Embark on an exciting New England road trip, exploring Cape Cod’s beaches, Maine’s coastal beauty, and the vast White Mountains of New Hampshire. This fast-paced itinerary is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a mix of sightseeing, town hopping, and hiking. Each destination has its unique charm, providing a well-rounded experience of the best sights in the American Northeast.
Table of Contents
About this New England Road Trip Itinerary
I did a similar version of this road trip with my very good friend, Jocelyn. We were just 18 years old and this was our first solo trip without parents.
Jocelyn and I loved each of the locations on this trip and enjoyed the ever-changing scenery. It was the first road trip we had ever planned, so there were many learning experiences to come from this.
The biggest challenge we had was fitting three states into a 10-day itinerary. While it was manageable, our days were long and allowed only a glimpse of each place. In this revised itinerary, we allocated an additional day on Cape Cod and in Portland so you can truly enjoy these locations. We also added optional day trips to allow you to customize the itinerary based on your preferences.
This itinerary necessitates a car. Be prepared for frequent driving, spanning a few hours almost every day.
Where You Will Stay on This New England Road Trip
Day 1-4: Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Day 5-6: Portland, Maine
Day 7-9: Camden, Maine
Day 10-11: Lincoln, New Hampshire
What You’ll See on This New England Itinerary
- Martha’s Vineyard
- Portland, Maine
- Cape Elizabeth
- Camden, Maine
- Isle au Haut, Acadia National Park
- Kancamagus Highway
- Franconia Notch State Park
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 1
Arrive on Cape Cod
Cape Cod is New England’s beach paradise, adorned with seaside towns, shopping districts, historical sites, and islands to explore. Many towns dot the cape, each hiding its own treasures and activities. Adding to its allure are picturesque cranberry bogs, scenic bike pathways, and iconic lighthouses. Just off the Cape’s shores lie the enchanting islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
On this itinerary, you will spend four days on Cape Cod, visiting Martha’s Vineyard, Provincetown, and other highlights in the area. On the first day of this itinerary, drive or fly to Cape Cod. If you’re coming from a distance, consider flying into Boston and renting a car from there.
Where to Stay on Cape Cod
Cape Cod is filled with idyllic beach towns to reside in. For convenient access around the island, it’s recommended to stay in a centrally located town. Some of the best options include Chatham, Hyannis, and Harwich. These towns all have plenty of shops and restaurants to visit, beautiful town beaches, and nearby activities.
During our trip, we stayed in Falmouth for its ease of access to Martha’s Vineyard. Its downside is its distance from Provincetown, the National Seashore, and other communities. But Falmouth itself is a scenic small town with many great restaurants and homey beach vibes. We loved our stay here.
Falmouth Main Street
Here are some hotel recommendations for a stay in Falmouth:
There are a few InnSeason Resorts buildings around the Falmouth area. We stayed in the InnSeason Resorts Captain’s Quarters and greatly enjoyed our stay. The rooms were spacious with a large king-sized bedroom, two bathrooms, kitchen area, living room, and patio. This resort was right across the street from a white sand beach and was only a mile walk from the Main Street.
InnSeason Resorts Harborwalk is in an even better location, as it is only a half mile from Falmouth Main Street and is 5 minutes from the Island Queen Ferry. You will not get immediate beach access from this site, but you overlook a picturesque harbor.
InnSeason Resorts Surfside is 2 miles from the Falmouth main town, making walking here difficult (be mindful that parking in Falmouth can be a challenge). For this reason, I do not recommend this resort, however you do get beautiful ocean views.
Inn on the Sound is another great place to stay in Falmouth featuring private beach access and rooms with an ocean view. The Inn provides an array of activities including tennis courts and horseback riding, and they serve a delicious breakfast each morning. The Inn is also in a great location, being only a mile from the Falmouth Main Street.
Note: Boston is another fantastic destination for a New England road trip. Discover more about things to do in our Guide to Boston. If you prefer to stay in Boston rather than on Cape Cod, you can still take a day trip to Provincetown to experience a Cape Cod highlight.
