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9 stellar scenic byways in Northern New England

Some of New Hampshire’s finest scenery occurs along the 34-mile Kancamagus Highway, part of the White Mountains Trail loop. Photo by Ron/

Imagine cruising down a slim ribbon of asphalt that threads through a sun-dappled pine forest where a moose wanders beside the road. Then follow your route as it veers toward a rugged coastline where waves crash, a lighthouse stands sentinel, and a working harbor buzzes with fishermen.

While any road trip can offer exceptional sights, national and state scenic byways are distinctive for their awe-inspiring historic, cultural, archaeological, recreational, or natural treasures. Driving any of the following 9 scenic byways in Northern New England is sure to provide an unforgettable experience.


1. Schoodic National Scenic Byway

Schoodic National Scenic Byway

On the way to Acadia National Park, the Schoodic National Scenic Byway offers some of Maine’s choicest coastal views. Photo courtesy Maine DOT

Despite sometimes mercurial weather that can alternate from sunny to foggy, from damp to blustery, this 29-mile route from Hancock to Prospect Harbor showcases uncrowded Maine at its best.

In Hancock, visit Tidal Falls Preserve. If you get there a couple of hours before or after low tide, you’ll witness some unusual reverse tidal behavior in the Taunton River. Kids love to explore the shore for sea stars and other invertebrates. Watch the lobstermen at Winter Harbor’s working harbor and take postcard-worthy photos of the Winter Harbor Lighthouse with Cadillac Mountain in the background.

Along the granite shore of Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Peninsula, the drama increases at high tide as waves pound Schoodic Point. Keep your eyes peeled for seals.

You may also like: 6 top things to do at Acadia National Park

2. Pequawket Trail Scenic Byway

Ingalls Pond

Along the Pequawket Trail Scenic Byway in western Maine, Mount Cutler looms over Ingalls Pond. Photo by Dan Hester

Named for the Native American tribe that long called this land home, this 60-mile byway follows the lazy Saco River for much of its route from Standish to Gilead, providing lovely views of the White Mountains. Serene ponds and the river itself beckon, offering plenty of opportunities to fish, swim, and kayak.

Near Standish, though the cascade only drops a mere 6 feet or so, Steep Falls is a picturesque spot to swim, sun, and be lulled by the sound of the thunderous waters. Anglers gravitate to Ingalls Pond in Baldwin hoping to snag largemouth bass.

For leisurely paddling, rent from Saco River Canoe and Kayak in Fryeburg. If you prefer a land-based activity, hike the short trail to Jockey Cap. The domed summit in Fryeburg affords stunning views of the surrounding peaks.

3. Bold Coast National Scenic Byway

Bold Coast Scenic Byway

Maine’s Bold Coast National Scenic Byway hugs the shoreline on the way to Lubec and Eastpoint. Photo by Taylor/

This 147-mile byway wends beside a craggy coast with great ecological diversity. Find remote beaches, dense woodlands, blueberry barrens, and wildlife preserves along a drive that meanders into Passamaquoddy tribal lands.

In Eastport, the Tides Institute and Museum of Art holds an assorted collection of treasures centered on the northeast coast, from paintings and photographs to model ships and Passamaquoddy baskets.

A standout adventure for many people is hiking the Cutler Bold Coast Trail. The moderate, 5-mile-long option takes you from mossy forests to rugged cliffs with spectacular ocean views. Among the beaches with curious features is Jasper in Machiasport. There, the waves crashing on the beach coated with colorful rocks seem to create music.

You may also like: 5 easy-access, easy-to-love Maine islands

New Hampshire

4. Lakes Region Tour

Lake Winnipesaukee

Viewed from New Hampshire’s Ellacoya State Park, the sun sets over Lake Winnipesaukee. Photo by Jonbilous/

Circumnavigating Lake Winnipesaukee, the state’s largest lake, this 97-mile byway offers recreational opportunities galore, especially along the west side. With its Victorian-era buildings and a boardwalk that’s home to a penny arcade, Weirs Beach harkens to another era.

Stop in Gilford and enjoy the expansive sandy beach at Ellacoya State Park. Whether you swim or picnic, you’ll delight in the views of the Ossipee and Sandwich mountains across the water. Also in Gilford, your entire family can enjoy Beans and Greens Farm. Its ever-changing activities range from making a home for a gnome using natural materials to wandering an easy-to-get-lost-in corn maze.

