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Planning a trip to New Hampshire this year for a dose of fall color and fun? Our New Hampshire fall foliage guide is here to help. Learn the best time to see the leaves change color, discover our favorite foliage towns and routes for stunning scenery, and read up on a pair of don’t-miss pumpkin festivals.
New Hampshire Fall Foliage | Best Time to Visit
While every year is different, New Hampshire reliably sees its best fall color, moving from north to south, starting in mid-to-late September and extending through mid-October.
Some of our favorite regions in New Hampshire for enjoying fall color are the Great North Woods during early peak (late September to early October) and the Monadnock Region during middle peak (end of September to mid-October). That said, you’ll find fantastic pockets of color in every corner of the state throughout the season.
Learn more about finding peak color in New England in the 2018 Yankee feature “Peak Perfection.”
Best New Hampshire Fall Foliage Towns
1. Conway/North Conway
There may be no better way to see foliage than by train, and in this part of New Hampshire, the Conway Scenic Railroad is just the ticket. Hop aboard and wend your way through White Mountain clefts and over trestles lit by the colors of fall. Conway’s many restaurants and outlet shopping ensure that you won’t have to sacrifice the comforts of civilization on your foliage trip. Don’t miss the chance to hike to Diana’s Baths, a scenic series of waterfalls and swimming holes.
Tucked between the loon-rich shores of Squam Lake and the forested foothills of the White Mountains, the village of Sandwich offers plenty of hiking trails, driving routes, a covered bridge, and an inviting downtown. Try to time your visit with the 100-year-old Sandwich Fair, which has midway rides, livestock competitions, and more.
3. Waterville Valley
Feng shui doesn’t get any better than the U-shaped mountain range that cradles Waterville Valley. The area is particularly lovely when autumn colors light up the slopes, which are dominated by the lofty peaks of Tripyramid and Osceola. Ample hiking trails invite outdoor enthusiasts to get out into the foliage.
When filmmaker Ken Burns went looking for a home, he landed here, a beautiful village with a town green bordered by 19th-century buildings, with farms, orchards, and the Connecticut River for close company. Don’t miss the heart-stopping views at Alyson’s Orchard, which is simply one of the best orchards in the country. And leave time for a visit to L.A. Burdick and a taste of its world-famous chocolate.
You enter this village through a covered bridge, and once arrived you may well feel as if there’s no reason to leave. Surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest, with hiking paths heading off in all directions, Jackson is the jewel of the Whites. Long known as a summer resort haven, Jackson now sees its inns filled with Nordic skiers throughout the winter. But this place never sparkles more than it does in fall, making it an ideal spot for enjoying a dose of New Hampshire fall foliage. Be sure to check out the Jackson Scenic Loop: Follow the signs from 16B by bike, on foot, or by car, for five miles of stunning mountain scenery.
One of the country’s most famous outing clubs is here in Hanover, home of Dartmouth College, and for good reason: the lush landscape. If the Connecticut River, the Appalachian Trail, and the nearby mountains don’t put a spring in your step, nothing will. Or, if you just want to relax in town, you can easily spend a day people-watching on the college green. Don’t miss the Ledyard Canoe Club, where you can rent a canoe or a kayak from the nation’s oldest boating club.
Learn more about the best New England towns to visit this fall in the 2010 Yankee feature “The Top 25 Foliage Towns in New England.”
Best New Hampshire Fall Foliage Drives
New England is home to many fine fall foliage drives, but perhaps none is more well known (or mispronounced) than the Kancamagus Highway, aka the Kanc, in the White Mountains. Fill up the tank and then settle back to enjoy one of New Hampshire’s best fall foliage experiences.
This New Hampshire foliage drive meanders around Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake, offering beautiful views of both mountains and water.
If the thought of sharing the Kanc with hundreds of fellow leaf-peepers gives you pause, Evans Notch offers a quieter alternative. Beginning and ending in Maine, this route along the New Hampshire border is steep, winding, and spectacular.
Learn more about our favorite fall routes in the 2014 Yankee feature “Slow Drives Through Fall Color” and get more New England foliage trip ideas in our list of 14 Favorite Fall Drives in New England.
Best New Hampshire Fall Activities
Nothing says autumn like biting into a crisp apple — especially one you’ve just picked yourself. New Hampshire offers a number of excellent apple orchards, including Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole, Gould Hill Farm in Contoocook, and Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon.
Foliage Train Tours
Watching the foliage whiz by through the window is nice when it’s by car, but something extra-special when it’s by train. The classy Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train in North Woodstock lets you opt into a five-course meal as you spend two hours traveling through the heart of New England, while the Conway Scenic Railroad and Hobo Railroad (out of Lincoln) offer more traditional scenic train rides. For the ultimate foliage thrill, there’s also the Mount Washington Cog Railroad. Hold on tight and enjoy the show!
Best New Hampshire Pumpkin Festivals
Milford Pumpkin Festival | Postponed Until 2021
Every Columbus Day weekend, the Milford town oval attracts thousands of visitors with live music, food, and activities like the Great Pumpkin Weigh-in, beer and wine tasting, a craft fair, and a fun run.
New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival | Postponed Until 2021
With more than 20,000 pumpkins stacked into a majestic tower, plus live music and fair-food favorites, the two-day New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival in Laconia is a top New England fall event.
Discover our picks for the best five pumpkin festivals in New England.
Best New Hampshire Fall Fairs
Deerfield Fair | Postponed Until 2021
The Deerfield Fair dates back to 1876 and bills itself as “New England’s oldest family fair.” It’s also one of the biggest fairs in New Hampshire, with livestock pulls and exhibitions, a demolition derby, pig scramble, sheep shearing, the Miss Deerfield Fair pageant, midway rides, live entertainment, 4-H exhibits, and all your favorite fair food.
Sandwich Fair | Postponed Until 2021
Held in the stunning Lakes Region, the Sandwich Fair features a midway, animal demonstrations and competitions, a skillet toss, and 4-H livestock talks, plus pumpkin carving, oxen pulling, and parades.
Find even more fun and fabulous New Hampshire fall fairs.
What New Hampshire fall foliage picks would you add to the list? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2019 and has been updated.
More Foliage Guides:
Vermont Fall Foliage Guide
Maine Fall Foliage Guide
Guide to New England Fall Foliage Train Tours
Best Apple Orchards in New England
10 Places to Visit in New England in Fall