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Once you’ve visited New Hampshire in the fall, you’ll be convinced it’s the most beautiful place on the planet. New England is all about the fall foliage, but New Hampshire fall foliage is on a different level.
Most travelers head up to New Hampshire’s White Mountains to experience the best leaf peeping, hiking, and scenic drives. But far from the only option!
The entire state of New Hampshire is filled with fantastic things to do in this wonderfully chilly season, from visiting fun local breweries where you can enjoy fresh interesting beers outside to cute family-friendly local farms where you can enjoy hay rides and corn mazes.
So what are the best things to do in New Hampshire in the fall? Sit tight, because we’ve got a big guide for you!
When to See Fall Foliage in New Hampshire
Peak foliage does not hit the whole state at the same time! It varies a lot based on latitude and altitude, so the best time could be anywhere from late September to late October. Above is our map for fall foliage in New Hampshire, complete with dates.
Great North Woods (including Dixville Notch, Berlin, and Milan Hill State Park): Best fall foliage from September 26 to October 5.
Dartmouth-Sunapee (including Lake Sunapee and Hanover): Best fall foliage from October 5-15.
Lakes Region (including Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lakes, and Plymouth): Best fall foliage from October 10-20.
Monadnock (including Keene, Peterborough, and Mount Monadnock): Best fall foliage from October 10-20.
Merrimack Valley (including Manchester, Concord, and Nashua): Best fall foliage from October 20-25.
Seacoast (including Portsmouth, Dover, and Hampton Beach): Best fall foliage from October 20-31.
Please note that these dates are not set in stone — just a general guide to tell you the best times to visit different areas of New Hampshire for fall foliage.
But no matter what time it is, you can often get better foliage within a few hours’ drive. Is the color not quite there in Lake Winnipesaukee? Road trip up to the White Mountains for vibrant fall foliage. Things a little brown in the White Mountains? Head down into the Merrimack Valley for gorgeous colors.
Things to Do in New Hampshire in the Fall
Whether you’re planning an epic foliage trip through the White Mountains, or just setting up shop in a cottage on a lake, New Hampshire has something for you.
Some of the best fall activities in New Hampshire include driving memorable drives like the Kancamagus Highway, taking scenic foliage cruises across Winnipesaukee or the Piscataqua River, or camping overnight in a yurt in Milan Hill State Park!
And if you’re local to New Hampshire — or just over the border in Massachusetts, Vermont, or Maine — come on over for apple picking, pumpkin picking, or hay rides!
It’s all about New Hampshire leaf peeping! Enjoy a hike with incredible views at Artist’s Bluff, drive the Kancamagus Highway, take a scenic foliage cruise, or take the Conway Scenic Railroad for a fall journey you’ll never forget.
The Kancamagus Highway is far and away the best scenic drive, running through the White Mountains from Lincoln to Conway. The Kanc is an hourlong drive but with its many attractions, you could be here all day!
New Hampshire has so many fall festivals — we particularly recommend the Keene Pumpkin Festival, the Highland Games in Lincoln, and of course NH Brewfest in Portsmouth!
Drive the Kancamagus Highway
If you’re looking to see spectacular fall foliage while enjoying a blissed out car ride, look no further than the Kancamagus Highway. This American scenic byway is in our opinion, the most beautiful fall drive in New Hampshire. This highway in the White Mountains, running from Conway to Lincoln, takes about an hour to drive to completion — but the beauty is in the stops.
You can stop for an easy hike to Franconia Falls, or tackle the more challenging climb to Champney Falls and Mount Chocorua. You can take in waterfalls at Rocky Gorge and Sabbaday Falls, or stop at the many scenic overlooks for views of the mountains in red, orange, and yellow. The Kanc is whatever you want to make it!
Be aware that peak foliage brings lots of drivers to the Kancamagus Highway, and not all of them are safety-minded. Keep an eye out for photographers standing in the middle of the road.
And if you’re looking for another scenic drive, consider driving up Route 3 into the Great North Woods. This highway has lots of gorgeous foliage with much less traffic. (Keep in mind that foliage hits earlier the further north you go.)
Enjoy New Hampshire’s Bike Trails
Some things are better on two wheels — and foliage viewing is one of them! You don’t have to be an expert cyclist to enjoy fall foliage bike rides in New Hampshire, and you don’t have to be in the mountains for a worthwhile experience.
Bear Brook State Park, not far from Concord in Allenstown, is home to more than 40 miles of bike paths, with different trails suitable for all levels of riders. Camp overnight to make it a full weekend activity!
If you’re an experienced mountain biker looking for a thrill, check out Highland Mountain Bike Park in Northfield, close to the beginning of the Lakes Region. The mountain bike trails here have lots of stunts and obstacles — plus an indoor practice center for those learning tricks for the first time. This is definitely a badass place to bike for the weekend!
