9 Fall Hikes for Leaf Peeping in the White Mountains

Posted by Katelyn Michaud on Sep 27, 2018 11:06:11 AM
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The black flies are gone, the temperatures have dropped, but the scenic views have only gotten better this fall. Fall in the White Mountains is the best time of year to hike. While you’ll need to pack a few extra layers and watch the weather forecast more this time of year, the colorful leaves will get any late sleepers out of bed early.

There are no "bad" hikes in the White Mountains, but we’ve put together a list of our favorite hikes offering the most rewarding views of the changing leaves. 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.

This blog post is part of "The Guide to Fall Activities in The White Mountains" blog series.


Leaf Peeping Hike #1: Lincoln Woods Trail 

lincoln woods trail

The Lincoln Woods Trail is one of the most popular trails in the White Mountain National Forest. 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. 


LEAF PEEPING HIKE #2: Lonesome Lake Trail

Easily accessible from the parking lot of Lafayette Place Campground, 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 lovely views of Franconia Ridge. You can stop into the hut to warm up and depending on the time of year, even enjoy a nice snack or meal. 


LEAF PEEPING HIKE #3: Artists Bluff

artist bluff

Don’t miss one of the best fall hikes in Franconia Notch – Artists Bluff! The short but steep 1.5-mile loop trail ascends up to the open summit of Bald Mountain. From the grassy top of the mountain, the views of Cannon Mountain, Franconia Notch, and Echo Lake are gorgeous. Bring your camera and get to the parking lot early as it’s a popular hike you don’t want to miss.   


LEAF PEEPING HIKE #4: 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. Stop by the Visitor Center for a 20-minute short film on the state park.   


LEAF PEEPING HIKE #5: Mount Pemigewasset Trail


Mount Pemigewasset, formerly known as Indian Head, is a 2,557-foot mountain in Lincoln. Park at the Flume Gorge parking lot and hike 1.6 miles up the rocky ledge summit for incredible panoramic views of the valley below. The moderate trail is good for beginners and young children with only a few steep sections.  


LEAF PEEPING HIKE #6: Basin Cascade Trail

visit the basin

If you like waterfalls, then lace up your boots and hit the Basin-Cascades Trail in Lincoln. The 2.5-mile out-and-back trail is popular amongst waterfall chasers.

The beginner-friendly trail follows the length of Cascade Brook and has very little elevation gain. Unfortunately, the bridge has washed out, but the brook is easy to cross. On a warm fall day, you can cool your feet off in the brook and take in the scenic views of the colorful leaves. 


Georgiana_Falls_ViewLEAF PEEPING HIKE #7: Georgiana and Harvard Falls Trail

If you don’t see enough waterfalls on the Basin-Cascades Trail, head over to Georgiana and Harvard Falls Trail. 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. Rewarding views from the top and beautiful waterfalls!



LEAF PEEPING HIKE #8: 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!


LEAF PEEPING HIKE #9: 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.

This blog post is part of "The Guide to Fall Activities in The White Mountains" blog series.

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. 


Topics: Fall, Outdoor Activities