Autumn is one of the best times to visit the western White Mountains of New Hampshire. The temperature has dropped, the air is crisp, and the leaves have turned into a kaleidoscope of colors. While many people just look at fall as the time between ski season, fall is a great time to explore the natural beauty of the mountains. Take some tips from our locals and enjoy one of the best times of the year.
What is your favorite hike?
The White Mountains are filled with thousands of miles of incredible hiking trails for all levels of hiking abilities. Kathie from Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill loves Zealand Falls Trail. The 5.4-mile roundtrip moderate trail ends with incredible views of the 25-foot Zealand Falls waterfall. Cort Roussel of Franconia Notch Vacations says,
“To be honest, I’m not much of a hiker, until it snows and then it’s Game On. But, my favorite short hike that I enjoy no matter the time of year is Bald Knob – across the street from Cannon Mountain. It offers near to total 360-degree panoramas of the North of Franconia Notch State Park regions with only a 15 to 20-minute jolt to the top.”
Where is the best place to see the colorful leaves?
Brenda from Harman’s Cheese & Country Store in Sugar Hill says “It varies each year, but the view by the Inn at Sunset Hill in Sugar Hill is pretty great. When you’re up there, look to the west at the Mountains of Vermont, to the east you’ll see Franconia Notch & Mt. Lafayette, and then to the northeast, you’ll see Mt. Washington in the distance.” If you’re not up for a walk or a hike, Brenda recommends driving Route 112 both sides (Kancamagus Highway and then the Lost River Side) and driving up Mt. Washington.
Echoing Brenda, Cort says, “the best leaf peeping is on the back roads of the Franconia in the Sugar Hill and Easton area because so many of the roads do not have power lines on them enabling the trees to form a near tunnel of color as you can drive along at slower pace than you have to on the more major roads.”
What’s your favorite fall activity?
Kathie says, “this one makes me giggle since I am always so busy with the restaurant that I am inclined to answer – just a day off! [author note: the pancakes are fabulous at Polly’s!] If I do get a day off I enjoy going on a drive either to Waterbury, Vermont and up through Stowe area or a drive to Windy Ridge Apple Orchard in Haverhill.”
Brenda also loves to go apple picking. Cort says, “I love watching the sunset. It’s forever changing. The colors that seem to occur get so accentuated this time of year. This is independent of the foliage – so when you then the two come to combine. Oh my!”
Where’s your favorite place to eat?
It’s all about the apples in the fall. Kathie loves everything apple – apple crisp, apple pie, and apple pie pizza! Brenda recommends grabbing breakfast at Cider House Café (at Windy Ridge Orchard) in North Haverhill. The Cider Slushie is awesome! For Lunch head to Polly’s Pancake Parlor for one of their sandwiches on fresh homemade bread with a cup of homemade soup!
Cort says it’s hard to pick favorites in the western White Mountains, but if he had to pick his top three, it would be “the Gypsy Cafe, Black Mtn Burger, and El Charro. It’s hard to neglect One Love in that same footprint. North of Franconia Notch, Chef Joe’s BBQ & Bistro is the place to go, and the Sunset Hill House is pretty good too.” You truly can’t go wrong when it comes to eating in the region. Everything is good!
What do you like to do on a cold fall day?
While we all love a perfect sunny fall day, sometimes it feels a bit more like winter than fall in the White Mountains. On a cold fall day, Kathie says she still loves to go for a hike if it’s sunny. Brenda says, “I like to watch my breath (if it’s that cold), shuffle through the fallen leaves on back roads, and watch bears under the apple trees.”
Cort says, “Once the leaves have all fallen, and it gets damp and gray, it’s hard to find the motivation to get outside and play. However, the trails then are loaded with the left-over foliage colors that have fallen, while the yellows of the Poplar and Birch hang on. The walking is slippery, but this gets the legs primed and ready for ski season ahead.”
Do you have any favorite fall events?
There is always something happening in the western White Mountains during the fall. Check out our calendar of events page for upcoming events. Kathie loves shopping at the Sugar Hill Marketplace weekend while Sugar Autumn Celebration is Brenda’s favorite. She also looks forward to checking out the Scarecrow People at the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln. Cort loves getting out and about in the Fall. He loves going to the Lancaster Fair in Lancaster, NH and then the NH Highland Games at Loon.
What’s your favorite fall holiday and how do you like to celebrate?
Kathie loves Thanksgiving as she gets the day off from Polly’s and gets to spend quality time with her family. Cort doesn’t have a traditional fall holiday, instead, his favorite “holiday” is “the first significant Snow Fall. My earliest ever top to bottom run at Cannon was October 3rd and my latest then being on Memorial Day a year later. I’ve had several instances now over the years where we are skiing in near peak fall foliage conditions, and it is so cool when that happens.”
What’s your perfect fall day?
Kathie loves a crisp, sunny and bright day. For Brenda it’s the “fog in the morning, watching it lift into a crisp, clear blue sky day with no or few clouds – sun to make it warm but not hot – with colorful leaves on the trees. I’d take a leisurely drive to enjoy it all with stops to check out waterfalls or the scenery. Then a clear dark sky at night to look at the Moon, Milky Way, and stars.”
For Cort, “It’s hard to define a perfect day exactly. However, it involves clear blue skies with a bright warming sun over crisp, fresh chilled Canadian air matched with the peace and tranquility that comes with “the offseason.”
As you can see, our locals love fall in the western White Mountains. It’s time to get up here before the leaves fall to the ground for their winter slumber.