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 2
Cape Cod – Martha’s Vineyard
Martha’s Vineyard, a sizable island off the Cape Cod coast, boasts a variety of attractions including coastal towns, shopping districts, beautiful beaches, and picturesque clay cliffs. During our day trip here, we explored the island’s highlights: the delightful Oak Bluffs town, the lively Edgartown, and the serene coastal beauty of Aquinnah. These three locations captured the essence of Martha’s Vineyard, providing us with a fulfilling and enjoyable day.
Likely your time on the island will be spent hopping from town to town, so prepare for a full day of driving and sightseeing. For this reason, a car is the easiest way to get around the island, but a bus is also available.
How to Get to Martha’s Vineyard? To get to the island, there are a number of ferries. Steamship Authority, Hyline Cruises, Island Queen, and Edgartown Fast ferry are some popular options. We rode with Steamship Authority, a car ferry that departs from Woods End and docks in Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven.
For a full day guide, read our One Day in Martha’s Vineyard itinerary (coming soon).
What About Nantucket? Nantucket is another day trip destination from Cape Cod. We chose Martha’s Vineyard for its drivability, the allure of its red cliffs, and for the various towns to visit. But Nantucket holds its own treasures, with popular beaches, biking trails, and a fashionable shopping town. If you wish to travel to Nantucket, Hyannis town offers ferries to and from the island.
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 3
Cape Cod – Provincetown
Time on the road: (From Falmouth) 4 hours to and from Provincetown.
A trip to Cape Cod would be incomplete without seeing Provincetown. This lively town is brimming with shops, antique stores, art galleries, ice cream stands, restaurants, and it’s well-known for its welcoming LGBTQ+ community. The streets are bustling with a mix of people, cars, and bikers.
We spent the day shopping along Commercial Street, climbing to the top of Pilgrim Monument, and strolling along the pier. Set aside 4 hours minimum to explore the town, but you could easily spend a full day here.
Surrounding Provincetown are several National Seashore beaches, three lighthouses, and a multitude of bike trails.
We went to Race Point Beach which sits on Cape Cod’s northernmost tip. The beach is good for sunbathing but not so much for swimming. Even in late July, the water was still very cold. Another thing to keep in mind about swimming is the wildlife nearby. We came across a large herd of seals sunbathing and swimming near the entrance to Race Point Beach. They were a joy to watch, but I wouldn’t want to run into them in the water.
We had heard about Race Point Lighthouse and figured it was a popular spot to visit. We decided to walk there from Race Point Beach, thinking it would be a touristy thing to do. However, we realized it’s actually a 4-mile round-trip hike to get there. After an hour of not seeing anyone else making the same walk, we decided to turn back. I do not recommend making this trip. From our experience, we recommend focusing your time on seeing Provincetown, and only making it to the beach if you have plenty of time to spare.
For more information about our Provincetown experience read our article, One Day in Provincetown (coming soon).
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 4
For your last day on Cape Cod take your pick of where you want to go. The Cape is dotted with historic towns, bike pathways, pristine beaches, and cranberry bogs to explore!
Cape Cod Rail Trail. If you love to bike, I recommend taking on the Cape Cod Rail Trail. It is a 27-mile bike path that runs through six Cape Cod towns, passing by ponds, salt marshes, and Nickerson State Park. It’s named after the old railroad system that used to operate along this route. While the trail itself doesn’t offer a lot of coastal views, you can easily veer off to reach coastal areas and National Seashore beaches. You’ll find bike rentals and parking options conveniently located along the path, allowing you to start at different points. Find more information about the Rail Trail and map here.
Cape Cod Rail Trail | Jim Bogosian/shutterstock.com
Visit Chatham. Nestled on the Cape’s shoreline, Chatham stands out as one of the most scenic towns, celebrated for its charming shopping avenues and maritime heritage. Nestled between waters on three sides, this place thrives as a hub for nature trails, biking routes, golfing, kayaking, fishing, and stunning beaches. Don’t miss the chance to explore Chatham Light and Stage Harbor Light, two captivating spots that enhance the town’s allure.
