I recently rang in the Summer Solstice with an evening visit to America’s Stonehenge, a New Hampshire tourist site I’ve been wanting to visit my entire adult life! Most people who know me well know that I love mysteries and quirky sites, which is why I fell in love with the travel site, Atlas Obscura. After creating my profile, I started looking up quirky places to visit close to home, which is how I discovered America’s Stonehenge.
America’s Stonehenge originally opened up to the public back in 1958 under the name “Mystery Hill Caves”. In 1982 the name was changed to “America’s Stonehenge” to better reflect what archeologists believe is one of the true functions of the site. However, no one is certain of the true origins of the site, with some claiming it to be a 4000-year-old megalithic astronomical complex ancient built by megalithic Native American Culture. Others theorize the site as a lost monastery wreckage of a migrant group of Irish monks, the creation of ancient Middle Eastern peoples, or – by most academic archaeologists – the misinterpreted work of 18th and 19th century farmers.
There are several structures throughout the site that have been given specific names throughout the years by various researchers. One of the structures, the “sacrificial table” was named by William B. Goodwin, the first researcher to purchase the site by 1937.
But despite its name, America’s Stonehenge really isn’t like Stonehenge at all, except for the fact that it’s made out of stone. It consists of a series of small stone walls, odd stone arrangements, underground chambers and a one-acre granite outcropping that has rock structures built on it and has been carved with grooves, possibly drainage ditches.
There are two main trails throughout the site: the “Pope Road Nature Trail”, which takes visitors throughout the stone structures, and the “Astronomical Trail” that takes visitors along a stone wall with specific sunset alignments (for example, the summer solstice sunrise stone). Unfortunately I was not there during sunrise to confirm the accuracy of its alignment!
It is suggested that some of the stones were quarried using primitive stone-on-stone techniques, two reputable surveyors vouched for an alignment of stones that might be consistent with the astronomy of a few thousand years ago, and radiocarbon analysis points to human occupation of the area as far back as 2000 B.C.
Beyond the stone fortresses, America’s Stonehenge is also home to six friendly alpacas. They were originally added in 2002 by the vice president of the site, to sell the animals’ fleece to raise money for college. Three babies, or cria, have been born on the property and are absolutely adorable. They were rather shy when I was there, although one of the girls, Gina, poked her head out to say hi!
The site was open from sunrise to sunset for the summer solstice and included a sunset drum circle at the top of the hill. Visitors were welcome to come and go as they please from the circle or hang out back to enjoy the music!
Visitors can download the app or pickup a guide from the gift shop that provides the history and overview of each structure and stone. During the winter season, visitors can either bring their own or rent snowshoes and explore the trails through the snow!
While the site has a touristy vibe (I mean they sell crystals and postcards at the gift shop!) and questionable hoaxing, the truth of this site is difficult or even impossible to know. But I think that is what makes this place a fun mystery to explore! I would definitely come back and visit during the winter solstice or an equinox for a different experience!