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New Hampshire Fall Foliage is upon us! It’s officially the most beautiful time of year in the Granite State!
Are you looking to come to experience fall foliage in the White Mountains, around New Hampshire’s lakes, or just looking for some lovely small towns? We’ve got you covered. Everywhere in New Hampshire is at its best during the fall months.
After more than 30 years of experiencing fall colors in New Hampshire, here are our opinions on when to visit and where to go.
This post was most recently updated in September 2023.
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Best Time for New Hampshire Fall Foliage
New Hampshire is home to some of the most spectacular fall colors anywhere in the world. However, it doesn’t hit the whole state at the same time. Autumn leaves first change in northern and high altitude regions first (Great North Woods followed by the White Mountains) before cascading their way down south (hitting the Seacoast last as late as late October).
In general, early October is an excellent time to visit. Mid-October is good, too.
Take a look at our New Hampshire fall foliage guide below to know when it’s the peak time for leaf peepers. It’s worth noting, however, that these dates are approximate, and not exact. There are a million different reasons why it might come a little earlier or later. However, they should give you some good general insight, especially since you should book fall getaways in advance.
If you arrive and you find that the views aren’t what you expected, don’t despair! You don’t need to go far. New Hampshire is a small state and you can go from corner to corner within a few hours. If the autumn colors haven’t quite hit yet, head north. If the colors are slightly past their prime, head south.
New Hampshire Fall Foliage Dates 2023
The map above shows the dates that foliage is forecast to hit this year. Keep in mind that the official foliage tracker can vary a bit based on different weather factors.
Great North Woods (including Dixville Notch, Berlin, and Milan Hill State Park): Best fall foliage from October 2 to October 10.
White Mountains (including North Conway, Lincoln, Franconia, Mount Washington, and the White Mountain National Forest): Best fall foliage from October 9-13.
Dartmouth-Sunapee (including Lake Sunapee and Hanover): Best fall foliage from October 8-14.
Lakes Region (including Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake, and Plymouth): Best fall foliage from October 8-19.
Monadnock (including Keene, Peterborough, and Mount Monadnock): Best fall foliage from October 8-19.
Seacoast (including Portsmouth, Dover, and Hampton Beach): Best fall foliage from October 20-31.
Best Places to See New Hampshire Fall Foliage
So you want to go to the best of the best places to witness New Hampshire fall colors? We’ve got you. Here are some of the best places to view fall foliage in New Hampshire.
If you want an easy hike but still want to experience an amazing view, Artist’s Bluff should be your first stop. This rock ledge is in Franconia Notch State Park, right off Route 93, and offers a stunning view of Echo Lake, set against the beauty of the White Mountains.
Even better? This overlook offers its gorgeous views without being too tough of the hike. The loop journey is about 1.5 miles, making it a quick and easy journey. Just past the ledge is a spot where you’ll need to climb a bit, but the rest of the hike is relatively smooth.
If you’re looking to take in New Hampshire’s fall foliage with the whole family, or just want to enjoy the best payoff for your time investment, Artist’s Bluff can’t be beat. We recommend staying in nearby Lincoln, which has easy access to tons of gorgeous fall foliage spots.
More on Lincoln, NH:
- 27 Epic Things to Do in Lincoln, NH
- 7 Best Lincoln NH Hotels and B&Bs
- Where to Find the Best Breakfast in Lincoln, NH
The Kancamagus Highway is arguably the most beautiful scenic drive in a state full of beautiful scenic drives. A winding stretch of road takes you right through the White Mountain National Forest, running from Lincoln to Conway along the Swift River. You’ll climb to an elevation of 2,855 feet while you twist through mountain views, each more stunning than the last.
The Kancamagus Highway is only an hour’s drive — but the real magic is in the stops along the way. You’ll find everything from waterfalls, gorges, and mountain hikes to historic sites and covered bridges. If you’re driving the Kanc one-way, you can see a lot of it in half a day; you can see quite a bit more with a full day! Just be sure to pack a lunch, as there are zero stores, hotels, or gas stations here.
While there are some hairpin turns, the Kancamagus isn’t dangerous or particularly difficult to maneuver. It’s well-maintained and easy enough to maneuver that driving through to enjoy some of the best fall foliage viewing that New England has to offer shouldn’t be a problem for most motorists. We do recommend that you look out for the occasional reckless Instagrammer who stands in the middle of the road to get the perfect fall foliage shot.
