Scenic Drives + Things to See, Eat, and Do in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

White Mountains of New Hampshire

The White Mountains are home to some of the best scenic drives and things to do in New Hampshire. Here’s insight into my trip so that you can plan your own!

Visiting New Hampshire, especially for the 100th anniversary of Laconia Bike Week, had been on my bucket list for years. Instead of focusing on the motorcycle rally, I decided to focus my trip on experiencing the White Mountains. This area is perfect for a motorcycle trip with or without a rally!

New Hampshire Flume Gorge White Mountains
Motorcycle on Mount Washington New Hampshire

In short, this area blew me away. From the scenic byways, to the local hospitality and food scene, to the waterfalls and scenery everywhere I looked…New Hampshire left a lasting impression on me. The White Mountains are HIGHLY underrated. There is SO much to see, eat, and do here. In this motorcycling guide, I’ll be going over some helpful tips, times to visit, roads to ride (or drive), and places to eat in the White Mountains.

>>> Read more of my travel guides, here!

I was given so many helpful tips by locals. And, while I tried to cover it all in one visit, it just wasn’t possible. Hopefully, it helps you plan you trip!

About the White Mountains

New Hampshire’s White Mountains are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains. Known for their stunning natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities, this area is truly underrated and bit of a hidden gem to those that aren’t local to the northeast.

New Hampshire White Mountains

Home to Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States, the White Mountains are a popular destination for hiking, skiing, motorcycling, and some of the most notable scenic drives in New England. The White Mountains are also famous for their fall foliage, attracting visitors from around the world to witness the vibrant autumn colors.

Getting there: Renting a Motorcycle

If you want to fly in and rent a motorcycle, the most ideal EagleRider location to rent from is in Manchester, NH. Laconia Harley-Davidson also offers motorcycle rentals, but you’ll need to be able get to Laconia from the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, which is roughly 45 miles away.

When to Visit New Hampshire’s White Mountains

Summer is a great time to visit the White Mountains. I visited in June, and the weather was pleasant, sans a few rain storms. Laconia Bike Week, the oldest motorcycle rally in the United States, is held annually in June just south of the White Mountains near Lake Winnipesaukee.

Fall is undoubtedly the most popular time to visit New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The Kancamagus Highway has been voted numerous times as one of the best places in the country to view the vibrant fall foliage that New England is known for. With that type of notoriety comes crowds, though. So be prepared for it to be quite busy.

Winter and Spring are undoubtedly cold and snowy in New Hampshire (as well as the rest of New England). In fact, New Hampshire’s average snowfall total is 90”! Unless you’re visiting this region to take advantage of their ski resorts, it’s unlikely a trip in the Winter is ideal for you.

How Much Time Do You Need to Visit New Hampshire’s White Mountains?

You could spend a month in the White Mountains and not run out of things to see, eat, or do! Especially if you enjoy hiking and being outdoors. Realistically speaking, you could spend a weekend or an entire week in the area. It ultimately depends on the time you have and the activities you want to do.

Kanacamagus Highway | New Hampshire White Mountains

I spent four days exploring the New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the “Seacoast,” in addition to spending time at Laconia Bike Week (which is in the heart of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region) on my first trip to the area. It was a great mix of everything that the state has to offer, and it definitely left me wanting to come back and visit the White Mountains again. I’ll leave a two-day White Mountains Itinerary at the end of this blog!

Scenic Drives in the White Mountains

New Hampshire’s White Mountains are home to the state’s most popular scenic drives and the best motorcycle roads. This area is beautiful! Here are a few of the scenic byways and locally recommended rides I was able to experience during my visit.

The White Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway

This White Mountains Trail is a loop that encompasses some of the top scenic drives in the area, including the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, Franconia Notch, Crawford Notch Road, and the hidden gem that is Bear Notch Road. According to the Federal Highway Administration, this nationally recognized byway is roughly 100 Miles and can take 2.5 hours to complete without stops.

White Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway
Kancamagus Highway Summit Overlook

Being a fan of National Scenic Byways, I spent a couple of days riding sections of this loop and loved it. I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting New Hampshire. Here’s a rundown of the roadways included in this byway:

Kancamagus Scenic Byway (NH Route 112): This is the most popular scenic drive in New Hampshire, and arguably all of New England. It connects the towns of Lincoln and Conway and spans 34.5 miles. If you have the time, I’d recommend riding (or driving) “the Kanc” in both directions. There are plenty of great overlooks, so plan time to stop and enjoy the scenery! PS: Watch for Moose! 

Franconia Notch (Interstate 93 / NH Route 3): Taking NH Route 3 north from Lincoln, you’ll eventually ride through Franconia Notch, which was once home to the iconic Old Man in the Mountain. This is one of the most photographed areas of New Hampshire and you’ll see why when you visit!

Crawford Notch (NH Route 302): Riding this route from west to east, this road starts off calm, passing by small mountain towns. You’ll pass by the famous Mount Washington Hotel before reaching the steep-graded roadway through Crawford Notch State Park. The views are jaw-dropping!

