An ocean of orange, gold, and red fall foliage await you in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. But don’t worry, you won’t have to go deep into the mountains to find one of the most scenic drives on this side of the country—especially in the fall!
Meet New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway—pronounced ‘‘Kan-kah-mah-gus’. With its breathtaking trees and rolling hills of color, Kancamagus Highway (also known as “The Kanc”) is the exact kind of New England gem fall lovers need in their life.
And by the end of this post, you’ll be packing the car and heading off to see the best Kancamagus Highway attractions in all their glory!
Aside from the beautiful change of season, you can expect to find calming streams, picturesque hiking trails, and so much more during your drive through the countryside.
Not sure what to see first? With three years of leaf-peeping experience along this Highway, in this blog, I will explain everything you need to know about this scenic drive.
By the end, you’ll see it’s no wonder this White Mountain highway makes for an ultimate New England fall road trip.
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Things to Know About the Kancamagus Scenic Byway
Here are some essential tips you should consider before heading off on your heartwarming road trip.
How Long is the Kancamagus Highway?
This iconic strip of road connects the quaint towns of Lincoln and Conway on a 34.5-mile-long scenic drive.
You can expect to finish the drive in two to three hours, but it’s best to spend the day exploring the fantastic attractions of this spectacular region.
When to See the Kancamagus Highway Fall Foliage
Honestly, you can drive down Kancamagus Highway any time of the year, and you’ll be in awe of its beauty.
However, if you want to see the iconic fall foliage in its diverse range of colors, it’s best to go between late September and mid-October.
Where to Begin your New Hampshire Kancamagus Highway Trip
Where you begin your trip will depend on the direction you intend to go.
If you’re coming from Portland, Maine, then begin your trip at Conway and work your way to Lincoln.
If you’re making your way from Vermont or the west of America, it makes the most sense to travel from Lincoln to Conway.
Top Tip: If you are traveling from the western side of the country, read about the best things to do in Stowe before heading along this breathtaking highway.
What’s Along the Kancamagus Highway?
This is one of the few New Hampshire highways that has remained untouched by the modern world. Make sure you fill up on fuel before heading down this road.
There are no hotels, gas stations, restaurants, or anything you might find in the comfort of modern living.
There are six campgrounds you can stay at along the Kancamagus Highway.
Other than that, this is a road where you can completely immerse yourself in nature.
Top Tip: Look at getting a Kancamagus Highway self-driving audio tour so you don’t miss out on any fantastic attractions along the way.
Top Things to Do on the Kancamagus Highway
- Explore Kancamagus Overlooks
- Gondola up Loon Mountain
- Hike Lincoln Woods Trail
- Chase Sabbaday Falls
- Russell-Colbath House
- Mount Chocorua & Champney Falls
- Falls Pond & Rocky Gorge
- Lower Falls
- Albany Covered Bridge
- Flume Gorge
Below is a map of the best Kancamagus Highway attractions.
Now that all the nitty gritty details are out the way let’s dive straight into the Kancamagus Highway’s best stops.
P.S. Parking areas in the Highway cost $5 per vehicle. Or you can grab an America the Beautiful Pass.
#1 Kancamagus Overlooks
There are four breathtaking overlooks for you to enjoy, with each showing a unique perspective of the White Mountains’ natural beauty.
- Hancock Overlook — This spectacular viewing deck is 10 miles from Lincoln and offers unforgettable views of the northern side of the Swift River Valley. The overlook is just after a hairpin bend in the road and is one the best spots to take in a golden sunset.
- Panoramic Overlook — Only 0.6 miles from Hancock overlook, there is an opening in the canopy that provides panoramic views of the entire valley from both sides of the road. Although not one of the most popular overlooks, it’s definitely worth the stop to snap a couple of memorable photos.
- Pemigewasset Overlook — Pemigewasset overlook is a 1.9-mile drive from Panoramic overlook when heading towards Conway. The viewing deck provides striking views of the southern region of White Mountain National Forest and is particularly beautiful during the fall season.
- Sugar Hill Overlook — The Sugar Hill overlook is a 4.6-mile drive from Pemigewasset overlook, and its name pretty much says it all. The views don’t get much sweeter than this, with a beautiful blend of striking sunsets and rust-colored canopy below.
Read Next: 20+ Things to Do in the White Mountains NH
#2 Loon Mountain
Whether at the start or end of your journey down Kancamagus Highway, Loon Mountain is a must-visit.
