New Hampshire's White Mountains Drive Leaf-Peepers
By AAA Travel Editors | June 01, 2023
Take in fall foliage with a scenic drive through New Hampshire's White Mountains. With plenty of things to do and see, you won't regret making this trip!
Wikimedia Commons/Billy Hathorn
Leg 1: Manchester to LaconiaIn 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 RoadContinue 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 HighwayStarting 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.
Jeffrey M. Frank / Shutterstock.com
Leg 4: Lincoln to ConcordI-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.