I grew up in New England, well renowned for it’s beautiful fall foliage and it’s bright colors. Even after all those years of enjoying a stunning array of colors every fall I never grew tired of it. When I moved to the UK I came to the sudden and disappointing realization that not everywhere has the same amazing foliage; in fact it couldn’t even come close.
Therefore when I had a work trip to NYC this October I made the easy decision to head back to New England for a weekend with family and foliage. When I told my Mom I was coming home she insisted that I travel to my step-father’s lake house in New Hampshire instead of my childhood home in Massachusetts. Initially I objected since the distance was so great – at least an extra 6 hours round trip to make it to Lake Winnepesaukee rather than Worcester, but Mom pointed out it would be the height of foliage season. And where better in the world was there to experience it?
Even after spending 7 hours on a bus and 3 hours (only to get to New Hampshire, never mind getting back), the foliage really was worth it.
Mom and I played at being leaf peeping tourists in her back yard and it was brilliant. There were plenty of other tourists who had clocked onto the fact that was the height of the foliage season and were taking advantage of a beautiful sunny Saturday with us as we traversed north on I-93 through Franconia Notch, and then across the Kancamagus Highway.
Fabulous Foliage on I-93 in Franconia Notch
The drive through Franconia Notch is one of the prettiest no matter the season. It was once home to the Old Man in the Mountain, a New Hampshire icon that adorns their license plates, route signs and hearts. Even without the rock formation this particular two lane highway is utterly gorgeous.
As you enter Franconia Notch you pass along the side of a hill and get a great view of the White Mountains that lie beyond. The highway narrows some as you enter the notch, which is the valley between Cannon Mountain and Mount Lafayette. The area is known as the Franconia Notch Parkway. And also provides you great access to The Flume, the Basin and Profile Lake.
The foliage looked like a bright patchwork quilt as it covered every inch of the side of the road and the mountains in our view. It was autumn at its most beautiful and it dazzled us with every shade of red, orange and yellow imaginable. The photos we took barely did it jealous and it seemed that every bend in the road we made as we wound our way up I-93 and through Franconia Notch was more beautiful than the last.
We drove on a lot of roads that day but by far the foliage as most magnificent on this stretch of road.
Kancamagus Scenic Highway
We chose to drive north past the exit for the Kancamagus Highway and have breakfast in Sugar Hill at Polly’s Pancake Parlor before starting the drive across the Kancamagus. On our way up were astonished to find that the exit for the Kancamagus was backed up to the highway, but after giving it some further thought this made sense. It was the height of the foliage season and the Kancamagus has a reputation for being one of the best places to leaf peep in New Hampshire, connecting the ski resort of Lincoln to the hip town of North Conway.
The line of cars ended up being for a local craft fair, but we did find plenty of cars driving along the Kancamagus with us as we took in the fall foliage close up. There were a few points, at some of the best view points, where cars were backed up for a few hundred feet while cars fought for spaces.
The winding road through the White Mountains gives some great stop off points for lovely woodland walks and other hikes. The Kancamagus Highway has a lot of great stops along the way for a variety of outdoor activity, and is more than just a road to get you from Point A to Point B.
Definitely make sure you’ve filled up your gas tank before hitting the road as there are no stops along the way for gas. And during leaf peeping season I’d recommend a lot of patience!