Chatham | Exploring and Living/shutterstock.com
Visit Sandwich. Founded in 1637, Sandwich proudly holds the title of the oldest town on Cape Cod, rich with historical significance. Exploring Sandwich is a treat, with its historic streets, the intriguing Glass Museum, and the impressive Heritage Museums & Gardens. The town is also a haven for nature enthusiasts, offering expansive marshes, dunes, woodlands, a picturesque boardwalk, and access to the bay.
Spend the Day in Falmouth. Falmouth is a fantastic place to spend a restful day enjoying Cape Cod’s peaceful ocean atmosphere. Start your morning biking along the Shining Sea Bikeway, a 10.7-mile rail trail that runs from North Falmouth to Woods Hole. The leisurely takes you past marshes, seaside views, and cranberry bogs. After cycling down the peninsula, spend the afternoon in Woods End, a tiny fishing village with a few shops, restaurants, and a delightful bakery. Nearby, you can bike to the historic Nobska Lighthouse, or head over to Nobska Beach – a popular swimming spot.
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 5
Drive to Cape Elizabeth and Portland
Time on the road: (From Falmouth) 5 hours
Devote a day to drive to Portland, Maine. This drive takes about 5 hours in total, but you can add stops at coastal towns along the way. Either begin the drive early to ensure ample time to explore Cape Elizabeth and Portland, or take a leisurely drive and reserve Cape Elizabeth for the following day.
Note: If you want to add more time onto this trip, you could easily add on a day (or multiple days) in Boston. Learn more in our Guide to Boston.
Along the way to Cape Elizabeth, we stopped in Kennebunkport, a small coastal town on the southern end of Maine. Here visitors will find cute shops, a few restaurants, a very popular Clam Shack, and paddle boarding/ kayaking activities. Kennebunkport is a good stop if you want to shop or stretch your legs, but otherwise we were not impressed. It was difficult to find parking, we were eager to make it to Cape Elizabeth, and there was little here to see.
Note: Rather than stopping in Kennebunkport, consider stopping in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This larger maritime town has more to see and do, from a rich history, delicious restaurants, and boutique stores to shop in.
After a lengthy drive, you have arrived at Cape Elizabeth. Despite its relatively small size, this Cape is brimming with lighthouses and historical significance dating back to the American Revolutionary War. If you have energy, stop by Fort Williams State Park to see Maine’s iconic Portland Head Light. Or, if you are exhausted from the drive, save Cape Elizabeth for tomorrow and continue to Portland (which sits just above the Cape).
Portland Head Light
The top sight in Cape Elizabeth is Fort Williams State Park, home to the iconic Portland Head Light. That is Maine’s oldest and most visited lighthouse. Short walking trails surround the Portland Head Light to see it from all angles. Daring visitors can also walk out onto rocks that lie just across the water from the lighthouse for another great view. Fort Williams State Park is open from April to mid-November from sunrise to sunset. Parking at Portland Head Light is $2 per hour and $10 per day for all non-residents.
Other places to visit in Cape Elizabeth include:
- Portland Breakwater Light (Bug Light)
- Crescent Beach State Park
- Two Lights State Park
Crescent Beach State Park | Alexey Stiop/shutterstock.com
Where to Eat on Cape Elizabeth
The Lobster Shack at Two Lights. This isolated lobster shack sits right along the rocky shoreline, providing sweeping views of the blue coast. The Lobster Shack at Two Lights is always bustling with friendly locals and travelers enjoying fresh lobster rolls and seafood delicacies.
A Bite Into Maine. This critically acclaimed food truck is located inside Fort Williams State Park. They serve lobster rolls, chowder, and lobster grilled cheeses. Their lobster rolls hold critical acclaim from The Food Network, Food & Wine, and USA Today.
Find more things to do in our Guide to Cape Elizabeth.
By the time you reach Portland, chances are you’ll be exhausted. We recommend checking into your hotel and then treating yourself to a nice dinner to unwind.
Where to Eat in Portland
Portland is a foodie’s haven, where every block has another great restaurant to try. This makes narrowing down a list of where to eat difficult. Based on what I have gathered from TripAdvisor and travel bloggers, these are some of Portland’s top-rated restaurants.
