New Hampshire Scenic Foliage Drives
You don’t have to be an adventurer or a hiker to get the feel of the White Mountains during the fall.
Driving for pleasure is also a splendid way to experience all that autumn has to offer! The fact is that many of New Hampshire’s scenic byways and roads were hand-cut by early settlers to easily traverse the mountains by way of Gaps, Notches, and Passes. For today’s automobile traveler this makes for a spectacular experience, with colorful hillsides and mountains looming large through either set of windows.
The problem is, however, that it’s not always easy to “get there from here”, as they say. Take one look at a map of New Hampshire you’ll quickly agree. Well, we’ve made it simple for you. We’ve detailed three spectacular fall routes, and broken them down by total mileage, approximate time, nearby amenities, and attractions. Pick one that you like, print it out, grab your keys and hit the road!
The White Mountain Classic
Approximate Distance: 100 miles
Amenities: Lunch and shopping in Lincoln
Foliage Appeal: Two Notches and Mountain Views
When the leaves begin to turn, this 100 mile loop of roadways comes alive! This drive traverses some of the most quintessential and scenic roadways in the State. Heading north on Rt. 16, the roadway out of North Conway affords great views of Mount Washington as you approach the junction of Rt. 16 and Rt. 302 in Glen. Stay straight at this intersection and begin your approach into Crawford Notch, one of New Hampshire’s finest byways. For the next 20 miles, you’ll enjoy views of such as the Scenic Railroad Trains on the left passing along Frankenstein Cliffs, the enormous Mount Willey, and a great view or two of the Presidentials. Take a break at the top of the notch at the Crawford Depot, and take a brief walk around the station to stretch your legs. Continue along 302 for another 10 miles into Twin Mountain and turn left onto Rt. 3. Stay on Rt. 3 for about 13 miles, and along the way you’ll enjoy views of the mountains that stand along the northern boundary of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Take I-93 south for about 12 miles and get off at exit 32 in Lincoln where you can pause for lunch and shopping. Next, traverse the famed Kancamagus Highway for the next 36 miles back into Conway village, making sure to stop at the scenic overlooks (Hancock, Pemi, Wanagans, and Sugar Hill) along the way. Travel Rt. 16 North about 7 miles back to the Manor.
The Backcountry Traverse
Approximate Distance: 105 miles
Amenities: Ride the Cog to break up your drive!
Foliage Appeal: Two classic roads that are closed in the winter
At onset of winter, several roads in New Hampshire’s North Country go un-maintained. Gated, and bearing no resemblance to a modern road, many of them transform into snowshoe or cross country ski trails. Perhaps this break in usage is what helps the roads themselves say so charming. This fall foliage drive recommendation delivers you to two such roads. Start south on Route 16 and continue through Conway village to Rt. 112, the famed Kancamagus Highway.
After about 13 miles, turn right onto Bear Notch Road (closed in the winter). This road takes drivers on a slow and winding drive over western side of Bear Mountain, and eventually up to Rt. 302 in Bartlett. Turn right onto 302 and traverse Crawford Notch (see above for details). At the top of the Notch, look for Clinton Mountain Road on the right (closed in the winter). This road eventually turns to dirt and is the epitome of fall in New Hampshire. At a four-way intersection about 3 miles in, you have the option to go straight onto Jefferson Notch Road (which brings you into scenic Jefferson) or to turn right onto Base Road toward the world famous Cog Railway. The Cog is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so don’t pass it up if you have the chance! After riding the train, head back down Base Road and turn right onto Jefferson Notch Road. Follow for about 8.5 miles and turn right onto Valley Road at the terminus. In less than a mile, you will be on Rt. 2. Head east (right) toward Gorham. Along the way you’ll catch breathtaking views of Mounts Waumbek and Starr King in Jefferson, and the Presidential Range through Randolph and Gorham. After a long downhill grade in Randolph, turn right at the lights to get onto Rt. 16 south, and turn right again in center of Gorham. This final leg of the journey brings you through grandiose Pinkham Notch where you’ll no doubt feel compelled stop continually to snap photographs. Stop in to the Pinkham Notch visitor’s center for more information about the area before heading back south to the Manor.
The North Country Explorer
Approximate Distance: 175 miles
Amenities: Various in Colebrook, Lancaster, Gorham
Foliage Appeal: An incredibly long fall drive through New Hampshire’s moose
If you love being behind the wheel during foliage season, have we got a trip recommendation for you! Begin by heading due north on Rt. 16 out of North Conway, and through scenic Pinkham Notch (see above for description). Stay on Rt. 16 North through Gorham and into Berlin. Continue beyond Berlin, often following alongside the impressive Androscoggin River for approximately 27 miles into the town of Errol, NH. Errol has everything you can imagine in the way of scenery and wilderness; old forests, winding rivers, and plenty of moose!
In Errol, turn left onto Rt. 26 and follow for about 11 miles into historic Dixville Notch. Not only is this the site of the first in the nation voting, but it’s also the home of the Diamond Peaks, and The Balsams Resort (closed, currently, but still great to look upon). Follow this road for another 11 miles and arrive in Colebrook, NH, mere miles from the Canadian border! Head south on Rt. 102 through Columbia and join with Rt. 3 south. Follow Rt. 3 into Lancaster with an optional stop at Weeks State Park. In Lancaster, take Rt. 2 East and head toward Randolph for views of the Presidentials on your way to Rt. 16 south and Pinkham Notch for the return trip. Pack a lunch, plan for several stops to stretch the legs, and do take this trip a bit earlier in the season to ensure you don’t miss peak foliage; it comes early up there!
For more information on these and other scenic fall drives, stop by our front desk when you arrive here at the Stonehurst. We’ll be sure to get you pointed in the right direction!
Or give us a call at 1-800-525-9100 to check availability.