Cutting through the White Mountain National Forest and its 48 peaks, a trip down New Hampshire Highway 15 (aka Three Rivers Scenic Drive) transports you to another world of curving roads and picturesque vistas. The best part? There’s an entirely separate, but even more epic, scenic drive snuck along the way too: the Mount Washington Auto Road. Whether you’re a fan of roads with twists and turns or you’re a hardcore nature enthusiast, you’ll love this drive. Add in the Mount Washington Auto Road and you truly have some of the best driving you’ll ever enjoy.
Glen, New Hampshire, United States
The official byway runs from Glen to Wentworth, and while you can drive the Three Rivers Scenic Drive in either direction, here's a great itinerary for some of the must-sees along NH Highway 15, in order from south to north, starting in Glen.
3440 White Mountain Hwy, North Conway, NH, US
If you need a homebase for your White Mountain scenic drive adventure, the Adventure Suites in North Conway is a fun-loving hotel with all kinds of themed rooms. Stay in the '70s style Love Shack, or the Jungle Room, complete with a Gorilla Villa for the kids.
After leaving Glen and entering the White Mountain National Forest, you’ll hug the Ellis River and quickly come to the turnout for the 64 ft. Glen Ellis Falls. Accessible by an easy 1/3 mile hike, you can take in the falls from the viewpoints at the top or middle or take the stone steps down to the bottom of the falls.
361 Route 16, Gorham, NH, US
The Pinkham Notch Visitor Center in Gorham was named for Daniel Pinkham, who made his way through the mountains in the 1700s by a pig-pulled sled. The Visitor Center is at the top of the notch and serves as the trailhead for multiple awesome hikes. Tuckerman Ravine Trail, for instance, is the trail of choice for folks attempting to summit the 6,000+ ft. Mount Washington, but if you’re not in for a long hike, just head down the trail less than a half mile to the Crystal Cascade waterfall and head back up to the visitor center. Perhaps the best trail to take here is the 1-mile Square Ledge Trail. Keep in mind, this trail does have steep ledges (if the name didn’t already tip you off), but it’ll give you breathtaking views of Mount Washington. For a more family-friendly hike, take the short Lost Pond Trail to see the mountain reflecting against the peaceful pond.
542 Rt 16, NH, US
A few miles further north, Ellis River gives way to the Peabody River as the road continues to hug the banks until you reach Wildcat Mountain Ski Area. A skier’s paradise in the winter, the area is still worth a visit in the summer, with the gondola still in service. Here, you can also take a short hike to the base of Thompson Falls for a little cool-down swim.
1 Mount Washington Auto Rd, Gorham, NH, US
Mt. Washington Auto Road is probably the best stretch of road in all of New England. Just 8 miles long, the road takes you to the summit of Mount Washington on a 12-degree grade. It’ll cost you a few bucks to drive it (you get a bumper sticker too!), but you’ll never forget this drive.
For those of you a little nervous about taking your car up the road, you can catch a guided shuttle tour for a very reasonable price. In the winter, you can even take snow-coach tours to certain portions of the road.
212 Main St, Gorham, NH, US
For a lighter meal, a caffeine pick-up, and maybe even a book or two, White Mountain Cafe is the perfect place to stop.
111 Main St, Gorham, NH, US
Incorporated in the early 1800s, Gorham is a charming town of around 3,000 and it's the perfect stop for a bite to eat or to do a little shopping. An unexpected treasure in this little town is Saalt and Libby's Bistro. This farm-to-table restaurant features local craft beers and an inventive menu. If you happen to be in town after 5 p.m., this is the place to go.
Just a few miles shy of the Maine border, your trip on the Three Rivers Scenic Drive comes to an end in Wentworth. If you have time, stop by Umbagog Lake National Wildlife Refuge and take the short hike to the Magalloway River Trail’s observation deck to scope out some birds and maybe even some moose.
The Mount Washington Auto Road is a beautiful New England drive, but it's important to check the weather before hitting the road. The best time to drive it would be fall when the leaves are changing color. However, summer is also a fantastic time to take this trip as there are plenty of outdoor activities you can do, like spending a weekend at the lake or hiking to waterfalls. Winter can be sketchy on the road, so make sure your car has been serviced... and winter tires are always a good idea, especially for this part of New England, which does consistently see significant snowfall.
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