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Scenic Foliage Drives

New Hampshire Foliage Driving Tour

Find Glory in the White Mountains

by Polly Bannister


Photograph of Franconia, NH
Submitted by Frank Grima

Photograph of North Conway, NH
Submitted by Yew Kwong Hong

Photograph of Conway, NH
Submitted by

Photograph of Jackson, NH
Submitted by Margaret Kippenberger

YOU DON'T HAVE to be a hiker to enjoy New Hampshire's majestic White Mountains, where roads lead into the heart of New England's most renowned peaks. Make this drive and along the way you can visit inns and eateries with broad views of Mount Washington (New England's highest peak at 6,288 feet) and the Presidential Range. After a few hours you may come to expect mountain views at every turn, but it's unlikely you'll tire of them. The mountains change -- cloaked with fog in early morning, often razor sharp by midday; their forms take shape around the winding roads like a well-turned tale.

Day One

Begin this tour in North Conway, take in some of the area's best attractions, enjoy knock-your-socks-off mountain views, and sleep in New Hampshire's prettiest towns. Most of the trip is on scenic 302, the route that will take you into Vermont for the next driving trip in Yankee Magazine's foliage tour.

Route 302 joins Route 16 North in North Conway, where at almost any hour of the day you'll find traffic comparable to rush hour. The name of the game here is shopping. Take your pick of outlets; most are located in Settlers' Green Outlet Village (more than 60 stores, including Nike Factory Store, Tommy Hilfiger, Orvis Factory Store) or spread out along Route 16 (Polo/Ralph Lauren, L.L. Bean Factory Store, the Paper Factory, and many, many more).

If you tire of name brands and long to see something handmade, stop at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. Then there is Zeb's. A little removed from the outlets, this store stocks only goods made in New England. Named after a Martha's Vineyard sea captain, Zeb's is a "new" general store full of toys, food, baskets, and -- yes -- Bag Balm.

Though we don't recommend it, there are enough stores in the area to spend the entire foliage season shopping. If you find you've shopped till you're about to drop, please scroll down for our suggestions for lodging in North Conway.

But when we've come just for shopping, our favorite excursion ends not in North Conway but a little south, away from the commotion. Eaton Center, with its idyllic setting on Crystal Lake, is just 15 minutes south on Route 153.

We reserve a room at the Inn at Crystal Lake, an 11-bedroom 1884 Victorian that is the centerpiece of the village. Relax in the evening with a walk along the lake. Just a bit to the east, in Snowville, another wonderful choice is the Snowvillage Inn. Built as a summer home in 1916, the inn has sweeping views of the Presidential Range, including Mount Washington, and a restaurant that's recognized for its elegant country dining. (Nothing like a four-course candlelit dinner to revive you after a day of shopping.)

For those hearty travelers and nonshoppers who want some action, the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway offers round-trip train rides through some of the finest scenery in the Northeast. Choose between two Valley Excursions or the longer Notch Trip. Families will also enjoy Story Land in Glen, operated by the Morrell Family.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Reader Comments

Comment from Roger White on August 12, 2009

Can't print pages on N.H. or Connecticut after the 1st 2 pages....wassup?

Comment from Ron Ruby on October 4, 2009

Visiting from the West Coast. Would love a photographer's perspective on the best sunrise and sunset areas. I am driving from Quebec to Conway over 3 or 4 days. Would like help from a photographer. Willing to get up early and shoot....

Comment from Samuel Sambuaga on March 31, 2013

Yeah, great post \"New Hampshire Foliage Driving Tour Find Glory in the White Mountains\" I want to go there sometimes.

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