Where to See Fall Foliage in New Hampshire

Explore Crawford Notch State Park’s fall beauty via hiking
Explore Crawford Notch State Park’s fall beauty via hiking | © Pat & Chuck Blackley / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Mike Title
5 October 2020

New Hampshire is well known for its spectacular fall foliage, pulling visitors from all over the United States and beyond. The leaf colors transform from greens to vivid reds, oranges and yellows, with peak fall usually beginning in September and lasting through to mid-October. Here are some of Culture Trip’s favorite spots to enjoy the joys of fall in the Granite State.

Franconia Notch State Park

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Sentinel Pine covered bridge, The Flume trail, Franconia Notch State Park, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire USA
© Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo

In the White Mountain National Forest, Franconia Notch State Park is home to one of the most spectacular autumnal scenes in the United States. You can walk through the Flume Gorge, surrounded by towering granite cliffs, while at Cannon Mountain, a tramway will take you 4,080ft (1,244m) above sea level for a new perspective. There are also some bike trails, which will lead you under the sugar maples, yellow birches, beeches and red spruces that display so many brilliant colors during the fall season.

Jackson

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Jackson, a village in the White Mountain National Forest, is popular for its hiking trails, attracting people year-round. However, the town shines during the fall, delivering peaceful autumnal landscapes in style. Here, after a short summer, you can watch as birch, maple and spruce trees transform boldly. When these trees are aglow, Jackson feels like a fair town, with its celebrations lasting the whole season. It’s a small town with a big love for fall.

Kancamagus Scenic Byway

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Fall foliage on the Kancamagus Highway through the White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire, USA
© Michael Dwyer / Alamy Stock Photo

If you’d like to take a scenic driving route, the nearly 35mi (56km) Kancamagus Scenic Byway (the Kanc) between Conway and Lincoln is a must-see and New Hampshire’s most popular drive in the fall. It leads you straight through the spectacular foliage of the White Mountains, taking you on windy roads with vistas for miles. Before starting the journey, it’s important to visit the Saco Ranger Station just off Route 16. You will need a parking pass for forest service parking areas on what is a magnificent route.

Crawford Notch State Park

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Of all the outdoor activities available in the White Mountain National Forest, hiking has to be at the top of the list and for obvious reasons. Crawford Notch State Park is a great option to explore the area’s mountain vistas and many impressive waterfalls. During autumn, walking to the falls in the cool air is an idyllic experience, as leaves crunch underfoot, but some of the hikes are steep. The trek may be challenging in spots and take a while, but by the time you get to the top and see the sweeping vistas, all that pain will be forgotten.

Conway Scenic Railroad

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Conway Scenic Railroad’s “Notch Train” along the old Maine Central Railroad in Hart's Location, New Hampshire during the autumn
© Erin Paul Donovan / Alamy Stock Photo

New Hampshire is boldly confident of its conditions to produce magnificent fall colors year after year in the White Mountain National Forest and offers many choices on how you get to enjoy yourself while taking in all of the beauty. The Conway Scenic Railroad is a magical way to see the season explode before your eyes, as you hop aboard a train that winds through the region – it’s close to being the perfect family day out. While staring out at the glowing colors, you may even get to spot a moose.

Hanover

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On the Connecticut River in Grafton County, Hanover is one of America’s famous small towns – it has a certain charm to it. Home to Dartmouth College, it sits among leafy green squares, making it a lovely place wander around in autumn. You can also rent a kayak from the Ledyard Canoe Club and take in the town’s fall foliage from another perspective, splashing around on the river while the trees turn fiery orange and red all around you.

These recommendations were updated on October 5, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.