There’s a reason people come to New England by the thousands in the Fall. It’s just that beautiful! For centuries, the White Mountains have been a tourist destination. With scenic viewpoints offering panoramic views for miles and colorful trees that dot the highway, it’s time to book your weekend away today before the snow starts to fly!
Any local will tell you there are no "bad" hikes in the White Mountains, but everyone has their favorites. In our list of favorite fall hikes (or really any time of year hikes), you’ll find everything from easy beginner-friendly trails to challenging full-day hikes that will leave you breathless at the top from the views. And, maybe a little bit from the exercise, too.
The Lincoln Woods Trail is one of the most popular trails in the White Mountain National Forest and one of the most accessible from the RiverWalk Resort. Winding along the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River, the Lincoln Woods Trail is an easy, flat, and wide trail perfect for beginners and those just out looking to take in the beautiful leaves.
The trail is only 2.7 miles roundtrip, but with many other trails branching off from the main trail, you can easily turn a couple of hours into an all-day hike. Pack a picnic and enjoy a quiet lunch along the river. Once the snow starts to fly as we get closer to December, you’ll find plenty of people snowshoeing and cross-country skiing the trail.
LEAF PEEPING HIKE #2: JE HENRY TRAIL
Short on time but want to experience the beauty of the White Mountains? Just a short walk down the road from the RiverWalk Resort, you’ll find the JE Henry Trail along the Pemigewasset River. Similar to the Lincoln Woods Trail, the JE Henry Trail is a wide gravel path perfect for walking, running, biking, and snowshoeing. During the warm months you can enjoy the cool waters of the river.
LEAF PEEPING HIKE #3: Lonesome Lake Trail
Lonesome Lake Trail is another local favorite offering incredible views year-round. The well-marked trail ascends 1.6 miles up Cannon Mountain to the picturesque Lonesome Lake. From there, you can take the 1.3-mile Cascade Brook Trail around the lake for a total of 4.3 miles.
The trail is family-friendly and offers stunning views of Franconia Ridge. Stop by the AMC hut to warm up and depending on the time of year, even enjoy a nice snack or meal. The trailhead is easily accessible from the parking lot of Lafayette Place Campground.
LEAF PEEPING HIKE #4: Artists Bluff
There’s a reason these trail is known as Artists Bluff! For centuries, tourists have climbed the short but steep 1.5-mile loop trail to the open summit of Bald Mountain to paint and photograph the gorgeous views of Cannon Mountain, Franconia Notch, and Echo Lake. On blue-bird fall days, get to the parking lot early as it’s a popular hike you don’t want to miss out on the views.
LEAF PEEPING HIKE #5: The Flume Trail
Located within Franconia Notch State Park, the Flume Trail is a 1.8-mile loop trail through the famous gorge. Discovered in 1808 by 93-year-old Aunt Jess Guernsey, the Flume is a natural rock gorge extending over 800 feet up Mount Liberty.
The trail involves some uphill walking and lots of stairs. From the boardwalk, you can see colorful flowers, ferns, and mosses. The Flume Gorge is one of New Hampshire’s most iconic spots, so you have to go at least once in your lifetime.
LEAF PEEPING HIKE #6: Georgiana and Harvard Falls Trail
TLC might have said “don’t go chasing waterfalls,” but we disagree. Georgiana and Harvard Falls Trail offers a two-for-one deal on waterfalls! Georgiana Falls is 30 feet tall and Harvard Falls, which is further up the trail, is twice the size of Georgiana Falls.
For a total of 2.4 miles, the moderate trail offers a great bang for your buck. As you approach Harvard Falls, the trail does get much steeper in sections, but the trail offers rewarding views from the top.
LEAF PEEPING HIKE #7: Franconia Ridge Loop Trail
Rated as one of the best hikes in New Hampshire, the 8.5-mile Franconia Ridge Trail Loop isn’t for the faint of heart. The seven-hour hike will take you over three 4,000-footers – Mount Lafayette, Mount Lincoln, and Little Haystack. About 1.5 miles are above treeline, so it’s essential that you pack for the exposed elements, but the views are absolutely breathtaking. You’ll earn serious bragging rights with this hike! Make sure to park in approved parking areas (and not on the side of the highway) for this one - that means getting to the trailhead early! If you’re hitting the trails late in the season, remember to bring crampons and proper footwear as the higher elevation summits may have snow and ice.
LEAF PEEPING HIKE #8: Mount Osceola Trail
Standing at 4,315 feet, Mount Osceola is one of the highest peaks in the western White Mountains. Named after a Native American chief who once lived in the area, the Mount Osceola Trail is a challenging 12.3-mile out-and-back trail that offers almost panoramic views of the Sandwich Range and the rest of the White Mountains. While the trail is actually easy to moderate, it is just really long so prepare for a long day.
LEAF PEEPING HIKE #9: SUGARLOAF TRAIL
Offering stunning views for only a few hours around trip, take the 3.3-mile Sugarloaf Trail to North and Middle Sugarloaf near Bethlehem. The trail is moderate in effort and you can often see the snow-capped Presidentials in the distance on a late fall day. The trail is quite popular so get there early for the best views for your Instagram!
LEAF PEEPING HIKE #10: THE PRESIDENTIAL TRAVERSE
No White Mountain hiking guide is complete without the granddaddy of them all – the infamous Presidential Traverse. The challenging 18.8-mile one-way traverse over New Hampshire’s most famous peaks is well known for its rugged terrain and epic views. Advanced hikers can complete the traverse in one day, but for many, a night in one of the AMC huts is the way to go. The traverse is best left for summer and early fall as you have the best weather, but it can be done year-round with the right gear and weather.
The leaves are turning fast so follow the New Hampshire Foliage Tracker to find the best time to visit the White Mountains. Be sure to reserve a suite a Riverwalk Resort for an amazing view of the foliage and convenient proximity to the area's best leaf peeping hiking trails.