Only 2.1 miles out of Lincoln, this famous resort and mountain region is a breathtaking site that you simply have to experience.
Join a Loon Mountain Gondola Skyride and reach the summit, or spend the day hiking up the mountain.
Either way, you are bound to have an exhilarating time exploring one of White Mountain National Forest’s best mountain peaks.
Top Tip: Loon Mountain is a fantastic skiing destination if you’re visiting the region during winter.
#3 Lincoln Woods Trail
If you are looking for a challenge, take a hike up the Lincoln Woods trailhead.
Only 4.5-miles from the town of Lincoln, you can spend the day hiking through this gorgeous part of the country.
The hike is a 9.4-mile out-and-back trail that is very well marked and takes you along the East Branch Pemigewasset river to the Franconia Brook campsite.
Throughout the walk, you can smell the fresh scent of pine trees, making you feel at one with nature.
Of the Kancamagus Highway hikes on offer, this one is challenging but easy enough for most to enjoy, and it’s pet friendly.
The Lincoln Woods trailhead also provides an excellent opportunity to see the White Mountain National Forest’s birdlife, such as the zebra finch or hooded robin.
Top Tip: If you are an outdoor lover, look at an America the Beautiful Pass for easy access to all of the country’s national parks and scenic byways.
#4 Sabbaday Falls
Sabbaday creek provides one of the most iconic Kancamagus Highway waterfalls to enjoy during your road trip.
This glorious body of water is more or less smack bang in the middle of your drive, at 19 miles away from Lincoln and 16.1-miles from Conway.
There’s an easy 15-minute (0.5-mile) hike from the parking lot to the Sabbaday falls viewing point.
Although swimming is not allowed, the falls provide the perfect backdrop for photo opportunities.
Let’s be honest; aside from the lush landscape that the falls create, feeling the cool mist from the waterfall hit your face after a long drive is an incomparable feeling.
#5 Russell-Colbath House
Step back in time and enter the rustic life of the 1800s at the Russell-Colbath House.
The old farmstead was built in the 1830s, and since 1986, it has been a part of the National Register of Historic Places.
This historic building is 12 miles from Conway and close to the Jigger Johnson Campground.
With the changing colors in the landscape, this rustic building creates an enticing environment that fills you with intrigue.
Inside, you’ll find old household items and photos that help you get a feel for what life was like back in the day.
Overall, this is one of the more interesting Kancamagus Highway stops that helps explain the history of the White Mountain region.
#6 Mount Chocorua & Champney Falls
As you may have realized by now, the Kancamagus Highway is jam-packed with spectacular wilderness adventures.
And the Champney falls trailhead is no exception.
The hike is 11.2 miles away from Conway, and it’s best to make this a day event, as the walk can take up to 4 and a half hours.
Along this 7.6-mile out-and-back hike, you will get to admire the refreshing waters of Champney Falls.
At the end of the trail, you get the perfect opportunity to take in the gorgeous views of the White Mountain region from the top of Mount Chocorua.
Top Tip: If this hike is too strenuous for you, you can always enjoy the shorter 1.4 mile Champney falls loop trail.
#7 Falls Pond & Rocky Gorge
Only 9.2 miles from Conway, you can imagine Rocky Gorge is a very popular attraction along the Kancamagus Highway.
After a short walk from the parking lot, the Swift river begins to reveal itself from the pine tree canopy.
Rocky Gorge has a viewing deck where you see the powerful rapids and cascading water.
The white water seems to slow down from above.
However, the thunderous sound of crashing water makes you remember the incredible strength of these waters.
Cross the river via the bridge and move from the noisy river to the serene Falls pond.
There is a short mile-long loop trail you can walk around the still and calming waters.
The changing colors of the pine trees create mesmerizing scenery that will live on in your memory.
#8 Lower Falls
At 7.5 miles from Conway, the Lower Falls is one of the most popular attractions along the Kancamagus Highway in the fall.
The flowing water creates a serene setting for relaxing after a long day of driving.
There are plenty of large boulders you can sit on to watch the shades of reds and oranges dance in the wind.
It’s also one of the few places along Swift River where you can swim, so remember to bring your swimsuit.
#9 Albany Covered Bridge
If you’re wondering where to stop on Kancamagus Highway for one of the best photo opportunities, the Albany Covered Bridge is the place.
Only 7 miles from Conway, you’ll fall in love with this romantic setting.
The handmade bridge may be one of the prettiest you’ll ever see, with dark wooden panels and a rust-colored roof that blends in with the scenery during fall.
