Kancamagus Highway: 1 Day Adventure

If you are visiting New England, this scenic 35-mile drive between Lincoln and Conway, New Hampshire, is a must see!  The Kancamagus Highway has 360 views at every overlook, spectacular hiking trails, and all the waterfalls you could want as you wind through the stunning White Mountain National Forest.  A day on the Kancamagus Highway is the perfect addition to any New England road trip.  Check out this one-day itinerary below and please feel free to reach out with any questions!   

Entrance Fee: $5 parking fee per day.  Cash and exact change only. 

Lodging: There are 5 campgrounds along the Kancamagus Highway- Hancock, Big Rock, Passaconaway, Jigger Johnson, Blackberry Crossing, and Covered Bridge.  Covered Bridge is the only campground that accepts reservations. Backcountry camping is also permitted along the Kanc.  For all backcountry rules and regulations check here- Backcountry Camping.  For hotel and Airbnb options, consider staying in North Conway or Lincoln, NH.  Both are lovely towns with plenty of lodging options and great food. 

Dining:  Plan on bringing in lunch and snacks for your day.  There are plenty of picnic areas along the Kanc but no food purchase options. 

Lincoln, Woodstock, and Conway have plenty of dining options.  Lincoln favorites- Gordi’s Fish & Steak House, El Greco’s Pizza, Gypsy Café, and The Common Man.  North Conway favorites- Table & Tonic, Muddy Moose

Must Know Before You Go:

  1. This itinerary will take you from Lincoln to North Conway but can easily be done in reverse if you are staying in North Conway. 
  2. There are no gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, or hotels for the 35 miles between Lincoln and Conway.  Please grab everything you need before heading out. 
  3. Several trails have water crossings, waterproof shoes recommended.
  4. This highway is beautiful year-round; however, it is really one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been to during the fall.  If you are making a fall visit (and you totally should!), start your day early and visit on a weekday instead of a Saturday/Sunday to skip some of the crowds.   
  5. Plan on purchasing train tickets in advance, especially in the fall.  They often sell out. 

Cell Service: There is no cell service for most of the 35 miles between Lincoln and Conway. 

One Day Itinerary

Pemigewasset Overlook- If you are coming from Lincoln, your first stop of the day is the Pemigewasset Overlook.   It offers stunning views of the White Mountain National Forest, that you will not want to miss!

Lily Pond Vista- Next, is a small pull-off and short walk. It is a must stop that will provide you with picturesque views of Lily Pond.  And the colors around the lake, in the fall…. are STUNNING.  Also, keep an eye out for moose!

Sugar Hill Overlook- The Sugar Hill Overlook is a pull-off with more stunning views of the White Mountains.  Views from this overlook include Mount Tremont, Owl Cliff, Bear Mountain, and Sugar Hill. 

Sabbaday Falls- The first hike of the day is the beautiful, Sabbaday Falls.  This short, 0.7- mile, out-and-back trail will take you to one of our favorite waterfalls in New England.  The path to the 45 foot falls is wide, well-marked, and a perfect hike for all ages!  On our last trip there, we had a crew ages 6 to 70😊

Champney Falls/Pitcher Falls– The next stop is the Champney Falls Trail.  The Champney Falls Trail is 3.5 miles roundtrip with over 600 feet of elevation gain and 3 water crossings.  The turnaround point is two gorgeous waterfalls!  You will need to walk all the way up to Champney Falls and walk further into the gorge to see the 35-foot Pitcher Falls.   If you have them, hiking poles would be great for this trail to help with all the water crossings!

*Optional:  If you are skipping the train later in the day, I would recommend continuing to Mount Chocorua from Champney Falls.  It adds another 4 miles and 1500 feet of elevation gain onto your hike and will take you to absolutely breathtaking 360 views. 

Rocky Gorge/Falls Pond- To explore the Rocky Gorge area it’s just a short, paved walk from the parking lot. Cross over the bridge to take the short walk around Falls Pond. Exploring both areas is an easy, 1 mile, out-and-back.  There are also restrooms and picnic tables available at this stop, if needed!

Lower Falls- Even during off season, this was the most crowded stop on the Kancamagus Highway.  With stunning mountain and water views just steps from the parking lot, and swimming allowed in the summer months, it is not a surprise people flock to the area.  There is a flat path that will take you along the falls area, picnic tables, and restrooms.  Please note: When the Swift River is high or rushing, it is not safe to swim at Lower Falls. 

Albany Covered Bridge- The next stop is just one mile down the road. The Albany Covered Bridge was built in the 1850s and crosses the rushing Swift River at 120 feet long.  This quick stop will have you checking out just one of New Hampshire’s 50(!) covered bridges😊

Diana’s Baths- Diana’s Baths is a series of cascading waterfalls and pools rushing over approximately 75 feet of rock.  Both the parking lot and trailhead are located about 15 miles from the Albany Covered Bridge.  The hike to Diana’s Bath is 1.5 miles round trip, including exploration of the falls area, with about 100 ft of elevation gain.  Depending on the season and water flow, you can even wade into the pool areas😊

Conway Scenic Railroad- After Diana’s Bath, head over to the Conway Scenic Railroad located in North Conway, about 2.5 miles from Diana’s Bath.  The Conway Scenic Railroad offers several ride options ranging from 1 to 6 hour train rides, depending on what you are looking for.  For this itinerary, and especially if you are traveling with littles, I recommend the one-hour ride.  It is obviously not as scenic as the longer rides, but our kiddos loved it just the same!  This itinerary should work perfectly to get you on the 3 o’clock train during the summer and fall months.  Check out the Conway Scenic Railroad site for more details! 

Hancock Overlook- After riding the afternoon train, I highly recommend checking out North Conway and even grabbing dinner there before heading back to Lincoln.  Depending on the time of year, I would plan on making your last stop of the day right before sunset.  Hancock Overlook is about 30 miles or 45 min depending on traffic and weather from North Conway.  It is my favorite of all the Kancamagus Highway overlooks and will provide gorgeous views of the Osceola Mountain Range.  It is a perfect way to end your day on the Kancamagus Highway😊 **If visiting in the fall, this overlook, on a hairpin turn, can get tricky with evening fog and rain, so you may want to start your day with it instead.

Hope you have a wonderful adventure!

family photo for Always Exploring

Meet the Johnsons

Welcome to Always Exploring! We are the Johnsons. We would love to have you follow along as we explore the world one adventure at a time! Here you will find itineraries to all of our explorations that will hopefully be helpful in your own adventure planning!

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