Train rides through fall foliage, hot apple cider, crisp air brushing on your skin, crunchy leaves, covered bridges and an outburst of vibrant yellow, orange, and red – colors as far as the eye can see. This cozy feeling is a glimpse of what fall in New Hampshire feels like!
New England is home to some of the most beautiful fall foliage in the world! Millions of leaves, changing colors, transforming the mountains and filling the valleys – its like a painting come alive. The colors are breathtaking everywhere you look, and it is truly magical!
There are many places in New Hampshire where you catch the best of fall and this fall foliage guide will provide you with everything you need to know to experience the beautiful colors!
When to visit?
Peak foliage varies every year because of the weather. Some years peak foliage in New Hampshire is the last week in September, while during others it is the second week of October. But typically Autumn in New Hampshire begins in mid-late September and runs through the end of October.
The first signs of fall begin in the Great North Woods region in mid-September, and the colors make their way throughout the state in the days that follow. October is when the state is in full fall mode. The foliage tracker is a great tool, that should help you plan your New Hampshire fall foliage getaway.
How to get to New Hampshire?
The best option to visit New Hampshire, is to fly into New Hampshire or Boston, rent a car and hit the road. The scenic drive is completely worth it.
- The two major airports in New Hampshire are Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and Portsmouth International Airport, both of which will fly you into the southern part of the state.
- From Boston, it’s only an hour drive to get to the town of Bedford, New Hampshire. But if you’re planning to go to the northern parts of New Hampshire- White Mountain National Forest or Conway, it’s a 3-hour drive from Boston, and I would highly recommend taking a car for the scenic drive and leaf-peeping experience.
- From New York City, you’ll have to drive for about 4 hours — but you’ll be driving through Connecticut and Massachusetts to get there, both of which have picturesque fall foliage.
What to pack?
New Hampshire has unpredictable weather, so I recommend packing layers and a rain jacket for your getaway. If you will be hiking in New Hampshire for fall foliage, here are a few more things to pack:
- Hiking boots and backpack
- Water bottles
- Hooded jackets
- Socks and sandal
Where to stay?
When you are planning your fall foliage getaway to New Hampshire, I recommend finding accommodations in Lincoln, Littleton or North Conway. All these towns are super close to the best fall foliage spots in New Hampshire and have everything you need, including hotels, grocery stores, and restaurants. Some options are:
- RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Lincoln East
- InnSeason Resorts Pollard Brook
We booked a cabin at the Presidential Mountain Resort and absolutely loved our stay. Located in the pastoral town of Bethlehem and surrounded by natural forests, a private lake and pristine natural beauty, this stay is a perfect retreat for romantic couples or family.
The cabins are fully equipped with modern appliances, a spectacular deck and a full bath – it’s a great combination of modern and rustic style lodging. You can hike one of the many trails around the property, kayak on the private lake, take a dive in the outdoor heated pool, or just enjoy taking in the scenery while sitting around a fire pit with some marshmallows. The picturesque lake side setting will give you the full white mountain experience.
Things to do
Now lets jump right into the New Hampshire itinerary. Whether you drive through the White Mountains National Forest or criss-cross the state in search of the best fall fun, here are a few places to visit to experience fall in New Hampshire! You can totally mix & match them based on how much you can do in a day and the places you wish to cover during your trip.
Nestled between the northern White Mountains and the Connecticut River, Littleton is quaint and charming town you have to add to your itinerary. Here are some fun things to do in this little town:
1. Get your coffee fix at the Inkwell Coffee & Tea House
Ranked as one of the best 10 coffee shops in New Hampshire – you have to try this cute spot in Littleton. They have a wide array of locally roasted coffee and organic teas to chose from and everything on their menu looks so good, you can never go wrong with anything you order.
You can sit in their garden patio and enjoy some beautiful river views as you sip your coffee or grab a table indoors for a cozy vibe.
2. Get on the River walk Covered Bridge in Littleton
One of the quintessential thing to do in New Hampshire, is see a few of the many covered bridges. New Hampshire has 66 covered bridges. Each covered bridge is a unique construction in a one-of-a-kind, over-water setting.
The 352 foot, Warren Truss bridge was completed in September 2004, connects to trails paralleling the river in both directions, and is a very pleasant walk.
Some other great bridges to visit in New Hampshire are:
- Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge(New Hampshire’s longest)
- Sentinel Pine Bridge
- Albany Covered Bridge(Most photogenic)
- Bartlett Bridge(get your new Hampshire here)
- Blair Covered bridge( New Hampshire’s cursed bridge)
3. A Hidden gem in Littleton – Umbrella Sky Project
We found this gem, while we were casually strolling through the streets of Littleton. An artsy alley adorned with petunia overflowing lampposts and colorful umbrellas suspended in the sky definitely deemed some fun photos.
You can find this alley way as you drive through Littleton- you cannot miss all this colorful splendor.
White Mountain National Forest
The White Mountain National Forest in eastern New Hampshire and western Maine ranges from mountainous hardwood forests to majestic alpine peaks. Here, you’ll be able to spot foliage everywhere you go and everything you do, from exploring gorges and mountain lakes to hiking the famous White Mountain Trail and grabbing a locally brewed beer.