The bridge crosses the swift river, where gentle flowing water makes you feel like you are in some sort of magical forest from a Disney movie.
#10 Flume Gorge (My Favorite Kancamagus Highway Attraction)
Flume Gorge (5.1-miles from Lincoln) is a breathtaking stretch of nature that will have your imagination running wild. At the base of Mount Liberty, 800 feet of flowing water splits the granite walls.
There is a 2-mile loop trail which allows you to admire the gorgeous scenery of this landscape.
Here, you can walk amongst the great walls and feel the cool rock against your skin.
And don’t forget to visit the Red Flume Covered Bridge while in the area to snag some Instagram-worthy photos.
Top Tip: To enter the Flume Gorge, you’ll have to pay a fee of $18 (when done online) or $21 at the gate. Click here for more details.
Places to Stay Near Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire
With so much to see along the Kancamagus Highway, it’s a good idea to spend a few days in the area.
Here are the best places you can stay in Conway and Lincoln.
Read Next: Cozy North Conway Cabin Rentals
Riverwalk Resort at Loon Mountain, Lincoln ($$$)
The Riverwalk Resort is a wonderful 3-star hotel at the foothills of Loon Mountain. Enjoy all its simple luxuries, from free parking to the delicious meals on offer at the hotel restaurant. And if that isn’t enough, you’ll have spectacular views of Loon Mountain.
InnSeason Resorts Pollard Brook, Lincoln ($$)
The InnSeason Resort at Pollard Brook is a romantic destination if you want to nestle in amongst a majestic pinewood forest. Enjoy a relaxing experience at the wellness spa, or dip in the water at the year-round indoor pool. No matter what room you’re in, you are guaranteed to have a lovely stay.
Stonehurst Manor, Conway ($$$)
Tucked away in the forest of the White Mountains is Stonehurst Manor, which offers a romantic and captivating stay. Not only is it a secluded stay at a 5-star lodging, but you can also expect complimentary breakfast and dinner.
Carriage House, Conway ($$)
If you want a more private experience away from the hotels and resorts, this Carriage House is the place to be. This accommodation is in a great location—close to all the action. Not to mention, it’s tucked away in the woods where you’ll have your own fall magic to enjoy every morning.
Is the Kancamagus Highway worth it?
Yes! The Kancamagus Highway is worth the drive, especially in the fall. For your best chances at seeing fall foliage, plan your drive around early and mid-October.
Is the Kancamagus Highway a loop?
No, the Kancamagus Highway is not a loop. The Kancamagus Highway begins at the intersection of Route 112 and Route 16 in Conway New Hampshire and ends at the intersection of Route 3 and Interstate 93 in Lincoln, NH. You can start your drive from either end of the Highway!
How long does it take to drive the Kancamagus Highway?
The Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire is 35 miles long and will take 45 minutes to an hour to drive without stopping. However, if you’re making stops expect to spend a few hours to half a day exploring the entire byway!
How high is the Kancamagus Highway?
The highest point on the Kancamagus Highway is 2,855 feet (870 meters).
Is driving the Kancamagus Highway safe?
Yes. Driving the Kancamagus Highway is safe. Since it is a two-lane road, always watch where you’re going as it can get narrow. And for your safety and the safety of others, never stop in the middle of the Highway—use pullouts and parking lots to stop.
Tips for Seeing Kancamagus Highway Attractions
Let’s wrap things up with some parting tips for exploring the best Kancamagus Highway Attractions.
- Go Early—Around 11 AM, you may find that some of the parking lots to the Highway attractions fill up. Try to start your drive early in the morning, prioritizing any must-see attractions.
- Never Stop in the Middle of the Highway—Yes, this is an extremely scenic byway, but you can get into a car accident by stopping to take pictures! If you need to take photos, use one of the Highway’s pull outs or designated parking lots.
- Fill Up Beforehand—Remember, there are no gas stations along the Highway! Fill up in Lincoln, NH or Conway, NH before your drive.
- Make a Trip Out of It—I recommend that after your drive, you continue to explore more of New England! I have an entire New England fall road trip itinerary blog you can read.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do on Kancamagus Highway
It’s fair to say the Kancamagus Highway is teeming with adventure at every turn, from breathtaking overlooks to stunning hiking trails. In general, traveling this winding path during fall is best, but the beauty is still very much there in summer and winter.
No matter when you decide to drive down the iconic Kancamagus Highway, you are guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience.
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