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New Hampshire fall foliage touring

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Did You Know … ?

  • Artificial rain was first used to fight a forest fire in 1947, near Concord, N.H.
  • Nine of the 48 tallest peaks in New Hampshire’s White Mountains are named for U.S. presidents.
  • The world’s first cog railway was built on Mount Washington in 1869.
  • The red in autumn leaves occurs when the leaves produce sugar and the sugar becomes trapped.
  • Forests cover 84% of New Hampshire, almost as much as in 1725.

Color matters

New Hampshire is the second most forested state in the U.S. after neighboring Maine. The forests, which cover 4.8 million acres in the small New England state, are economically important in two ways.

For one, trees are harvested like any commercial product and sold.

On the other hand, it is the living trees visible in large numbers that create a tourist-friendly environment in a state where tourism is another top source of income. The woodsy landscape contributes to New Hampshire’s appeal for visitors any time of the year, but especially in autumn when leaves change to oranges, reds and yellows.

As it happens, the two interests contribute almost equally to New Hampshire’s economy. Forest-based manufacturing is worth nearly $1.15 billion to the state while forest-based recreation and tourism (including leaf peeping) is worth $1.12 billion.

Sensitive to both interests, the state manages its forests with a view to protecting them for the long term, which is obviously good news for tourists. The trees do their part, putting on a colorful show every autumn — although the quality of the show varies from year to year depending on the weather.

Tourists come in droves to drive, cycle or hike along the most promising routes, stopping in awe, often with cameras poised. Visitors have a lot of choices for venues — an overlook from a scenic drive, the view along the shore of a lake or the sweep of mountain scenes captured from a ski lift or glimpsed during a hang gliding adventure. In other circumstances, leaf peepers need only position themselves at the dining room window of a pleasant country inn or come to the state in time for an autumn harvest fair.

In all cases, prospective autumn visitors need to book accommodations and other arrangements early, especially if they plan to visit the most popular foliage viewing areas when colors are expected to be at their peak. Autumn colors are brightest when days are cool and sunny, and nights chilly but without frost.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Give yourself a leaf-peeping tour from the seat of a bicycle, in a state mostly covered in forest.
  • For a harvest festival of a certain type, come to Concord for the Octoberfest! Soup, Beer, Brats and Bread.
  • Try hang gliding or a paragliding flight for an up-in-the-air way to see the state’s colors. Take lessons, or opt for a tandem hang gliding flight with an instructor.
  • For those itching to do this the hard way, take a long hike in the woods (on part of the Appalachian Trail perhaps?) or go rock climbing.
  • Enter the woodsmen competition or an eating contest at the Warner Fall Foliage Festival. The autumn event also includes a country bazaar and a crafts fair featuring New England products.
  • Take your scenic journey by motorcycle. The New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development has prepared suggested itineraries.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Attend an agricultural fair, essentially a harvest celebration. Events can vary from sheep shearing to horse pulling, livestock judging to woodsmen’s challenges. There are autumn fairs in Deerfield, Lancaster, New Boston, Rochester and Sandwich.
  • Take an overhead leaf-peeping tour from a ski lift at Attitash, a gondola at Loon Mountain Ski Resort or at Wildcat Mountain or at any of the state’s ski resorts operating equipment in autumn. Or, admire the scenery from the back of a horse. Make arrangements at Loon Mountain’s equestrian center.
  • Work your way through the corn maze at the Beans and Greens Farmstand in Gilford, or try the autumn corn maze at Moulton Farm in Meredith.
  • Drive the Kancamagus Highway National Scenic Byway, often called the best in the U.S., between Lincoln and Conway.
  • Turn your full attention to the colors on one of several scenic train rides. A unique vantage point is from the Mount Washington cog railway. Other choices are the Conway Scenic Railroad, which offers fall trips of about five hours from North Conway to Crawford Depot or Fabyan Station and the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad with two-hour fall foliage excursions along Lake Winnipesaukee.
  • For some Halloween fun — or fright — head to DeMeritt Hill Farm, which promises a “terrifying” Halloween experience, plus an experience called Fright Nite Lite for those who cannot take the full treatment. All in good fun, of course.

Things to do for Authentics

  • There are many regular farmers’ markets in New Hampshire. Visit those on your itinerary and buy locally made foodstuffs to take home — and a few to sample before you leave.
  • Photograph the natural wonder that is called Flume Gorge, as well as the Flume covered bridge. It is all the more impressive under autumn colors.
  • Pick apples at Appleview Orchard in Pittsfield or Applecrest Farm Orchards in Hampton Falls, then turn your apples into fresh-pressed apple cider.
  • Visit the New Hampshire Farm Museum at Milton. Or make that the Muster Field Farm Museum in North Sutton.
  • Head to the Enfield Shaker Museum in autumn, then hike to the Shaker Feast Ground for that special image of the Shaker village nestled alongside Mascoma Lake. Time your visit for the museum’s Fall Harvest Festival. Ride a horse-drawn wagon and see demonstrations of Shaker crafts. The kids (or you) may try churning butter or dipping candles.
  • The state’s covered bridges are charming anytime, but all the more so smothered in fall foliage. Look for any of the state’s 56 notable examples.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development at