The iconic Mount Washington Hotel sitting below Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New Hampshire.

Bear Notch Road: This quiet, windy, two-lane road connects the Kancamagus Highway to Crawford Notch Road. It’s canopied by trees and features a few pull-out areas to enjoy the views. I genuinely enjoyed this road from a riding perspective!

Pinkham Notch

Highway 16 Between Glen, NH and Gorham, NH passes through Pinkham Notch and has great sweeping curves in some sections. You’ll have to take this route if you plan to climb the Mount Washington Auto Road.

Mount Washington Auto Road

If you’re a fan of summiting mountains via a vehicle, the Mt Washington Auto Road should be on your bucket list. Mount Washington is the highest mountain in New Hampshire at 6,288 ft. The highest recorded wind speeds, not associated with tornadoes or hurricanes, have been recorded here. The most notable were winds reaching 231 miles per hour in 1934.

Motorcycles on Mount Washington

It’s safe to say that the weather can be unpredictable. If it’s sunny at the toll booth, that doesn’t mean you’ll get picturesque views for miles at the top. If you have my luck, you’ll get stuck in a thick cloud at the summit. (Oh darn, I guess I have visit New Hampshire again. Twist my arm!)

The auto road climbs 4,618 ft in a mere 7.6 miles, and features an average gradient of 11.6%. It’s a steep ride up and a steep ride down. Many of the pull-outs are also on a hill, so be aware before attempting to hop off your motorcycle. 

During Laconia Bike Week, they gave out “This BIKE climbed Mt. Washington” stickers at the entrance station when you paid your toll fee. I don’t know if this is normal year-round, but it was the perfect souvenier!

Riding the auto road is not free. It’s $35 (plus a passenger fee) to ride a motorcycle to the top of Mount Washington. You can check all current status reports via the official website. You’ll also get a “This bike climbed Mount Washington!” sticker with your entry fee. Is it pricey? Yes. Is it worth it? Also yes.

Hurricane Mountain Road + Evans Notch

This is a short but windy “hidden gem” type of road just outside of Conway, NH. Locals recommended it, and it was a fun surprise. You could easily detour to ride this before or after Mount Washington, making a loop out of it via Pinkham and Evans Notch.

Things to Do in the White Mountains

While there are PLENTY of great things to see just by driving around, there are also plenty of things to do in the White Mountains. This is just a list to get you started, and is based off a few things that I had time to experience on my own.

Hiking in Franconia Notch

The White Mountains are known for their abundance of hiking trails. The Appalachian Trail even runs through the area! For those who aren’t looking to bag a 4,000ft mountain peak, there are a few short hikes you can do in the Franconia Notch area that don’t involve too much strenuous activity.

The Flume Gorge

I made sure to visit the Flume Gorge, one of the most popular scenic hiking areas in the White Mountains. It’s pricey to visit, at $21 a person ($18 if you register in advance). But it was well worth visiting. Plan ahead and make reservations to visit the Flume Gorge. I’d suggest arriving as early as possible to beat the crowds.

Just up the road, you’ll find the Basin Hiking area. This is a free roadside stop if you’re on a budget and not looking to spend much time walking around. 

Artist’s Bluff is a very popular, 1.5 Mile Trail that offers views of one of the most photographed areas of New Hampshire. I didn’t have time to do this, but I could see people standing atop the lookout from the highway.

Old Man of the Mountain Profile Plaza & Historic Site

Also known as “Rock Face” by indigenous people, the Old Man of the Mountain is symbolic to New Hampshire and was a pretty big deal when it collapsed in 2003. 

Profiler Plaza - New Hampshire's White Mountains
Old Man of the Mountain Profiler Plaza

This interpretive site is just off the interstate. You’ll need to walk about 10 minutes down to Profile Plaza, near Profile Lake, to see where the Old Man of the Mountain once hung off the cliff via a steel-made exhibit. 

This wasn’t a planned stop on my visit, but I’m glad I decided to stop on a whim to check it out.

Find a Covered Bridge

Covered Bridges are iconic to New England. And if you’re like me, you probably aren’t used to seeing them. Some covered bridges are still functional and used for vehicle traffic, while others are not.

Hop into a Swimming Hole!

There are plenty of swimming holes all over the White Mountains. Be warned, they’re pretty frigid. As they’re fed by snowmelt. 

Where to Stay

Whether you want to camp, book an Air BnB, or stay at a hotel during your trip, your lodging options are endless in the White Mountains. If you’re looking to stay in more of a “hub” area, your options are Lincoln, Conway, or Littleton. There are plenty of other small mountain towns in the area.

I chose to stay in Lincoln because it is central to many of the things I wanted to see and do, plus it has a great food scene. Conway and Littleton are larger towns with more amenities, but they’re less centralized. If I visited again, I’d stay in Lincoln.

Where & What to Eat in the White Mountains

New England is known for SO many different types of food! And there’s no shortage of food options in the White Mountains. Here’s a list of foods you should try while in the area, with a few restaurant recommendations. (Seriously, I didn’t scratch the surface with this list!)

