Eye Popping Fall Foliage in North Conway, NH 2021
Updated: Dec 14, 2021
Where is the BEST fall foliage in the country? North Conway, NH of course! Plus, peak fall foliage is around mid-October - much later than when I was a kid! Even Yankee Magazine agrees with me! Year after year, Yankee calls out North Conway, NH as a top 10 foliage viewing destination! OK, that's my not so humble opinion but, North Conway, NH does have amazing fall foliage. The fall foliage photos in the picture above were all taken in North Conway, NH by me. I am a fall foliage junkie and am the lucky cowgirl that lives in North Conway, NH. I love to go horseback riding on the snowmobile trails to get photos that folks normally don't get to see. The Kancamagus Highway, Mt Washington Hotel, and the White Mountain Trail are highlights of any fall foliage tour to North Conway, NH.
Every year, I host groups of guests at Four Seasons Lodge that come to North Conway, NH to enjoy the foliage and all three photo op spots are minutes from the lodge. There are spots to view fall foliage that you can get 360 degree views within a few minute's drive of Four Seasons Lodge in North Conway, NH or you can make a day of it and enjoy driving the "White Mountain Trail".
As a local, I'd advise anyone that wants to do some leaf peeping of fall foliage to add the Kancamagus Highway to your list of not-to-be-missed spots! Unless you like enjoying the fall foliage shoulder to shoulder with hoards of tourists, I recommend planning your foliage tour early or late in the day. I have no idea how many folks converge on North Conway, NH during fall foliage but it's a LOT! I love to take pictures and the best time for photos is either early or late in the day which puts you behind the lens when there is the least amount of competition for snapping your photos from the perfect spot. If you drive like me (the speed limit), the journey from Conway to Lincoln along Rt 112 (the Kancamagus Highway) will take you about an hour if you don't stop. You will pass some great photo op fall foliage stops and short hikes will take you to many more gorgeous spots. The drive is 34.5 miles of foliage gorgeousness and take it from me, use a rest room at either end or you'll be sorry. Businesses have not pushed their way into the Kancamagus Highway (thank goodness) so you won't assaulted with restaurants, gas stations, gift shops, bars, or big box stores. Yipeeee! What you will have at your disposal are scenic vistas for fall foliage viewing, benches to rest your weary legs, and well-worn hiking paths leading you to stunning vistas of fall foliage. As it should be, the Kancamagus Highway has been designated as an American Scenic Byway. I've traveled all over this country and I have to say, it's in my top 5 scenic spots I've been seen. The Kancamagus Highway cuts through the White Mountain National Forest and provides you with breathtaking views of the White Mountains, Sabbady Falls, Lower Falls, Rocky Gorge and the Swift River. You won't get a nose-bleed on this fall foliage trip because you'll only reach an elevation of 3,000 feet on the Kancamagus Pass near Lincoln, which is the highest point. Even if it's raining, you will have a fantastic drive along the Kancamagus. Driving through mountain passes will sometimes reward you with peeks of sunlight to frame the perfect picture and the rain will bring out the smell of pine and woodland scents. Before you read on, I'd like to educate you on how to spell and say "The Kancamagus Highway". I've seen is spelled Kangamagus, Kangumangus, and Kancamangus and I've heard is pronounced a zillion different ways. Here's the skinny - it's Kancamagus Highway and it's pronounced "Kank-ah-mah-gus". There. Now you know.
Mt Washington Hotel is the site of some of the most beautiful fall foliage pictures taken in NH! We've all seen them in magazines and on TV but have you seen the foliage at Mt Washington Hotel in person? If you follow the White Mountain Trail, you'll be tooling right past the Mt Washington Hotel. There are a few great photo op spots within a mile; get a pic of the small chapel along the road (if it's open, go in, it's beautiful), there are two angles that make wonderful photos of the Mt Washington Hotel (you can see the Cog Railway if you look closely), and lastly, look to the left and get a great photo of Bretton Woods Ski Area. The Mt Washington Hotel was finished in 1902 and cost almost 51 million dollars to construct. Joseph Stickney built the Mount Washington Hotel with the help of 250 Italian artisans and must have thought he was a bit off-center because at one point he said, "Look at me, gentlemen ... for I am the poor fool who built all this!" Within a year of completing the Mt Washington Hotel, Joseph Stickney was dead. His wife Carolyn summered at the hotel for the next decade and was known to be eccentric. Urban legends of the White Mountains have it that she haunts the hotel to this day.
Everyone knows about the White Mountains but not many folks know about the "White Mountain Trail". The White Mountain Trail is about 140 miles long, has several variations, passes through several scenic byways, and has boundless scenic vistas! My favorite part of the White Mt Trail is the views. No matter which variation of the drive you take, you'll pass Mt Washington, Mt Washington Hotel, waterfalls, pass over the Appalachian Trail, 3 notches, 7 historic covered bridges, waterfalls and cascades, over 30 scenic overlooks and historic and restored buildings.
Prepare to be confused - there are several variations of the White Mountain Trail. Take the path that interests you most and just have fun! Start out in Conway, NH and turn onto Rt. 112 (Kancamagus Highway) which is 34 1/2 miles long, passes through the White Mountains National Forest, and some of the most gorgeous views you'll ever see. The Kanc (as the locals call the Kancamagus Highway) dumps you into Lincoln, NH where you can head north (after checking out Clarks Trading Post) and head to Franconia Notch State Park.
Once you're in Lincoln, NH, you have options:
Continue to Rt 3 and Twin Mountain
Continute on the Kanc through Kinsman Notch to Rt. 302 and Bath, Lisbon, Littleton, Bethlehem, Twin Mountain, and Bretton Woods (the Mt Washington Hotel is across the highway from Bretton Woods ski area)
Rt 302 continues through Crawford Notch. Have your cameras ready especially during fall foliage.
You'll end up in Bartlett where you can either drive down Bear Notch Road and back to the Kanc or join up with Rt 16 and follow it back to Conway, NH
If you choose Rt 16 in Glen, you will pass through Pinkham Notch, have the choice to stop at the Mt Washington Auto Road, and go to Gorham to check out the North Woods Ride.
The Kancamagus Highway (the Kanc) - Also known as Route 112, the Kanc runs from Conway, NH to Lincoln, NH, is a gorgeous part of the White Mountain Trail, passes through the White Mountain National Forest, is steeped in history and takes part in forest ecology projects at the Russell Colbath Historic Site.
Presidential Range Tour - Starting at Rt 116, it travels from Littleton (don't miss Chutters!) to Whitefield, Rt 3, Rt 2 E to Gorham, Rt 16 S to Glen, Rt 302 W to Littleton and passes by 4 NH state parks, scenic vistas, and historic and pretty villages and towns.
River Heritage Tour - Starting in North Woodstock at Rt 3, travel to Rt 175 and Warren and Piermont, Rt 10, Rt 135, and finishing up with Rt 112 to North Woodstock. You'll see some amazing views, rivers to play in, photographic farms and architecture.
White Mountain Trail - The White Mountains Trail is a circular loop that can start at the Kanc and heads counter clockwise to Rt 16 N to Rt 302 W, Rt 3 S to I-93 and the Franconia Notch Highway with views of Mt Washington, Mt Washington Hotel, mountains, scenic vistas, and passes over the historic Appalachian Trail.
If you have any questions about fall foliage or lodging in North Conway, NH - the best White Mountains cabin rental. Please feel free to reach out to me. Teena
Four Seasons Lodge 31 Whiskiers Lane North Conway, NH (603) 662 - 5391