You may also like: 10 stunning lakes in Northern New England

5. Robert Frost/Old Stagecoach Scenic Byway

Chester Congregational Church

In New Hampshire, the Old Stagecoach Scenic Byway passes by the Chester Congregational Church. Photo by Adam Hlasny

Two routes combine to make this 43-mile byway, which celebrates the culture and history of rural Southern New Hampshire. Half of the byway follows the route that a 200-year-old stagecoach once traveled between Concord, the capital, and Boston.

The other half courses through landscapes that inspired former Derry resident and poet laureate Robert Frost. Many features remain from centuries ago, including old stone walls rimming agricultural fields.

In Atkinson, where stagecoach travelers would overnight, historic buildings bear different architectural styles, from Georgian to Federal. In Derry, you can tour the home where Frost lived in the early 1900s at the Robert Frost Farm Historic Site.

6. White Mountains Trail

Avalanche Falls

You’ll reach Avalanche Falls by hiking the Flume Gorge area of Franconia Notch State Park. Photo by Littleny/

Starting in North Woodstock, the 100-mile loop journey through the White Mountain National Forest is chock-full of signature sights and activities. Perhaps the most dramatic section is the 34-mile Kancamagus Highway that climbs above 2,800 feet, winding this way and that from Conway to Lincoln.

In Franconia Notch State Park, examine the museum displays and a memorial park that herald the symbol of New Hampshire, the Old Man of the Mountain, a stone profile on a rock outcrop that collapsed suddenly in 2003. Stroll the 2-mile nature trail through the Flume Gorge, where waterfalls plunge into a granite chasm.

You may also like: America’s scenic byways offer the finest roadside panoramas


7. Lake Champlain Byway

Alburgh Dunes State Park

At the northern end of the Lake Champlain Byway, the south-facing sandy beach at Alburgh Dunes State Park is one of the lake’s longest. Photo courtesy Vermont State Parks

Driving even part of this 188-mile route that hugs Lake Champlain’s eastern shore will envelop you with stellar views of New York’s Adirondacks and Vermont’s Green Mountains. As Vermont’s largest body of water, the lake is a nexus for fishing, boating, and swimming.

A good place to sun and swim is Alburgh Dunes State Park, blessed with one of the lake’s longest sandy beaches. But the Lake Champlain isles are the highlight for most people who drive this byway. Stop at South Hero’s waterfront Snow Farm Vineyard and picnic on local meats and cheeses. Or visit Chazy Reef on Isle La Motte to learn about the world’s oldest known fossil reef.

You may also like: 6 places in Northern New England that allow you to reconnect with nature

8. Connecticut River Byway

Connecticut River

Seen here in Massachusetts, the Connecticut River forms most of the border between Vermont and New Hampshire. Photo by NB/TRAN/Alamy Stock Photo

This multiple-segment 318-mile byway winds from Massachusetts to New Hampshire along Vermont’s longest river, which has fostered the growth of numerous communities along the way, lending a historical context to your journey.

In Windsor, where Vermont adopted its constitution in the late 18th century, your family can explore the Path of Life Garden for a playful journey through the circle of life. At the American Precision Museum, learn how manufacturing shaped America, particularly in this region.

In Woodstock, a town dating to 1761, see what life was like on a 19th-century farm at the Billings Farm and Museum. In Johnsbury, visit the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, which began in 1899 as a mere cabinet of curiosities.

9. Vermont Scenic Route 100 Byway

Crowley Cheese Company

Take a short detour off Vermont’s Scenic Route 100 Byway to visit the Crowley Cheese Company. Photo courtesy Crowley Cheese, LLC

This scenic 146-mile byway is jam-packed with some of Vermont’s most iconic sights and food products as it follows the eastern edge of the Green Mountains from Stamford to Granville, traversing a couple dozen charming towns and villages.

Maple-based goods such as syrup and nut brittle fill the shelves of the family-owned Green Mountain Sugar House in Ludlow. Cheese lovers should visit the historic Crowley Cheese Factory in Mount Holly. Its award-winning, handcrafted products have been made using the same recipe since 1824.

This byway also connects many of Vermont’s finest ski areas, such as Okemo and Killington, which can also be enjoyed during the summer for hiking, mountain biking, and golf. Magic Mountain offers disc golf during the summer.

New York City–based travel writer and photographer Jeanine Barone has written for the New York Times and the Washington Post. She’s also an avid cyclist and Nordic skier.

You may also like: 5 sensational and scenic train rides in Northern New England

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