Dixville Notch is famously the little town that votes right after midnight in the Presidential Election, but wise New Englanders know Dixville Notch is one of the best early foliage destinations in the Granite State. You’ll see the most brilliant fall colors here in late September.
Dixville Notch State Park offers 127 acres of stunning sights to hike and explore, which includes two brooks and a breathtaking gorge. You don’t have to walk far before you’re able to start taking in the natural beauty of the mountain setting – after trekking a mere 0.1 miles, you can visit Baby Flume, an 18-foot waterfall with three drops. There are also more cascades and a pool further on. The whole area offers nonstop opportunities to view the changing colors of the fall foliage in their full glory.
The Great North Woods is a more sparsely populated part of New Hampshire, but you’ll find more amenities in the town of Berlin (pronounced BER-lin).
New Hampshire’s largest lake is typically a summer destination with lots of beach and boat time — but it’s also a beautiful place to visit in the autumn months for New Hampshire fall foliage. In fact, a lot of Winnipesaukee regulars say that Winnipesaukee is at its best during this time of year because it’s much quieter and less crowded.
If you do visit in fall, one great way to take in the beauty of nature as the leaves change color is to board the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad. This old-fashioned train departs from Meredith and Weirs Beach, providing a gorgeous view and a rail journey that lasts just a couple of hours. You can also visit the Castle in the Clouds mansion, take a scenic cruise, hike with views over the lake, or hit up one of the many New Hampshire breweries close to the lake.
We recommend basing in Meredith during the fall months. This is an upscale and beautiful town with lots of good restaurants, and it stays more active in the fall months than more summer-driven towns like Weirs Beach.
More on Lake Winnipesaukee:
- 23 Fun Things to Do in Lake Winnipesaukee
- 17 Best Lake Winnipesaukee Hotels & B&Bs
- A Guide to Weirs Beach, Lake Winnipesaukee’s Fun Town
- 11 Best Wolfeboro NH Restaurants
North Conway is the epitome of small town charm in the White Mountains, and one of the most popular destinations in the state of New Hampshire. North Conway is worth a visit any time of year, but in autumn, North Conway is at its best and most beautiful. There are so many wonderful places surrounding the town.
Some of our favorite outdoor foliage destinations near North Conway are the view from Cathedral Ledge, the waterfalls at Diana’s Baths, the views along the Conway Scenic Railroad, the covered bridges along the Saco River, and the drive up the Mount Washington Auto Road. There are plenty more activities like shopping at the best outlets in New Hampshire, perusing the candy counter at Zeb’s General Store, or visiting Cathedral Ledge Distillery.
North Conway is close to the end of the Kancamagus Highway, and you can drive all the way to Lincoln and back in a single day. You could easily do a longer hike here, like Mount Chocorua, or the easier, flatter Franconia Falls trail.
Finally — if you’re looking to plan a fall trip to North Conway, book it VERY early. This is peak travel time. We booked our October weekend trip in July and honestly, a lot of the good B&Bs were already sold out.
More on North Conway:
- 31 Fun Things to Do in North Conway, NH
- 17 Best North Conway Hotels and B&Bs
- Our 5 Favorite North Conway Bed and Breakfasts
- Best Restaurants in North Conway, NH
The Monadnock region of southwest New Hampshire is often overlooked by visitors to the Granite State, but it’s full of delightful treasures and absolutely beautiful in the fall. The region gets its name from Mount Monadnock, one of the most climbed mountains in New England that is a treat for both beginners and experienced climbers. We love fall foliage views from the summit.
Not up for a climb? Go on a road trip through Monadnock’s country roads and you’ll see towns plucked from a Norman Rockwell painting. We are particularly big fans of Peterborough with its many antique shops; Chesterfield with its lakeside scenery; Fitzwilliam with its beautiful town common; and Jaffrey Center with its adorable 18th century homes. Keep your eyes out for covered bridges and bed and breakfasts.
The funky college town of Keene makes a great base for exploring the Monadnock region, but any bed and breakfast in the countryside would also work.
More on Monadnock:
If you want to stand on top of New Hampshire, heading up to the top of Mount Washington! This is not only the tallest of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, as well as the crown of the Presidential Range, but it’s the highest peak in the Northeast United States.
While Mount Washington has fewer and fewer trees the further you go up, you still experience plenty of fall foliage in the low-growing scrubs and grasses. The weather can often be awful, but if you get a clear day at the summit, the views are incredible.
