Kancamagus Highway is the most beautiful road in New Hampshire. We drove this highway when visiting the White Mountain National Forest in the late summer. We originally didn’t plan to drive the Kancamagus Highway, but are so glad that we did. It is a gorgeous drive that has many amazing stops! You should definitely drive the Kancamagus Highway if you are visiting New Hampshire or the White Mountain National Forest!
What is the Kancamagus Highway?
The Kancamagus Highway is a 32 mile road connecting Lincoln and Conway, New Hampshire. It weaves through and over the White Mountains, crossing Kancamagus Pass at it’s highest point. It is a really popular road for seeing the leaves and soaking in all of the views of the White Mountains. As a bonus, along the road there are many stopping points and pullovers to see the views in all different directions. The road is named after a famous Native American named Kancamagus that was integral to the history in the area of the White Mountains.
Where is the Kancamagus Highway?
The Kancamagus Highway is located in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, USA. It connects the towns of Conway and Lincoln.
Distance to Kancamagus Highway from NYC: 340 miles, 6 hours
Distance to Kancamagus Highway from Boston: 130 miles, 2 hours
Distance to Kancamagus Highway from Montreal: 200 miles, 3 hours
How to get to the Kancamagus Highway
The best way to get to the Kancamagus Highway is by car. Going by car allows you the opportunity to stop all of the places you wish. Driving yourself along the Kancamagus Highway is definitely the most convenient and flexible option.
However, if you are unable to drive, some companies based in Lincoln and Conway run bus tours at certain times of year that allow you to see the Kancamagus Highway even if you are unable to drive.
When to visit the Kancamagus Highway?
The most popular time of year to visit the Kancamagus Highway is in September and October when the trees are turning every color of the rainbow. This would definitely be a beautiful time of the year to visit, but also the most crowded.
Try late summer for catching the trees still in full bloom, but with less traffic.
Another great time of year would be in May or June, because the waterfalls would be biggest and fullest that they are all year. This time of year, the trees may not be fulling bloomed, but the waterfalls would be gorgeous.
The road is open in the winter, but at times it may temporarily close if there is heavy snow on the road.
Places to Stop on the Kancamagus Highway
***This guide is listed as if you are driving from West to East. If you are driving the opposite direction, start the list from the bottom of this post and go in reverse.
Start Your Journey in Lincoln
Starting on the western side of the Kancamagus Highway, you will start your journey in Lincoln, NH. Lincoln is a cute little town that turns into a ski mecca in the winter. In Lincoln and North Woodstock area, you can find the White Mountains Visitor Center which has a small gift shop and a lot of information about the White Mountains and attractions in the surrounding towns.
On the other end of town, you will also find the coffee shop Half Baked Fully Brewed. Here you will find many good treats and a ton of coffee options. They have a self-service iced coffee station with many options and many pastry options.
Hancock Trailhead Overlook
First stop with a view is the Hancock Trailhead Overlook. Here you will find information about the area and will see a view point viewing towards the west. There is a lot of information about the history of the White Mountains here. There is a small parking lot here, but many people park along the road here since one of the major trails in the area begins from here.
Continue on your way and you will come upon the Pemigewasset Overlook. Pemigewasset Overlook is the closest overlook to the Kancamagus Pass at an elevation of 2,855 feet. There will be a sign here indicating the parking area. The Pemigewasset Overlook has an overlook looking toward the west and the east. There is a small pavilion here and some benches to sit and soak in the view. This was my favorite view along the Kancamagus Highway. Just as an FYI: This is one of the few stops along the Kancamagus Highway with bathrooms.
C.L. Graham Wangan Grounds Scenic Overlook
The Wangan Grounds Scenic Overlook comes shortly after the Pemigewasset Overlook, but it has an entirely different view. The C.L. Graham Wangan Grounds Scenic Overlook has views to the Northeast, which is different than you have seen on the drive thus far.
Next stop you should make is Sabbaday Falls. If you stop at any waterfall along the Kancamagus Highway, it should definitely be Sabbaday Falls. To visit Sabbaday Falls, park at the parking lot and take the short, gentle walk up to the waterfall. It has different basins within the waterfall, so you can climb the newly renovated stairs at the waterfall to view different parts of the waterfall. This is a unique waterfall that is worth the visit. More about visiting this waterfall can be seen in my White Mountains Waterfalls Blog Post.
Rocky Gorge Falls
Rocky Gorge Falls is the next waterfall on the Kancamagus Highway. Rocky Gorge Falls has a large parking lot and also a picnic area. Rocky Gorge Falls is a short waterfall, but unique in the way that you can walk across the giant rock bed that the waterfall cuts through. There is also a bridge across the river so that you can see the waterfall from both sides of the river. More about Rocky Gorge Falls can be found in my White Mountains Waterfalls Blog Post.
Lower Falls is the last main waterfall and the last main stop of the Kancamagus Highway. There is a large parking lot here and several picnic pavilions. This waterfall is a wide, short waterfall. Many people choose to swim in the shallow water upstream and downstream the waterfall. There is a wooden viewing platform that you can walk across to get a better view of the waterfall. More about Lower Falls can be found in my White Mountains Waterfall Blog Post.
End Your Journey in Conway and North Conway
The Kancamagus Highway ends in the Conway and North Conway area. North Conway is my favorite town in the entire White Mountains. Main street is super cute and lined with local shops, coffee shops, and many places for desserts. I recommend stopping at Frontside Coffee Roasters for some of the best cold brew I have ever had and delicious pastries. Adjacent to Frontside Coffee Roasters is Mckaella’s Sweet Shop which has some amazing ice cream.
Overall, the Kancamagus Highway is a beautiful and accessible way to see the White Mountains! I hope you are able to visit the Kancamagus Highway if you are in the Northeast United States.
Thank you for reading! Please let me know if you have any questions about the Kancamagus Highway!