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Exploring New Hampshire Fall Foliage: A Guide

Nestled in the heart of New England between Main and Vermont, New Hampshire is an autumn lover’s paradise. From its brisk peaks to the scent of spiced apple cider doughnuts to views of the White Mountains blanketed in fiery leaves, millions of people visit New Hampshire every year to experience its legendary fall foliage.

So slip on a flannel, grab a cup of pumpkin spice coffee, and let’s check out all the best spots to view New Hampshire’s fall foliage. And maybe we’ll even find a place to grab a bag of those yummy apple cider doughnuts along the way!

new hampshire fall foliage

When to Plan Your Trip

Figuring out just the right time to visit can take a bit of guesswork. Nature doesn’t adhere to a fixed schedule, and the weather plays an important role when it comes to the timing of New Hampshire’s fall foliage. Temperatures and rainfall often affect when the leaves change color and just how vibrant they get.

That said, the leaves in New Hampshire usually begin showing color in late September, with peak season occurring in early to mid-October after at least 50% of the trees have turned. For predictions on when to expect peak color, it’s best to check out New Hampshire’s Fall Foliage Tracker.

Best Places to View Fall Foliage: Northern New Hampshire

Beautiful landscape pictures during the autumn season from Mount Washington in New Hampshire, USA. Approximately 6300 ft elevation. Notorious erratic weather

Kancamagus Scenic Highway

The Kancamagus Scenic Highway is the quintessential leaf-peeping route for those visiting New Hampshire. Beginning in the town of Lincoln, this 34.5-mile drive weaves through the White Mountain National Forest and offers up some of the most breathtaking and rustic views of New Hampshire’s fall foliage.

With plenty of trailheads and scenic viewpoints along the way, such as the Albany Covered Bridge and Rocky Gorge, there are lots of opportunities on the Kancamagus Highway to get out and stretch your legs. Just don’t forget to bring your camera!

Dixville Notch State Park

Located in Colebrook, NH, Dixville Notch State Park may be on the smaller side, but it’s packed with tons of natural beauty, including a gorge, waterfalls, secluded campsites, and lots of hiking trails.

Some of the park’s most popular hikes include the 0.4-mile round-trip hike to view the beautiful Huntington Cascades waterfall and the 1.5-mile round-trip Table Rock Trail, which overlooks both Lake Gloriette and the dramatic Dixville Notch pass.

Loon Mountain Resort

The picturesque scenery at Loon Mountain Resort proves ski resorts aren’t just for skiing! The elevation here gives visitors the perfect perch from which to view New Hampshire’s beautiful fall foliage in every direction.

For a true birds-eye view, be sure to take the White Mountain Express Gondola, New Hampshire’s longest scenic Skyride. Each gondola seats four people and takes approximately 15 minutes to reach the top of Loon Peak, giving riders plenty of time to take in the stunning panoramic views.

Franconia Notch State Park

Franconia Notch State Park should be at the top of every list when planning a visit to New Hampshire’s White Mountain Region. Located in the pass between the Franconia and Kinsman ranges of the White Mountains, Franconia Notch is the perfect place to go when you want to get away from it all and just enjoy nature.

The park is home to an extensive amount of hiking and biking trails, as well as the jaw-dropping geology of the Flume Gorge. Be sure to seek out the Flume Covered Bridge on your visit for the ultimate New England photo op.

Mount Washington

At 6,288 feet, Mount Washington is not only New Hampshire’s highest peak, but it’s also the tallest mountain in the Northeastern United States, making it an ideal spot for glimpsing fall foliage on a clear day.

Most visitors reach Mount Washinton’s summit via the Auto Road. In use since 1861, the Mount Washington Auto Road is the oldest man-made tourist attraction in the United States. With an average grade of 12%, lots of tight turns, and sheer drop-offs, a drive up the Auto Road is sure to thrill, especially during peak leaf season when the surrounding mountains are showing off their colors.

Another great way to see New Hampshire’s fall foliage is to book tickets on the Cog Railway. Billed as the world’s first mountain-climbing train, the Cog takes passengers up Mount Washington in vintage style. The average grade sits at 25%, with some sections of the climb reaching a near 40% grade, making a ride on the Cog an unforgettable experience.

