As leaves paint the landscape hues of crimson, burnt orange and golden yellow, pumpkins emblazon fields and farm stands. Crisp apples, charming villages and harvest festivals await leaf peepers out to gawk at Mother Nature’s autumn finery. An artist could not wish for more scenic views than the ones in New Hampshire.
Leaf peepers enjoy viewing and photographing fall foliage, make their way to New Hampshire from mid-September through October. Groups can marvel at the fall colors by road, rail, water or air.
New Hampshire’s nickname is the Granite State, but you’ll see as much forest as stone when you visit here, as 89 percent of the state is tree-covered. For enjoying the autumn colors—sunset red, orange, yellow and purple—groups have a variety of transportation options.
The Best Driving Routes to Experience New Hampshire Fall Foliage
The most famous scenic drive in northern New Hampshire is Kancamagus Scenic Byway, which wends through White Mountain National Forest and offers up beautiful New Hampshire fall foliage driving routes. The Kanc’s scenic overviews let you enjoy vistas from as high as 3,000 feet. Another scenic byway worth taking in autumn is the Coastal Byway. The ride adds seascapes and historic towns to leaf-peeping excursions. In southern New Hampshire, link together state routes to create a circular route around Mount Monadnock. The Monadnock Region Loop takes you through postcard-ready New England towns, where steepled white churches interrupt the colors of the trees.
The Most Popular New Hampshire Train Trips
New Hampshire’s towns retain a nostalgic charm, and train rides through the countryside bring that charm to a trip to see the trees change color. Mount Washington Cog Railway lets you ride a train powered by an old-fashioned steam engine or go green with biodiesel instead. Either ride takes you to the peak of the Northeast’s tallest mountain. The view stretches to Canada and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a three-hour roundtrip experience, including time at the top. Another train trip, Conway Scenic Railroad, leaves from a Victorian stationhouse in North Conway Village. Valley Train journeys use passenger cars from the 1920s; a Pullman parlor-observation car has wicker chairs and wide windows to enjoy the view. A dining car is also available. The Notch Train takes you over ravines and across a trestle bridge as it travels through rugged Crawford Notch.
Read more: Leisure Group Travel’s Scenic Rail Guide
New Hampshire Sightseeing Cruise Options
Take a cruise on one of New Hampshire’s lakes to admire fall colors along the lakeshore. Mount Washington Scenic Cruises’ trips run through October. Lake Winnipesaukee is surrounded by three mountain ranges and has a wooded shoreline, so you’ll see fall colors from eye level to mountaintop. There’s seating both inside and out, so travelers are comfortable even when there’s an autumnal nip in the air. Groups can enjoy a hot buffet whether traveling one way or roundtrip. The sunset dinner cruise has dancing.
Are There Seaplanes in New Hampshire?
The answer is YES! You can also enjoy Lake Winnipesaukee from the air. Lakes Region Seaplane Services will taxi out onto the lake in a seaplane for takeoff. Split your group into subgroups of up to five travelers for flights lasting 25 to 30 minutes.
The Best Fall Foliage Hiking in New Hampshire
Whichever vehicle you use to get close to the trees, be sure to get out and get even closer on a fall foliage hiking trip in New Hampshire. No matter how clear the glass, the colors are more vivid when seen without a window in the way. You can take a challenging hike like the Huntington Ravine Trail to the summit of Mount Washington or just enjoy strolling around a lake. Are the chills you feel from the temperature or the thrilling colors?
White Mountain National Forest is one of the most visited outdoor recreation sites east of the Mississippi. The White Mountains are best known for the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, a 34.5-mile scenic drive that lets visitors enjoy the views unfold as they take in the pine scent. There are no gas stations or stores along the route. Keep your eyes peeled for wildflower meadows and boggy ditches—a favorite habitat of moose.
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By Elissa Gilbert