“Peak foliage” is an elusive target here in New England. You can track previous years, watch the swinging temperatures and doggedly follow the state’s own Maine Fall Foliage Conditions website, but the moment the leaves hit their wildest, Fruity-Pebbles-iest crescendo can come and go in a single weekend.
When things hit their peak, there’s no place I’d rather be than the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Just a bit more than an hour from Portland, the Whites are a fall cornucopia (sorry, not sorry) of trees and rocks, cliffs and valleys, rivers and fields — all awash in magnificent colors under the clear fall sky.
In my many, many trips to the Whites to hike the AMC’s 48 4000-footers, I threaded the forest’s many notches, traversed the back roads, and wound my way back and forth around the mountain ranges and protected wildernesses. Over the last decade, I’ve figured out how to stitch these many driving routes into a single, continuous foliage drive that I take close to peak foliage every year.
This six hour drive leaves from Portland, switchbacks along some of the most scenic roads in the mountains, and returns back home without a single backtrack or retread. It’s a major endeavor, but with the right timing and weather, it will give you a camera reel full of photos and autumn memories you’ll never forget. Let’s go!
Portland to Conway via Route 25 & 113
If the White Mountains are hitting peak foliage, it’s likely to be a little before-peak near Portland, but you might still see some lovely muted colors as you wind through the farmlands between Portland and Gorham. At the right time of day, you’re also likely to spot some wildlife, like the many geese and ducks that like to snooze in front of Smiling Hill Farm or the deer that frequent the woods near the traffic circles on Route 112.
Along Route 25, you’ll pass many more open fields, rolling hills and old farmhouses, leaving the trappings of Maine’s largest city behind surprisingly quickly. In Standish…