences and roads, had stripped the local hills and mountainsides of forests creating the scenery featured in the classical Courier and Ives etchings of the rolling hills of New England. But in the last 100 years, the forests have regrown and they now teem with wildlife and explode with color in the autumn.

During the 1940’s and 50’s, the village of Sugar Hill had been a summer getaway for the well-heeled and well-connected, drawn there by Peckett’s, a grand hotel, now gone with the passing of the era. The families of bankers and doctors would spend all summer relaxing and recreating, horseback riding or playing tennis or swimming, with dad visiting only on weekends. Sugar Hill Inn hosted summer staff for Peckett’s, one of which was Betty Davis, who loved the inn so much that she returned year after year, and in later years even used the inn as her secret hideaway when visitors to her nearby home become too much to bear.

Robert Frost also kept a home in Franconia, now converted to a museum to honor the poet. With so much history packed into the area, both Franconia and Sugar Hill have museums. During our stay, we couldn’t tour the heritage museums, since they are open in the summer only, but the beautiful countryside and the interesting architecture more than made up for it.

The Fraconia/Sugar Hill area is now destination for skiers, hikers, and nature lovers, along with having plenty of interest for antique hunters and history buffs. The Sugar Hill Inn is a great place to stay for all of them. The inn also features a spa treatments by Judy Coots, for inn guests only. Judy is a graduate of both the Elizabeth Grady School of Esthetics and the Massage Institute of New England.

As a seasoned business traveler, I see the Sugar Hill Inn as an excellent location for a sales conference or perhaps a week-long business retreat. But as a lover of nature, of history, and romance, I see it even more as the perfect place for getting away for the weekend with someone you care about.

Sugar Hill Inn can be found on Route 117, north of the Franconia Notch State Park and just outside of Franconia, New Hampshire, an easy morning‘s drive from Rhode Island. You can contact them at 800-548-4748 or email at info@sugarhillinn.com.

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