So how should you experience Mount Washington in the fall? You can drive up on the Mount Washington Auto Road, earning yourself a “This Car Climbed Mount Washington” bumper sticker. It’s definitely a unique New Hampshire activity! However, the best way to enjoy the sights is on the Mount Washington Cog Railway. This old-fashioned train was an engineering miracle of its time, the first mountain-climbing railway ever, and remains the second steepest in the world.
Mount Washington is a popular hiking destination, though we recommend it only for experienced, prepared hikers.
Mount Washington is located fairly centrally in the White Mountains. North Conway makes a great base, and it’s close to the start of the Mount Washington Auto Road.
If you’d like to just sit back and glide along a river while taking in beautiful fall colors, a foliage cruise along the Piscataqua River would be a great fit for you. These boat trips cast off in Portsmouth and are available starting in the middle of September and run through the weeks of October. You’ll head upriver with New Hampshire on one side and Maine on the other.
The views are primarily of untouched nature as the land along the route is largely undeveloped. These cruises are an opportunity to witness some of the most beautiful fall foliage colors in a relaxed setting, so the journey is sure to be a hit for any leaf-peeper.
Portsmouth makes an excellent base for the Piscataqua River, and we think it makes an underrated fall getaway in New Hampshire while everyone else is up in the White Mountains.
More on Portsmouth:
- 27 Fun Things to Do in Portsmouth, NH
- Where to Stay in Portsmouth: Hotels You’ll Love
- 9 Best Portsmouth NH Restaurants
- 10 Best Bars in Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Fall Festivals
Finally, New Hampshire is home to some terrific fall festivals that coincide well with the foliage dates. We highly recommend pairing your foliage trip with one of these festivals!
Milford Pumpkin Festival (Milford, NH): October 6-8. Enjoy live music while you browse wares from local crafters and artisans. Plus lots of pumpkin and halloween-related activities for good spooky fun.
New Hampshire Brewfest (Portsmouth, NH): October 14. Those over 21 can enjoy this adults-only celebration of craft beer.
Warner Fall Foliage Festival (Warner, NH): October 6-8. Music, a market, and rides will entertain at this festival’s 73rd year. There will also be a 5k and a fun run!
White Mountain Oktoberfest (Lincoln, NH): October 7-9. Take a trip to Bavaria without ever leaving New England, and enjoy German beer, brats, and games!
Fall Foliage Festival (Waterville Valley, NH): October 7-9. This is the festival for outdoorsy folk, as it begins with a ski and snowboard swap and goes on to include multiple runs, a hike, and the opportunity for bike and boat rentals.
New Hampshire Poutine Fest (Merrimack, NH): October 14th. Experience Franco-American culture by sampling a whole lot of poutine. There’s also activities for kids, music, and beer.
RiverFire Festival (Berlin, NH): October 15th. This is a truly unique and special experience, full of adventures that range from helicopter rides to an ATV Poker Run, and ending with a display of fire on the river that you’ll never forget.
Keene Pumpkin Festival (Keene, NH): October 21st. A family-friendly event held by a local non-profit.
New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival (Laconia, NH): October 27-28th. Carve, paint, or even bowl pumpkins at this Halloween celebration.
Planning Your New Hampshire Fall Foliage Trip
If you’re heading for the White Mountains, we recommend flying into Manchester, NH. If not, Boston is another good option, especially if you’re arriving from abroad, and it only adds an extra hour from Manchester.
Rent a car as early as possible. Since COVID, there have been rental car shortages, and there’s no way you can do a fall foliage trip in New England without a car. Public transportation is sparse and limited. We recommend using RentalCars.com for your car rental.
More New Hampshire Fall Fun:
- 23 Best Things to Do in New Hampshire in the Fall
- 12 Must-Visit New Hampshire Fall Festivals
- 12 Fun Pumpkin Patches in New Hampshire
- 7 Best Haunted Houses in New Hampshire
- 29 Apple Orchards for the Best Apple Picking
- 9 Fun-Filled Corn Mazes in New Hampshire
Best of New Hampshire:
- 50+ Best Things to Do in New Hampshire
- New Hampshire’s Best Breweries
- 7 Best Outdoor and Indoor New Hampshire Water Parks
- 13 Best Beaches in New Hampshire
- 30 Unforgettable Things To Do In The White Mountains, NH
Have you been to New Hampshire in the fall? Any recommendations?