Kancamagus Highway: Scenic NH 112 in Autumn


The drive along New Hampshire Route 112 from I-93 to Conway receives some high praise.  It’s often called one of the best fall drives in the country, and one of the most scenic routes across the White Mountains.  It’s certainly a highway that any road-tripper shouldn’t miss, especially if you’re visiting in fall.

This was my second trip across the “Kanc”, as the locals call it.  My first pass was late on Day 3, after sunset, so I didn’t get to see much of anything, other than a whole lot of curves and trees.  On Day 4, I had arrived just in time, with an hour or two to go until sunset, and I was traveling eastbound, so the sun would be at my back, and everything in front of me would be lit beautifully.

The towns of North Woodstock and Lincoln mark the western end of the Kancamagus Byway.  Here, you will find a few businesses that allow you to stock up on snacks, drinks, and fill up your tank.   I also spotted this train near the highway — probably part of the Hobo Railroad, which runs south out of Lincoln, on an 80 minute out-and-back scenic trip.

The Kancamagus Highway winds its way in between several peaks, a few of which top out at above 4,000 feet.  The one you see here is Mt. Huntington, at 3,684 feet (1,123 meters).  One of the Kanc’s biggest curves is just up the road from here, taking the highway south of Mt. Huntington, and north of its namesake, Mt. Kancamagus.

As it skirts the edge of Mt. Kancamagus, the byway reaches its high point, and just afterward, you can stop at this viewpoint for a look at the mountains

A bit further, Lily Pond is a good place to catch a reflection of the surrounding hills.  Be sure to scan the shorelines, because you could see a moose here.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

At Sugar Hill Scenic Vista, you get to see more mountain peaks.  On the left is glacier-scraped Green’s Cliff (2,926 feet/892 meters), Sugar Hill is the nearby mountain in the middle, just to its right are the Three Sisters (3,330 feet/1,015 meters), and Potash Mountain (2,664 feet/812 meters) is on the far right.

Sabbaday Falls

You’ll want to get out of the car and go for a short hike to Sabbaday Falls.  It’s an easy 3/10 of a mile to the falls.

You won’t be able to take a picture of the entire falls at once, because Sabbaday Falls is divided into three parts, with a 90-degree right turn between the middle and lower cascades.  The lower part of Sabbaday Falls flows quickly through this narrow chute.

The trail climbs up the side of the falls, so if you turn your camera just the right way, you can catch the middle and lower portions of the falls.

At the top of the trail, you’ll have a nice view of the upper and middle cascades…

… and you can look straight down the chute, at the top of the lower falls.

Back on the Kanc’…

… you’ll pass by the Russell Colbath House, built in the early 1800’s…

… and a nearby barn.  This is part of the Passaconaway Historic Site.  You can learn how early settlers survived in this area, and talk to park rangers here.

Rocky Gorge Scenic Area

When you get to the Rocky Gorge Scenic Area, it’s time to stretch your legs again.  A short trail takes you down to the Swift River…

… and across this footbridge.  Swimming in this water would be dangerous, and is prohibited.  The river is filled with strong currents, as it cuts through the granite.

By this time, it was nearly dark.  I’m lucky the pictures turned out as well as they did.  As you’ll see in the Drivelapse video (on the previous page), I couldn’t stop to see anything else, after I left the Rocky Gorge Scenic Area.  I missed Lower Falls and the Albany Covered Bridge — both aren’t far from Conway, and the junction with Route 16, which will take you north to North Conway — which is where I spent the night.

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