Go Apple Picking
Is there any more quintessential New England activity than apple picking on a clear fall day? With apple orchards all over the Granite State, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
The best apple orchards in New Hampshire have plenty of delicious fall varieties to try, including Macoun, McIntosh, Pink Lady, and Honey Crisp.
Stick around to try more fresh baked goods, like cider donuts and apple pies, along with all the fresh apple cider you can drink. Some of New Hampshire’s apple orchards have hay rides, farm tours, and other activities to enjoy as a family.
And don’t forget the photo ops! There’s nothing like getting great family photos in nice sweaters as you wander through an apple orchard.
Read More: The Best Apple Orchards in New Hampshire
Take in the View from Artist’s Bluff
If you’re looking for perhaps the best fall foliage view in all of New England, you’re going to love Artist’s Bluff in Franconia. This is a short, easy-to-moderate hike with an enormous payoff at the end — from the rocky edge you have spectacular views of Franconia Notch and Echo Lake.
Note that there is a circular route from the parking lot — you can choose to go counter-clockwise or clockwise. If you take the counter-clockwise route, you’ll have an easier climb with slowly increasing altitude. If you take the clockwise route, you’ll have to climb a bunch of tall rocks on your hands and knees.
Our recommendation? Start counter-clockwise, and after you get to Artist’s Bluff, decide whether you want to go back the way you came or climb down the rockier route. Either option is fine, but the former is a little bit easier.
Artist’s Bluff is one of our favorite things to do in New Hampshire in the fall, and we’re not alone. Go on a weekday for a quieter experience.
And if you want more of Franconia Notch State Park, don’t forget to hit up the Flume Gorge, the Basin, and the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway!
Visit New Hampshire’s Prettiest Small Towns in the Fall
One of the best things about visiting New Hampshire is taking in the beautiful small towns around the state. Here life moves a little bit more slowly — and it feels like fall will last forever.
So what are some small towns in New Hampshire worth visiting in the fall? If you’re heading to the White Mountains, we at New Hampshire Way love the tiny town of Sugar Hill with its barns, Victorian homes, and Polly’s Pancake Parlor. Don’t miss quintessential North Conway and the always-fun town of Littleton. Looking for a hidden gem? We love Lancaster, which after a period of decline is coming back with a proud resurgence (and excellent brewery).
If you’re sticking to southern New Hampshire, we love Exeter in the Seacoast region, with one of the nicer downtowns around, and of course Portsmouth feels like both a big city and small town at the same time.
And don’t look past the Monadnock region in the southwest, which is a surprise even for native New Englanders! In Monadnock we love the funky small college town of Keene, pulsating with energy and art. Nearby Peterborough is a delightful stop, especially if you love antique shopping. Fitzwilliam, Jaffrey Center, and Walpole bring the quintessential New England feeling.
Ride the Conway Scenic Railroad
If you’re looking to enjoy scenic fall foliage in the most relaxing way possible, consider taking a ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad. Operating out of an old-fashioned railroad station in the heart of North Conway, the Conway Scenic Railroad takes you back in time on a heritage railway excursion, taking you through narrow gulches in the White Mountains while you sit comfortably, enjoying the ride.
The Conway Scenic Railroad offers three kinds of excursions: Conway Valley Train (one hour), Sawyer River Excursion (two hours), and the Mountaineer (4-4.5 hours). You can find the perfect ride for whatever fits into your fall trip to North Conway.
In our opinion, taking a ride on the Mountaineer is a must for the New Hampshire bucket list. And it tends to book out early, so we recommend booking as soon as you have your trip dates! There’s nothing like taking the Mountaineer during peak foliage.
Hike a Portion of the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail may run all the way from Georgia to Maine — but hikers often say that the New Hampshire portion of the Appalachian Trail is the most beautiful part. Not that we’re surprised! Have you seen the White Mountains?!
Even so, you don’t have to hike the entire trail for it to be worthwhile — there are plenty of easy day hikes for hikers of all levels. Zealand Falls and Thoreau Falls make a beautifully scenic hike for less-experienced hikers. Looking for something more badass? Franconia Ridge is calling your name.
Best of all, the Appalachian Trail is at its best when foliage is at its brightest and most brilliant. Just be warned — this could ruin you for other hikes long-term!
Enjoy Crisp Air at an Outdoor Brewery
New Hampshire is home to so many excellent breweries churning out delicious and innovative beers in a convivial atmosphere. And while they’re fantastic year-round, we think there’s something special about enjoying a beer outdoors in the fall, admiring the foliage around you.
So what breweries have a nice outdoor space?
We’re big fans of Rek-Lis Brewing Co in Bethlehem, up in the White Mountains. This brewery is a favorite among hikers and there’s a porch with outdoor seating along with a large backyard filled with chairs. They make great burgers and poutine, too!
If you’re heading further north, Copper Pig Brewery in Lancaster is right on the edge of the Great North Woods, with a nice outdoor seating area overlooking the Israel River.
And a spot we love along the Seacoast is Throwback Brewery in North Hampton, which is set right on a farm. You’ll be surrounded by foliage in all directions as you burrow down with a cold beer!
Read More: The Best New Hampshire Breweries
Go Pumpkin-Picking in New Hampshire
Fall is all about pumpkins, and there are plenty of excellent pumpkin patches in New Hampshire! Whether you choose a small farm with pick your own pumpkins or a large farm with hay rides, apple picking, and a fully stocked farm store, you’ll easily find a pumpkin patch that’s right for you.
Find your local pumpkin patch and take a look at their Facebook page — this is where most farms tend to update their social media, and this is where you can find out about events and other fall activities happening in the region.
Read More: The Best Pumpkin Patches in New Hampshire
Stay in a Cozy B&B
We admit that we love to stay in New Hampshire’s wonderful bed and breakfasts any time of year. (Winter can be especially lovely, especially when there’s a fireplace around.) But there’s just something magic about spending your days in the beautiful mountains and coming back to a cozy inn, sleeping under handmade quilts, where a hearty breakfast will be prepared for you the next morning.
Just a word of advice — fall is a VERY busy time for New Hampshire travel, especially in the White Mountains. If you’re looking for a bed and breakfast in North Conway for a weekend in October, the pickings are slim by JULY. This is something wise to book six months in advance, especially since some of the nicest properties only have a few rooms.
If you’re looking to level up your fall New Hampshire trip, why not finally stay in one of New Hampshire’s finest B&Bs? This could be a good opportunity to stay at the Sugar Hill Inn in Sugar Hill or the Cranmore Inn in North Conway.
Even so, you’ll find plenty of B&B accommodation at different price points throughout the state of New Hampshire. While peak foliage is the most expensive time of year for New Hampshire accommodation, you can save by staying out of the White Mountains or planning a mid-week stay.
Take a Fall Foliage Cruise
Sure, you can enjoy fall foliage from the car or from a train, but why not hop on a boat as well? Here in New Hampshire, you can see beautiful waterfront scenery with the backdrop of brightly colored fall foliage.
Portsmouth Harbor Cruises offers inland fall foliage cruises on the Seacoast from mid-September through late October. The cruise begins in Portsmouth, takes you along the industrial waterfront, heading up the Piscataqua River, and finishing either in Great Bay or along the Cocheco River in Dover. There is gorgeous foliage along this estuary, a quiet and mostly undeveloped area.
The M/S Mount Washington on Lake Winnipesaukee offers its daily narrated cruises through mid-October, and early-to-mid-October is a good time to see flourishings of foliage along the shores of Meredith, Weirs Beach, and Wolfeboro. We think these cruises are among the best things to do in Lake Winnipesaukee from late spring through early fall.
And Squam Lake Cruises offers wonderful nature cruises during the fall, taking in the wildlife and foliage of the Lakes Region. Their Discover Squam cruises are operated into mid-October, making it prime time for enjoying the fall colors.
Go Camping in the Fall
You may have gone camping in New Hampshire in the summer, but have you ever considered camping in the fall? It can be an intense adventure, especially when you’re surrounded by all the gorgeous foliage! And a bonus — no loud, music-blasting groups that plague campgrounds on weekends in the summer.
It gets very cold at night in New Hampshire, especially in the White Mountains and the Great North Woods. Nighttime temperatures can occasionally dip near freezing. For this reason, we only recommend fall camping to experienced campers who have adequate gear, including proper clothing for staying warm.
Most of New Hampshire’s state parks offer camping through mid-October, by which point they close for the season. Some campgrounds that stay open throughout the fall include Monadnock State Park, Coleman Hill State Park, Lafayette Place Campground and Dry River Campground.
If you’re looking for an unusual fall camping adventure, we recommend Milan Hill State Park‘s yurts! Easily one of the best places (and most unique) to camp in the state! For just $50 per night, you can rent one of these round dwellings that have beds and a lantern (and no heat). Time your visit for late September to enjoy peak color before it hits the White Mountains.
Ride the Mount Washington Cog Railway
We all know Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeastern US, at 6,288 feet above sea level. But have you ever taken the Mount Washington Cog Railway? This train ride is one of New Hampshire’s most unique journeys, a railroad that goes up a mountain and is the second steepest mountain railway in the world.
