Francoina Notch - White Mountains NH img
 Francoina Notch - White Mountains NH

Best Scenic Drives in the White Mountains NH

February 12,2022 - By: D. Chandler -

The White Mountains is a special place with majestic mountains, flowing waterfalls, picturesque mountain streams and views for miles and miles.  Within all of this natural beauty, there are some scenic drives I would like to recommend. 

Here is my list of the best scenic drives in the White Mountains NH.

Presidential Mountain Range - White Mountains NH img
 Presidential Mountain Range - White Mountains NH

Kancamagus Highway Scenic Drive

The Kancamagus Highway is a beauty drive through the White Mountain National Forest.  This 34.5-mile passage is a leisurely drive with scenic views of the Swift River, mountain vista overlooks, a gorge, covered bridge, waterfalls and many hiking trails.  The Kancamagus Highway is listed as one of the best scenic byways in America.

Some of the highlights along this highway include:  Albany Covered Bridge, Rock Gorge Scenic Area, Lower Falls Recreation Area, Sugar Hill Scenic Vista, CL Graham Wangan Overlook, Kancamagus Pass, Pemigewasset Overlook, Hancock Overlook, Otter Rocks Day Use Area and Lincoln Woods Trailhead.

Kancamagus Highway Map

For more information See Kancamagus Highway Attractions & Things to Do


Streams of the White Mountains NH img
 Streams of the White Mountains NH

Crawford Notch Scenic Drive

Crawford Notch begins in Bartlett NH to Carrol NH.  This scenic drive is 27.6 miles through Crawford Notch and Crawford Notch State Park.  This route is west of Mount Washington and mostly a level elevation until the end where you will climb to the top of Crawford Notch.  At this point, the road passes through the lowest point (about 150 feet) between Mount Willard and Mount Jackson. 

The drive is filled with mountain views, rocky streams, the Willey House (the first building constructed in the notch) as well as scenic pull offs with wilderness views.

Crawford Notch Scenic Drive Map

Mount Washington Hotel - Crawford Notch NH img
 Mount Washington Hotel - Crawford Notch NH

Pinkham Notch Scenic Drive

From Glen to Gorham, this highway is a beautiful drive through Pinkham Notch.  The notch includes turn offs to get out and explore the Ellis River, Glen Ellis Waterfall, Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, Emerald Pool, Mount Washington Auto Road, Dolly Cop Picnic Area, the Peabody River and The Great Glen Trails.

Pinkham Notch Scenic Drive Map

Evans Notch Scenic Drive

The Evans Notch is a rustic road on the Maine border with New Hampshire in the White Mountain National Forest.  This passage starts in North Chatham NH to Gilead Maine along Route 113

The route is a narrow road with scenic views of Evans Notch, the forest and the Wild River.  This scenic drive is 12.9 miles which ends on Route 2 in Gilead Maine.  From Gilead, turn left and you will be back in New Hampshire only 8 miles from Gorham NH.  This road is only open in the summer, fall and it is closed during the winter and early spring.

Evans Notch Scenic Drive Map (Coming Soon)

Franconia Notch Scenic Drive

The Franconia Notch scenic drive begins in Lincoln NH to Franconia NH.  This ride is 16.7 miles through Franconia Notch and Franconia Notch State Park on US93 (Franconia Notch Parkway). 

Beginning from Lincoln, you will find exit 34A to Flume Gorge.  Flume Gorge State Park is a large gorge that is over 800 feet long with a narrow passage 12 to 20 wide with 70-90 foot walls.  Within the flume, the Flume Brook cascades through the flume with a series of small waterfalls and pools. 

The next stop headed north would be Boise Rock on the north side of the parkway.  This is the location that Thomas Boise took shelter during the winter blizzard of the 1880’s. 

Some other attractiions you may choose to visit in Franconia Notch would be Artist Bluff hiking trail, Echo Lake Beach, The Basin and Old Man of the Mountain & Profiler Plaza.

Franconia Notch Scenic Drive Map

Gilead to Franconia Scenic Drive

This route is along US Route 2 to NH Route 115 to NH Route 3.  This ride takes you through the top of the White Mountains.  You will pass through towns such as Shelburne, Gorham, Jefferson, Twin Mountain, Bethlehem and Franconia.  The route is 46.9 miles and takes about 56 mins.

From this jaunt you will see the mountains at the northern edge of the White Mountains including Mt. Moriah, Pine Mountain, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Madison, the Sugarloaf Mountains and Mount Layfette. There are many views of the northern valley above the White Mountains allowing riders to look into The Great North Woods.

Gilead to Franconia Scenic Drive Map

Lincoln to Bath Scenic Drive

This scenic drive travels along Route 112 west towards Bath NH from Lincoln NH.  This is a quieter side of the White Mountains with some great mountain views and roadside views of the Wild Ammonoosuc River.  The route is 21.3 miles and take about 33 mins.

The route includes passing by the Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves and the Water Works Bridge.

Here is information on the Lost River Gorge:

Lincoln to Bath Scenic Drive Map

Can you drive to the top of the White Mountains?

The White Mountains are a great place to enjoy a scenic drive through the mountains.  But you may ask, can you drive to the top?

You can drive to the top of the White Mountains at Mount Washington via the Mount Washington Auto Road.  The road is a 7.6-mile toll road to the summit of Mt. Washington and the top of the White Mountains.  You can drive to the top May to late October.

From the top of the White Mountains, you can see into Vermont, New York, Maine and Canada. 

The climate can at the top of Mount Washington can be quite different from the climate at the base of the mountain.  I’ve seen days when it’s 90 degrees and humid at the valley and then 50 degrees and chilly at the summit.

Driving to the top of the White Mountains is thrilling and picturesque.  It is the most unique experience in the White Mountains.

Can you drive through White Mountain National Forest?

The White Mountain National Forest is over 800,000 acres of wilderness located in northern NH and western Maine.  There are many opportunities to explore the outdoors here including scenic drives.

You can drive through the White Mountain National Forest in several locations including the Kancamagus Highway, Pinkham Notch, Crawford Notch, Franconia Notch, Evans Notch and many side roads outside of Gorham, Jefferson, Twin Mountain, Carrol, Bethlehem, Franconia and Jackson.

See descriptions of various scenic drives through the White Mountain National Forest above.

Can you drive through the White Mountains?

Visiting the White Mountains is a great experience to see the majestic beauty of this mountain region. 

There are 7 scenic drives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  You can drive through the White Mountains of New Hampshire on these 7 main routes and these scenic byways encompass the majority of the White Mountains region.  The most picturesque are Franconia, Pinkham and Crawford Notches.

A notch is a narrow mountain passage where there is an end of one mountain and the beginning of another.  Most major highways constructed throughout the White Mountains were build in these notches.  Thus, there are 4 major notches in the White Mountains; Evans, Pinkham, Crawford and Franconia. 

The highways traveling through these notches offer spectacular views of the White Mountains and the White Mountain National Forest.


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