Outdoor lovers rejoice, Fall in New Hampshire is something special. I grew up going back and forth between Maine and New Hampshire, but never did much hiking or outdoorsy activities. ‘Tis the season of change, I suppose.
In the last couple of months, I’ve spent more time in New Hampshire than, I think, I have over the course of my life. When the weather started to warm up and the ground began to thaw I b-lined it for the White Mountains. And I guess I never stopped returning. Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever envisioned the beauty of the mountains colored in shades of red, orange and yellow. Ladies, here are all the deets on my favorite places to go, mountains to climb, and where to rest and recharge for an epic Fall in New Hampshire.
Where to stay during your epic Fall adventure in New Hampshire
I’ve stayed at Huttopia three times now, once at their southern Maine location and twice at Huttopia White Mountains. The property in New Hampshire is conveniently located 15 minutes from North Conway, New Hampshire. If you’re not familiar with North Conway, it’s one of the main towns in the White Mountains.
I stayed in the trappeur tent both times I visited the Huttopia White Mountains location. The trappeurs sleep up to 5 people and come fully equipped with a gas stove, fridge, storage, sink, utensils, a dining area with chairs, a full bathroom complete with a toilet, sink and shower. Huttopia also provides a French press, wine glasses (essential), all of your cookware, towels, linens, and dish soap. On the outside of the tent there is a small deck, picnic table, camp chairs, and fire pit. You can read more about the trappeur tents here. Huttopia also offers cabins, if tents aren’t your thing!
The White Mountains property is set on a small lake and has its very own beach. So, as you can imagine, Fall in New Hampshire vibes are in full force. They have canoe, kayak and SUP rentals and at the center of the property is the pool and Airstream caravan. The airstream acts as their on-site restaurant, where they offer a range of goodies in the mornings and evenings from lattes and crepes to pizza and soft drinks.
Because food is an essential part of adventuring and sometimes you don’t want to cook, amiright?
Barley & Salt Tap House– American fare and known for their extensive beer selection. Located right in town.
Sweet Maple Café– A grab and go or dine-in sandwich shop. They serve breakfast too!
The Metropolitan Coffee House– There are two locations in North Conway, one has an art gallery inside! They offer GF and DF options for breakfast/coffee.
Frontside Coffee Roasters– For your morning cup of grab n’ go joe!
What to do during Fall in New Hampshire
I will preface this by saying: sharing these locations is a rarity but I can’t keep them to myself! Each spot is so beautiful in its own way. The diversity of mountain terrain in the Whites is incredible and one of the reasons I love it so much; there is a lil something for everyone. Plus, the foliage at these spots is poppin’ in the Fall.
Drive the Kancamagus Highway
The Kancamagus is a 30ish mile scenic highway that connects North Conway to Lincoln, another little mountain town nestled outside of Franconia Notch State Park. On the Lincoln side is Loon Mountain and the Hobo Railroad, along with so many hikes!
On this scenic highway you’ll wind through the mountains, navigating hairpin turns and climbing to the highest point of the road at 2,855 feet. There are so many pull off points that you can’t miss but my favorite is the scenic vista, Pemigewasset Scenic Overlook. I love the vantage point it gives you with the gazebo and surrounding mountains.
Some other pull off points along the Kanc are the Hancock and Sugar Hill overlooks, Swift River, Lower Falls, Sabbaday Falls, and the Rocky Gorge. If you see Bear Notch Road, take the turn! It is a beautiful drive that twists and turns and is a direct route connecting Conway with Bartlett, New Hampshire (closed and not maintained in the winter).
Keep an eye out for wildlife like hawks, moose, falcons, eagles, deer, bear, raccoons, porcupine and more. Caution is always advised when driving the Kancamagus, especially at dusk and dawn when wildlife is more active. There are campgrounds, cabins, and stealth camping spots all along the drive too. While driving the Kancamagus is free, some spots require a permit to park, take note of signs!