Maple Syrup

Real maple syrup is a staple in New Hampshire! I recommend visiting Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, NH. Polly’s is a staple in the area, having been around since 1938. I also visited Flapjacks Pancake House in Lincoln, NH. Both places get busy, and for good reason. Benton’s Sugar Shack in Thornton also comes recommended by locals.

Ice Cream

Dairy is a big deal in New Hampshire, and you’ll find ice cream shops just about everywhere. During my trip, I visited Coneheads in Lincoln. Like many local spots, they make all of their ice cream in-house. Trail’s End Ice Cream shop in Intervale is also popular. Plus, there’s a great scenic view across the street. Super Secret Ice Cream in Bethlehem is high on the list for my next visit.

While not in the White Mountains, Sawyer’s Dairy Bar + the Tamarack are popular stop for ice cream and lobster rolls near Laconia.

Craft Breweries

There’s over 90 craft breweries in New Hampshire, so the opportunities are endless. Here are a few to check out for food and drinks:

  • Woodstock Inn Brewery  (Woodstock, NH)
  • One Love Brewery (Lincoln, NH)
  • Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton, NH)
  • Rek-Lis Brewing Company (Bethlehem, NH)
  • Tuckerman Brewing (Conway, NH)
  • Sea Dog Brewing (North Conway, NH)
  • Iron Furnace Brewing (Franconia, NH)

Lobster

Pronounced “lob-stah” (just kidding, sort of), lobster is a MUST when in New England! I visited the Lobster Trap in North Conway to try a fried lobster, but they had other great menu items as well. Lobster rolls are a must, and while you’ll typically find the best options closer to the coast (try Petey’s if you’re that far south) the Purple Tomato in Lincoln gets rave reviews for theirs. 

As previously mentioned, try the Tamarack or Sawyer’s if you’re visiting the Weirs Beach for Laconia Bike Week!

Poutine

While poutine is normally recognized as a Canadian food, it’s pretty popular in New Hampshire as well. Eat it as a meal, or an appetizer!

  • Schilling Beer Co (Littleton, NH)
  • Tuckerman’s Restaurant and Tavern (Intervale, NH)

Other Notable Eats

Here’s a few more spots that were on my radar that I wanted to be sure and mention

  • The Common Man – This is a local restaurant with made from scratch menu items. They have a handful of locations throughout New Hampshire. I visited the location in Lincoln. 
  • Pemi Public House (North Woodstock, NH) – Local pub with great food.
  • The Cheese Louise Commissary (Conway, NH) – Known for their wild grilled cheese concoctions
  • Arnold’s Wayside Diner (Lincoln, NH)
  • Muddy Moose (North Conway, NH)

Two-Day White Mountains Itinerary

Day One: Mount Washington Auto Road Loop

  1. Stop One: Get Breakfast at Flapjacks in Lincoln: Their pancakes are incredible! Highly recommend.
  2. Stop Two: Ride the Kancamagus Highway, Bear Notch, and Highway 16 to Mount Washington
  3. Stop Three: Mount Washington Auto Road: Plan to spend at least 3 hours if you want to enjoy the summit area.
  4. Stop Four: Evans Notch to Hurricane Mountain Road: From Mount Washington, you’ll take Highway 2 from Gorham, NH to Gilead, Maine. From here, you’ll head south on Route 113 through Evans Notch. (You’ll have to criss cross some other roads to get to Hurricane Mountain Road, just fyi) Take Hurricane Mountain Road to Intervale.
  5. Stop Five: Lunch in Intervale or Conway
  6. Stop Six: Ride the Kancamagus Highway from Conway to Lincoln – If you have time, I suggest taking the Kanc all the way up to Beaver Pond and riding back down into LincolnStop Seven: Grab a cold beer at the Woodstock Inn!

Day Two: White Mountains Trail National Scenic Byway

  1. Stop One: Depart Lincoln and head to the Flume Gorge (Plan for two hours to enjoy your time)
  2. Stop Two: The Basin (30 Minutes)
  3. Stop Three: Profile Plaza and the Old Man of the Mountain Exhibit (plan at least 30-45 minutes)
  4. Stop Four: Polly’s Pancakes (there can be a wait)
  5. Stop Five: Ride through Crawford Notch to Conway (Stop at the overlook near the Mount Washington hotel before descending through the notch!)
  6. Stop Six: Conway, NH
  7. Stop Seven: Kancamagus Highway to Lincoln (If you depart from Conway, you’ll get to ride the entire scenic byway!
  8. Stop Eight: Dinner in Lincoln (Or wherever your heart desires!)
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Staci Wilt

I’m Staci: a freelance journalist, photographer, and marketing consultant. I primarily focus those skills around my passions of motorcycles, travel, and food…and yes, we will count margaritas and craft beer in that last category. Thanks for checking out my blog!
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2 Comments

  1. Diana Albano on June 13, 2024 at 6:46 AM

    I love NH and these pics bring me there remotely whereas I couldn’t ! Thank you soooo much!

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