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7 Scenic Foliage Drives

Leaf-Peeping Routes Loaded With All the Fall Essentials

Embark on a journey this season. A journey that takes you through winding backroads carving through rural landscapes, tunnels of electrifyingly bold-colored leaves, and majestic autumn sights all around the Granite State. Make stops to wander into the forest for perfect leaf-peeping hikes, or venture off to find other unique ways to experience New Hampshire’s magical foliage.


Currier & Ives Scenic Byway

Orange foliage at Currier and Ives Scenic BywayNew England Covered Bridge, Henniker, NH, Photo by: Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission

Get ready, because this drive is about to take your breath away. The 30-mile Currier & Ives Scenic Byway guides you through the Merrimack Valley and the charming towns of Henniker, Hopkinton, Warner, Webster, and Salisbury. Take Route 202 in Hillsboro and travel northeast along the Contoocook River, where you will be treated to dazzling foliage views framed by reflective waters.
 
Next, you’ll pass through the striking village of Hopkinton—once the state capital of New Hampshire. When you hit the junction of Route 103 to 127, hop on and head north toward Warner and Webster. As you ride along scenic backroads that meander through southern New Hampshire, be sure to allow yourself extra time to make stops and explore the romantic downtowns and scenic vistas dotting the drive.
 
As you head onward, be sure to look for the state’s oldest surviving covered railroad bridge—the Contoocook Covered Railroad Bridge.  Continue on and you’ll be treated to brilliant views of Mount Kearsarge over in Wilmot while passing through Salisbury. If you want to keep cruising from there, check out some of the other divine scenic drives in the Merrimack Valley.


Monadnock Region Loop Scenic Drive

Sunset at Monadnock Region Loop Scenic Drive with red foliage

Mt Monadnock, NH, Photo by: Denis Tangney Jr

This Scenic Foliage Loop Drive leads you through the Monadnock Region, delivering brilliant views of quaint farmlands framed by vibrant hues of gold, amber, and rust colored leaves along the way. Start in Keene and head down Route 101 towards the town of Marlborough. From there, take Route 124 South for 12 miles—taking in unbelievable views and naturally scenic vistas, including the iconic scene of Mount Monadnock’s colorful reflection in Perkins Pond.
 
Continue on towards the quintessentially New England town of Jaffrey—a perfect place for a pit stop to explore local shops, sugar houses, and farm stands. Consider grabbing some lunch or snacks for a picnic before hitting the road again. Once you’ve refueled, head north on 137 before turning west on Route 101 to start your return to Keene.
 
If you’re tuckered out after all that foliage viewing, why not book a dreamy stay at a nearby inn or bed and breakfast?
 

The Lakes Tour Byway

Red, Yellow, Green and Orange foliage at The Lakes Tour Byway

Lake Winnipesaukee, NH, Photo by: Denis Tangney Jr

In the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, it’s not long after the dog days of summer before the fall foliage takes center stage—decorating lakeside towns and bodies of water with a striking display of autumn leaves.
 
Start your Lakes Region Tour in Alton, following Route 11 towards Gilford and Weirs Beach. Make a stop and explore the Weirs’ boardwalk, restaurants, public beach, and family-friendly activities before continuing along your tour. Head north towards Meredith before jumping on to Route 25 through the gorgeous lakeside town of Center Harbor. Keep on Route 25 towards Moultonborough, before taking Route 109 past Cow Island to the historic town of Wolfeboro—the oldest summer resort town in America.
 
When you’re ready, make your way back towards Alton via Route 28. But don’t let the fun stop there! Book a lakeside cabin or cottage to make the most of fall in the Lakes Region.
 

Lake Sunapee Scenic Byway

Lake Sunapee Scenic Byway Summit with orange yellow and green foliage
Photo by: @borntotravel2

Cruise along the Lake Sunapee Scenic Byway, a half-hour-long route that reveals a kaleidoscope of fall color sprinkled along mountains, lakes, riverways and farmlands. Begin in Newbury, heading north along Route 103 where you’ll be treated to remarkable views of Mount Sunapee. Once you hit the Route 11 junction, turn north back toward Lake Sunapee where you can stop and grab lunch on the harbor. The fiery autumn colors set against these royal blue waters is a true sight to behold.
 
Continuing east on Route 11, you will pass scenic overlooks with views of Otter Pond, Little Sunapee Lake, and Pleasant Lake. Once you reach New London and views of the towering Mount Kearsarge come into view, you’ll be in awe of its majestic sea of color and inspiring foliage. Up for a hike? Check out Winslow State Park and Black Mountain Forest for a fall trek through the sparkling foliage.
 

The White Mountain Trail

Image of small waterfalls on The White Mountain Trail with fall foliage in the background
White Mountain National Forest, NH, Photo by: Jon Bilous

The White Mountains may be a world-class hiking destination, not to mention nationally known for its epic leaf-peeping route, the Kancamagus Highway, but did you know some of the best foliage in New Hampshire can be found off the beaten path? Yep. If we’ve learned anything from our beloved, Franconia resident, Robert Frost, it’s that taking the road less traveled may indeed make all the difference.
 
Set your sights on the 100 miles that make up The White Mountain Trail—a national scenic byway. It’s an eye-popping loop that’ll take you past cascading waterfalls, covered bridges, dozens of mountain and valley outlooks—all alight with a rainbow of colorful leaves. Begin at the White Mountains Visitor’s Center in North Woodstock. From Route 112 West jump on 3 North (which will merge with 93 for a stretch), through the gorgeous Franconia Notch State Park (and incredible stops along the way). Then head southeast on 302 through Crawford Notch State Park where you’ll score views of Mount Washington and other peaks in the Presidential Range. For even more magnificent sights, head north again on 16 from there.
 

Moose Path Trail

Foggy mountains full of fall foliage while a car drives through on an intersecting road at the Moose Path Trail
Dixville Notch, NH, Photo by: Denis Tangney Jr

Looking for a true trek through the wilderness? Then head to New Hampshire’s Great North Woods, where unencumbered forests produce thick canopies with striking splashes of autumn color, and wildlife roams freely. (See what National Geographic had to say about Moose Alley.)
 
Start off on the Moose Path Trail in Gorham, heading north on Route 16 towards the town of Errol. From there, follow Route 26 to Dixville Notch, and then travel north along Route 3 to the bustling town of Pittsburg. Still craving more? Why not try ATVing on the region’s hundreds of miles of off-roading trails, or head out on a fall hike? Or, you could always sit back and cast a line into the Connecticut River, waiting to lure in some big catches as you relax and take in the views.
 

American Independence Byway

Line of homes along the waters edge and fall foliage all around at American Independence Byway
Portsmouth, NH, Photo by: Denis Tangney Jr

Explore history and foliage along this 21-mile drive in New Hampshire’s historic seacoast. The American Independence Byway kicks off in Exeter Center—where the American Independence Museum is located. If you’re so inclined, pay a visit to the museum to learn the facts and story of the region before setting off on your route.

To start, take Route 150 south through Kensington. From there you’ll head east on Route 84 to Hampton Falls, where there are plenty of apple orchards to stop at and experience more classic fall fun. Continue on towards Route 1 North, the old stagecoach road which once stretched from Portsmouth to Boston. Next, jump on Route 27 and cruise toward the coastal scenic Route 1A to take in more incredible views, fresh seafood, and other fall seaside splendors!

Be sure to check out our New Hampshire foliage tracker all season long to keep tabs on peak leaf-peeping times across the state.
 

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