Crisp nights, warm and sunny days, and the smell of freshly fallen leaves underneath your boots. To say that New England is known for its fall foliage is an understatement.

But is there a place that supersedes all others in the eight New England states for leaf peeping?

The Kancamagus Highway fall foliage is often cited as the best in New England — nay, the world.

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. But, bear with me here.

Though I’ve traveled along the Kancamagus (or the Kanc as its endearingly called in New Hampshire), the last time I did so I was probably around the age of eight and had my nose stuffed so far down a Christopher Pike novel I doubt I appreciated the view.

But it’s considered one of the best spots to see the fall foliage in New England and features hiking, waterfalls, and historic sites along its two lanes. So naturally, when my friend Kyle came to visit from Seattle last year (and I found out he’d never experienced a New England fall), nothing but the best fall foliage road trip would do.

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Where is the Kancamagus Highway?

Located nearly 100 miles north of the Massachusettes border, the Kancamagus Highway is one of the premier destinations for autumn leaf peepers.

Kancamagis highway fall foliage is practically legendary and totally worth the drive from Massachusetts, Connecticut, or New York.

How long is the Kancamagus Highway?

The Kanc runs 56.39 miles east/west across New Hampshire. 

It’s bookended by the town of Lincoln on the west and North Conway on the east. Both towns are great places to spend the night if you need a break from driving. Lincoln and North Conway are both ski resort towns, so just be prepared that a lot of restaurants are closed mid-week here in the autumn. 

We were exhausted from driving all day and Dominos was the only place that delivered on a Tuesday evening. 

It takes just under an hour to drive the entire span of the Kanc, though it took us longer because it began snowing as soon as we reached the top of the mountain.

Kancamagus Highway Attractions

There’s plenty to see and do along the Kanc — especially if you’re planning on visiting for the Kancamagus Highway fall foliage.

One thing you won’t see? Commercialism, billboards, or stores. The entire stretch of highway is maintained by the New Hampshire parks department, so expect to see here what you would at a state park.

We drove the Kanc twice during our trip: once because it was raining and dark and we were staying in North Conway and we just wanted a break from the weather; and once because we wanted to head back to Lincoln to hike the Flume Gorge (which it was too rainy to do the day before).

But we were so glad we took the second trip, as the first was too dark to stop and enjoy the view.

Kancamagus Highway Scenic Overlook

Scenic Overlooks

Scenic overlooks are probably the biggest attraction on a Kancamagus Highway fall foliage tour. These stops are well-marked and easy to spot. Just look for the wide-open spaces with great scenery and plenty of parking.

They’re also marked on Google Maps, so you can easily add all the overlooks as stops on your journey. Just a few of the Kancamungus Highway fall foliage scenic overlooks and picturesque sites include:

  • Hancock Overlook
  • Pemigewasset Overlook
  • Panoramic Overlook
  • CL Graham Wangan Overlook
  • Sugar Hill Overlook
  • Sabbaday Falls Observation Site
  • Rocky Gorge Scenic Area
  • Kancamagus Highway Lower Falls
  • Albany Covered Bridge


If you plan on stopping at all these areas, you’ll want to head out early. While you may only end up spending about 15 to 20 minutes at most of the overlooks, the scenic areas may take longer to explore.

New Hampshire Hiking

New Hampshire Hiking

There’s plenty of hiking along the Kanc, and you can certainly admire the Kancamagus Highway fall foliage on foot if you’d prefer. 

Kancamagus Highway Waterfalls

There are six waterfalls along the Kancamagus Highway, including:

  • Lower Falls
  • Rocky Gorge
  • Champney Falls
  • Sabbaday Falls
  • Thirteen Falls
  • Franconia Falls


Yet, the most popular are the Champney Falls, Lower Falls, Rocky Gorge, and Sabbaday Falls. These are the four that are directly off the highway. 

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Visiting the Kancamagus Highway in Winter

Visiting the Kancamagus Highway for its fall foliage is probably the most popular way to drive this strip of windy road. But it’s also a scenic spot in the winter, spring, and summer seasons, too.

Winter in particular is a very beautiful time to explore the Kanc. 

Kancamagus Highway Fall Foliage Tour

Aside from the Kancamagus Highway fall foliage stops listed above, you may want to visit a few other areas nearby in New Hampshire. This was our (planned) itinerary when we drove the Kanc last year.

Pemigewasset River Bridge

1. Hike the Flume Gorge

We drove up to Lincoln from Connecticut and arrived around lunchtime with plans to hike the Flume Gorge after we ate and drive the Kanc in the late afternoon before sunset.

But the weather had other plans for us.

If you want to stop in the towns on either side of your Kancamagus Highway fall foliage tour, I’d highly recommend hiking the Flume Gorge in Lincoln. 

This 800-foot natural gorge was fitted with a wooden boardwalk in the 1800s that guides pedestrians through its narrow walls. The hike is moderately easy and takes about an hour to traverse the approximately two-mile loop.

You’ll also pass through — not one — but two covered wooden bridges. 

The gorge is located in Franconia Notch State Park and it costs $16 per adult to hike it.

