Virtual Visit | Sculptured Rocks Natural Area: The ‘Little Grand Canyon of New Hampshire’
Described by some as the “New Hampshire Grand Canyon,” Sculptured Rocks Natural Area in Groton, NH, attracts nature-lovers from all over New England. Here’s why you should plan a visit when it’s safe to travel again.
Please note that businesses, attractions, and events throughout New England have been closed and/or canceled in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. Please travel responsibly, and check with individual businesses and event organizers before making travel plans.
Ever since I first heard about Sculptured Rocks Natural Area in Groton, New Hampshire, I knew I had to visit this “Little Grand Canyon of New Hampshire.” Located off a back road, not far from Newfound Lake, this little-known destination (for non-locals, anyway), is well worth a visit — especially if you’re a nature-lover, explorer, or photographer at any level.
Marked by a sign on the side of the road, Sculptured Rocks Natural Area may not look like much at first, but get a little closer and you’ll see what makes this spot unique. The state park site covers 272 acres of forested land. Trails lead up into the hills for hikers and walkers, but the main draw is the river and riverbed.
On the day of my visit, visitors walked along the road with their dogs before cutting into the woods along a narrow path. The sound of excited exclamations shouted over the murmur of the water suggested that the geological site was mere steps beyond the first line of trees. The trail led directly onto a wide, wooden footbridge that stretched across the narrow river. The rocks were smooth, curved, and sculpted in ways you don’t often see in nature. At the end of the last ice age, sediment and grit picked up by the melting ice and snow flowed into the Cockermouth River as it made its way to Newfound Lake and helped wear down the rocks of the riverbank, forming semi-circles and sweeping arcs.
Looking down the river it was easy to spot the source of the shouts; many people had forgone the bridge in favor of clambering over the rocks. Some of the best views were from the bridge. The water meandered slowly through the nooks and crevices of the rocks. According to a young visitor, if the water is high enough in the summer, people often swim in the deeper and more spacious pools. In the middle of autumn, the riverbank was barely visible through the water. Yellow leaves settled on the bridge or collected on the surface of the water. While beautiful in the fall colors and chilly air, it is easy to imagine how striking the scene would be towards the end of spring and into the summer.
I climbed down onto the rocks. A gentleman and his wife warned me to be careful of the scattered acorns. A man had almost slipped off the rocks and into the river only moments before. During the off-season, the park is not staffed. The couple was retired and had driven down from Maine. This was the man’s second time to Sculptured Rocks. As a child he had visited with his father, and he described how the water had been almost five feet higher than it was now. He had such fond memories of the place that he had wanted to show his wife.
As we climbed back onto the bridge and snapped a few more pictures, noticing all the names of past visitors carved into the bridge, the man explained that as a young man in California, his mother had sent him a subscription to Yankee Magazine for ten years, so he’d never forget where he came from.
Certainly beautiful photo-ops and nature walks await visitors at Sculptured Rocks no matter the season. If you have a little more time to spare, don’t miss other area attractions such as Newfound Lake.
Sculptured Rocks Natural Area. 251 Sculptured Rocks Road, Groton, NH, 03241. 603-227-8745; nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/sculptured-rocks-natural-area.aspxThis post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.