Fall Trips – Things To Do In New Hampshire During Fall
New Hampshire is undoubtedly the crown for fall leaf-peeping and seasonal activities pertaining to the change of seasons. This north eastern state of the US continent has been a favorite for locals, tourists and travellers who want to experience the beauty of fall in the countryside. Here’s a list of things to do in New Hampshire during fall if you’re planning to explore this beautiful countryside this year:
Best things to do in New Hampshire during fall season:
1. Fall foliage scenic drives
You’ve not experienced the beauty of New Hampshire unless you’ve driven on its lone country roads or numerous scenic highways and byways at least once.
One of the best scenic drives in New Hampshire is along the Kancamagus Highway.
The Kancamagus Highway is a 30-mile winding stretch of road along the back of the White Mountain forest. This highway, which connects Conway to Lincoln, cures that leaf-peeping urge by giving you a chance to drive easily and leisurely through its woods. Almost every turn along this route is a kaleidoscope of colored maples and cypresses. There are several pullover spots all along the road – And maybe a little trek can give you the best views of New Hampshire’s crimson glory.
There’s also a covered bridge (the Albany Covered Bridge) around the Rocky Gorge where the Swift River transcends into the lower ground through numerous waterfalls. There are plenty of spots of explore the Swift River as well. If you have the time, check out the suspension bridge at Lincoln Woods for a chance to experience total wilderness.
Best place to catch sunset on the Kancamagus Highway – at the Pemigewasset Overlook
Because of the steady elevation (and sharp descent when returning) of the Kanc (as is commonly known), you can see a tall slant of colored trees from almost every angle. This gives you great horizontal panoramas and a good sense of the height of the mountains all around.
The Lakes Loop
Another scenic drive that tops the list of things to do in New Hampshire during fall is to explore the Lakes Loop around the state’s largest lake – Lake Winnipesaukee.
This scenic drive is a 97-mile loop which circles the lake, weaving through myriads of quaint towns built up in their soft old charm. Explore the outdoor activities (fishing, boating and hiking) along the town dock of Meredith and then, head onto Rt. 109 where a windy road will take you on a fall adventure with the huge Winnipesaukee peeping back at you through the woods. You’ll pass through the rustic towns of Wolfeboro, Rochester, Nottigham and Laconia before heading back to Meredith.
Catching sights of seaplanes on many of New Hampshire’s lakes is not uncommon. You might want to keep an eye on wildlife crossing the road – a deer… a moose – a sometimes unfortunate victim of the leaf-peeing season.
Here’s a video guide of what you can expect at New Hampshire during fall season:
2. Scenic Water Cruises
If you’d rather skip driving altogether to freely enjoy the wonders of fall foliage, then opt for one of the many scenic lake and ocean cruises. The M/S Mount Washington sails on the placid waters of the Lake Winnipesaukee, allowing you to sit back and relax while sipping some hot apple cider and taking in the breathtaking sights all around.
The fall foliage cruises onboard Sunapee Cruises which takes you on a tour of Lake Sunapee, is also a fantastic way to explore New Hampshire’s scenery from the water. The Squam Lake is also a great place (and a more secluded one too!) to get in touch with nature on a boat.
If you’re a seafood lover, Rye is a place from where you can book fishing and lobster tours. Touring the lighthouses of the New Hampshire is another option to explore the place from the water.
Many of these cruises offer Sunday champagne brunch cruises and special evening boat rides under the October full moon.
3. Drive the Mount Washington Auto Road
This is one of the most highly recommended things to do in New Hampshire during fall (and the rest of the year as well!).
The Mount Washington Auto Road is a major adrenaline-pumping drive all the way up to New England’s loftiest peak. The drive in itself is a constantly rising incline with gorges and ravines plunging beneath you. At times, you find yourself driving over the clouds. And with dangerous twists and turns, the drive is intimidating.
But perhaps the most daunting fact about this mountain is its constant and unpredictable weather changes. From snow to rain to intense fog, the climate on the summit becomes a challenge to decipher. Before making your ascent, consult the weather info on the following website – https://mtwashingtonautoroad.com/current-road-status-weather
While this drive does put a bit of stress on your car, its views are drive-worthy! Sunrise drives allow you to experience the peacefulness of nature in the wee hours of the morning.
And if you don’t want to drive all the way up the 6000+ feet mountain all by yourself, you can book guided van tours as well.
4. Foods worth trying in New Hampshire during fall
Your trip to New Hampshire is not complete unless you have sampled its fall seasonal specials like the:
- Cider belly donuts
- Maple Walnut ice cream a.k.a Maple Sundae
- Mead – a traditional alcoholic drink made from honey
This excludes the fall bonus delicacies like pumpkin pies, fresh cider, cranberries and meat and eggs right from New Hampshire’s local farms!
5. Fall Festivals
Whether it’s to savor the seafood or experience the colorful sights of the season, taking part in the myriad of fall festivals in New Hampshire can be a rewarding experience for all your senses. Everybody of every age can find interesting things to do in New Hampshire during fall. For the runner, there’s the Waterville Valley Fall Foliage Festival which has many races of varying distances.
The Annual Apple Harvest Day at Hover and the Warner Fall Foliage Festival are great options for kids and families.
Or if you’d like to ogle at some marvelous carved pumpkins, the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival at Laconia or the Gathering of the Jack O’Lanterns at Littleton can serve your wishes.
The rewards that come with a good hike are incredulous – from good health, clean air, a connection to nature and an astounding view! And who wouldn’t want to explore this countryside more on foot when each and every turn finds ever beautiful scenery?
