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New Hampshire is one of the top places in the world to view colorful autumn leaves in the fall season. Fall foliage season in New Hampshire runs from mid-September through mid-October, with the most vibrant colors moving from north to south each year during that month-long period.
To help you get ready for your upcoming trip to the Northeast, here are some of the best places to see fall foliage in New Hampshire.
Kancamagus Highways is one of the most epic fall foliage drives that you’ll find anywhere in America. A stretch of this highway passes through the White Mountains in New Hampshire and takes at least an hour to really soak up all the natural beauty. The highway is between the cities of Lincoln and Conway and is a very popular route, which means that you should expect traffic slowdowns during the fall. Another way that you can experience this area is to walk along the waterfall view boardwalk at Sabbaday Falls and to Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge.
One of the most beautiful parks in America in fall, Franconia Notch State Park is a stunning place to visit at any time of the year. An iconic area to check out is Flume Gorge along the Daniel Webster Highway in Lincoln. This picturesque state park is best seen on foot by hiking along the Appalachian Trail, Boise Rock, and other landmarks. Along Interstate 93 and between exits 34A and 34C, you’ll find a beautiful area that really shows off the fall colors. You can also take the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway up to see the views in the fall season. Meanwhile, the town of Franconia is right outside the park and a cute place to explore and call your home base.
The North Conway area of New Hampshire is a top fall foliage destination because this is where the Conway Scenic Railroad operates from. This is a nostalgic way to see the fall leaves on a rail ride that’s peaceful and scenic. North Conway is close to Mount Washington and the White Mountain National Forest, so you will have no shortage of outdoor recreation opportunities nearby. Echo Lake State Park’s Cathedral Ledge is another beautiful place to check out in this area.
The trees around Lake Winnipesaukee are colorful during the fall, which is a perfect time to go out for a cruise on the water. There are sunset dinner cruises that are perfect for seeing the foliage and various options based on what you’re looking for. You can also bring kayaks and canoes with you to get out on the lake and see the reflections of the trees on the mirror-like surface of the water.
Portsmouth is a seaside town in New Hampshire that is charming and has a lovely harbor. You can walk through the downtown area to check out museums, bookstores, breweries, pubs, and restaurants on a trip to Portsmouth. Some of the top attractions in Portsmouth are the Portsmouth Music Hall, USS Albacore Museum, Redhook Portsmouth Brewery & Cataqua Public House, and Prescott Park. There is also a lot of history to learn about here by visiting the landmark buildings and on guided tours.
Cornish, New Hampshire, is a popular place to be in September and October as well. This western New Hampshire town is lesser-known among leaf-peeping crowds, so you may want to come here if you want a more relaxed experience. The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge is a long wooden bridge that connects the town to Windsor and is often photographed in the fall. If you are interested in history, other attractions to visit in Cornish are the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site and Cornish Colony Gallery and Museum.
The Rocky Gorge Scenic Area is part of the White Mountain National Forest and is accessible by a paved walkway from a parking area. This area has a footbridge that extends over the gorge and offers amazing photo opportunities. You can walk to the other side of the bridge to reach Falls Pond and then walk around the pond to find a good fishing spot. If you visit in the winter, you can access the Nanamocomuck Ski Trail from here. The scenic area is open until mid-October but closes for the winter. You’ll find it just eight miles west of the city of Conway.
Mount Willard offers fall foliage views in early- to mid-October and is near the town of Hart’s Location. This is a perfect place to go for a fall hike in Crawford Notch State Park. The hike isn’t too hard and is well-suited for people of all ages and abilities. Since this is such a popular place to see the fall leaves, you will want to start your hike early to find a place to park at the trailhead and not be too crowded on the trail.
Dartmouth College is located in Hanover, New Hampshire and is a colorful place during the fall season. This Ivy League school is fun to explore and see the work of local artisans. Even if you have no intention of being a student here, it’s still nice to visit Hanover for a dose of arts and culture. The town is home to the Hopkins Center for the Arts and the Hood Museum of Art, for example. Then you can catch a basement game at Red Rolfe Field on the Dartmouth campus, enjoy delicious treats at Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery, and play a game of golf at the Montcalm Golf Club.
Mount Washington is the highest point in the northeast and towers above the fall foliage at 6,288 feet of elevation. Located near the town of Sargent’s Purchase, this part of New Hampshire is especially colorful in early- and mid-October. You can hike the strenuous trail to get up the mountain or drive up the Mount Washington Auto Road or take a ride on the Cog Railway if you aren’t an experienced hiker. Simply drive yourself along the auto road or book a guided tour in advance of your trip. Mount Washington State Park spans over 60 acres of land and also offers restrooms, gift shops, a cafeteria, an observatory, and a museum.
You can also stay in Lincoln, New Hampshire, when you want to spend some time in the state during the fall. Lincoln is a prime place to be for outdoor adventure because Mount Osceola is nearby, as well as Franconia Notch State Park. There are outdoor outfitter companies that provide tours of nearby fall attractions in the Lincoln area, including picking apples at Windy Ridge Orchard, taking the kids for a train ride on the Hobo Railroad, and flying through the trees on a zipline tour.
The scenic town of Meredith, New Hampshire, can be explored when you book a ride on the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad. This is in the lakes region of the state and filled with natural beauty. From the Meredith station, you can take a two-hour train ride along the lake. From the Weirs Beach location, train rides are one hour long. There’s a gift shop and free parking at the Meredith station, which does get a lot of traffic in the fall season, so you’ll need to plan your arrival time accordingly, so you don’t miss your ride. Otherwise, in Meredith, fun things to do during your trip are to shop at the Mill Falls Marketplace, Visit the Town Docks, get a beer at Twin Barns Brewing Company, and watch a show at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse.
Sugar Hill is a small New Hampshire town that has many sugar maple trees. It is a very scenic place to visit in the fall, and many people stay at the Sugar Tree Inn as their home base. Aside from the fall foliage, Sugar Hill is known for being the home of Harmen’s Cheese Store and Polly’s Pancake Parlor. Nearby things to check out are the Weathervane Theater, which typically has shows running through September and movies and performances at the Colonial Theater. There are also opportunities in this area for canoeing, fishing, cycling, golf, horseback riding, hiking, and seeing waterfalls.
You can visit the town of Peterborough and Mount Monadnock when you plan a fall foliage trip to New Hampshire. The Monadnock State Park has dozens of hiking trails that extend for about 35 miles. Mount Monadnock is a very popular mountain to climb and a great challenge to try for yourself in this part of the country. When you’ve had your fill of the fall foliage, you can spend your days in Peterborough learning at the Monadnock Center for History & Culture, enjoying a meal at the Peterborough Diner, walking along the Casalis Forest Trail Loop, and catching a show at the Peterborough Players.