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The Top Five Best New Hampshire Fall Foliage Sightseeing Drives

Updated on September 25, 2012

Autumn Road Trip to New Hampshire: The Most Scenic Fall Foliage Sightseeing Drives

If you've been to New Hampshire in autumn, you'll probably agree that it's the most impressive fall foliage in the country. Winding roads, picturesque rustic barns, and the beautiful granite contrasts with the changing leaf colors of robust yellows, reds and oranges to bring about an unforgettable road trip to the Granite State. Every autumn, thousands of leaf peepers head north to the White Mountains to enjoy the memorable displays of color on the Kancamagus Highway, Mount Washington, North Conway, Mount Monadnock, and other New Hampshire fall foliage sightseeing drives.

Intro photo top left: Highway 112, White Mountains by kla4067

Tips for New Hampshire Fall Foliage Drives

Avoid the Crowds, Save Time, and See the Most in New Hampshire

So what can you expect to see in the fall in New Hampshire? You'll experience the leaf changes, the cooler temperatures, and unfortunately, maybe some crowds. Here are some tips for viewing fall foliage in New Hampshire, and how to avoid those crowds during the hectic peak weeks of autumn:

  1. Head out on the weekdays. If you're planning out your trip, weekdays are far less crowded than the weekends. The hotel rates are also much cheaper.
  2. Start early. Getting a headstart on the rest of the crowd will not only let you avoid crowds, but you'll see more. Besides, the foliage looks better earlier and later in the day.
  3. Leave early. Get to New Hampshire before the traffic starts, which typically is Friday afternoon. The earlier you can get there, the less chance you'll sit in traffic.
  4. Plan your trip to see the least crowded spots on the weekends. Then, plan to see the crowded places on the weekdays.
  5. Stay close to the places you want to see most. New Hampshire is a small state, but destinations can still be hours apart. From the northermost part of the state to the southern border is still 6-7 hours drive!

Kancamagus Highway
Kancamagus Highway

Kancamagus Highway

Highway 112 - New Hampshire's best fall foliage drive

The Kacamagus Highway begins near North Conway, and winds through approximately 30 miles of road, ending in Lincoln. This scenic highway will offer extraordinary views of some of the state's most renowned foliage and mountain peaks. Most people who have driven the Kancamagus Highway will tell you that this is without a doubt one of the best fall foliage sightseeing spots in the state, if not the country.

To get here, you'll be looking for Highway 112. The Kancamagus and 112 are one and the same. This road can get very busy during the peak foliage times, however, don't let that discourage you from coming here. There are plenty of turnouts to take advantage of the breaktaking views. Just plan accordingly if you plan on going during a weekend, when it can be very congested.

New Hampshire Traveler's Guide - A recommended guide on finding the best places to see in NH

From granite mountains to shoreside, this guide will bring you the best information on where to stay, what to see, and what to bring. Make the most of your trip with insider trip information on this easy to use guide -- one of the best NH guides out there today.

Explorer's Guide New Hampshire (Seventh Edition)  (Explorer's Complete)
Explorer's Guide New Hampshire (Seventh Edition) (Explorer's Complete)

* Find the best places to eat on the fly

* Includes recommended travel routes for sightseeing purposes

* In depth reviews and details on the best day trip regions

* Well reviewed by readers

 
North Conway Crawford Notch Railway
North Conway Crawford Notch Railway

North Conway

The perfect place to stay in New Hampshire during autumn foliage

This small town is located between the Kancamagus Highway area and Mount Washington, so it's the perfect stopping spot in between. Stay in North Conway for the night in one of the local bed and breakfasts, or stop for lunch. Or, go shopping at the outlets that can be found right in town.

North Conway also is close enough to I-93 and other well known foliage mountainsides that it makes the perfect mid-state base for your trip. It sits near the eastern end of the Kancamagus Highway as well, making it an ideal spot to stay if you're making that the focus of your trip. Along Route 302, you'll find many roadside vistas of the surrounding White Mountains, with Mount Washington to the north. Be sure to take a side trip to Humphrey's Ledge, just off of Route 302.

Mount Washington fall foliage
Mount Washington fall foliage

Mount Washington

The highest peak in New England

New England's largest mountain is where the strongest winds on earth have also ever been recorded. Even in the summer, this mountaintop can be extremely cool. In the fall, expect temperatures to possibly see your breath, but to be rewarded with one of the best vistas in all of the east coast. Mount Washington has hiking, a cog railway to the top, or the popular Mount Washington Auto Road. The mountain is even open in the winter via the snow coach!

The drive up the road is not for the faint of heart. This road is a little bit crazy, with a direct ledge that steeply falls off the side of the mountain. At points, you'll have to pull over to let other cars go by. It can be a bit of a stressful ride at times. The road may also be closed in inclement weather. If you'd rather not endure the stress, take the Cog Railway instead.

Pittsburg, New Hampshire is the northernmost town in New Hampshire, where the headwaters of the Connecticut River can be found. It borders Maine, Vermont, and Quebec, Canada. The beautiful lakes of Pittsburg are very striking, especially in the fall. Driving here, you'll notice that the land starts to become flatter as you descend from the elevations of the White Mountains. This can be a little strange if you've been driving all weekend in a state known for its mountain top views, but don't worry. The sightseeing here is gorgeous.

The Connecticut Lakes stretch towards the horizon, with beautiful pines and fall foliage lining the banks. Not only is it a rare fall photography opportunity, but you're much less likely to encounter big crowds. If you're feeling really adventurous and have your passport, head north to Quebec. Montreal is only 2.5 hours away, and Quebec City is a mere 3.5.