Top seafood restaurants in Portland include:
- DeMillo’s On the Water
- Luke’s Lobster Portland Pier
- Portland Lobster Company
- Highroller Lobster Company
DeMillo’s On The Water
Some other great restaurants to check out include:
- Fore Street
- Evo Kitchen + Bar
- Solo Italiano
- Honey Paw
Where to Stay
Courtyard by Marriott Portland Downtown/Waterfront
Situated right in the heart of downtown Portland, this hotel is conveniently close to many restaurants, shops, cafes, and the Old Port area. Its central location was a great advantage as we could easily explore the city on foot, without concerns about parking, taxis, or safety. The hotel staff was welcoming, and the rooms were tidy and cozy. Our experience staying here was highly enjoyable, and we felt that paying a bit more for the excellent location was definitely worthwhile.
Other great hotel locations in downtown Portland include:
- The Press Hotel, Autograph Collection
- Canopy by Hilton Portland Waterfront
- The Docent’s Collection
- The Chadwick Bed and Breakfast
- Hampton Inn Portland Downtown – Waterfront
- Portland Harbor Hotel
Inn By the Sea
Just a short distance from Crescent Beach State Park, at the southern edge of Cape Elizabeth, you’ll find Inn By the Sea, a high-end oceanfront resort. It’s a perfect choice for anyone seeking a tranquil vacation escape. The resort provides a variety of rooms, including beach suites, multi-bedroom options, and single-bedroom accommodations. Additionally, the resort offers convenient beach access, pet-friendly suites, a soothing spa, upscale dining, and enjoyable activities for families.
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 6
I included an extra day in the itinerary because we both felt that spending more time in the Portland and Cape Elizabeth area would be truly worthwhile. Our initial visit felt incredibly rushed, and we found ourselves wishing for more time to fully enjoy these locations.
Things to do in Portland:
- Walk the Portland Freedom Trail
- Explore Cape Elizabeth
- Go on a lobstering tour
- Take a cruise around Casco Bay
- Go on a whale cruise
- Watch the sunset from a historic sailboat with the Schooner Company
- Learn about Portland’s history from a Trolley Tour
Read our Guide to Portland to learn more about these activities.
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 7
Boothbay Harbor (Optional)
Time on the Road: 1.5 hours to Boothbay Harbor, then 1 hour to Camden.
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try and spot some whales in Maine. When I came across Cap’n Fish’s Cruises and their highly rated Whale and Puffin Cruise in Boothbay Harbor, I could not say no.
Given Boothbay Harbor’s convenient location between Portland and Camden, we decided to include it in our road trip, and it turned out to be a delightful experience. It provided a pleasant break from our long days of driving and sightseeing.
The first half of the cruise takes you into prime whale territory, providing an amazing experience. On what seemed like an average day, we spotted a few humpback whales beneath the surface.
The guides were exceptionally knowledgeable and engaging narrators, enhancing the overall experience. The second half of the cruise takes you to an island inhabited by puffins, adding an interesting dimension to the tour. Though the puffins were small and somewhat distant, it was still a cool addition to the tour.
Cap’n Fish’s Cruises provides a variety of tours tailored to showcase different types of wildlife over varying durations. I highly recommend considering one of their tours as an addition to your trip!
Drive to Camden. Spend the night in Camden, a coastal town with a delightful Main Street and easy access to outdoor adventures.
Note: If you want to spend time in Acadia National Park, I recommend staying in Bar Harbor instead of Camden. Read about how you can add on a visit to Acadia in this itinerary.
Where to Stay in Camden
Lord Camden Inn. Reside in a quintessential inn that is located on the main road in downtown Camden. The beautifully decorated rooms are spacious, and are equipped with minifridges and a balcony that overlooks the town. We loved our stay here, the staff was incredibly friendly, and parking was provided.
Where to Eat in Camden
Peter Ott’s on the Water. Looking for something more casual with a reasonable price? Peter Ott’s on the Water is a great seafood restaurant with scenic views of historic Schooner boats and the marina. This restaurant had a comfortable, friendly vibe with amazing service, and a wide variety of delicious foods.
