The Kancamagus Highway
The Kancamagus Highway is a portion of NH Route 112 spanning east to west from Lincoln to Conway. The 34.5-mile drive is a recognized National Scenic Byway, offering travelers rich history and natural beauty in addition to being considered one of the best fall foliage viewing areas in the world. The byway winds across the state through the heart of the scenic and mountainous White Mountain National Forest. A number of scenic vistas are plotted along the way offering remarkable views of the White Mountains, the Swift River, Lower Falls, Sabbaday Falls, and the Rocky Gorge.
Not unlike other areas in the region, the Kancamagus, known to locals as “The Kanc”, is home to an abundance of hiking trails, walking paths, picturesque ponds, natural wonders, and many other must-see stops. It is open year-round, although the only major intersection, Bear Notch Road, which connects the highway to the town of Bartlett, is closed during the winter months.
Beginning just east of the town center of Lincoln, the Kancamagus Highway portion of NH Route 112 steadily ascends as it continues eastward towards Conway. On the west end (Lincoln side) of the Kanc, many tourist attractions such as Loon Mountain, Hobo Railroad, and Alpine Adventures bring visitors to the area from around the world. The east end (Conway side) of the Kanc is home to many restaurants, shops, and other nearby attractions including Conway Scenic Railroad and Cranmore Mountain Resort.
The highway enters the White Mountain National Forest and begins following the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River for about 4 miles, then the Hancock Branch for an additional 8 miles. Travelers endure a series of hairpin turns before the Kancamagus Pass, the highest point of elevation along the byway at 2,855 feet. The highway’s descent parallels the Swift River for the remaining 21 miles.
The Kancamagus Highway does not lack its share of scenic views. The Hancock, Sugar Hill, and Pemi Overlooks allow travelers to enjoy many points throughout the White Mountains such as the Osceola Range, Sugar Hill, Mt. Tremont, and the Pemigewasset Wilderness. The Kanc is full of a variety of wildlife and it is not uncommon for travelers to spot some kind of furry critter while traversing the highway. Hawks, moose, falcons, eagles, deer, bear, racoons, porcupines, and skunks are just some of the possible sightings. Using caution while driving this area is always advised. You can visit the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department’s website to learn more about wildlife in this area.
In Fall, the foliage along the Kancamagus Highway is simply spectacular. Each year, New Hampshire draws millions of visitors to see the region’s annual display of color which plays out for only a few select weeks. Travelers are able to see first-hand the multi-colored mountainsides, the variety of trees that undergo this transformation, and the rugged terrain.