1. Drive through Crawford Notch
A dramatic mountain pass on the southwestern slopes of Mount Washington, with excellent outdoor activity possibilities – hiking, fishing, foliage walks, swimming under a waterfall and wildlife viewing. Crawford Notch State Park is also rich in history with the famous Willey House.
The drive takes you through some picturesque roads bordered with colorful fall foliage on both sides and spectacular mountain views.
2. Visit the haunted Mt Washington Hotel
Located in Bretton Woods, the Mount Washington Hotel is the last remaining Grand Hotel in the White Mountains. The huge white historic hotel with its Renaissance Revival architecture stands out against the sea of fall foliage and is just absolutely photogenic. And, oh, did I mentioned it is haunted? A man named Joseph Stickney built the hotel, and his wife, Princess Carolyn, is said to haunt her former room, 314. The hotel has apparently retained the same bed that she used to sleep in (How spooky!). People have sighted her sleeping on the bed, staring at them from the mezzanine in the hotel and also experienced a phantom orchestra playing?
I knew I wasn’t going in the moment I read that, but its absolutely beautiful to admire from the outside as well.
3. Hike along the Saco Lake
For an easy hike amidst the fall foliage head to the Saco Lake. The lake trail is a 0.5 mile out and back trail, good for all skill levels and features stunning views of the lake set against fall colors. It is a pleasant place for a family picnic or to watch a romantic sunset between the mountains.
1. Ride the Scenic Railroad at Conway
If you are looking for a unique and easy way to experience New Hampshire’s fall foliage without driving or hiking, the Conway Scenic Railroad is the perfect option!
The Conway Scenic Railroad is truly an escape to the past, as you depart from the Victorian station built in 1874 on a locomotive train. The passenger cars give you the experience of a post-World War II Transcontinental streamlined train. You can choose from 2 train ride options – The Mountaineer(about 5.5 hours) and Conway Valley Train(1 hour).
The Mountaineer Notch Trail travels through Crawford Notch, offering views of steep ravines, cascading brooks, and of course, beautiful mountain views. Make sure to bring your cameras along because you will have breathtaking views of New Hampshire’s fall foliage the entire train ride!
This is one of the best experiences in Conway and I highly recommend to add it to your itinerary.
2. Shop at Zeb’s General Store
After the train ride stop by the Zeb’s General Store – an emporium filled with any and all things special to the state. Get your new Hampshire souvenir, gifts, vintage toys and oh, don’t forget the delicious maple candies.
Franconia Notch National Park & Kancamagus Highway
1. Drive on the Kancamagus Scenic Highway
One of New England’s more spectacularly beautiful drives, the 34-mile Kancamagus Highway (known by locals as “the Kank”) cuts an east-west channel through the 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest and hands down has some of the best foliage views you will see across the state. I suggest booking a scenic self-driving audio tour for just $8 that will give you a guided tour of the entire drive.
On the way you can stop by Sabbaday Falls – drops 40 feet into a small emerald green pothole that opens as a slide into a 20-foot horsetail into a tight gorge. Stop to admire the falls or have a picnic.
2. Hike to Artist Bluff
Here’s your chance to see the colorful foliage from an aerial view!
The most popular trail is the 1.5-mile Bald Mountain Trail and Artist Bluff Trail loop. The trail begins in the parking lot across Peabody Base Lodge and immediately begins ascending. After a quarter-mile, you have the option to continue along the trail to Bald Mountain, or turn right to Artists Bluff. I recommend continuing the short but steep trail to Bald Mountain. Bald Mountain offers similar views to Artists Bluff but from a higher viewpoint. Once you take in the views, continue on the loop to Artists Bluff. If you are looking for a shorter option there is a trail across from Echo Lake Beach’s parking lot that leads to Artists Bluff. It is an easy a path with access to a beautiful view. No matter which trail you take, the views will not disappoint you- some of the best in New Hampshire.
Artists Bluff is a very popular viewpoint, (and absolutely my favorite) so if you want a peaceful experience with less crowd, I recommend arriving at the trail early morning or late evening.
3. Picnic at the Echo Lake
Looking for a place to relax after the hike and pull out your fall picnic? Echo Lake is your spot!
Spread out your picnic basket and enjoy some great lake views as you munch on snacks, take a small hike around the lake, rent a kayak or canoe to chill on the lake and if you’re up for it – take a swim in the lake. This picturesque lake with a beach has something for everyone.
Note: Tickets are needed to enter the Echo lake area, which are sold at the ticketing office near the entrance.
Other things to do
Table Rock trail
Within Dixville Notch State Park, this 1.5 mile trail gets pretty steep towards the end but rewards you with spectacular aerial views from atop the cliffs.
The Flume Gorge is a beautiful gorge located at the base of Mount Liberty in Franconia Notch State Park. It is one of the most popular attractions to view in New Hampshire’s for fall foliage! The 4-mile hike to Flume Gorge takes you to the foot of the 800-foot natural gorge with great views of waterfalls all along.
Thank you for reading along. Hope this helps you plan your next fall trip to New Hampshire! If you have any questions, you can leave a comment, or slide into my DMs @preksharaj.