If you are a fall lover, a drive on the Kancamagus Highway through the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire is a leaf-peeper’s dream. This stretch of road is a must-see autumn destination with views that will seriously take your breath away.
People flock to New England every autumn, and for good reason. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the country.
While The Kanc is at its most impressive in the fall, it isn’t something to be overlooked in other seasons.
Drive through in the spring and summer when the leaves are lush and green and wildflowers are in bloom.
If weather permits, a drive through the White Mountains in winter will be breathtaking under a blanket of fresh snow.
New England is scenic at any time of year.
Being a Southern New England native, Northern New England is still mostly uncharted territory for me. I had never been to New Hampshire in the fall and was excited to see what the Granite State had to offer this time of year.
We hit the road Friday evening and stopped halfway to spend the night in Concord, still without much of a plan in mind other than taking a drive through the White Mountain National Forest. That was until we stopped for dinner at The Red Blazer, where the waitress struck up a conversation with us and told us to head up I-93 to exit 32 and take a left. Okay. This tip was better than anything we’d come up with on our own, which was nothing, so we took her advice.
The Kancamagus Highway
In the morning, we packed up the crew and hit the road up to Lincoln, NH. Before you even get to the exit, there are spectacular views to be seen. We were surprised to see people had parked on the side of the highway to take pictures, with some brave souls crossing the road to get a closer look. Thankfully, this isn’t an especially busy stretch of road. If this was a taste of what we could expect, then our hats were off to our previous evening’s waitress.
As it turns out, taking a left off Exit 32 takes you to the famed Kancamagus Highway. The Kanc is a 34-mile stretch of road along the Swift River and through the White Mountain National Forest from Lincoln to Conway, New Hampshire. Believe me, when I tell you, this is a road trip worth taking! Especially if you can time it just right and hit it during peak foliage, which we did. The views were nothing short of breathtaking.
White Mountain National Forest
If you are starting your journey on The Kancamagus Highway in Lincoln like we did, you will begin in a small town where you will be able to load up on snacks, use the bathroom (highly recommended), find a hotel, or visit some shops.
Note: if you’d like to book a room here during foliage season, do it early! This is a popular fall destination, and hotels fill up fast.
Once you begin your drive, you will soon come upon Loon Mountain. This is a beautiful place to stop for photos and to get psyched for what’s to come. The Kanc is full of sites to stop for photo ops and nature walks. There are plenty of trails, streams, and mountain views to keep you oohing and ahhing the whole way.
Toward the bottom of the mountain on the way to Conway, you’ll come upon the town of Albany. Here, you will find the Russell-Colbath House and cemetery. This is a neat place worthy of a stop. Plus, they have bathrooms in the big barn, which may be much-needed by the time you get there.
This cemetery is fascinating with graves from the Civil War era, turn of the century, and even more modern from the 1970s to the past five or ten years.
The house is a historical site that you can go inside as long as it’s open. It’s a small house but interesting to see how people lived back then.
Conway, New Hampshire
This stop is the end of the Kancamagus experience, and Conway isn’t much further down the road. Conway is another great town to visit if you have the time. There are restaurants, quaint shops, an L.L. Bean Outlet, and more.
If you’re feeling hungry after your adventure, I suggest a stop in at the Muddy Moose Restaurant & Pub. Both the atmosphere and the food are worthy of a visit. You’ll probably have to wait to be seated, so plan accordingly.
Next time you’re going to be in New Hampshire, plan to take a drive on Route 112, the Kancamagus Scenic Byway. You won’t regret it, no matter the season.
The Kanc is open year-round but plan your trip accordingly if you are heading that way in the winter. The highway does occasionally close for bad weather.