With over 48 peaks and 4000 miles worth hiking trails available in the state, hiking is one of the almost mandatory things to do in New Hampshire during fall foliage season.
Depending on which area of New Hampshire you are visiting, the following are the best trails for fall foliage viewing:
- Percy Peaks Trail in the Great North Woods (challenging hike!)
- Dixville Notch State Park hikes (easy to moderate)
- White Mountain areas – Bemis Brook Trail (hike towards the Arethusa Falls – a moderate hike), Bald Mountain and Artist’s Bluff loop (easy)
- Hikes along the Belknap range
- Lake Sunapee Region – Cross-Rivendell Trail and North Cube Side Trail (both moderate)
- South Pawtuckaway Mountain hikes (short and easy!)
- Pack Monadnock Trail (moderate)
- Odiorne State Park Trails – along the ocean line
A good website to check the accuracy and intensity of hikes is www.alltrails.com. You can do a quick google search as well to see which one suits your needs and purposes. Talking to rangers at the visitor centers can also help you in coming to a good decision.
7. Scenic Train Rides in New Hampshire
One of the more relaxed and fun things to do in New Hampshire during fall is to get on board an old fashioned steam engine and take a scenic train ride of its hills and mountains. These rides are especially charming if you have little ones who’d just like to sit out the extensive hiking. You can take them on enchanting journeys that can leave lasting memories, all from the comfort of your seats in a warm train compartment.
The White Mountains are known for scenic train rides and give by far the best views. Some of the train rides along these mountains have glass domes on the top and upper levels so you can take in the sights from a whole different level. The Conway Scenic Railroad offers a 5.5 hour round-trip train ride in this area.
Watch our video below to see the many sights viewed from the Conway Scenic Railroad:
Another ride worth taking is the Cog Railway train ride to the top of Mount Washington. Mount Washington is among the world’s most unpredictable peaks in terms of changing climatic conditions. And the steep climb to the summit can be best accomplished by a set of cogs. So why not take a quick and easy ride to the summit with no hassles of checking the weather or exerting your car for a steep ascent?
The Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad offer 1 and 2 hour train rides in vintage coaches along the western shores of the Lakes area – a good option if you are spending time in Winnipesaukee.
8. Visit the covered bridges of New Hampshire
Nothing says ‘countryside’ like wooden logged covered bridges set in frame over a gurgling stream in a bed of dense red and gold foliage. You can practically hear the sound of hoofs echoing through the wooden tubes in memory of the old way of conducting trade through the bridges.
New Hampshire has a total of 54 covered bridges. While all are not worth visiting and some demand you to get off the road a bit, the Bath-Haverhill Bridge over the Wild Ammonoosuc River and the Swiftwater Bridge are 2 covered bridges that captures everybody’s hearts. The Merrimack County Covered Bridge Tour also gives you the chance to explore 6 covered bridges in one go.
New Hampshire also has North America’s longest wooden covered bridge – the Cornish-Windsor Bridge which spans over the Connecticut River.
9. Fall Foliage Tram Rides
An easy way to witness the majestic peaks and rock formations of New Hampshire is by taking an aerial tramway up unto the mountains. The slow steady ascent and descent of the tram gives you time to truly imbibe the scenic splendor of New Hampshire’s mountainous terrain.
One worthy tram ride we’d recommend taking is the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway in the Franconia area. It’s not very time-consuming. Plus, it’s usually easy to get tickets for the ride.
10. Exploring wildlife at the state parks
New Hampshire has 93 state parks, all teeming with life. If you’re lucky, you can catch sight of a moose or two lazy crossing the road (watch out for those moose crossing boards!).
Best places to see moose in New Hampshire – at the Moose Alley in Pittsburg and Millsfield Pond in Errol.
More than 84% of New Hampshire is covered with forests. This makes wildlife viewing and hunting definite activities for the New Hampshire native or visitor. The most common animals found in the mountainous and forest-laden areas of the state are black bears, white-tailed deer, beavers, foxes, porcupines, minks and bobcats.
Bird watching is also a common thing to do in New Hampshire during fall with species like the purple finch, black-capped chickapee, red and white-breasted nuthatches, cardinals, sparrows, phoebes, kingbirds and whippoorwills scattered around the length and breadth of its forests.
Check out our tips for watching wildlife right here.
Tips when visiting New Hampshire during fall:
- New Hampshire has been the muse of many poets, writers and even presidents. Robert Frost has penned down an entire collection of poems about New Hampshire, revolving around its rural sights and views. When experiencing the bliss of the countryside, see if you can resonate of any the literature of these classic poets and writers.
- Warm country hospitality is something New Hampshire is known for. Everyone ranging from people at the café to those on the road, is usually very happy to guide new visitors in the region. This makes it especially inviting to repeat the visit the following year as well!
- Inns and hotels get filled up very fast during leaf-peeping season. So you might want to book several weeks in advance.
- Fall colors tend to peak in the first 2 weeks of October most years, with the highest elevations peaking first and the earliest. An accurate representation of the fall colors in the peaks can be found at https://www.visitnh.gov/foliage-tracker.
We hope this guide helps you to chart your trip to New Hampshire much better. The list given here is not complete. As you travel across the state’s numerous mountains and meadows, you will find a 100 more things to do in New Hampshire during fall season. That’s what makes the state so wonderfully special.
We appreciate if you could share your thoughts, questions or comments below. Let us know if there is anything in particular you would like to know about the state and we’ll try our best to answer!