You depart from Marshfield Station on the mountain’s west side and chug up to the top slowly, passing waving Appalachian Trail hikers along the way. At first you have foliage views over the hills into the distance, but soon you reach an altitude where trees don’t thrive and the landscapes are bare, but no less beautiful.
From the summit, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Mount Washington Valley, pose for a selfie at the tippetty top of Mount Washington, learn about the mountain at Extreme Mount Washington, or just grab a coffee and enjoy one of the windiest places on Planet Earth.
Note that regular journeys on the Cog last until mid-October, after which the train switches to its winter route, stopping at Waubek Station halfway up the mountain. Here you can enjoy refreshments and nice views. And if you’d rather drive to the top, the Mt. Washington Auto Road is open until October 23.
Get Spooked at a Haunted House
If you like your fall season with a side of scary, New Hampshire is home to several excellent haunted houses! Whether you’re looking for something truly scary or something more gentle that the kids can enjoy, there are plenty of options.
Spooky World in Litchfield, a.k.a. Nightmare New England, has long enjoyed its reputation as New England’s scariest and most innovative haunted house. Come here to enjoy the mile-long haunted hayride, check out their new Asylum 47 attraction this year, and prepare to have the living daylights scared out of you.
Haunted Overload in Lee is another renowned haunted house, growing and changing and adding new terrifying attractions each year. The show here has looming monsters and a cast of spooky characters. They also offer a daytime walk-through option without the actors, if that’s more to your taste!
And if you’re looking for something more gentle for the kids, Charmingfare Farm in Candia, near Manchester, operates a family-friendly haunted house at their farm. You can also enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides and walks through the woods.
Read More: The Best Haunted Houses in New Hampshire
Enjoy a Weekend Away in a New Town
New Hampshire has so many great destinations for a fall getaway. Pick a small town, stay in a B&B, enjoy yourself. While we know about North Conway and Lincoln by now, how about some less popular fall destinations but no less lovely stays?
Keene is a lovely and underrated town in New Hampshire, with an absolutely beautiful downtown area, lovely architecture, a few nice breweries, and lots of interesting surrounding towns worth exploring.
Littleton, up on the edge of Vermont, is often seen as a side trip in the White Mountains, but we think it makes a great place to base for your whole weekend. Don’t miss Chutters, home to the world’s longest candy counter.
Portsmouth is often seen as a summer destination — but we think it makes a great fall getaway with its excellent restaurants, live music, and shopping. Keep in mind that fall foliage tends to his the Seacoast a bit later than the White Mountains.
Visit a Corn Maze
Corn mazes love to come around in the fall, don’t they? There are plenty of corn mazes all over New Hampshire, from southern New Hampshire up into the White Mountains and beyond.
Most of the time corn mazes are part of a larger landscape at a local farm. You might also have apple picking, pumpkin picking, or even a haunted house depending on your time of year. Some of them also do family-friendly hay rides.
Fall is the perfect opportunity to throw on your favorite flannel shirt and get lost in a maze of corn!
Read More: 9 Fun-Filled Corn Mazes in New Hampshire
Celebrate at a New Hampshire Fall Festival
The Granite State puts on fun festivals throughout the year, and things go into a frenzy as soon as the cool fall months arrive! There are so many great fall festivals in New Hampshire. Fall kicks off with the New Hampshire Highland Games in Lincoln, where it seems like half of Scotland has descended upon the White Mountains, bagpipes in hand and kilts around their waists!
Portsmouth welcomes crowds from all over New England to NH Brewfest and the New Hampshire Film Festival in the month of October. And Merrimack celebrates New Hampshire’s French Canadian heritage at NH PoutineFest.
Finally, there are the New Hampshire pumpkin festivals. The big one to hit up is the Keene Pumpkin Festival, a long-running classic in this fun college town. The New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival takes place in Laconia on Lake Winnipesaukee in late October each year, and has all kinds of pumpkin activities in addition to hay rides for the kids, a beer garden for adults, a costume parade and a zombie walk!
And those are just a few of what New Hampshire festivals have to offer.
Read More: The Best New Hampshire Fall Festivals
More New Hampshire Fall Fun:
- Best New Hampshire Fall Festivals
- Where to Go Apple Picking in New Hampshire
- The Best Haunted Houses in New Hampshire
- New Hampshire’s Best Corn Mazes
Best of New Hampshire:
- 50+ Best Things to Do in New Hampshire
- The Best New Hampshire Breweries
- 13 Best Beaches in New Hampshire
- New Hampshire Fall Foliage: When and Where To Go
What’s your favorite thing to do in New Hampshire in the fall? Share away!