Fall is finally here, and that means it’s the perfect time to take a drive, enjoying the stunning fall leaves and crisp autumn air. Bask in the orange, red, and yellow hues on an unforgettable scenic drive. New Hampshire is renowned for its stunning fall foliage, and there are numerous scenic drives that provide breathtaking views of the autumn colors.
Keep in mind that the timing of peak fall foliage in New Hampshire varies each year but typically occurs in late September to mid-October. Be sure to check local fall foliage reports and weather conditions for the most up-to-date information before planning your scenic drive.
Of course, at some point, you’ll want to stretch your legs. The good news is that each of these scenic drives in New Hampshire offers plenty of places to stop and hit the trail or grab a bite to eat as you pass through. Without further ado, these are the 10 best scenic drives in New Hampshire to take this autumn!
10. Kancamagus Highway (NH-112)
The Kancamagus Highway is often considered one of the best New Hampshire scenic drives for viewing fall foliage. This 34-mile route winds through the White Mountain National Forest. It offers spectacular views of vibrant autumn colors, picturesque rivers, and dramatic mountain landscapes.
A popular trailhead along the Kancamagus Highway leads to Sabbaday Falls. This beautiful waterfall is a relatively easy hike for all ages. The Lower Falls scenic area provides the perfect opportunity for a picnic, proving a great spot to relax and enjoy the surroundings. Towards the easter end of the highway, you’ll find plenty of lodging and dining options near Conway.
9. White Mountain Trail (NH-16 and NH-302)
This New Hampshire scenic drive route covers NH-16 and NH-302 and takes you through the heart of the White Mountains. You’ll encounter a mix of hardwood forests, charming villages, and opportunities for scenic hikes to get even closer to the foliage. Sights include vistas of colorful forests, mountain peaks, and pristine rivers and lakes, especially during the fall foliage season.
Throughout your journey, you’ll be venturing through White Mountain National Forest. There are numerous opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking, picnicking, and camping. Or, if you want something a little closer to civilization, there’s Lincoln, a charming town that offers shopping, dining, and other attractions.
8. Monadnock Region
Consider a New Hampshire scenic drive along NH-123 or NH-124 for some beautiful scenery. The Monadnock region, located in southwestern New Hampshire, offers an array of scenic byways and rural roads that wind through quaint towns and provide stunning fall vistas.
Located in the town of Marlow, this historic covered bridge is a classic New England landmark and provides a picturesque photo opportunity. You’ll also find Dublin Lake, a clear and tranquil body of water where you can stop and stretch your legs or have a picnic.
7. Lakes Region Loop (NH-28 and NH-109)
This New Hampshire scenic drive takes you through the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, where you’ll find a mix of colorful trees, sparkling lakes, and charming New England towns. The largest lake in the region, Lake Winnipesaukee, is a major attraction. Meredith, a historic mansion perched on a hill overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, offers guided tours of the mansion and beautiful gardens. The panoramic views from the property are breathtaking.
One stop along the way is the charming town of Meredith on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. It offers boutique shops, restaurants, and beautiful lake views. You also won’t want to miss the iconic Meredith Bay Clock Tower.
6. Squam Lakes Scenic Drive (NH-113)
The Squam Lakes region is famous for its serene lakes and autumn splendor. NH-113 winds its way through this area, offering opportunities for photography, hiking, and lakeside relaxation. Squam Lake is known for its tranquility and natural beauty. You can explore Squam Lake by boat, take nature tours, or enjoy the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.
Located near Holderness, the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center offers interactive exhibits and live animal enclosures, making it a great stop for families interested in learning about the local wildlife. For a serene dining experience, you’ll find a number of cafes and restaurants along the lakeside.
5. Merrimack Valley (NH-13 and NH-77)
In the Merrimack Valley of New Hampshire, you can explore NH-13 and NH-77 for a delightful scenic drive through the Merrimack River and rural landscapes, which provide a scenic backdrop for the fall colors. Situated between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the region encompasses several cities and towns, each with its unique character and charm.
Stretch your legs in the town of Mont Vernon, known for its well-preserved architecture and historic charm. It’s an ideal place to take a leisurely stroll. Then relax and enjoy local and regional cuisine in the area.
4. Franconia Notch State Park
Take a scenic drive through Franconia Notch State Park along I-93 to witness the striking fall foliage surrounding the Franconia Range and the famous Flume Gorge. Franconia Notch State Park is a breathtaking natural wonder located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
The Flume is one of the park’s most famous attractions. This natural gorge features a boardwalk that takes you through a narrow, winding path surrounded by towering granite walls. The highlight is the 25-foot waterfall at the end of the gorge. Nearby, a geological formation known as the Basin is essentially a large pothole created by the Pemigewasset River’s swirling waters, with a cascading waterfall.
3. Bear Notch Road
Bear Notch Road, a road less traveled, offers a peaceful New Hampshire scenic drive through the woods and past pristine ponds. It’s a quieter alternative to some of the more well-known routes. Located along the White Mountains, it connects with the Kancamagus Highway.
For photographers of every skill level, Bear Notch Road is a dream come true. You’ll find spectacular views of the White Mountains contrasting with the autumn leaves of the surrounding wilderness in a beautiful symphony of color. Animal lovers may also encounter animals, such as moose, deer, and birds, during their drive.
2. North Conway and Mount Washington Valley
Explore the Mount Washington Valley area and the picturesque town of North Conway. North Conway and the Mount Washington Valley are well-known destinations in New Hampshire, offering a blend of natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and charming small-town appeal.
Take a scenic drive on the Conway Scenic Railroad to experience the region’s natural beauty from the comfort of a vintage train. Meanwhile, attractions such as the Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center and the MWV Children’s Museum are some wonderful opportunities for the whole family.
1. Great North Woods
Head to the far north of the state to experience the beauty of the Great North Woods. Routes like NH-16 and NH-3 will take you through a wild and colorful landscape. It’s known for its vast forests, serene lakes, and untouched wilderness.
The Great North Woods is famous for its moose population. Keep an eye out for these majestic creatures along the road, particularly at dawn and dusk. While the Great North Woods is remote, you can find accommodations and dining options in towns like Pittsburg and Colebrook.