2. Lunch in Lincoln

We stopped for lunch in Lincoln at the Black Mtn. Burger Co. This rustic restaurant and bar is located in a strip mall that sits underneath the backdrop of Loon Mountain. It was packed at lunchtime, but we managed to snag a seat at the bar.

Hike the Flume Gorge

The menu was a long list of beef, turkey, and veggie burgers. For sides, there were regular, sweet potato, and waffle fries, as well as massive onion rings. 

If you’re not into burgers, you can order other pub-style fares, including chicken tenders, crabcakes, jalapeno poppers, chilis, chowders, salads, five different types of hot dogs, or sandwiches (like a BLT, Reuben, veggie, crab, or Philly sammy).

Though we stuck with sodas, there were tons of beers on tap.

There are also plenty of other restaurants, as Lincoln is a resort town. The Common Man, Gypsy Cafe, and Arnold’s Wayside Diner all seemed promising.

3. White Mountain Gondola

If you want to see the sights from the top of Loon Mountain, you can take the White Mountain Express Gondola to the summit of Loon Peak.

Did we take the Gondola to the summit of Loon Peak? We most certainly did not.

And if you must know, I’m so mad that I completely missed there was a gondola so close to where we were eating lunch.

Did we have time to take the gondola? Would it have been raining anyway? No and yes. So it probably wouldn’t have been possible, but I’m still mad about the whole situation.

Anyway, you should definitely do it if gondolas are your thang. Or even if they aren’t. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be taking the Struggle Bus to Temper Tantrum Town.

4. Drive the Kancamagus Highway

After lunch, start making your way down the Kanc for some leaf peeping. If you drive straight across, it should take about 45 to 60 minutes to get to the other side.

Keep in mind there’s little to no cell service in long stretches of the Kanc, so you won’t be able to call your mom or AAA if you’re having car trouble.

5. Kancamagus Highway Scenic Stops

I recommend budgeting some time for scenic stops along your Kancamagus Highway fall foliage tour. I mean, it’s what you’re here for, right?

We stopped only at the Hancock Overlook and Sugar Hill Overlook because we were ready to get our hike on at the Flume Gorge and the previous night’s rain and wind storm had knocked off most of the Kanc Highway fall foliage anyway.

You’ll also pass through — not one — but two covered wooden bridges. 

The gorge is located in Franconia Notch State Park and it costs $16 per adult to hike it.

Driving the Kancamagus Highway

6. Swift River Covered Bridge

Yes, you can explore plenty of covered bridges along the Kanc’s hiking trails. But I feel like it’s even more special to drive across a covered bridge than walk one. 

7. Stay in North Conway, NH

We stayed in North Conway, NH, which is one of the towns on the eastern side of the Kanc. 

This resort town is hopping in the winter and summer and on weekends in the fall. If you’re planning on staying here, I would actually recommend staying at one of the ski resorts for great views.

We stayed at the North Conway Grand Hotel, which featured an indoor pool and a talking moose head that was mounted over the lobby fireplace. I’m pretty sure it was once a Bugaboo Steakhouse moose, as there was a nearby defunct Bugaboo-turned locally owned steakhouse that still had a lot of the old chain restaurant’s fixtures.

Either way, it was entertaining to sit in front of the fire and watch the moose “awake” every 30 seconds as we ate our free continental breakfast.

Other Scenic Drives in New Hampshire

Has the Kancamagus Highway fall foliage not satiated your leaf-peeping cravings? These three scenic New Hampshire fall foliage drives should do the trick.

Mount Washington Auto Road

Mount Washington is a 6,288.2-foot-high peak (and the highest in the Northeastern U.S.). 

You can drive from the base to the summit when the weather conditions cooperate. Or, you can take the Mount Washington guided tour, led by an ambassador of Mount Washington. 

Lakes Region Winnipesaukee Scenic Foliage Loop

Lake Winnipesaukee is scenic year-round. But if you happen to visit for fall foliage season, you’ll get a multi-colored experience that’s worth the 60-mile long drive.

This Lake Winnipesaukee fall leaf peepers loop self-guided tour will tell you everything you need to know about the points of interest along the way.

New Hampshire Coast

If all else fails, simply drive up the New Hampshire Coast. 

New Hampshire is home to 13 miles of shoreline (making it the state with the shortest shoreline in the U.S.), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a gander. There are plenty of rocky shores, New England architecture, and fresh seafood to fill your trip.

And if you happen to travel during the fall, you may even get some leaf peeping in while you’re at it.

Where else can I see New England fall colors?

Oof, pretty much anywhere you visit in New England is a great place to see fall foliage. 

Some of my favorite spots to see the New England Fall colors include:

  • Boston, MA
  • Portsmouth, NH
  • Bar Harbor, ME
  • Acadia National Park, ME
  • Portland, ME
  • New Haven, CT
  • Bantam, CT
  • Stowe, VT
  • Burlington, VT


I love the old-town feel of Boston and New Haven, which are both big college towns. Head to the Harvard campus in Boston or the Yale campus in New Haven for some serious old-timey feels.

Bar Harbor, Portsmouth, Burlington, and Portland all have artsy village vibes. There are great food scenes in all four, and all these towns provide scenic backdrops for the New England fall foliage.