Fall Foliage in the White Mountains, New Hampshire
After an incredible summer of travel, I had not given much thought on how to spend my birthday trip. Since flights were still expensive and our time was limited to a four day span, I looked around at drivable destinations. While we had traveled to New England for Beer Christmas and winter skiing, we had not gone up for the famous fall foliage season. I found a fall foliage tracker and first, could not believe this was a thing and second, was pleased to find that during the second weekend of October, we were in peak fall foliage – White Mountains of New Hampshire, here we come! Consider us leaf peepers for the weekend.
We opted to drive so around lunchtime on Friday, we packed up and started the 7 hour drive to Lincoln, New Hampshire. Other than the typical traffic and delays, the drive was not too bad. Though it was a bit of a race against the clock to get to a spot to eat before closing. I had the Little Red Schoolhouse just south of where we were staying – it closed at 8PM and we swung into the parking lot at 7:45PM. Known for their lobster roll, this family run restaurant has some of the best seafood in the state. We ordered the A+ Lobster Roll (lightly dressed premium lobster served on a perfectly buttered brioche roll) and the Fisherman’s Platter of whole-belly clams, scallops, shrimp, and fried haddock. After 7 hours in the car straight through, this was a delicious treat.
Since we booked this trip in late August, the options for places to stay were limited. There are really only two weekends a year that the fall foliage is at the peak and everyone goes during this time. While it was more than I am typically willing to pay for an Airbnb, it was one of the only things left and I even looked at surrounding areas, cabins, and hotels. It ended up being a really great Airbnb that was centrally located to the towns of Woodstock and Lincoln with access to the all the destinations of interest. Very good stay here even if it was a bit expensive.
We wasted no time getting ourselves ready for bed – we had a very jam packed weekend ahead!
The biggest and more popular fall activity in the White Mountains is driving on the Kancamangus Highway / Kancamangus Scenic Byway / “The Kanc”. This highway is the spot for fall foliage viewing and often named one of the best in the country. It is 34.5 miles of beautiful views including overlooks, trails, and stops of all sorts that benefits from the almost 3,000 ft elevation. Driving this is definitely a highlight of fall foliage seekers in this destination.
Read about our drive along the Kancamangus Highway, including all the spots to stop, here!
What an incredible day! Since we started in Lincoln, we decided to spend the rest of the day on the Conway side. One thing I did not anticipate was the traffic – it was a bit nuts in this area. We decided to skirt around it by visiting Tuckerman Brewing which was definitely the right call. This spot was super fun – beautiful indoor space, great beers, freshly made brick oven pizzas, and a giant outdoor space with tons of seating and musical performances. What a perfect way to unwind and relax, I wish we could have stay here the rest of the day! Also, I absolutely love this flannel shirt I picked up for this trip!
Our next stop was to White Mountains Cider Company – cider donuts are a staple in these parts! But I have to say, this was a pretty sad shop. They were out of all cider donuts and practically every other baked good. I realize they closed in a half hour but this is a cider company… they specialize in cider donuts. It was definitely disappointing, especially since we passed a few farm stands along the way all selling them. Since this visit was all of five minutes, we still had time to kill before dinner so we drove to Glen Beverage Company to pick up some craft beer.
Dinner was back at White Mountains Cider Company as they have a farm to table restaurant and I was hopeful the restaurant would be a better showing. The place already had a line for opening at 5PM. Reservations are essentials here especially during peak season like now – they turned away several people in front of us without them or looking to change existing reservations. Thankfully, our 5PM reservation made several weeks ago was no problem and we were seated. The place gives a pub feel and is not formal so I am glad I kept my flannel on. The menu was surprisingly diverse with a focus on local ingredients with tons of flavor, many having an Asian influence. We ordered the following items:
- Skillet Beets, Whipped Bleu Cheese, Orange Honey, Candied Cashews
- Cheese & Charcuterie for 2, Today’s Selection of Artisan Cheeses and Meats
- Blue Cheese & Bacon Stuffed Dates
- Cider Mill Salad, Mixed Greens, Crispy Shallots, Green Apples, Pecans, Cider Vinaigrette
- Grilled Duroc Pork Chop, Dilly Dijon Whipped Potatoes, Grilled Red Onions Cider Co Steak Sauce, Golden Raisin and Apple
- Warm Cider Donuts & Ice Cream with Homemade Caramel Sauce
Everything was really delicious and full of flavor but the stand out here was the apple cider donuts. It made me even more upset they did not have donuts for sale cause these were unlike any cider donut we have had. At least we got to try them in this way – warm with caramel and ice cream – amazing. If you are looking for a nicer sit down meal in the area, White Mountain Cider Co is a great option!
We drove home and welcomed an early bed time – we had an early morning.
