A day or more spent visiting northern New Hampshire during its magnificent foliage season is a day to be savored and remembered.
People come from all over the world to view the colorful reds, oranges, yellows, magentas and russets of our fall foliage.
Peak foliage, which is the point at which the color of the leaves is the brightest, generally happens between the third and fourth weeks of September and into the first week or two of October. The trees begin changing color from north to south, that is from Pittsburg and the Canadian border southward through the White Mountains.
These drives will help you see the best and brightest colors northern New Hampshire will be showing off.
Around the Connecticut Lakes
The reflection of the foliage and blue sky is breathtaking in Pittsburg, the northernmost town in New Hampshire. Begin your journey in Pittsburg and head north on Route 3, which will take you past Lake Francis and the three Connecticut Lakes. Heavily forested, the colorful maple trees contrast beautifully with the evergreens.
There are picnic tables at First and Second Lakes. This time of year, be on the lookout for moose. This is the mating season, so expect to find bulls in search of cows. The section is known as Moose Alley, so take care while driving.
The end of the road comes when you reach the Canadian border. Here, you will find the only double monuments along the entire northern border, placed there just 18 inches apart when surveyors from the two countries, back in the 1800s, met there and could not agree on the exact spot where the border should be!
The Foliage Loop
This is an ambitious road trip, which will take you from Groveton, up to Milan and Errol, across Dixville Notch, into Colebrook and back through Stratford to Groveton.
Begin your excursion in Groveton on Route 110, following it east from the village to Stark. You may recognize the view in Stark even if you’ve never been here. The pretty New England tableau of the white clapboard church and the covered bridge over the Upper Ammonoosuc River has appeared for years on bank calendars, notecards and mementos.
From Stark, the road winds through the colorful countryside and into the city of Berlin. In Berlin, connect with Route 16 and head north.
Route 16 hugs the Androscoggin River, which once powered Berlin’s paper mills, giving rise to the city’s nickname: the “City that Trees Built.” Follow the meandering highway through the beautiful 13 Mile Woods (be on the lookout for moose) and the tiny, picturesque town of Milan. When you reach Errol, stretch your legs at L.L. Cote’s in the center of town and say hello to the white moose inside.
From Errol, head west on Route 26 through the starkly beautiful Dixville Notch, with its rocky ramparts that reach into the sky.
At the western base of the notch is the site of the former Balsams Grand Resort, which is currently closed and undergoing a rebirth. Stop for a couple of minutes to take in the beautiful scenery of Lake Gloriette
Continue on Route 26, which passes through pretty farmland, and into Colebrook. This is a lively and bustling northern community, with restaurants and inviting shops worth taking some time to visit.
For the last leg of the journey, head south on US Route 3, which follows the beautiful Connecticut River and brings you back to where you started in Groveton.
Route 2 and The Presidentials
Perhaps there is no more breathtaking sight than majestic mountains towering over an autumn landscape.
This journey takes you from Lancaster to Gorham, along Route 2. Both towns have delightful Main Streets dotted with interesting shops, so if you are looking for unique mementos to bring home, plan some time to shop, dine and explore.
From Lancaster, head east on Route 2. Although this is a major transportation corridor, it winds through some of the most beautiful scenery, with sweeping vistas of both the Kilkenny’s and the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, so named for the peaks named after presidents, including Washington, Adams, Madison, and Jefferson, as well as other notables in history.
The first mountains you will see are just a few miles outside of downtown Lancaster, where the Kilkenny range reaches out from the rich farmland of Lancaster and Jefferson. Pull into the convenient parking area, and take a few moments to enjoy the view.
The road continues east into Jefferson with several areas where you can pull off and take in the views, the sunshine and the gorgeous colors.
When you reach Gorham, you can elect to take a side trip to the top of Mount Washington, which, at 6,288 feet, is the highest mountain peak in the entire northeast.
The Mount Washington Auto Road is an 8-mile drive you can take yourself or opt for a guided tour to the summit and leave the driving to someone else! Check out the Extreme Mount Washington museum at the top and learn all about the world’s worst weather. Tip: Be sure to wear sturdy footwear and warm clothing, as the temps on the summit will likely be much colder than in the valley.
Littleton to Crawford Notch
In just over 20 miles Route 302 connects the southern hub of Littleton to Crawford Notch, but it boasts some of the most outstanding foliage views, especially of Mount Washington at Bretton Woods.
The bustling town of Littleton, with its shops, restaurants and breweries is a good jumping off point for this foliage jaunt.
Head east on Route 302 to Bethlehem, which has been attracting visitors since the mid-1800s with its charming Main Street. Back then and well into the 20th century visitors arrived by train from Boston, New York and points beyond to savor the views and the crisp, clear air.
The mountains of the Presidential Range beckon as you continue east on Route 302 through the bustling community of Twin Mountain and on to Bretton Woods. For an incomparable fall foliage experience, consider a stop at the Bretton Woods Adventure Center for the Canopy Tour and soar through the treetops, or book a ride on The Mount Washington Cog Railway and travel in style to the summit of Mount Washington. Trains run to the summit through October 15. Tip: Sturdy footwear and warm clothing will make your time on the summit comfortable; the weather there is almost always cooler — and sometimes downright cold and blustery — than at The Cog’s Base Station.
There is no more exhilarating sight than that of the snow-covered peaks of the mountain range towering over the brilliant foliage below seen from the wide verandah at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel and Resort.
After oohing and aahing over the splendid views and perhaps a cocktail or warm drink at the hotel, make your way east to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Center, just at the head of Crawford Notch. The Highland Center is perfectly positioned for dramatic views of the landscape and is also a welcoming spot for a refreshment break.