For a Really Interesting Hiking Adventure - Haunted Hikes

Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire
Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire

Need a little extra motivation to go on that hike? How about a haunted hike through some of New Hampshire's haunted backwood trails, or the UFO at Indian Head? Try it out and see what ghostly things you see. At the very least, you'll have a fun story to tell and be able to enjoy the outdoors.

 

Mount Monadnock is located in the southern part of the state and offers some beautiful fall sightseeing. Some of the most vibrant foliage can be seen along the foothills of this mountain located along Highway 101. Also visit Route 202 for beautiful small towns like Hancock and Peterborough.

This area of New Hampshire is not quite as busy as the central region of the Kancamagus for driving, but it has the most foot traffic of any mountain in the country. Mount Monadnock holds the claim of being the most climbed mountain in the USA, with only Mount Fuji and Mount Tai surpassing it. Expect wondrous views once you arrive at the top, or enjoy the acres of protected lands surrounded the mountain base.

Of course, there are hundreds of other places to view brilliant foliage in the state. If your favorite spot isn't mentioned, tell us about it in the guestbook comments section!

What is your favorite fall foliage spot in New Hampshire?

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Five Things to Remember When Traveling to New Hampshire

Travel tips for visiting the Granite State

New Hampshire is a relatively small state, but some planning might be in order if you're going to be on the road all day.

  1. Driving here, you'll encounter of other drivers on the road. Try to avoid peak times if possible (weekends, especially Columbus Day weekend).
  2. Bring a map. The highways are easy to navigate in New Hampshire, but the backroads aren't. You'll need a good map to see some of the best sights.
  3. It gets cold at night. Daytime temperatures will probably be comfortable with a sweater, sweatshirt, or layered clothing, but at night, the temperature usually drops drastically. Expect frost, and if you plan on camping, bundle up especially!
  4. Shops aren't open all day and night. Hours are usually 9-5 for most shops, and can sometimes be closed on Mondays (sometimes Tuesdays, too).
  5. Gas stations are far apart. New Hampshire doesn't have any big cities. Most of the larger towns and cities are in the southern part of the state. The northern part of the state has no cities, and accommodations are clumped together in resort towns like North Conway and Lincoln.
  6. One more thing: Rates are higher in the fall. Expect to pay more during this peak leaf peeping season! Book early to ensure your stay.

Things to do in New Hampshire in the fall.
Things to do in New Hampshire in the fall.

The Top Things to Do While on Your New Hampshire Road Trip

Enjoy the Autumn Surroundings!

Fall is when the northern New England states really come to life. While the winter months are filled with skiing and snow activities, fall is often the busiest season for events. Looking for some ideas on what to do? Here are some recommendations on what to do and how to find them...

  1. Visit a local fall festival. Fall festival are abound in New Hampshire during September, October, and November. Just travel around and you'll find some, or plan your trip ahead of time by visiting this New Hampshire fall festivals page.
  2. Take a trip up a mountain. Which ones? There's Mount Washington, there's the backroads of the Kancamagus Highway, and the famous granite peaks near Franconia Notch, to name a few.
  3. Go for a hike. Remember to get out of the car! The scenery from your window might be beautiful, but a hike up a mountain, part of a mountain, beside a creek, or to a waterfall will be even more unforgettable.
  4. Go apple picking. New Hampshire has plenty of apple orchards to choose from that are in peak during fall. Find some pick your own apple orchards here.
  5. Visit a local farm. The local food is one of the best reasons to visit New Hampshire, especially when it's plentiful in the fall. Be sure to bring home some fresh pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, apples or eggplant.
  6. Go on a hay ride. It's a different type of ride, and one that will give you beautiful views while sitting back and just relaxing.
  7. Visit local shops and restaurants. New Hampshire's specialty isn't big chain stores or restaurants. Visit one of the local restaurants, small shops, cafes, and bookstores for some truly unique New England style food and merchandise.

One Couple's Trip to New Hampshire in the Fall - A taste of the scenic attractions in the state

Share Your Favorite New Hampshire Drives - Give us a route to take, a place to stop, or roadside vista to pull over and see!

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    • KidsToyTeaSets LM profile image

      KidsToyTeaSets LM 5 years ago

      Thanks for the great fall tips and information AND the lovely autumn photos!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      NH looks so lovely in the fall. I would have liked to see the photos, but they aren't showing up. Have to stop back and see them at another time.

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 5 years ago from Florida

      Great lens! I am featuring it on my https://hubpages.com/education/new-hampshire-lesso . Thank you for your excellent work!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Ah, who doesn't love the foliage in New Hampshire in the fall? Now if only winter didn't feel like it was 6 months of the year! I live in Keene, but right now I'm in Brazil and writing about my experiences here on Squidoo!

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

      Thanks for the colorful and informative travel tips. Congratulations on your lens being featured on the Fall Harvest Fest monsterboard.

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 5 years ago

      Beautiful views of New Hampshire fall color. I have been to New England only once in the fall It was lovely, even from the airplane.

    • profile image

      Track29 5 years ago

      We've taken that train in North Conway and it was beautiful. Even the drive there was wonderful. Also, I favorite souvenier to bring back home is maple syrup!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      great job on your lens, beautiful photos indeed, earned a 'thumbs up' from me.

    • profile image

      BillSimmons 5 years ago

      Looks wonderful there, between the fall colors, the mountains and the lake. Nice lens!

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 5 years ago

      So gorgeous. Love it! Thanks for sharing all of these great pictures!