The best time to take a fall foliage NH road trip is typically in the middle of October. This is when the leaves are changing, but have not yet dropped from the trees. The colors will be vibrant and beautiful! Along with being spectacularly scenic, this time of year also offers some other advantages as well such as fewer crowds.
“I hope I can be the autumn leaf, who looked at the sky and lived. And when it was time to leave, gracefully it knew life was a gift.” – Dodinsky
You can expect lower gas prices and lower prices for accommodations as peak season hasn’t quite hit. Hotels in NH often increase their rates during the NH fall foliage season as it’s a very touristy season for the New England states.
Now that we got that out of the way, here are some of the best tips we can provide you with to help ensure this NH fall foliage road trip is the best one yet!
Plan Your NH Fall Foliage Road Trip
Some people like to simply “wing it” when they go on a New Hampshire leaf-peeping road trip, but that can sometimes backfire. If you’re not the spontaneous type, then you’re better off planning ahead and covering all of your bases. Here are a few tips to help you.
Start and end your travels on the same day. This way, one of these days will be a travel day and not a sightseeing day. Taking two days off from work may be a good way to go as it gives you an extra day at the end of the trip to have a leisurely breakfast and/or lunch before heading home.
Alternate between daytime and nighttime travel. It’s often easier to see foliage when it is in the sunshine, but then again many of those same places are even more beautiful at night or in the early morning light.
Pick one area and start your day there. Then leave for another place after lunch and so on until you cover all your destinations. This strategy will save you from driving to the same place twice in one day. If you’re going to spend a lot of time at some of the places, then this could be a great idea as it frees up more time for other activities.
Make sure you get plenty of rest each night. Driving long distances in a new place will require a lot of focus. Get ample sleep before a day of driving so that you can fully enjoy your NH fall foliage road trip!
Where in New Hampshire Should I Go?
The short answer is that it doesn’t really matter where you go, as long as your destination is spectacular scenery. Still, some spots will suit you better than others depending on your tastes and preferences. The following list of leaf-peeping hot spots is just a starting point.
For quintessential New England fall foliage: Connecticut River Valley – Litchfield, CT, and surrounding areas; Vermont Mountains – Stowe, VT and southern VT mountains (including Dartmouth College area); White Mountains – North Conway/Jackson NH and surrounding areas; Lake Winnipesaukee – Gilford, NH.
For historic charm: Portsmouth, NH; Lake Winnipesaukee – Wolfeboro and Laconia, NH; Maine (Portland and Kennebunkport).
If you’re looking for a big city with culture: Boston, MA; Portland, ME.
For fun in the sun: Hampton Beach/New Castle area; Lake Winnipesaukee – Weirs Beach.
Additional Places to Visit: Acadia National Park, ME; Rangeley Lakes Region – Rangeley, ME and surrounding area.
How Long Should I Stay in New Hampshire?
If you’re planning on taking the whole week off, then you might consider staying from Sunday to Saturday.
If you only have a few days or a long weekend available to take, then you may want to stay Thursday night-Monday night. This way, Friday and Saturday are yours, but Monday is not so much of a travel day.
Where Can I Stay?
If you’ve never been to New Hampshire, then the state’s major tourism site is a great place to start planning your trip. From there, search for hotels and vacation rentals using an online booking site like Expedia.com or Hotels.com.
Be sure to check the online reviews, ask for customer referrals, and pay attention to location. If upcoming events or other major activities are on your agenda, then it might be worth paying extra to stay within walking distance.
Something else you might consider is a cottage rental. Cottages are affordable, often spacious, and very cozy. You can easily find a place to rent on Airbnb or VRBO.
What Should I Do in New Hampshire?
Something else worth considering is the type of activities you want to engage in while on vacation. Keep in mind that most hotels/rentals have private pools if you’re traveling with kids. If you’re going to be on the go all day, try booking a hotel or rental that allows pets.
If you want to see as much fall foliage as possible then you might want to book some kind of transportation like a car, a boat, or even a helicopter ride from an online travel site before booking your hotels/rentals.
It’s also a good idea to pre-book activities at that time as well, so you don’t get to your destination only to find out everything is booked except kayaking and hiking. Many events are taking online reservations due to restrictions with the number of attendees allowed or other restrictions that may arise by the time October arrives.