8 Best New Hampshire Hikes for Fall Foliage

Explore the best New Hampshire hikes to see fall foliage with our comprehensive hiking guide including directions and trail stats.

New Hampshire is one of the best fall hiking destinations in the country with vibrant orange, red, and yellow hues that blanket the trees as far as the eye can see. With the crisp fall air and stunning mountain peaks from the White Mountains and beyond, a fall New Hampshire road trip should be on your bucket list, and we’ve put together a list of our favorite hikes so you can hit the ground (trails) running.

Looking for the best New Hampshire hikes to see fall foliage? We’ve rounded up our top picks below!

Important Reminder: As it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your garbage (including toilet paper), being respectful to others on busy trails, and following the established rules.


When Does Fall Foliage Peak in New Hampshire?

While every year is different, peak New Hampshire fall foliage moves from north to south, typically starting in mid-late September through mid-October. Visit NH has a great interactive fall foliage map that is useful if you are flexible with the dates of your trip, or want to estimate what the leaves will look like during your New Hampshire hikes. If you are planning ahead, the first week of October is usually a safe bet for the season’s change.


Map of the Best New Hampshire Hikes


Best New Hampshire Hikes for Fall Foliage

Mount Morgan, Holderness NH

  • Distance: 3.9 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1377ft
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Start: Mt. Morgan Trailhead
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes

Located in the center of New Hampshire, Mount Morgan is a great hike to see fall foliage. At the summit, you can see Squam Lake below and Mount Major on the horizon, with mountainsides full of red, orange, and yellow leaves.

Towards the summit, there is a wooden ladder you can climb that leads to another trail that snakes through a cave (although this is not recommended if you’re hiking with a dog). If you want to bypass the ladders, continue on the trail to the right.

Mt. Morgan // Explore the best New Hampshire hikes to see fall foliage with our comprehensive hiking guide including directions and trail stats.

Lonesome Lake Trail, Franconia Notch State Park

  • Distance: 3.1 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1000ft
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Start: Lafayette Place Campground (south end of the parking lot)
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes

The Lonesome Lake Trail doesn’t have the birdseye mountain summit views, but the views around the lake are still incredible. The hike up to Lonesome Lake is quite rocky and steep, but once you arrive, you will be greeted with epic views, and on calm days, reflections of the trees in the water. From the lake, you can take a flat path, elevated with wooden beams, all the way around the lake.

For a unique overnight experience, you can book a bunk at the Lonesome Lake Lodge, which offers a bed in a shared, coed, unheated bunkhouse. This is the perfect spot for dipping your toes into backcountry camping since you don’t need to worry about a tent and the lodge is located just 1.2 miles from the trailhead.

Lonesome Lake, Franconia Notch State Park // Explore the best New Hampshire hikes to see fall foliage with our comprehensive hiking guide including directions and trail stats.

Artist’s Bluff Trail, Franconia Notch State Park

  • Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 436ft
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead Start: Artist’s Bluff Loop Trailhead
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes

Artist’s Bluff is one of the most popular New Hampshire hikes to see fall foliage and at less than 500 feet elevation gain, it’s also one of the easiest trails to get 360-degree views of the area. 

At the summit, you will look down on Echo Lake with views of Cannon Mountain in the distance. Parking is not permitted along the road and it is enforced.

Artist's Bluff Franconia Notch State Park // Explore the best New Hampshire hikes to see fall foliage with our comprehensive hiking guide including directions and trail stats.

Zealand Summit, Pemigewasset Wilderness

  • Distance: 11.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 2450ft
  • Time: 6-7 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Hard
  • Trailhead Start: Zealand Trailhead
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes

Zealand Summit is a classic New Hampshire day hike featuring gorgeous fall foliage views, a waterfall, and a lake. About halfway up the trail, you will find the Zealand Hut (which is bookable for an overnight stay) and the cascading 25-foot Zealand Falls. This is where the trail starts to climb up and you will be greeted with truly gorgeous views. The views just before you reach the summit are the best on the trail.

