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The Best New Hampshire Road Trip: 4 Amazing Options

New Hampshire is a wonderful place to spend a week. With attractions from a small but stunning coastline to the majestic White Mountains, there is something for everyone throughout the entire year. The best New Hampshire road trip depends on your interests and the time of year you’re taking your New Hampshire vacation. There are plenty of amazing places you can stay for a whole week, or you can explore attractions around the state on a week-long New Hampshire road trip.

If you don’t have exactly a week, there are plenty of ways to shorten or extend your trip.

Explore all 4 New Hampshire road trip itineraries, or skip down to the one that works best for you.

Fall Leaf Peeping New Hampshire Road Trip

New England is known for it’s dramatic fall colors, and New Hampshire is one of the crown jewel states of fall colors. The White Mountains offer an amazing backdrop for the changing leaves, and driving the Kancamangus during peak foliage should be on your bucket list. Start your week long road New Hampshire road trip in the north and work your way south with the changing colors.

When to Go: Sept-Oct – You will get peak colors in the NH mountains the first two weeks of Oct – check out the average time for fall foliage (see this map for the averages).

Highlights: Quaint New England towns in all the fall color glories, scenic drives, and short hikes.

NH Fall Foliage Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Explore and Spend the Night in Jackson, NH

Your one week fall New Hampshire road trip starts in Jackson, NH. If you are arriving from Seacoast NH, Boston, or the south, enjoy the drive up Route 16. Assuming you have some daylight when you arrive, stop by Honeymoon Bridge to snap a photo, or take a short hike – good options include Black Mountain. The village of Jackson is like a postcard with nearby views of Mount Washington and plenty of excellent place to eat and stay. Stay in Jackson, NH for one night. The are many small inns to choose from for your night in Jackson, like the Snowflake Inn or Eagle Mountain House.

Day: 2 Check out Mount Washington, drive route 302 and spend the night in Franconia

Explore the Mount Washington area (the tallest mountain in the state). You can see it from afar, drive to the summit, or take the Cog railway up the mountain from Bretton Woods. Leave the Jackson area and drive south to hop on Route 302. This is an amazing, scenic road and a great place to see the fall colors. Stop off at Crawford Notch State Park and go for a hike up Mount Willard or up to Arethusa Falls. Spend the night in Franconia at the Sugar Hill Inn or The Horse and Hound Inn.

New Hampshire road trip

Day 3: Visit Franconia Notch, hike the Flume and spend the night in Lincoln

The short drive from Franconia to Lincoln is the perfect place to view the fall colors. There are several short hikes in this area: visit Artist’s Bluff, the Basin, or the Flume. You can also stop at Cannon Mountain for a tram ride to the top for excellent views. Take your time exploring the area and then head to Lincoln for the night. Stay at the Riverwalk Resort at Loon Mountain.

Day 4: Drive the Kancamangus Highway and stop along the way, spend the night in North Conway

This is the best drive in NH for fall foliage. The two lane road winds through the White Mountains with mountains views that follow the Swift River. There are several short hikes including Sabbaday Falls or you simply stop at one of the many scenic overlooks along the road. You should plan to eat before you go in Lincoln or in North Conway as there are few options once you are on Route 112.

Once you’re in North Conway there is plenty to do including shops and restaurants. Stay in the White Birch Inn or the White Mountain Hotel and Resort.

Day 5: Explore the Town of North Conway or go for a Hike

With two nights in North Conway, today you have a chance to explore towns or sneak out for a short drive or walk. Check out Echo Lake State Park. This is a lovely place to see the colors reflected off the lake and take a walk.

Day 6: Drive to Lake Winnipesaukee and stay in Wolfboro

Take Route 16 south to scenic Wolfboro on Lake Winnipesaukee. This cute little town is surrounded by lakes. Spend the day walking or biking on the Cotton Valley Rail Trail, explore downtown, or hike Copple Crown Mountain.

If it isn’t quite peak foliage yet, you may want to spend an extra night further north.

Day 7: get breakfast, take a walk and head home.

Get breakfast at Katie’s Kitchen, take a short walk along the lake and then head home.

Shorten or extend your fall foliage NH road trip

If you only have a few days for this trip, I would leave off the visit to Wolfboro and only spend one day in North Conway. You could also skip the night in Franconia, but this would mean a longer driving day to get to Lincoln. If you have more time, consider adding another night to either Jackson, Franconia or Lincoln and doing a drive/hike that day.

