Unarguably one of the best states to explore colors of the Fall in New England is New Hampshire. If you are planning a road trip in the area I am here to help you. This is your ultimate guide to the best time for peak colors, best spots, hikes, road trips and more in New Hampshire during the Fall season.
When Is The Best Time To Visit New Hampshire In The Fall – Fall Foliage Tracker
Fall in New Hampshire usually lasts from mid September until early November. For the Fall foliage peak focus on late September to mid October. These changes depend on the weather and the region of New Hampshire you are visiting. Keep in mind that the more you go North the earlier colors will appear so plan your trip accordingly.
The best way to to stay as up to date as possible is to use Visit NH’s Foliage Tracker
What Is The Best Airport To Fly To In New Hampshire
If you need to fly from other part of the country to New England you have a couple of options. You can fly to New Hampshire directly via Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Also, you can pick easier and larger airports, like Boston Logan International Airport (usually a cheaper option) or Albany International Airport.
What Should I Pack For Fall In New Hampshire
Since the weather might be a bit unpredictable I highly recommend to take layers of clothing in the event of rain, wind, and fog. In case it gets too chilly you can add a layer and if the temperature rises again you can always take one off. Some of the necessities to bring along should include a warm jacket, scarf, a pair of hiking boots, backpack and even a sunscreen. You will be surprised how fast the weather can change especially while hiking in the mountains.
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It is great to prepare an itinerary for your trip but keep in mind that being flexible is also a good thing. There are a couple of reasons why your plans might change. You arrive at your destination and unfortunately find out that the peak foliage isn’t where you think it is supposed to be. Some trails can be very crowded and you might decide to come at a different time. If you are planning to take photos you might find out that the best light at some spots happens at different time of the day than when you arrive.
The best way to plan this trip could be just making a list of places you want to visit and having a back-up plan if it’s too busy or the weather conditions worsen.
Also, keep in mind that there are so many beautiful places on the way that you might just spontaneously decide to make a couple of extra stops. This is what happens to us very often. I always check the map while driving to see if there are any other interesting places worth visiting in the area.
How To Get Around
As this is going to be a road trip then unquestionably you will need a car. Find a good rental company and decide if you need 4×4 or just a regular car. We live in New York City so we just get a car from an Avis location that is within walking distance. If you fly into the area, airport car rental locations are your best best.
Tips For Visiting New Hampshire In The Fall
Here is some info that you might find helpful in terms of planning your trip:
- Book Early – New England in general is the most popular area during Fall season. You might be surprised how fast hotels, Airbnbs, and campsites get booked.
- Check the weather – I said that before but I want you to take this seriously. You don’t want to miss the peak foliage time in New Hampshire since this is the best moment in an entire year.
- Entrance fees and park passes – Always check if a certain attraction does require an entrance fee. White Mountain National Forest is mostly free of charge but some of the stops along the Kancamagus Highway are paid to help maintain trails and facilities. The annual pass for White Mountain ($30) can be purchased here
- Download offline Map – Unfortunately, in several areas of the White Mountains you might completely loose your cell phone service. If you are planning a hike then make sure you have a relevant map dowloaded ahead of time
The Most Scenic Drives And Hikes To See Fall Foliage
Dixville Notch State Park
- Table Rock Trail
Length: 1.5 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 751 ft (229 m)
Table Rock in one of the most popular and rewarding hikes in New Hampshire. Personally this is my favorite place to admire unique views in the northern part of New Hampshire. The place is located in Dixville Notch and the best time to visit it is during Fall foliage.
There are two trailheads to the Table Rock Hike. One is trail #50 and it’s right along highway 26 (44.86538, -71.31303). We took this trail and found it to be pretty short and not so challenging. Just be careful of the slippery parts especially after it rains.
The second trail is #57 and it’s much steeper. It starts down the road on highway 26 on the other side of Lake Gloriette (44.864839, -71.300719).
Once you get through the wooded section and reach the summit you can walk on the Table Rock and admire the exceptional views. Keep in mind that the rock is only 6 feet wide and side of the rock is a 700 feet sheer drop so not everyone can feel completely comfortable. We were lucky because when we got to the top there were only two other couples there. Try to avoid the crowds there since there is not a lot of space to fit that many people. It might get really dangerous. To avoid such a situation it is best to hike there early during the day or do it on weekdays.
Just so you know the Table Rock is free and does not require a pass or reservation.
The scenic Kancamagus Highway stretches 34.5 miles along the New Hampshire scenic Route 112 through White Mountain National Forest between Lincoln and Conway. Total drive without stops would take you 45 minutes but there are many beautiful viewpoints just off the road so make sure to allocate at least half a day for exploration.
