New Hampshire in Fall
Brilliant fall colors combined with clear-running streams combine into an unforgettable sight
If you have a bucket list and you love fall, mark this one down: Visit New Hampshire in fall.
The White Mountains of New Hampshire are world famous for their brilliant display of fall colors. Only a few neighboring New England states and the aspens of Colorado can compare with its colorful autumn beauty.
Crystal clear streams laden with granite boulders create countless whitewater rapids and waterfalls. Fall is a time of contrasts on the land. The hardwoods change to red, orange and yellow set against a backdrop of evergreen trees.
The best place to view foliage in the state is the White Mountain National Forest. Covering three quarters of a million acres of north central New Hampshire, the forest has more than a thousand miles of trails, 50 lakes and ponds and 600 fishing streams.
The Kancamagus Highway (also referred to as the “Kanc”), a National Scenic Byway, runs 35 miles from Lincoln to Conway climbing 3,000 feet along the way and providing dramatic views of the White Mountains and the fall colors. There are many pullouts, federally designated Scenic Areas and hiking trails along its length. In and around Conway there are many picturesque covered bridges.
Recreation passes are required to park at trailheads. Exceptions are parking a half-mile from trailheads and day use areas along the Kancamagus Highway.
It’s impossible to predict when the peak for fall foliage will be each year due to temperature and weather changes. Leaves can start changing from mid-September and last until the end of October. Traditionally, the peak is about the first ten days of October. Among the most colorful hardwoods are sugar maple, red maple, red oak, mountain ash, yellow birch and aspen.
Local chambers of commerce suggest fall visitors (AKA “leaf peepers”) drive the White Mountains Trail, known as New England’s most scenic 100 miles. The loop road passes through national forest land, two state parks, and several quaint little towns nestled in the mountains.
Beginning in the town of Lincoln, head east on the “Kanc” (Highway 112) toward Conway, stopping off at all the scenic overlooks. The route continues north from Conway on Highway 16. North Conway offers tax-free shopping at many factory outlet stores. Stop at the chamber of commerce in North Conway for more information on the area.
At the town of Glen, the scenic loop continues west on Highway 302. (To visit Mt. Washington, continue north on Highway 16). In Bartlett Village, Bear Notch Road heads south into the forest connecting up with the Kancamagus Highway eventually. There are several scenic viewpoints from this road.
Continuing on Highway 302, pass through Crawford Notch State Park. From this mountain pass there are views of several waterfalls and interesting rock formations. The Appalachian Trail also crosses the road here. The route continues to Interstate 93 at Franconia Notch State Park and south to Lincoln.
For those wanting to take the roads less traveled, maps and lists are available from the chamber of commerce and Forest Service. Moose can be seen almost anywhere in the area but visitors have a better chance of a sighting on one of the many back roads.
While in the area, visitors have to check out Mount Washington, the northeast’s highest peak at 6,288 feet. The mountain is one of the coldest and windiest places on earth. In April of 1934 the strongest winds ever recorded on Earth (231 mph) blew across the summit.
An eight-mile long road on the east side of the mountain heads to the summit while the Mount Washington Cog Railway climbs for 3 ½ miles up the west side of the mountain. Views of the entire White Mountains and into Maine are breathtaking. Be sure to bring warm clothes if you plan on a visit to the summit. Many hiking trails also head to the top, including the Appalachian Trail, which leads over 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine.
A visit to the Granite State in the fall will leave many lasting memories of sugar maples, covered bridges, and the small town atmosphere of New England.
Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce - 800-521-2137. Call for foliage information and trip planning. Try these web sites: www.mtwashingtonvalley.org or www.mountwashington.org for a live view from the summit of Mt. Washington (updated every 15 seconds).
Where to go
Visitors can fly into Boston and drive less than two hours north on Interstate 93 to reach the White Mountains.
What to expect
Some of the most beautiful fall colors in the world. Be sure to bring a camera. Fall is the busiest time of year so expect to see other vacationers. Dress for chilly weather if you head for the higher mountains.
Things to know
If you plan on staying at one of the many motels, hotels or bed and breakfasts call ahead for reservations as rooms fill quickly this time of year. Call the chamber of commerce for a list of places to stay.