Drive Through Franconia Notch State Park
I guess it seems that New Hampshire in the fall is the mecca for scenic drives. The drive through Franconia Notch State Park is a beautiful one. At points, it felt like I’d been transported to California or somewhere with rocky peaks out west. Coming from Conway it’s about an hour’s drive to reach the state park. The stretch of I-93 through Franconia Notch is a short drive, only about 8 miles but there are plenty of turn off points and scenic vistas to drool over. It’s also the gateway for so many trails and campgrounds! More on that below.
Fall in New Hampshire Must: Hike Artist Bluff
This is what your fall in New Hampshire dreams are made of! Artist Bluff is a 1.5 mile loop trail with an elevation gain of 436 feet in Franconia Notch State Park. So, for most, this is relatively easy which is why it is heavily trafficked! For not a lot of effort, this hike gives you those iconic New Hampshire views. The bluff provides the perfect vantage point overlooking Canon Mountain (a popular ski area in New Hampshire) and Echo Lake.
You can reach the bluff one of two ways. There is a trailhead accessible from the Echo Lake parking lot, just across the street. This trail will take you directly to the bluff, but it is quite steep. The other option is to park closer to Canon Mountain accessing a trail at the middle of the back of the parking lot. There is a tiny wooden sign at the entrance to the trail. The trail will split, simply follow signs for the bluff. Keep an eye out for sneaky views along the trail, there’s one with a big rock you can climb up.
I recommend visiting on a week day early in the morning for sunrise or in the evening for sunset to avoid crowds.
Visit Flume Gorge
I guess this is a trend, another stunning hike that requires very little effort. Flume Gorge sits at the base of Mount Liberty and got its beginnings 200 million years ago. Today, the 2 mile trail winds through towering 90-foot tall granite cliffs alongside the waterfalls and moss covered walls. The Flume Covered Bridge and Avalanche Falls are two of the most popular viewpoints along the trail.
Flume Gorge is currently a one-way trail. Reservations must be made prior to your visit.
Hike Franconia Ridge Loop
I am going to preface this by saying: this is not a walk in the park. Nor is it easy like the previous two hikes. Franconia Ridge Loop is definitely for the more adventurous, experienced hiker. You will climb 3,822 feet over 9ish miles (so really over 4ish miles you gain that elevation) and summit three of the regions tallest mountains. Namely, Mt. Lafayette, the state’s fourth tallest mountain at 5,249 feet.
You can approach the hike from two different trails, Falling Waters or Old Bridle Path. I hiked up by way of Falling Waters and down Old Bridle. On Falling Waters you’ll follow the river passing by waterfalls as you ascend. The trail has a gradual incline for the first mile or so, then you really start to climb as you approach the first of the three summits, Haystack Mountain. On a clear day, you can see the rest of the ridge however the day I climbed I was in a cloud with gusts of 30mph winds. The second summit is Little Haystack, the first 4,000 footer, and the last is Mt. Lafayette. The saying ‘save the best for last’ applies here. The trail along the ridge is relatively moderate, especially when comparing it to what you climbed previously!
Talk about rewarding! On a clear day, to the east you can see the Presidential Range and Mount Washington and in front of you, the entire ridge line. Once you’ve taken in all of the views and summited Lafayette you have the option to turn around and go back down Falling Waters or head down Bridle Path. The way down Bridle Path is steep and rocky so watching your footing is a must. Down Old Bridle is Greenleaf Hut. This hut is maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club and it provides toilets, water, and a place to sleep for hikers. You can stay in the hut but you need to make a reservation ahead of time. After the hut as you continue your descent, there are a few vantage points that look up at the three summits and the ridge line. Don’t miss them!
Hike Mt. Kearsarge North
This mountain is located on the North Conway side of the Kancamagus Highway in Bartlett. The draw? The fire tower! In the warmer months, you can even camp in the fire tower. Mt. Kearsarge North is a 6.5 mile out and back trail with an elevation gain of 2,536 feet. The climb to the summit is steady but moderate, the closer you get to the top the steeper the trail becomes.
Get to the parking lot EARLY! The parking lot is small and due to its popularity spaces fill up quite fast. Your best bet is getting there for sunrise or just after.