The weather forecast was just too tempting — a perfect 80-degree summer day, no humidity, not a drop of rain in sight — so we headed up to Newbury, New Hampshire to hike the little-known and underutilized but perfectly maintained Newbury Trail on Mt. Sunapee. We were rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Sunapee, a fun time catching frogs at Lake Solitude, and another stellar view from the cliffs looking down on Lake Solitude and out at the mountain range beyond. After we descended from the approximately 3.5-hour round-trip adventure, we drove a short hop away and relaxed at a shady lakeside spot in Newbury Harbor where we enjoyed ice cream as boats motored by and families swam in the crystal-clear water of the lake.
All this in an under two-hour drive from Wellesley Square, and I will share every secret of this great day trip that will make you feel like you’ve uncovered one of New England’s hidden gems. No Mt. Monadnock summertime crowds for you. No oceanside outing where you’re shaken down for $30 in parking fees for the privilege of swimming with the sharks and burning on the beach. Just a hearty 4.8 miles round-trip hike of moderate difficulty followed by ice cream and maybe a dip in the lake thrown in for good measure.
We parked our car at the marked trailhead area on Lake View Avenue in Newbury, New Hampshire. Park on the side of Lake View Avenue, look for the trailhead sign that points you to Newbury Trail, and follow the orange blazes. The trail is very well marked, so if you have older kids who like to hike ahead of the slower members of the group it’s a low-risk way to allow them the freedom to move at a mountain-goat pace while learning the importance of keeping an eye on the trail markers (and not on their phones).
As you ascend the peopled but never crowded trail, you’ll come to a vista area overlooking Lake Sunapee. The view is just stunning and achieved within an hour of moving along the trail.
From there, the second fun part of the hike is a stop at Lake Solitude. It’s a pretty spot, but the best part about it when we were there was the hundreds of frogs peering out from the bathwater-warm water to take a few breaths and enjoy the sun. We’re big-time frog catchers, and these guys seemed willing to play, so we did a little catch-and-release before heading up to the cliff area that overlooks Lake Solitude and offers views of the mountain range beyond. Definitely don’t skip the ten-minute hike from Lake Solitude up to the cliffs.
Next, a lot of hikers come down from the cliff overlooking Lake Solitude and, instead of following the orange blazes back down to the Lake View Avenue trailhead area, branch off to summit Mt. Sunapee, as in the ski area. It’s about another mile there, and a trail marker points you in the right direction. We’d had enough hiking for the day and skipped that part, heading back down to the parking area the same way we came up, via the orange-blaze trail.
After piling back in the car we drove down the street for ice cream at Jolly Molly’s at Newbury Harbor (976 NH-103, Newbury, NH 03255). Bubba’s Bar & Grille is also at that spot if you’re looking for lunch or dinner. They’ve got salads, pizza, sandwiches, pasta, clam platters, and more.
As we sat in the shade at the public docks at Newbury Harbor with our earned ice cream we knew we’d found another great place to spend the day practically in our own backyard. Kids jumped off the docks, jet skis zoomed by a safe distance away, and dinner was there if we wanted to hang around for another couple of hours and just take in the scene. Alas for us, it was time for this good thing to come to an end and we headed home, another summer day well-spent.