A Three-Peak White Mountain Getaway for the Best Foliage Ever

Last week I suggested that the weekend would be a great getaway for the holiday, and I took my own advice. The result was a spectacular display of color, the best I have ever seen. The leaves had not yet begun to fall, so the peak color will last a bit longer.

The Route

Brilliant color as far as the eye can see from the top of Cannon Mountain, Crawford Notch, NH. ©Stillman Rogers Photography
Brilliant color as far as the eye can see from the top of Cannon Mountain, Franconia Notch, NH. ©Stillman Rogers Photography

I-93 North is a good gateway into the White Mountains and even though the foliage is progressing rapidly in the southern part of the state it turns brilliant from approximately Plymouth, NH, north. Our route took us north through Franconia Notch, always a spectacular sight but even more impressive in this year’s vivid fall yellows. At the head of the notch we stopped and took the Aerial Tramway to the top of Cannon Mountain. Having always thought of the forests of the mountains as conifers — pines, fir and hemlock – I was proved wrong by the miles of red, orange and yellow spread below.

On the north side of the notch we followed Route 3 through a brilliant mixed forest to Twin Mountain, stopping at Munroe’s for lunch. In Twin Mountains we took Route 302 east past the entrance to the Cog Railway and the Mount Washington Hotel, stopping at the head of Crawford Notch for the view of Elephant Head before heading on down through the notch’s deep ravine toward North Conway.

Pinkham Notch and Mt Washington

At Glen, we left Route 302 and headed north on Route 16 for a look at Pinkham Notch. At the head of the notch we took a guided tour to the top of Mount Washington with the Mount Washington Auto Road Van Tours. As the van climbed to the highest point in the northeastern U.S., views opened on all sides, into the Great Gulf Wilderness, across to Wildcat ski trails, and south into the notch. The day was clear and sunny and the views from the top stretched from the sea on the east to Canada on the north and across Vermont to the west. The vast forests below us formed an undulating carpet of color.

The color of New Hampshire’s mountains in Pinkham Notch this year.

The colors of the north country in Pinkham Notch, near Wildcat Mountain, NH ©Stillman Rogers Photography

Also in Pinkham Notch, the Wildcat Mountain Ski Area Gondola gave us another chance for a different view of the mountains and their foliage. From the top of Wildcat the view to the east is of mounts Madison, Adams, Jefferson and Washington and the ride up the side of the mountain presents an ever changing explosion of color alongside the trail and on receding mountain slopes.

Returning home, retracing the same route reveals different views, which change further when seen at a different time of day, as the sun highlights different colors and changing patterns. Another route south heads down Route 16 through North Conway and Conway, where the Kancamagus Highway (Route 112) leads west through the forested wilderness of the White Mountain National Forest to Lincoln and I-93. This highway is perhaps the most scenic in the state, although it’s a close contest with the three notches.

Hurry before you miss it

The Mountains and the foliage will be there for the next week or so, but the Aerial Tramway, Auto Road and Wildcat Gondola all close in mid-October, so check their sites for availability.

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