Zealand Peak Trail // Explore the best New Hampshire hikes to see fall foliage with our comprehensive hiking guide including directions and trail stats.

North/Middle Sugarloaf Mountain Trail, White Mountains

  • Distance: 3.3 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1069ft
  • Time: 1.5-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Start: Sugarloaf Trailhead
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes

This is one of the most underrated New Hampshire hikes for fall foliage. This out-and-back trail forks at the end and you can veer to North Sugarloaf Peak or Middle Sugarloaf Peak. If you are short on time or only choose to do one, Middle Sugarloaf Peak has a higher elevation and slightly better views, but North Sugarloaf Peak is typically much less crowded. My boyfriend Ryan and I stayed at Sugarloaf Campground 1 and could walk to the trailhead from our campsite.

Sugarloaf Peak / Explore the best New Hampshire hikes to see fall foliage with our comprehensive hiking guide including directions and trail stats.

Mount Willard, Crawford Notch State Park

  • Distance: 3.1 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 895ft
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Start: Mount Willard Trailhead
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes

Mount Willard is the perfect spot to catch the sunset and take in the epic scenery. Climbing less than 1,000ft to the summit (you will definitely break a sweat!), you will be met with expansive views of Crawford Notch and the surrounding mountain range. During fall foliage season, you will see blankets of reds, oranges, and yellows as far as the eye can see.

Mt Willard Crawford Notch State Park  // Explore the best New Hampshire fall foliage with our hiking guide

Arethusa Falls, Crawford Notch State Park

  • Distance: 2.8 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 800ft
  • Time: 1.5-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Trailhead Start: Arethusa Falls Trailhead
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes

What can be more breathtaking than seeing gorgeous fall foliage with a waterfall cutting through the mountains? This trail delivers on both. This 2.8-mile hike will lead you to 2 stunning waterfalls along the trail, Arethusa Falls and Beemis Falls. This trail is the perfect warm-up hike if you plan on doing bigger hikes in the White Mountains as it has New Hampshire’s classic rocky terrain and constant uphill.

Arethusa Falls Crawford Notch State Park // Explore the best New Hampshire hikes to see fall foliage with our comprehensive hiking guide including directions and trail stats.

Piper Trail, White Mountains

  • Distance: 8.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 2782ft
  • Time: 5-6 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead Start: Piper Trailhead
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes

The Piper Trail offers hikers some of the most scenic summits in the Southeastern region of the White Mountains. Your hard work on this strenuous hike will be paid off in full with panoramic vistas of New Hampshire’s backcountry. This hike can be done as a day hike or divided into 2 easy days with a stay in the Camp Penacook Shelter. You can read our full backpacking guide for the Piper Trail and Carter Ledge Loop here.

Piper Trail // Explore the best New Hampshire hikes to see fall foliage with our comprehensive hiking guide including directions and trail stats.
BFT contributor Katherine backpacking the Piper Trail

Fall New Hampshire Hiking Tips

  • During peak fall foliage season, expect busy trails and crowded parking lots. Start your hikes early to ensure you can snag a parking spot.
  • The weather can be unpredictable – there were several windy, rainy days when I visited last fall, so always be prepared with a packable rain jacket and plenty of hiking layers. For more tips on hiking in the rain, click here.
  • Cell service is spotty (at best) on most of these hikes, so download maps ahead of time using your favorite hiking apps, or buy a paper map.
  • Although some of these hiking distances seem relatively short, don’t let that fool you. New Hampshire hikes are notorious for their elevation gain, so be prepared to tackle some tough uphill climbs on these hikes and pack trekking poles to save your knees.

Are you planning any New Hampshire hikes to see the fall foliage? Leave us a comment below!

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

One comment on “8 Best New Hampshire Hikes for Fall Foliage

  1. Wow…some beautiful hikes up there in NH. We will be in Boston for the marathon on Columbus Day weekend…but I doubt our runner son will want to make hikes prior to or following running 26.2 miles…LOL Thanks for the posts…always intriguing and awe inspiring.

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