▶ Watch Video: New Hampshire trail connects 42 ice cream spots for sweet challenge

New Hampshire’s Ice Cream trail is a summer tradition, bringing locals and tourists alike to dozens of eateries throughout the state. 

The trail includes 42 ice cream shops, each with their own unique spin on the summer classic. Hit all 42 between Memorial Day and October, filling out a map book along the way, and you’ll have a chance at the grand prize. It’s a snapshot of summer that comes in all shapes, sizes – and flavors. 

Megan Call, who works at Richardson’s Ice Cream in Boscawen, New Hampshire, took “CBS Mornings” behind the scene of their operation, which focuses on creamy treats and unique flavors. The family-owned ice cream shop has been using the unique recipe since the 1950s, and shoppers can taste the difference. The ice cream challenge helps bring people through the doors, owner Jim Richardson said. 

“We’re out in the middle of nowhere, in a low population area,” said Richardson, who is one of just three full-time workers at the store, along with Call and his wife Sue. “It does bring people here. Once they’ve found us, if they’re within 40 miles of us, they tend to come back.” 

Just fifteen miles away, in Sanbornton, New Hampshire, is Mulltuck Farm and Creamery. Laurie Miller, a former firefighter, opened the stand just a year ago with her wife, their children and her mother-in-law. 

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“There’s never a bad day making ice cream, like, compared to being a firefighter,” Miller said. “I’m a big dreamer, right? I just got this idea that we were going to start this little ice cream shop … We were very specific with wanting an environment where people could come and sit, right? Bring your kids. Eat ice cream.” 

The ice cream trail has helped the shop do just that.

“Good ice cream brings people from everywhere. I don’t think we’d be here without the ice cream trail,” Miller said. “We get as equal amount of regulars in town folk as we do people just experiencing the ice cream trail.” 

The trail extends as far north as Pittsburg’s Moose Alley Cones, which is just 14 miles from the Canadian border. Shops can be found along the state’s biggest freeways and on its tiniest backroads. 

While most of those on the trail are thinking about ice cream, it was actually created by Granite State Dairy Promotion, a non-profit funded by the state’s dairy farmers. According to director Amy Hall, the trail was started as a way to raise awareness about dairy farmers in the area. In 1970, New Hampshire had over 800 family-owned dairy farms. Now, there are just 90 left, Hall said. 

“One of my favorite things to say is ‘No cows, no ice cream,'” Hall said. “And, you know, it’s 100% true.” 

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That motto is emphasized at Ilsley’s, an ice cream stand run by dairy farmer Lisa Ilsley. She’s a fifth-generation dairy farmer who operates a “real small farm” with just 15 cows, and of course, an ice cream stand. 

“I knew that I really needed to do something besides just milking the cows and shipping the milk wholesale,” Ilsley said. “So that’s why I started the ice cream stand. Here we are nine years later, and we’re still going strong.” 

Mike Atkinson stumbled upon Ilsley’s while completing the trail. This is the third year that he has completed the challenge, after participating every year since 2016. Last year, he even won the grand prize – an “Eat Like a Cow” sweatshirt, a gift card, and an array of New Hampshire products. However, the real prize is the journey, he said.

“I really get a kick out of meeting the people, and some of the stores are really, really unique,” Atkinson said. “One of the stores, they didn’t have anybody there. You walk in, take your ice cream out of the freezer, put your money in an envelope … That’s old-time New Hampshire.”