The 5 Best Spots for Leaf Peeping in New Hampshire: Peak Dates, Top Driving Routes, and More

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Updated: October 24, 2022
© Thomas J. McLaughlin/
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With approximately 1,000 lakes and the most majestic mountains in New England, New Hampshire is a stunning area to visit all year long. However, there is no time more beautiful than in autumn, when the foliage glows a fiery red and brilliant gold, with a dash of orange to further accentuate the environment. 

You’ll adore how the colors of fall highlight the natural stone peaks and plunging waterfalls of the White Mountains, portray in the blue pools of the Lakes Region, and transform the Great North Woods into a paint-splattered wilderness whether you travel down renowned byways and highways, venture into the water, cruise the rails, or set out on one of New Hampshire’s best hiking trails.

The maximum altitudes and northernmost regions of New Hampshire should experience peak fall color early, with the first couple of weeks in October often providing the best opportunities for strolling through an autumnal paradise. In the Merrimack River Valley and along the state’s condensed Atlantic coastline, fall leaf colors will still be seen later in October. 

This list of the top ten spots in New Hampshire includes both the best places to view the fall foliage and places where you may actually live up to the state’s motto, “Live Free or Die.” Get ready to go on an adventure of a lifetime by visiting one of these five leaf-peeping spots! 

The Kancamagus Highway

The splendor of the White Mountains in the fall can be seen here. Navigate the Kancamagus Highway with plenty of time, particularly if you visit on weekends. There’s a solid reason why this place is one of the most well-liked places to see the foliage change colors. The trip itself is breathtaking, but there are also a number of sites to pull over along the scenic byway if you want to take pictures or stroll through the forest.

Here at A to Z Animals, we advise making a stop at Sabbaday Falls to wander to the promenade with waterfall views. Walking from there will take you to Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge as well. The Pemigewasset, Hancock, and Sugar Hill overlooks are some other breathtaking vistas. 

Visit the Albany Covered Bridge if you need a traditional New England autumnal setting for a photo session. Going throughout the week and early in the morning will give you the most memorable experience. The hues are more stunning because of the hazy morning and there are much fewer people around.

Pinkham Notch Loop

Crystal Cascade
Crystal Cascade is a 100-foot waterfall visible from an overlook at Mt. Washington’s Pinkham Notch Visitors Center.

©Emma / flickr – License

This circle road offers some breathtaking views of Mount Washington, the Presidential Mountains, and the surrounding farmland. A trek up the Mount Washington Auto Road, which offers one of New England’s most breathtaking mountain vistas, is a worthwhile slight detour while at Pinkham Notch. 

If you enjoy apples, cider, and delicious food in general, the Cider Co. on Route 302 near Bartlett is a lovely stop. Explore the market, restaurant, café, and, on weekends, they perform apple pressing.

On this drive, we also suggest stopping in Jackson. The picturesque Jackson Covered Bridge is situated physically and aesthetically in the center of the town. Photographers and painters will love this place. Here is where the annual covered bridge dance takes place. There were amusing gift shops and eateries in this town.

Artist’s Bluff at Franconia Notch State Park

Franconia Notch State Park
Boathouse and fall colors reflecting in Echo Lake, in Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire.

©Jon Bilous/

To get to the viewpoint of Artist’s Bluff, which is tucked into Franconia Notch State Park, you must hike. The 1.5 miles of easy to moderately difficult track weave through a thick forest, climbing 400 feet in height, before revealing a massive rock formation that begs to be explored. 

The sights from the top demonstrate why this is one of the best places in New Hampshire to watch fall foliage. Echo Lake’s shores are covered with a sea of yellow, while the spectacular White Mountains are visible in the background.

Even if you’d want, you can spend a day at the lake. Rentable pedal boats, kayaks, and canoes are available, and the beach is wonderful for relaxing. Just be aware that New Hampshire’s autumn temps tend to be on the chilly side, so pack a heavy jacket. This is a terrific activity if you want to get some exercise and have kids with you since there are usually many families with kids on the trail.

Sabbaday Falls

Sabbaday Falls New Hampshire
Around 10,000 years ago, massive quantities of water from a melting glacier allegedly created the main gorge of Sabbaday Falls.


Who doesn’t adore a picturesque waterfall encircled by colorful fall foliage? This trip is ideal for those who enjoy short autumn hikes with breathtaking scenery. You immediately discover that driving across New Hampshire in the autumn allows you to see beautiful foliage. In fact, you might end up driving more than you anticipated. Therefore, Sabbaday Falls is an excellent place to stop if you need to get some exercise.

This is a fantastic pit stop that requires very little work because the level trail is less than one mile long. Crowds are almost certainly going to be there because this is a short hike with beautiful fall foliage and a waterfall. 

Regardless of when you go, try to arrive early and don’t forget your mask if you want to avoid crowds. It’s a terrific climb for hikers of all abilities, and there are frequently a ton of kids on the trail. Just keep in mind to pack traction-enhancing hiking footwear because this trail can be slick.


One of the most well-known harbor cities in New England is Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is roughly an hour north of Boston. It’s hardly surprising that it is a popular tourist destination for those in the know given the abundance of fascinating stores, delicious restaurants, and history to discover. 

Even though New Hampshire’s seacoast is the shortest in the nation, just 13 miles long, it is yet brimming with charm. Portsmouth, which is located just across the Piscataqua River from Kittery, Maine, offers stunning views of the harbor and a quaint downtown. Brinks-lined Market Square, the 10-acre recreational history museum Strawbery Banke, the carefully selected selection of literature at RiverRun Bookstore, and the welcoming Cataqua Pub are all worth a stroll through. 

There is no reason not to dine well in this area either. Row 34 specializes in oysters, Ristorante Massimo gives old-school elegance, Lexie’s offers up some of the best burgers on the east coast, and Jumpin’ Jays Fish Cafe provides a distinctive perspective on seafood. The Hotel Portsmouth, a renovated 19th-century mansion, offers bright, contemporary rooms while the boutique Ale House Inn specializes in serving beer enthusiasts.

Honorable Mention: Currier & Ives Scenic Byway

Prepare yourself because this drive is about to make you gasp for air. The Merrimack Valley and the lovely communities of Henniker, Hopkinton, Warner, Webster, and Salisbury are all along the 30-mile Currier & Ives Scenic Byway. Hillsboro’s Route 202 will take you northeast along the Contoocook River, where you’ll be treated to stunning vistas of the foliage framed by the river’s reflected waters. 

The magnificent village of Hopkinton, which was originally the state capital of New Hampshire, is the next stop on your journey. Continue on and head north toward Warner and Webster when you reach the intersection of Routes 103 and 127. Allow plenty of time to stop along the picturesque backroads that wind across southern New Hampshire, explore the charming towns, and take in the breathtaking views.

The Contoocook Covered Railroad Bridge, the state’s oldest still-standing covered railroad bridge, can be found as you go. As you pass through Salisbury and continue on, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Mount Kearsarge in Wilmot. From there, you can continue cruising by exploring some of the Merrimack Valley’s other breathtaking picturesque routes.

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The summit of Mount Chocorua is bare rock due to forest fires that have happened throughout the last century.
Mount Chocorua has been named by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy as one of the most photographed mountains in the world.
© Thomas J. McLaughlin/

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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

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