New England is bursting with that alluring small town, rustic atmosphere, and there's no better place to understand where it comes from than New Hampshire. The state is home to one of the country's most seductively scenic byways, cutting right through the heart of the White Mountains. The Kancamagus Scenic Byway is especially popular during the fall for its hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and incredible foliage, but it's just as fun cruising during the spring and summer; a drive this amazing never looks bad!
Franconia Notch State Park, located in northern New Hampshire, truly has it all. Whether you're looking to hike, swim, or enjoy simple outdoor recreation, the opportunities are endless here. You'll see incredible views, amazing lakes, mountains, and majestic waterfalls. With access to multiple lakes, such as Echo Lake and Profile Lake, you can also go for a swim, or make your way along the numerous hiking trails suitable for a wide age range. Be sure not to miss the Flume Gorge, a wildly popular boardwalk hike through a canyon that feels like something from "Lord of the Rings.” Seriously, you’ll want your camera on this one.
Sugar Hill Scenic Vista offers incredible views of the nearby mountains, as well as eye-catching drive-by scenery that changes with the seasons. The colors of the foliage are breathtaking in the fall. There are also a few great trails that are accessible to everyone and don't require any specific level of fitness. Score!
One of the most stunning spots to visit in all of New England, the White Mountain National Forest welcomes visitors with breathtaking views, regardless of the time of year. The forest extends into both New Hampshire and Maine, making it the perfect stop if you're looking to see two incredible states. The White Mountain National Forest is also home to a wide variety of animals that often come into view, including the bald eagle, beaver, raccoon, deer, black bear, coyotes and much more. Plus, there are more than 20 campgrounds and dozens of hiking trails, so you can easily make a weekend out of a visit here. Be sure to stop by the visitor center, which can help you plan your trip to make sure you don't miss any of what the White Moutain National Forest has to offer.
Take a drive on the Kancamagus Highway (locals like to call it "The Kanc", due to the highway's difficult pronunciation). The route, in northern New Hampshire, offers some of the best views of foliage in the country, and cuts through the White Mountain National Forest. The 36.5-mile highway is not just meant for driving through though, as it features multiple places to pull over for hiking and even swimming. In addition to the memorable views, the fresh mountain forest air really gives you the full nature feel. The Kanc also offers a wide range of activities, from little eateries, historic sites, cute shops, and more, so you can turn the 37 miles drive into a full day of fun.
One of the most visited waterfalls in all of New Hampshire, Sabbaday Falls will mesmerize you with its beauty. The nearby trails that wind their way around and beyond the falls are accessible to everyone, so be sure to bring the entire family or group. While the hike to the falls is on the shorter side at just .3 miles, you'll quickly get lost observing the extraordinary landscapes and the wide range of trees and plants just off the trail. The bubbling, 45-foot drop makes for a stunning waterfall that will wow even the most experienced adventurer.
The Russell-Colbath House, off the Kancamagus Highway, offers an amazing look into life in the mid-1800s. The homestead, which was built in the early 1830s, is the only surviving historic house in the area. That's why it was purchased and preserved by the US Forest Service in 1961: to protect the home's rich history. Today it serves as a museum, and the home is open for tours where you can see items, photos, and furniture from the 1800s. In addition to being a museum, The Russel-Colbath House also functions as an information center where you can learn about nearby attractions and places to visit. In addition to the home itself, be sure to check out the barn, garden, and graveyard. You won't be disappointed with the quiet charm here!
Get lost in the beautiful sounds of the Diana's Baths Waterfalls. While not as well known as the Sabbaday Falls, don't let that deter you from checking out the incredible scene and trail... sometimes, the off-the-beaten-path sights are even more incredible. Like Sabbaday Falls, the trail to the waterfalls is short and easy, so it's accessible for most. Once at the falls, you can easily lose hours enjoying its beauty and unparalleled, peaceful aura. If you are visiting in the winter or even early spring, the paths can sometimes become a little icy, so be sure to watch your step.
It isn't a trip to New England if you don't stop to see at least one covered bridge, so pull over for a photo op at the Swift River Bridge. The original bridge here was built in 1850, but a freak accident caused by flooding in 1869 swept the first Swift River Bridge off its foundation, down the river, and right into another covered bridge! Both were totally destroyed, but salvaged lumber from the ruins were used to craft the current Swift River Bridge, which has held firm here ever since. It's a seriously adorable spot to stretch your legs.
Whether you're looking to see incredible waterfalls, explore some of the nation's best trails, or you want to get lost in the beauty of nature, you’ll find the best of New England along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway. This road trip, rich in both history and amazing views, is guaranteed to have something for everyone in your family and group. A trip down The Kanc might just be one of the best adventures you ever take!
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