2 - 3 Hours
One Per Car
At Your Own Pace
Welcome to the Kancamagus Scenic Byway Self-Guided Tour
The spectacular autumn leaves of the Kancamagus scenic byway are world-renowned. The Kancamagus Highway runs through New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. The vibrant leaves displays make “The Kanc” the ultimate scenic road trip during the fall season – or any season! What causes the vibrant colors? Who was the eponymous Chief Kancamagus? Where can you stop for the best views? What is the connection of great Americans with Kancamagus? Learn all about the Kancamagus as you drive along with this self-guided tour.
About the Tour
Drive the Kancamagus Scenic Highway, beginning in Lincoln’s tiny New Hampshire town. Get a glimpse into the history of the town and the Old Man in the mountain as you start your journey into the beautiful landscape of the White Mountains.
Hear the traditional Pennacook legend of a great celestial bear and the hunt which changes the seasons; then, you’ll stop by Otter Lake and get some helpful tips about moose spotting and birdwatching in this vibrant wilderness.
As you head toward the jaw-dropping views from Hancock Overlook, we’ll fill you in on how these staggering mountains formed in the first place and tell you all about Chief Osceola, a cultural hero around these parts and the namesake for Osceola Mountain.
You’ll get your first good look at the famous Mount Washington shortly after that and learn the significance of this mountain to the Pennacook tribe. Continuing, more overlooks will offer unbeatable views of the mountains and the blazingly beautiful fall foliage if it’s the right time of year.
On your way to the glittering Sabbaday Falls, you’ll hear about the astonishing accomplishment that was the Pennacook Confederacy and the chief who made it all happen. You’ll also pass by the Russell-Colbath House, a perfectly preserved bit of history and the site of a mysterious disappearance.
Next on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway self-guided tour, you’ll stop at the lovely cascading falls within the Rocky Gorge Scenic Area and drive across a 200-year-old wooden bridge that’s just begging to be photographed.
Finally, you’ll get the juicy details on an unlikely war between the Rockefellers and a bunch of beavers, the decline of the Pennacook, and the Saco River Curse. You’ll end up at the Saco Ranger Station in Conway with a carload of new memories and plenty of history!
Starting from White Mountains Visitor Center: 200 NH-112, North Woodstock, NH 03262
Starting from Conway: Saco Ranger Station, 33 Kancamagus Hwy, Conway, NH 03818, USA
How does it work?
- Once you book a tour, you’ll get a text/email with instructions.
- Download the app (while in good wifi/signal) and use your unique password to access your tours.
- To begin touring, go to the starting point and launch the app.
- The audio starts automatically once you reach the starting point. Stick to the tour route & speed limit for the best experience.
- Please note that no one will meet you at the starting point.
What You'll See
Welcome: White Mountains Visitor Center
Lincoln & Old Man of the Mountain
Red, Yellow, and Orange
A Celestial Bear Hunt
Moose Spotting & Birdwatching
Otter Rocks Day Use Area
Turn for Hancock Overlook
Mount Hancock & Mount Washington
CL Graham Wangan Overlook
Lighting the Lantern
Rocky Gorge Scenic Area
Albany Covered Bridge
Saco River Curse
Beavers vs Astors
Last of the Pennacook?
Conclusion: Conway’s Saco Ranger Station
Preview the Tour
Welcome: White Mountains Visitor Center Audio Story
Mount Osceola Audio Story
Sabbaday Falls Audio Story
Rocky Gorge Scenic Area Audio Story
The speed limit averages around 45mph, though it goes as high as 55mph on long straightaways and as low as 15mph when rounding sharp curves. Be sure to pay attention to posted signs as you drive!
The Kancamagus Highway starts in North Woodstock, New Hampshire and ends in Conway, New Hampshire. The whole route covers a little over 30 miles.
It takes a little under an hour to drive the Kancamagus Highway if you don’t stop along the way. But you’ll get the most out of your trip if you pause for photos and hikes!
The Kancamagus Highway actually gets its name from a former leader of the powerful Pennacook Confederacy. Chief Kancamagus once controlled this entire region, and his name lives on to this day.
The Kancamagus Highway is open year-round, no matter the season. Some side roads, however, such as Bear Notch Road, close from December to March.
Driving the Kancamagus Highway is totally free! If you choose to park and explore the sights, you’ll need a $5 per day parking pass, but the small fee is well worth it.
The Kancamagus Highway stretches 34.5 miles from beginning to end. It’s important to note that there are no gas stations along the highway, so make sure to fuel up beforehand if you’re low!
If you’re a nature-lover or just enjoy a scenic drive, the Kancamagus Highway is absolutely worth a visit! It’s easy, accessible, and a great way to discover New Hampshire’s natural beauty.
Visiting the Kancamagus Highway during the fall is a must. The leaves start changing in mid-September, but the first two weeks of October are usually the best time to see the autumn colors. The trees will be positively resplendent with reds, oranges, and golds.
Although you might be tempted to say “Kang-kuh-mang-us,” the correct pronunciation is “Kang-kuh-mag-us.” You might hear some locals calling it the “Kang-kuh-maw-gus” as well, so feel free to use whichever pronunciation tickles your fancy!
Many different rivers crisscross the region, but the Swift River is the one you’re most likely to notice. These pristine waters run alongside the highway for about 26 miles—almost the entire length of the roadway!
The best time of year to see moose in Kancamagus is the fall, but they can be seen in any season. Going out in the early morning or around dusk gives you the best chance to spot one of these majestic beasts.
Luckily, dogs are allowed on the Kancamagus Highway! Just make sure to keep them on a leash at all times when they’re outside the car.
The state of New Hampshire built the Kancamagus Highway in 1959, but back then it was just a dirt road! They didn’t pave it until 1964, once it became a popular tourist destination.
The Kancamagus Highway is beautiful in any season, so it really depends on your travel preferences. Fall features gorgeous, fiery foliage, spring and summer are lush and green, and winter really emphasizes why these are called the White Mountains!
Inclusions and Exclusions
- App on your phone: A link to download the Action Tour Guide App and Password for your tours.
- Flexible schedule: Use any day, any time. Travel over multiple days or on next trip. Never expires.
- Easy to use: Stories play automatically by GPS. Hands-free. Get HELP all day: Call, Chat, or Email.
- At your own pace: No group. Take breaks for photos/ snacks/hikes. Go at your own pace.
- Offline use: No cell signal or wifi required. Offline GPS Map & route. Stop-to-stop direction.
- Don’t miss a thing: Full itinerary, travel tips, professionally narrated videos, text, and hidden gems.
- Transportation, parking fees, food, and drinks.
- Entry tickets or reservations to any attractions along the route.
- Car Rental: Please arrange a rental car at the closest airport or train station.