North Conway is situated in the Mount Washington Valley, one of the most scenic parts of New England (if not the world!). Nestled in rocky mountains in the White Mountain National Forest , the village of North Conway is surrounded by beautiful views. One of the best ways to experience the Valley’s views is by setting aside time for a drive. There are great options on all sides of the village, and some stand above the rest. Here are five of our favorite scenic drives in North Conway!
Pinkham Notch threads the gulley between Wildcat Mountain and Mt. Washington. From North Conway, drive North on Route 302 and take a right at the stoplight in Glen. You’ll soon enter Jackson, NH, a quaint village which offers a few tasty options for lunch. Next, you’ll pass out of town into the forest. Soon you’ll see Mt. Washington’s Eastern Slope. Tuckerman’s Ravine, a famous backcountry ski area, is accesible from the Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center, which you’ll pass on the left. Further ahead, you’ll see Wildcat on your right. Another few miles up and road is also where you’ll find the entrance to the next scenic drive on the list: The Mt. Washington Auto Road!
There’s a fee to drive the Auto Road, but it’s worth every penny! Just be sure your vehicle has had a brake check recently, as this is a steep and winding road to the top! The initial stretch of road is gently graded and slopes up the foothills surround Mt. Washington. Soon, though, the road becomes narrow and ledgy. There are many sections without guardrails – if you’re afraid of heights, don’t look down! As you drive past the treeline and into the Alpine Zone, the views open up to an incredible degree. Well, on clear days anyways – Mt. Washington is famous for having the world’s worst weather, so be sure to check the forecast before your trip! When you reach the summit, you can explore the observatory and take in the views. Then, take your time as you descend the road. Stop a few times at the pull offs to let your brakes cool!
To reach Crawford Notch, head North on 302 from North Conway and continue through the lights in Glen. You’ll drive past Attitash ski mountain on the left. From there, you’ll pass through the small town of Bartlett. Continue driving and you’ll start to see signs for Crawford Notch. The Notch itself has a stunningly scenic and distinct entrance. Once in the Notch, there are bountiful mountain views. Stop in at the AMC Highland Center for a bite to eat and a hike! Head further North and you will encounter the Western Slope of Mt. Washington, equally beautiful as its counterpart on the East. The Cog Railway ascends the Western slope. The Mt. Washington Hotel also lies in the Notch. Play a round of golf on one of the most scenic courses you’ve ever seen!
The Kancamagus Highway
“The Kanc” connects Conway Village to Lincoln, NH. Much of the road has a leisurely speed limit of 40 miles per hour, so you can take it slow and bask in the mountain views. You’ll follow the Swift River for the initial stretch of the road. Stop at the Albany Covered Bridge for photos, and a bit further up at the Lower Falls for a swim! Continue up the road and you’ll see famous Mt. Chocorua on your left. The Champney Falls parking lot provides a trail to the top of the mountain. As you head further down the road you’ll enter the Pemigewasset Wilderness, some of the most remote forest in the Valley. A network of trails threads the trees and provides incredible hiking and camping opportunities. Continue along the road and you’ll enter Lincoln, a pleasant ski town surrounding Loon Mountain. Stop in at the Mountain Wanderer Bookstore for some sage hiking advice!
Route 93 passes directly through Franconia Notch, so the traffic moves quickly, but there are many scenic pulloffs to stop at for photos. From the South, as you depart from Lincoln, NH, you’ll pass Whale’s Tale waterpark. The Flume Gorge is up next on your right. As you proceed North, you’ll see Cannon Mountain, a large ski resort, on your left. On the right you’ll see the parking area for Mt. Lafayette, a very popular and incredibly beautiful, rugged peak for hiking. Eventually, you’ll depart from the Notch and emerge into the small town of Littleton.
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