Lincoln: 65 miles N of Concord; 100 miles NW of Portsmouth; and 130 miles N of Boston

Some 25 miles north of Waterville Valley are the towns of Lincoln and North Woodstock, as well as the Loon Mountain ski resort (just east of Lincoln). These towns are at the start (or end) of the Kancamagus Highway, a 35-mile route that's one of the White Mountains' most scenic drives.

In the former mill town of Lincoln and the adjacent village of North Woodstock, you'll find mundane shops, fast-food chains, and no-frills motels. Lincoln has embraced strip-mall development; North Woodstock has retained some charm in its vestigial village center. Neither will win awards for quaintness. Loon Mountain opened in 1966 and was criticized early on for its mediocre skiing, though some improvements since have brought the mountain greater respect.

At times, it seems that Lincoln underwent not so much a development boom in the 1980s and 1990s as a development spasm. Clusters of condos now blanket the lower hillsides of this narrow valley. The Loon Mountain base village is usually lively with skiers in winter, but in summer it has a ghost-town feel, with few travelers in evidence. The area's ambience is also compromised by resort architecture that's both aggressive and bland. However, there are a few charms here -- local diners and cottages (slightly cheesy), attractions for kids, and that great highway drive.

As is true for Waterville Valley, other towns of the White Mountains are much more distinct and interesting than this trio. If nothing in this section catches your eye, you're probably better off pressing onward to Bretton Woods, Bethlehem, or "the Kanc" .