Top Ten Fall Forests
The Whites are on every leaf peeper's radar as one of the best places in the country to catch the fall-color spectacle, and deservedly so. When the mercury plummets and sends shivers through the sugar maples, white birches, and other hardwoods that dominate the valleys and middle slopes of these mountains, the whole landscape comes aflame; whether you walk, drive, ride, or paddle your way through these glowing forests, it's an experience to remember. But fame has its price: Think twice before joining the bus, RV, and auto parade from Boston or New York to spots like North Conway on weekends in September and Octoberthe traffic can be bad enough to spoil your fun. Instead, head up I-93 to Franconia Notch, Crawford Notch, or Pinkham Notch, then leave the roadways behind. You'll leave the crowds behind as well.
Fall Classics: The Whites
Into the Woods: Crowd-shy hikers will love the isolated, wonderful 21-mile backpack loop that departs from Wild River Campground, near Gorham and the Maine-New Hampshire border off U.S. 2. The shorter trails into the Pemigewasset Wilderness may be heavily trafficked near Franconia Notch, but the steep, challenging Old Bridle Path/Falling Waters Trail won't be. Mountain bikers will find tons of trails into the heart of the Pemi, too.
On the Roads: The Kancamagus Scenic Byway is one of the more eye-popping drives in the East, and if you're willing to tackle some lung-busting climbs it's an excellent cycling route as well. Other drives worth considering, especially if you're in the region on a weekday, are the Pinkham Notch Loop, Patte Brook Auto Tour, and yes, even the Mount Washington Auto Road.
Where to Camp: Check out GORP's White Mountain National Forest Guide.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication