AAA Travel Tips / New Hampshire’s White Mountains Drive Leaf-Peepers

New Hampshire’s White Mountains Drive Leaf-Peepers

AAA/Inspector 511
By AAA Travel Editors
September 15, 2022
A treasure trove of history and natural scenery that is the dictionary definition of “picturesque”—these are two prominent aspects that define New England. Postcard-perfect towns like Laconia and North Conway are delightful at any time of year. But if you want to see this part of the country at its most extravagantly colorful, follow the leaf-peepers and hit the road in September or October, when rugged mountain passes and winding country lanes burst into full fall glory.
Wikimedia Commons/Billy Hathorn

Leg 1: Manchester to Laconia

In Manchester, you’ll still see the brick mill buildings that were once part of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Co. standing along the banks of the Merrimack River, although they now house offices and apartments. In New Hampshire’s largest city you’ll want to check out The Currier Museum of Art, a AAA GEM attraction. The handsome Italian Renaissance-style building has a collection of paintings that include works by American masters Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andrew Wyeth.
Take I-93 north to Laconia, lake country — parts of Lake Winnisquam and Paugus Bay are within the city limits, and Lake Winnipesaukee, the state’s largest, is 5 miles north of town. At Weirs Beach, on Winnipesaukee’s south shore, Mount Washington Cruises has departed from the town docks since 1872. A scenic excursion aboard this 1,000-passenger cruise vessel is a spectacular way to view the region’s blazing fall foliage.
Wikimedia Commons/Famartin

Leg 2: North Conway and the Mount Washington Auto Road

Continue your road trip north on SR 25 to SR 16. North Conway is the commercial hub of the Mount Washington Valley and the gateway to the White Mountains, the state’s standout scenic region. From Main Street, the view of Mount Washington—at 6,288 feet, the highest point in the northeast United States — falls squarely into the picture postcard category. White Mountain Highway also lures bargain hunters with factory outlets and the L.L. Bean Outlet. About 8 miles south of Gorham (at Glen House) is the turnoff for the Mount Washington Auto Road, which ascends to the summit. The drive is eye-popping, but steep grades and sharp curves will be challenging for drivers not used to them. Late September to early October is typically the best time to take this trip; stop at the toll house to pay the entry fee before heading up the mountain. Plan on 45 minutes each way, more time if you linger at the summit (where the Atlantic Ocean is visible on clear days).
AAA/Inspector 511

Leg 3: Kancamagus Highway

Starting in Conway, SR 112, the Kancamagus Highway, is one of the loveliest drives in a region with no shortage of them. At Rocky Gorge Scenic Area the Swift River has carved a narrow cleft through solid rock; escape your car here for a walk into the woods and a stop at idyllic Falls Pond. Farther west is Sabbaday Falls, which you can hike to from a highway pulloff. The fall foliage display along this route is absolutely spectacular; the brilliant reds, yellows and oranges are usually at their peak from the end of September through the second week in October.
Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln offers family-oriented recreational activities, including sightseeing gondola rides. In the vicinity of town are two covered bridges, the Flume and Sentinel Pine Covered bridges off of US 3 at The Flume Gorge. Covered bridges used to be known as “courting bridges” for the privacy they afforded and are a familiar scenic component of the White Mountains region.
Jeffrey M. Frank / Shutterstock.com

Leg 4: Lincoln to Concord

I-93 winds through the southern portion of the White Mountains to Concord, New Hampshire’s capital since 1808. By the time of the Revolutionary War, Concord was sending troops to fight at Lexington and Bunker Hill. Access downtown from I-93 exit 14 and follow signs to the visitor center, which is inside the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, where you can pick up a brochure describing the city’s historically and architecturally significant buildings. There’s more history at Canterbury Shaker Village, a AAA GEM attraction north of Concord. Tour the restored structures for a peek at the simple lifestyle of this former religious colony and then amble along one of the peaceful nature trails.
Of course New England is chock full of fall favorites, including Boston, Massachusetts; Stowe, Vermont; and Portland, Maine. Hit New Hampshire’s highlights first and “leaf” these other worthy destinations for a future trip.
AAA

Start Your Next Vacation with AAA

AAA Travel provides peace of mind when you travel — before, during and after your vacation! Members enjoy the advantages of membership including exclusive benefits, map routing, savings with the AAA Discounts & Rewards® program as well as recommendations for AAA Diamond-designated hotels and restaurants across the U.S. and Canada. Let AAA provide the rest of your travel needs with AAA Travel Guides, TourBooks®, access to travel agents and counselors and travel insurance. Your next vacation starts with AAA — your complete travel solution. Visit AAA.com/Travel.
X