A rainbow appears over the lupines in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire during the annual festival.
Photo Credit : Jim Salge
Tucked into a quiet corner of the White Mountains, the small village of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, is an unlikely tourist destination. It’s not on the way to anywhere and doesn’t have much to offer beyond the quintessential New England white-steepled church and country store, but over the last few decades, Sugar Hill has slowly positioned itself as THE must-visit location in Northern New England during the month of June thanks to the way it’s nurtured and celebrated its annual lupine display.
One of the best ways to enjoy this natural beauty is by visiting the Sugar Hill Lupine Festival. With great support and effort by the entire community, the many gardens in the village, the vast fields and farms surrounding the town, and even the roadsides leading to and from are covered with this large, showy, flower in shades of purple and pink.
After a long winter, the explosion of color and the beauty of the changing landscape is something that deserves celebration. The blooms typically last a few weeks, with the festival running throughout the June bloom cycle.
As a photographer, my days during the festival begin early, up before dawn to watch the first light sparkle through the flowers while they are covered in morning dew. I’m rarely alone. Some are clearly other professional photographers, but many though are there just to take in the beauty and greet the dawn. There are few more beautiful sights to see in all of New England, at any time of year.
Whether or not you greet the sun, sometime during the morning you will inevitably find your way to Polly’s Pancake Parlor on Sugar Hill Road (Rt. 117) for breakfast or brunch. It’s legendary for its amazing views and out-of-this-world pancakes served with a variety of local maple products.
Festival activities usually begin by 10:00 AM and can include an open-air market with local vendors, an art show, concerts, and a town dance. But the main attraction is the flowers themselves, and year after year, they always put on a good show. So where’s the best place to see the lupines in Sugar Hill? The most popular spot is a large field up on Sunset Hill Road, with parking at the former Sugar Hill Sampler (it closed in 2019, so please check for permission before parking). The field has wide walking paths that invite you to stroll and enjoy the views over the flowers and to the mountains that surround the village.
One of my favorite things about the Sampler Field is that along the way there are a few placards with verses by the poet Robert Frost, who had a homestead in Sugar Hill and spent nineteen summers there. The farm, located on Ridge Road, is now a museum and visitors center, and it is also, of course, surrounded by abundant and beautiful lupines.
The Franconia Notch Chamber of Commerce publishes a guidebook to the festival every year, available for a few dollars at various locations around the village, and it includes a map of all the places where the lupine are growing. But they won’t be hard to find. A ride down to Pearl Lake, a loop around Lovers Lane, a drive across Carpenter Road — the lupines are everywhere. For more ideas, and to stay updated on this year’s blooms, Harman’s Cheese & Country Store maintains a daily blog with pictures before and during the festival!
Accommodations for the festival are wide-ranging. The Sunset Hill House and Sugar Hill Inn get you closest to the action. There are other motels down the road in the village of Franconia, and a few miles further up the road in the larger town of Littleton. For a more rustic experience, the Fransted Campground is within a short drive, and has many modern conveniences and a great swimming hole on the property.
Have you ever been to the Sugar Hill Lupine Festival?
This post was first published in 2013 and has been updated.