Today we were tackling the #1 rated hike on AllTrails – Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop. This was going to be a long, hard, and rewarding day and spoiler, things did not go as planned.
Read about our experience hiking the Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop here!
The weather back at the packing lot was just gorgeous – everything around us was beaming and the drive back to town was just stunning.
After a challenging but incredible hike, we were ready to relax the rest of the day. Before stopping back at the Airbnb, we wanted a treat to reward ourselves. Woodstock Pie and Coffee Company was down the street from the place and would definitely do the trick. We arrived right before 1230PM to a line which just made it more desirable to wait – this seemed like the spot in the area for a good cup of coffee and other specialty beverage items along with homemade pies. Like many spots in the area, the options available when we got to the front of the line were limited – all these crowds were running these spots of out inventory and just can’t keep up. Luckily, there was still a slice of peanut butter chocolate pie that I grabbed and Kevin ordered a coffee. We asked about the chicken pot pie and we were given the option to order one now for pick up tomorrow which we happily did. I would suggest if you are visiting during peak season, you must go to Woodstock Pie and Coffee Company – but order in advance! Everything we ordered was amazing.
We headed back to the Airbnb to freshen up before exploring the rest of the Woodstock and Lincoln downtown area. Our first stop was Twin Barns Brewing North Taproom. The space here is very fun with plenty of seating both indoors and outdoors with games all around to play. Kevin really enjoy the craft beer here – this is a great stop downtown.
It was finally time for a full meal and we were both super excited for this one. Black Mountain Burger Co located in a strip mall in Lincoln boasts well rated reviews and is very popular. I read online that while they do no take reservations, you can call ahead and be added to a virtual waitlist. While I was showering after the hike – I am a big shower muser – I yelled to Kevin to give them a call and thank god we did – it was already a 2.5 hour wait. The virtual queue was accessible by phone and we could monitor our status as we went about the day. When we had 20 minutes to go, we left the brewery and made it to the restaurant right as we got an alert that our table was ready. Make sure to call ahead and get in the virtual queue when visiting Black Mountain Burger! Here is what we ordered:
- Drinks: Fall sangria and a beer flight
- Classic Cheeseburger with sweet potato waffle fries and a cup of chili
- Brie & Bacon Burger – brie cheese, hickory smoked bacon, with french fries and a side of our house made maple mayo
Everything was amazing. The sangria I ordered was one of the better ones I have had and Kevin loved the flight – his favorite surprisingly being the cider. The burgers were delicious and. I have to say – no matter what you order, get the house made maple mayo. It was unbelievably good – we dipped everything in it and I slathered it all over my burger. Two thumbs way up for Black Mountain Burger.
We had time for one more stop so went to the nearby Rhythm Handcrafted Beverages Studio where they have flights of wine and cider. We each got a glass of our choosing and while it is a well rated establishment, this was skippable for us though maybe we did not order the right things.
That is a wrap on our second amazing day in the White Mountains! And despite the weather challenges both on the trail and the rain during the day, we were still able to accomplish everything we had on the list.Though we leave tomorrow, we still had quite a day planned.
Our final day! And since we had a long drive back home, we started super early again. The weather outside was not looking too great as the rain continued so we were going to try and salvage as much as we could.
The first stop was Artist Bluff Trail which is an extremely popular trail (one review indicated “Disney like lines”) due to the short distance of 1 mile round trip and the incredible view of the valley at the top. We parked at Echo Lake – this is actually much closer the the trailhead and the signed Artist Bluff parking lot – and the lot was basically empty. A few brave souls were bundled for the rain to head up for sunrise as. we had planned but the visibility was non-existent. Since we no longer had a place to return to if we got soaked from the rain, we decided to skip Artist Bluff as the pay off of the view was not worth the discomfort of the rain and cold. I would say though if conditions are better than ours, definitely complete this trail and go up for sunrise for the view and to beat the crowds.
Instead we continued on to stop two – breakfast. But not just any breakfast, a proper sugar shack. On our way there, we continued to go in and out of visibility until we reached a clearing that was just too specular not to stop. It was quite a surprise that we somehow still got to enjoy a sunrise this morning and it was magical.
Ok, back to our sugar shack breakfast – we were heading to Polly’s Pancake Parlor – a spot so wonderful it needed its own post.
Read about our experience at Polly’s Pancake Parlor here!
Our final stop on this journey through the White Mountains of New Hampshire was the Flume Gorge – an attraction at Franconia Notch State Park that has a trail along the river gorge and spectacular views.
Read about our walk through the Flume Gorge at Franconia Notch State Park here!
The Flume Gorge was very impressive and a great way to cap off an incredible weekend. I still cannot believe it has taken us this long to explore this part of the country for fall. If this is a place you have not yet experienced, I high recommend adding it to your list. There is so much to do for people of all ages and interests. After this short trip, I know we will certainly return to explore more!