Explore Portsmouth on your New Hampshire Road Trip

Summit to Sea New Hampshire Road Trip

Get the best of the NH mountains and beaches on this summit to sea New Hampshire road trip. It’s just about a 2 hour drive from the NH White Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean and is a great way to see the state.

When to Go: Summer – June-Sept – you can go earlier in the spring or later in the fall, but if you are planning any beach time you will want to be there when it’s warm.

Highlights: Majestic mountain scenery and hiking and sea salt air and seaside traditions in Portsmouth on this New Hampshire road trip

NH Summit to Sea Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Drive up 93 to the White Mountains and Stay in Lincoln

Start your summit to sea New Hampshire road trip with a drive to Lincoln on route 93. Lincoln is a picturesque town right at the start of the Kancamangus Highway. If you have time, drive a bit further north to see Franconia Notch. You can hike the short Flume Trail or if you are looking for a challenge, there are several longer hikes here including the Franconia Ridge Loop or up to Lonesome Lake. Stay at the Riverwalk Resort at Loon Mountain or camp in one of the local campgrounds.

Day 2 and 3: Stay in North Conway

Get an early start and drive the Kancamagus highway to North Conway. This scenic road has plenty of places to stop and lots of options for hiking. Hike to Sabbaday or Champney Fall, visit Lower Falls and enjoy the drive. Since you will spend a few days in North Conway, make sure you drive north and explore Mount Washington. You can take a scenic railroad ride, drive or hike to the top of this impressive mountain. Stop in the pretty town of Jackson for a visit and make sure you leave time to explore North Conway. There are lots of lodging options in North Conway for every budget including nearby cabin rentals, inns, and campgrounds.

Day 4, 5 and 6: Stay in Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth is a bustling town with a working waterfront, a fun food scene, and easy access to the beaches and coastline. Base your stay for the last few nights in Portsmouth. You can stay right in town, check out the historic Wentworth by the Sea or find slightly less expensive options outside of town. While you are visiting Portsmouth, make sure to drive along the coast to the north and south. There are miles of sandy beach in Rye and Hampton and if you head north, the southern Maine coast offers a contracting rocky shoreline and the Kittery Outlet Malls. Enjoy the water with a sail on the Gundalow and take a walking tour of historic Portsmouth.

Shorten or Extend your Summit to Sea NH Road Trip

If you only have a few days, leave off Lincoln and go straight to North Conway. You can make this a four night trip with just 2 nights in North Conway and 2 nights in Portsmouth. If you want to add on the to the trip, consider a few days on a NH Lake in a cabin and campsite.

Historic Wentworth by the Sea

Outdoor Adventure New Hampshire Road Trip

This New Hampshire road trip is for to outdoor adventure enthusiasts who love to explore winter activities and get outside in the summer. With an emphasis on the outdoors, this itinerary spends most of the time in the Mountains with a short visit to the coast. If you are doing this as a winter road trip, it’s worth staying in the mountains for the entire trip.

When to Go: This itinerary has options for both winter activities as well as summer/fall activities. If you are planning to hike, I would avoid the early mud season (April and May) as there will be lots of mud, bugs and likely snow still at elevation.

Highlights: Amazing adventures in the Mountains with some suggestions for summer activities in the Seacoast Region.

Outdoor Adventure NH Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1-3: Stay in Bretton Woods – Hike in the summer and ski in the winter

There are excellent options of places to stay in the Bretton Woods area and good access to the outdoors. For a little luxury, stay at the Omni Mount Washington Resort, or rent a house through AirBNB or stay at one of the campgrounds in the area (in the summer).

Summer/Fall Outdoor Activities: There are many tremendous hikes in the area including Mount Washington, and of the Presidential Range, Mt. Field and Mount Willy. You can also book a guided rock climbing tour, go horseback riding, or mountain biking.

Winter Activities: Bretton Woods ski mountain is easily accessible, but you can also get to several other mountains with a quick drive, such as Cannon, Attitash, and Wildcat. If you don’t want to downhill ski, check out the Bretton Woods Nordic Center or go for a winter hike or snowshoe.

Day 4-5: Stay in North Conway – hike or ride the river in the summer and ski or go dogsledding in the winter.

