If you’re visiting Mount Washington, Franconia Notch, or any of the other popular areas in northern New Hampshire, you’re probably going to want to make North Conway your base of operations. The town is packed with motels and bed and breakfasts, and everything is conveniently nearby.
I arrived in town late on Day 3, and spent two nights in North Conway. When Day 4 started, I left my motel to explore the area I had only seen in the dark the night before.
North Conway’s businesses stretch out for several miles on US 302/NH Route 16, but the town’s centerpiece is the North Conway Railroad Station. It’s located behind a huge lawn, and in front of mighty Mount Washington, the highest point in the northeastern U.S. (which is just out of frame in this picture to the right). The railroad station was built in 1874, and it’s still in use today, serving the Conway Scenic Railroad. Trains that leave here run through the Mt. Washington Valley, and up through Crawford Notch (crossing the Frankenstein Trestle, which we’ll visit later on).
Downtown North Conway has a few blocks of businesses, but overall the town is spread out slightly more than you’ll see in other New England towns. Even so, the downtown district is worth a walk, for a little exploring.
Heading North on US 302
My plan for Day 4 was an aggressive one. I had considered taking the Auto Road to the top of Mt. Washington, but weather reports suggested the weather atop the 6,288-foot (1,917 meter) mountain was cloudy and rainy. Mt. Washington has notoriously volatile weather, that can change from one moment to the next. Not to mention, the drive up the mountain is expensive ($25 for one car and the driver, $8 for each additional person, $6 for children, as of 2011). So, I scratched Mt. Washington off my list (but later, when talking to another visitor, I found out it was a beautiful day at the top of the mountain).
Instead, I planned to make a counter-clockwise loop through the White Mountains on US 302, US 3, I-93, and NH Route 112 (the Kancamagus Highway). Crawford Notch, Franconia Notch, and the many attractions along “the Kanc” were all on my to-do list. It didn’t take long before I figured out that it was far too much to plan for one day.
Heading up US 302, I detoured into this cemetery at the side of the road. It seemed especially picturesque…
…thanks to the changing leaves.
It’s not long before US 302 enters the…
White Mountain National Forest
Earlier I had mentioned that my favorite spot in Vermont for fall leaves was Smuggler’s Notch, near Stowe. That was yesterday. Today, a new spot captured my heart. The fall colors in the White Mountain National Forest (and Crawford Notch State Park, which is surrounded by the forest), were certainly some of the best autumn leaves I have ever seen.
There are many places to enjoy the leaves, without leaving your car. Views like this one…
… and this one can be seen from the edge of the road.
At the entrance to Crawford Notch State Park, there’s an ideal location to view Mt. Washington. I was somewhat satisfied to see that it was covered in clouds — making me think that I had made the right decision for the day.
Here’s a dash-cam, time-lapse video of the drive from North Conway, up US 302, through Crawford Notch: