Skip to main content
Header image
Editor Pick

New Hampshire's White Mountains Drive Leaf-Peepers

Updated: August 02, 2023

Written by

AAA Travel Editors

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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 49 S. Main St. Suite 104 Concord, NH 03301. Phone:(603)224-2508 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.

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

Written by

AAA Travel Editors

More Articles


Travel Like an Expert with AAA and Trip Canvas

Get Ideas from the Pros

As one of the largest travel agencies in North America, we have a wealth of recommendations to share! Browse our articles and videos for inspiration, or dive right in with preplanned AAA Road Trips, cruises and vacation tours.

Build and Research Your Options

Save and organize every aspect of your trip including cruises, hotels, activities, transportation and more. Book hotels confidently using our AAA Diamond Designations and verified reviews.

Book Everything in One Place

From cruises to day tours, buy all parts of your vacation in one transaction, or work with our nationwide network of AAA Travel Agents to secure the trip of your dreams!