Some of the best stops are:
- Swift River
- Albany Covered Bridge
- Lower Falls Scenic Area
- Rocky Gorge Scenic Area
- Sabbaday Falls Picnic Area
- Sugar Hill Scenic Overlook
- C.L. Graham Wangan Overlook
- Hancock Overlook and Hancock Notch Trailhead
You should know that stops along the Kancamagus Highway require a White Mountain Pass which you can buy here.
Franconia Notch State Park
- Artist Bluff Trail
Length: 1.5 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 436 ft (133 m)
Even if you’ve never done this hike before I am sure you have at least seen photos from the picturesque Artist Bluff Viewpoint. They are all over the internet. The top of the mountain has an incredible view of a sea of colorful trees located around the Echo Lake. It’s a great place to relax and take some iconic Fall photos in New Hampshire.
This is a short and very easy hike, more like a nice walk through the woods. You can either take a shortcut located directly across the street from the Echo Lake parking lot or hike the loop counterclockwise from the main trailhead. If you are still not sure where to find the trail and correct lookout I suggest you download offline AllTrails map. You can find a full trail here
Just keep in mind that this is very popular hike so it might get insanely busy during peak foliage. The best time to visit it is sunrise although you need to be prepared for a potential fog. Sunset could be your other option.
- Echo Lake
Open hours: 9AM – 6PM June -October
During off hours and off season this place is not staffed but it’s still open for recreation.
As mentioned before Echo Lake is the one located at the bottom of the view from Artist Bluff. It’s surrounded by Mt. Lafayette, Cannon Mountain ski area and the notch where the Franconia Range meets the Kinsman Range. This is a great place to spend afternoon relaxing, swimming, kayaking or canoeing (available for rent at the place).
The best time to take photos of the lake is sunrise and sunset when there is no harsh shade on the water and the light is soft.
- Flume Gorge
Trail details: 2.2 miles loop
Definitely a place you don’t want to miss when traveling in New Hampshire. It’s a very family friendly easy short hike that offers great views of Avalanches Falls. Fall peak seems to be a perfect time to admire beautiful colors all over stunning waterfalls and natural gorge flanked by wooden walkway. This is also the place with a famous Flume Covered Bridge. Make sure to reserve tickets ahead of time since the place is super busy especially during October. Here is a map of the trail
Crowford Notch State Park
- Mt. Willard Trail
Length: 3.1 miles round trip
Elevation gain:v895 ft (273 m)
One of the favorite hikes that offers breathtaking views of Fall foliage in New Hampshire. To access the Mount Willard Trail park at a parking lot next to the AMC Highland Center train station walk across the train tracks. You will be hiking on a consistent gradual ascent to the summit so even if you are not an experienced hiker you shouldn’t have any problem to reach the top. Your effort will be rewarded with an epic view of Crawford Notch and surrounding mountain range. Always check the weather before the hike. And here is your trail map.
- Willey Brook Trestle
Very popular spot especially among photographers trying to catch Fall colors in Crawford Notch when the Scenic Railroad train crosses the bridge. It’s like a postcard from New Hampshire with a yellow train surrounded by vibrant Fall colors. How iconic!
There are two ways to watch the train passing the Willey Brook Bridge. One is from the side of Route 302 and it’s perfect for a zoom lens and drone photography. If you want to get closer you can scramble up a ledge above the tracks. This is going to be an adventure because you will be climbing 300ft vertical rock. Find acmes from US Route 302 and after passing the rock follow the unmarked path. Here are aprox coordinates: 44°11′55″N 71°24′40″W
To track the train schedule I suggest checking Conway Scenic Railroad website ahead of time.
- Ripley Falls
Ripley Falls are some of the best falls to visit while you are in Crawford Notch. It is only 1.0 mile round trip of a short and nice hike so you should be done in about an hour. What makes these falls unique is that they rush down a rock wall at 60-degree angle and create kind of a curtain effect. Very photogenic spot!
- Flume Cascade and the Silver Cascade
Other beautiful falls worth making a stop along Route 302. This is just a short drive from the Mt. Willard trail. Here is more info.
- Albany Covered Bridge
One of the most famous covered bridges in New Hampshire built in 1858. Take a short walk crossing the bridge by foot for the best photo opportunity. This place is especially charming during Fall season.
- Cathedral Ledge
Very popular spot among photographers and artists who during peak foliage choose it for its excellent vantage view. This dramatic cliff can be seen while visiting the center of the little town of North Conway. You hike to the top or you drive via the road starting at Echo Lake State Park.
Close to Conway you will find another charming town of Sandwich. Situated in the picturesque White Mountains and on the beautiful Squam Lake it is absolutely a photo worth the trip. You can expect some cool Fall activities like pumpkin carving, Sandwich Fair, or even pick-up truck pulling competition.
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