Sometimes the best way to see the beauty of New Hampshire is by taking a scenic drive. In a car you can cover more ground and enjoy the variety of scenery from mountain peaks, to sweeping vistas and tree-lined back roads.
From Attitash Mountain Village, follow Rt 302 west past Attitash Ski area and Bartlett Village. The road continues through mountain scenery, past Crawford Notch Park and site of the famous ‘‘Willey Slide” family tragedy.
There are more than 10 waterfalls in and around Crawford Notch State Park, but two towering falls – Silver Cascade and Flume Cascade – require zero hiking and make great photo opportunities!
About 3.5 miles before reaching Silver and Flume Cascade, you’ll find Ripley Falls, a beautiful 100-foot sheet of whitewater flowing over a smooth rock wall. When you see the sign for Ripley Falls, turn left and follow the road to the parking area for Ripley Falls Trail and Ethan Pond Trail. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, the 1.0-mile out-and-back trail takes an average of 20 min to complete. This is a very popular area for birding, hiking, and walking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring.
📷 Photo Tip: The rock wall of Ripley Falls is at about a 60-degree angle, causing the rushing mountain water to maintain contact with the rock during most of its descent. For the best photograph, scramble a few feet downstream and add some scale to your cameras frame, such as a person or rock in the foreground.
After exploring Ripley Falls, continue west driving the steep grade through the Notch. You’ll approach Silver Cascade and Flume Cascade waterfalls on the right side of the road.
📷 Photo Tip: There’s two parking areas for viewing the falls on the left side of the road – pull off and park there. You can walk across Rt 302 and access both of these falls from there.
Continuing on 302, just around the bend is Crawford Notch Depot, which now houses a small museum maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club (well worth the stop). Directly across the street is Saco Lake. You can walk the 0.5-mile out-and-back trail around the lake. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 12 min to complete. This is a popular trail for hiking, running, and walking, but you can still enjoy some solitude during quieter times of day.
A few miles beyond is the grand Mount Washington Hotel, a favorite New England retreat of presidents, poets and celebrities, and the site of the famed 1944 Monetary Conference.
📷 Photo Tip: Stop at the scenic view parking on the left as you approach the hotel for landscape views of this impressive historic hotel with Mount Washington in the background.
📷 Photo Tip: Enjoy a beverage and patio seating on the veranda stretching across the back of the hotel, or at the fire pits on the back lawn, for photos of Mount Washington.
Just beyond the Mt Washington Hotel on Rt 302 is the entrance road (not maintained in the winter) to the Cog Railroad which ascends the west side of Mt Washington. The Cog Railroad museum is an interesting stop, even if you’re not taking the train up the mountain.
Bear Notch Road
Take this road at dawn or dusk for the greatest chance to spot a moose along the road. Access Bear Notch Road from Route 302 in Bartlett to connect to the Kancamagus Highway (the “Kanc”) at the end. For some, this is considered a short cut to the Kanc, for most it’s considered incredibly scenic. (Not open in the winter.)
A 34.5 mile scenic drive along NH’s Rt. 112 in Northern New Hampshire that is well known as one of the best Fall Foliage viewing areas in the country. The Kancamagus Highway is now designated an American Scenic Byway for its rich history, aesthetic beauty, and culture.
The Kancamagus Scenic Byway takes you through a path cut through the White Mountain National Forest with breathtaking views of the White Mountains. The Kanc takes you to an elevation of just under 3,000 feet at its highest point at Kancamagus Pass on the flank of Mt. Kancamagus near Lincoln, NH.
📷 Swift River
📷 Sabbaday Falls
📷 Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge.
📷 Albany Covered Bridge: Albany, 136 ft (1958) 6 mi. west of Conway on Rt. 112 (Kancamagus Hwy)
Continue through Franconia Notch to view the site of the former Old Man In The Mountains. You can visit the Old Man Museum and the New England Ski Museum and other attractions, then hop on 93N to Rt. 302. Travel south through Bretton Woods, stopping for lunch or a tour of the Mt. Washington Hotel. Continue through Crawford Notch back to Bartlett and back again to North Conway Village. It’s about a 100-mile round trip and will most likely take all day, stopping along the way for photos, scenic overlooks, unique restaurants and shopping.
Cathedral Ledge Road
Take this road to the top of Cathedral Ledge for an unsurpassed view of the Mount Washington Valley from Conway Lake to Bartlett.
📷 This is one of those rare scenic overlooks that you can drive to! If you’re lucky, you may be there when a rock climber “tops out” and comes up over the ledge.
From the North Conway-Bartlett section of West Side Road, you’ll turn on to Cathedral Ledge Road and begin climbing up to the top. The road narrows toward the top. Park at the top in a loosely marked parking area and walk out onto the ledge to see all of Mount Washington Valley before you. (Not open in the winter.)
From Route 16 North, go through the Jackson covered bridge and continue through the village to take a slight right onto Rt 16B at the schoolhouse.
📷 Drive through Jackson’s covered bridge (138 ft. / 1870s) and stop on either side of the bridge for a photo.
📷 Gazebo in Jackson Village (on the left just past the schoolhouse)
The road goes up the hill past Christmas Farm Inn to Whitney’s Inn (2 mi), where a sharp turn is made to the left. Drive about 1.6 mi to Gill Bridge over the Wildcat River where the road ends, make another left turn to stop at Jackson Falls with parking on the left.
📷 Jackson Falls
Leaving Jackson Falls continue on Rt 16B back to Jackson Village.
📷 New England Church
This scenic drive will take you to the East side of Mount Washington. There are a couple of scenic vista overlooks with ample parking. Additional destinations along the drive include:
- Mount Washington Auto Road
- Great Glen Trails
- Wildcat Mountain
- Glen Ellis Falls – Absolutely stunning! Short trek in and down a flight of granite stairs, but worth every step! In total, the path is 600 feet long and leads visitors to the 64-foot tall falls.
- Crystal Cascades – This waterfall has a total vertical drop of over 90 feet, with the upper falls being in the range of 70 plus feet and the lower falls being over 25 feet. The trail crosses the Cutler River below the falls…a nice spot to snap a few photos from the bridge before seeing the gem on this short hike. There is a nice viewing area directly opposite the falls so the falls are very easy to photograph.
The Appalachian Trail crosses NH Route 16 here. Parking is available at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Visitor Center, where you will also find information, interpretation, restrooms, and a small store with gear and supplies.
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