Best Places to View Fall Foliage: Central New Hampshire

Meredith town center with fall foliage aerial view in fall with Meredith Bay in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire NH, USA.

Lake Winnipesaukee Loop

Taking a drive around New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee Loop is a lovely trip in any season, but it’s a must during the fall when colorful foliage reflects off the water. The 134-mile loop takes drivers through charming villages like Wolfeboro and Moultonborough, where a stop at The Old Country Store and Museum is a time-honored tradition. In business since 1781, The Old Country Store’s shelves are packed with souvenirs and homemade goods such as jams, candies, and local maple syrup.

The loop provides a full day’s worth of viewing New Hampshire’s best fall foliage. Be sure to visit the beautiful Castle in the Clouds mansion on your way for a tour of the historic property, as well as to enjoy unobstructed views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the surrounding Ossipee Mountain Range.

Gunstock Mountain Resort

New Hampshire’s Gunstock Mountain Resort is the perfect spot for those who like a little extra outdoor adventure with their fall foliage.

Overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, Gunstock is home to Gunstock Adventure Park, which boasts such activities as an aerial treetop course, scenic lift rides up the mountain, downhill mountain coaster rides, and one of the longest zip-line tours in the United States.

Sabbaday Falls Observation Site

The Sabbaday Falls Observation Site is a popular stop along Route 112 in Conway, New Hampshire. It is a short walk to the falls (about 15 minutes on a level trail), making it ideal for those with small children.

One of the most-visited waterfalls in New Hampshire, the Sabbaday Falls plunges over 40 feet down three tiers of rock, giving visitors quite the show. Enjoy waterfall views from one of the many viewing platforms and bridges while surrounded by New Hampshire’s glorious fall foliage.

Best Places to View Fall Foliage: Southern New Hampshire

Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire

American Independence Byway

The American Independence Byway is a great choice for history buffs. This 21-mile scenic loop runs near the Atlantic Ocean, and through some of New Hampshire’s oldest towns, where there are plenty of quaint spots to stop for a bite to eat.

New Hampshire’s fall foliage is on full display alongside timeless Colonial architecture from the 1600s. Be sure to stop at the American Independence Museum to view one of the very first drafts of the Declaration of Independence.

Currier & Ives Scenic Byway

For many, the name Currier & Ives conjures up images of old, small-town New England towns and the Currier & Ives Scenic Byway has plenty of that kind of nostalgia to go around! This 30-mile route takes visitors through some of New Hampshire’s best scenic and historic sites.

From rural pastures to covered bridges, to Daniel Webster’s birthplace, and the old homestead of Franklin Pierce, there are plenty of points of interest to see along with miles of New Hampshire’s fall foliage.

Mount Monadnock

Located in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, Mount Monadnock is the most climbed mountain in the Western Hemisphere, with over 100,000 visitors annually. The main trail runs about 2 miles up the mountain and takes approximately 3-4 hours to climb roundtrip.

Pack a lunch and picnic on top of the world while surrounded by endless views of New Hampshire’s best fall foliage.

Downtown Portsmouth, NH

For a low-key, walkable, and picturesque maritime town, be sure to visit downtown Portsmouth. As the shining jewel of New Hampshire’s Seacoast Region, this charming town is bustling with boutique shops, art galleries, museums, and cafes. And a stay here is even more beautiful when New Hampshire’s fall foliage is at its peak.

The perfect blend of historic and hip, Portsmouth is the oldest settlement in New Hampshire. The city is listed as one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations by The National Trust for Historic Preservation. Delight in history at every turn as you stroll down the leaf-strewn sidewalks. At the working harbor, stop to enjoy views of the drawbridges and see Portsmouth’s famous red tugboats.

Experience New Hampshire’s Fall Foliage

New Hampshire’s exceptional fall foliage only lasts for a few weeks every year, so it’s a good idea to plan your trip early. From hiking up in the mountains of the North Country to shopping for all the autumn-themed goodies in the South, New Hampshire has something for everyone looking for ways to embrace the fall season.

Be sure to check out our posts on the Best Pumpkin Patches in New Hampshire and the Best Apple Orchards in New Hampshire, so you don’t miss out on any of the fall fun.