Between Conway and Lincoln, 35 miles of tightly inscribed switchbacks, swooping valleys, and perfect mountain views make the Kancamagus Highway among the most iconic drives in New England. Route 112, affectionately known as “the Kanc,” rolls through the heart of White Mountain National Forest, following the twists and curves of the Swift River and climbing to almost 3,000 feet—at 2,855 feet, the Kancamagus Pass has fabulous views, especially when autumn turns the surrounding forest into a riot of color.
Sights and Recreation
There are plenty of places to stop along the way on the Kancamagus Highway—look for clusters of cars along the side of the road, which often signals a favorite local swimming spot—including a series of scenic overlooks, hiking trails, and historic sites.
Driving from Conway to Lincoln, mile zero is at the White Mountain National Forest ranger station, making it easy to find landmarks along the way. Six miles after leaving Conway, the Boulder Loop Trail is a moderate, three-mile hike that takes 2-3 hours and has good views of rocky ledges and forest. A series of interpretive signs illustrates the geologic history, flora, and fauna of the White Mountains.
At 7.0 miles, Lower Falls is a popular spot for swimming in the Swift River and has bathrooms and a picnic area near a small, scenic falls. You can peer into daily life in 19th-century New Hampshire at 12.7 miles in the volunteer-run Russell-Colbath House, which is open when staff are available. It’s small but free, and docents are happy to share the mysterious story of Thomas Colbath’s years-long disappearance and possible reappearance.
Keep winding up to the Kancamagus Pass, which at 2,855 feet is the highest point on the road, then you’ll find the Otter Rock Rest Area at 26 miles, with restrooms and a short trail to another lovely swimming area in the Swift River.
Six miles west of Conway on the Kancamagus Highway are a pair of appealing campgrounds, the 49-site Covered Bridge (Rte. 112, 877/444-6777, mid-May-mid-Oct., reservations accepted, $22), as well as the smaller, walk-up only Blackberry Crossing (Rte. 112, 877/444-6777, mid-May-mid-Oct., $22).
Excerpted From the First Edition of Moon New England Road Trip.