North Conway has easy access to most of the White Mountains with a fun town scene to boot. There are lots of great places to stay including the White Birch Inn or the White Mountain Hotel and Resort, but you can also find a campsite nearby.

Summer/Fall Activities: From North Conway, drive out along the Kancamangus Highway -there are lots of places to hike. Some of the best hikes along this road include Sabbaday Falls, Moat Mountains, or the Boulder Loop Trail. There are lots of rivers near North Conway as well, so take a day and go tubing or boating down the Saco River.

Winter Activities: From North Conway, there are several ski mountains easily accessible. Check out Attitash, Waterville Valley, or King Pine. You can also try dog sledding or explore nearby hiking trails by snowshoeing or winter hiking.

Day 6-7: Stay in Portsmouth, NH (Summer only) In the Winter stay in North Conway for the final 2 days.

The Seacoast Region on NH may be small, but it is full of fun outdoor adventures. There are lots of options of places to stay right in Portsmouth and plenty of short seacoast hikes and beaches. For outdoor adventure in the summer, rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard, take a sail on the Gundalow or rent bikes and ride along the coast.

Shorten or Extend your NH Outdoor Adventure Road Trip

Winter – if you only have a few days, you can base yourself just out of Bretton Woods or North Conway and drive to the different winter activities. You can get to most places within the White Mountains from either of these locations in under an hour. If you are looking to make your trip longer, consider some of the Western parts of the White Mountains such as the Loon Mountain and Waterville Valley areas.

Summer – if you need to shorten your summer adventure, you can either leave off one of the mountain locations or skip Portsmouth. To extend New Hampshire road trip, consider adding on a visit to a Lake or backpack in an stay at one of the White Mountain Huts.

Rock Climbing in NH

Family New Hampshire Road Trip

A New Hampshire road trip is the perfect family adventure. You can easily turn any of the NH road trips described already into a family adventure, but this road trip has suggestions for more kids friendly activities. If you have older kids, they may enjoy the outdoor adventure New Hampshire road trip.

When to Go: A family road trip to NH can happen anytime of the year, but this itinerary is focused more on the summer. It can also be done in the shoulder seasons like June and Sept/Oct. I’ve tried to provide several activity suggestions for different ages as well to help you plan the best trip for your family.

Highlights: With just 3 locations this trip has less moving so you can stay for at least 2 days in each place. There are lots of family activities based on your families interest and ages in the itinerary for a family New Hampshire road trip.

Outdoor Adventure NH Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1 -3 Portsmouth and the NH Seacoast

Start your New Hampshire family vacation at the coast. Stay right in Portsmouth so you can easily walk to many sites or find a place anywhere along the coast. The seacoast of NH is full of fun activities for kids. Start with a visit to the beach either in Rye or Hampton. Make sure to stop at the Seacoast Science Center for a look at the local marine life. Catch an outdoor play at the Prescott Parks Art Festival and take a Kids Sail free trip on the Gundalow. Other fun family activities on the Seacoast are the Strawbery Banke Museum, Great Bay Discover Center, and the NH Children’s Museum.

Make sure you take some time to eat seafood and visit an ice cream stand while you’re in the area.

Day 4-5 Lake Winnipesaukee

Stay right on the lake to enjoy the best of Lake Winnipesaukee. You can find lots of options to stay on the lake including cabin rentals and campgrounds, or stay at the Half Moon Motel or the Center Harbor Inn. If you’re staying on the lake your kids will love swimming, fishing, or boating in the lake. You can also take a short hike at Castle in the Clouds or up Mount Major (get there early to get parking). Also worth the visit is the Squam Lake Nature Science Center.

Day 6-7 North Conway

North Conway is a perfect mountain base for your family New Hampshire road trip. Depending on your families interest, you can tube down the Saco River, visit Storyland, take a hike, swim in the Swift River, ride the cog railway up Mount Washington and so much more. Many of the stores in North Conway are fun for kids to explore as well. North Conway is an easy place to stay, but if it looks crowded, there are also plenty of towns and campsites nearby including Jackson, Lincoln and Bretton Woods.

Shorten or extend your Family New Hampshire Road Trip

To extend your family New Hampshire road trip, I would suggest staying an extra day or two at any of the destinations above. To shorten the trip you could simply cut out either the Lake Winnipesaukee or North Conway portion of your trip (of if you want lots of mountains, leave off the coast).

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