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Address: Kancamagus Highway, Passaconaway, Albany
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The Kancamagus Highway (aka: “The Kanc”) is a must see when visiting New Hampshire! The Kancamagus Highway was constructed in 1959, and is traveled by over a million people each year. The Kancamagus Highway cuts a 34 mile east-west channel through the 800,000-acre White Mountain National Forest from Lincoln NH to Conway NH on Rt. 112. When the dense trees change their leaves from their summer greens to breathtaking shades of yellow, orange, and red in the Fall, they are illuminated against the colorful mountains, making this a dramatic and enjoyable leaf-peeping route for tourists and NH residents alike! Motorcyclists relish the twists and turns as the Kancamagus Highway climbs to almost 3,000 feet at the peak of Mount Kancamagus. The easily accessible trailheads and parking areas are often sought by hikers. The smooth and rocky swimming holes, carved by erosion, lure families craving relief from the summer heat, and the deep woods, rustic Kancamagus Campgrounds are treasured by campers every summer. This is not your fancy campground style either so if you want electrical hookups, or a flush toilet, you will want to find another area for camping! Check out NH Campgrounds section!
Your trip across the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire will be remembered forever! One of the best parts of the Kancamagus Scenic Byway is its great even in not so good weather! The mountain views, the wildlife, and the deep forest feeling will be memorable. This is definitely something to do and even enjoy in the rain in New Hampshire
The Kancamagus Highway’s 32 Mile pass has limited cell signal on both ends and no cell service signal for most of the trip. This may sound like a horror story for many kids, and some adults but the vibrating and dinging noises of your cell phones will be replaced with silence, the sound of the Swift River, the pounding waterfalls, the smell of Spruce trees and the forest that fills the air. And, with any luck you might just see a bear, or a moose.
Best times to see moose or a bears on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway is usually sunrise, and sunset, but be careful as these animals are very large, dark colored, and very hard to see! Moose’s eyes do not reflect headlights which adds even more danger! If you see a moose or a bear it is always best not to get too close and stay in your vehicle. If a moose or a bear has young ones with them, give them a lot more room, and be extra cautious. Normally moose and bear in New Hampshire are not very aggressive, but if you get too close to their young you will see another side of these animals you won’t soon forget! See the photos we took below and you will see a very upset moose when we got too close.
Driving down the Kancamagus Highway you will suddenly see an old farm house, just in the middle of nowhere! You may think you are near the end of the Kancamagus Highway, or maybe someone lives out there in the middle of nowhere, but no! This is the historic Russell Colbath House. This is a great stop to make to break up the 32 mile ride on the Kancamagus Highway. The Russell Colbath House was built by sawmill operator Thomas Russell in 1832, the small home was inherited in 1887 by his granddaughter, Ruth Priscilla, and her husband, Thomas Alden Colbath. As the story goes….In 1891, Thomas Colbath left the house one day, telling Ruth he would return “in a little while.” She hung a lantern in the window for Thomas, but he never returned. The lantern was placed out every evening for thirty-nine years (YES… 39 YEARS!) as she awaited his return, but she never saw Thomas Colbath ever again. Sadly, just three years after her death, Thomas Colbath finally did show up. Thomas Colbath’s claims to the house were denied.
Also, along the Kancamagus Highway you will see places to stop to view the mountains and trailheads. Don’t just assume these trailheads are for serious hikers and drive by! Check out each one, you will see some are nature walks, and short walks to waterfalls that you won’t want to miss, like Sabbaday Falls, and Rocky Gorge on the Kancamagus Highway. The “Sabbaday Falls” name came from the Sabbath Day in case you were wondering. There is also a smaller, cascade type waterfall on the Kancamagus Highway called Lower Falls. Lower Falls is very popular, especially on hot summer days. Many people swim here as it is one of the only places you can swim on the Kancamagus Highway.
Kancamagus Highway closures: Years ago, the Kancamagus Highway would be closed for the Winter. It now remains open year round except during extreme weather conditions.
If you’re visiting New Hampshire, one of the must-see attractions in NH is the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, so put it on your bucket list!
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