Peter Ott’s on the Water
Long Grain. This more upscale restaurant has been featured in numerous publications for its variety of amazing Asian cuisine.
40 Paper. This Italian bistro and bar is located in the Knox Woolen Mill, a mill that was in operation from the mid 1800’s to the late 1900’s. With a menu that is frequently changing there is always something new to try throughout the year.
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 8
Isle au Haut
Time on the Road: 4 hours round trip
Isle au Haut is a secluded island in Maine’s Penobscot Bay, offering coastal hiking trails, scenic bike routes, and a peaceful fishing village. A significant part of the island is home to Acadia National Park, and its isolation from Bar Harbor keeps the crowds at bay, making Isle au Haut a dream escape for outdoor enthusiasts.
We loved our time on Isle au Haut, often feeling like the island was entirely ours. This was our favorite experience on our trip to Maine, though I only recommend it to experienced hikers, campers, and explorers, as this island is isolated. Hiking about the southern end of the island is the best way to spend a day here.
In our Isle au Haut Guide, learn more about how to take a day trip here.
Alternative Suggestion: If you are not up for a remote hiking experience, but still wish to take a day trip to a remote destination, visit Monhegan Island instead! This island is a haven for artists and historians. Some of the island’s main attractions are the artists’ colony, the Monhegan Museum of Art and History, the Monhegan Lighthouse, and peaceful walking trails. Ferries leave from three different spots on the mainland: the Monhegan Boat Line from Port Clyde, Hardy Boat Cruises from New Harbor, and The Balmy Days II from Boothbay Harbor, with each boat having multiple departure times to and from the island.
7 A.M. Drive to Stonington
Start the day early with a 2-hour drive from Camden to Stonington. This is the town where Isle au Haut Boat Services offers trips to and from Isle au Haut.
Year round this ferry takes visitors to Isle au Haut town, a small settlement on the north of the island. From mid-June to September, the ferry will also take visitors to Duck Harbor on the southern end of the island. For the best day trip experience, we recommend riding the ferry all of the way to Duck Harbor and spending the day hiking this side of the island.
Visit the official Isle au Haut Boat Services website for complete schedule listings and rates.
At the moment, reservations for the ferry cannot be made in advance. The ferry runs on a first come, first serve policy. Tickets are limited so it is important to reach Stonington at least an hour before the ferry departure so that you have enough time to reserve a spot. Round-trip and over-night tickets can be purchased on site. Parking is also available on site for all customers.
Make sure to pack food, water, sunscreen, and bug protection. There is no food available on the island outside of Isle au Haut town.
10 A.M. Ferry to Isle au Haut
Board the Isle au Haut ferry. The ferry ride between Stonington and Isle au Haut Town is 45 minutes long. The ferry will drop off passengers at Isle au Haut town dock, and then it will continue another 30 minutes to Duck Harbor, where the remaining passengers will land. There is only one ferry that runs between the three stops, and all passengers with a ticket are guaranteed a seat.
11:30 A.M. Explore Isle au Haut
Land in Duck Harbor and enjoy a beautiful day exploring the island!
A loop hike up the Duck Harbor Mountain Trail, and then along the Goat Trail, Cliff Trail, and Western Head Trail makes for a wonderful day of exploration that encapsulates all of the island’s best views. This loop hike is a total of 4.5 miles. Read our Isle au Haut Guide to get more details about this loop hike.
The hiking trails here are not strenuous, but hikers need to stay vigilant and be able to hike across rocky terrain, over boulders, and along forested trails in a place where there are few people to turn to for assistance. If you have little hiking experience, I do not recommend hiking in Isle au Haut.
4:00 P.M. Return Ferry to Stonington
Board the ferry at Duck Harbor to ride back to the mainland. Reference the Boat Services schedule to plan the exact time you’ll be leaving Duck Harbor. This time is only for Monday through Saturday June-September and may be subject to change.
5:30 P.M. Stonington to Camden
Have dinner in Stonington and then drive 2 hours back to Camden where you will sleep tonight.
Stonington doesn’t offer an abundance of dining options, but hunger after a day of hiking led us to explore. The standout choice in Stonington is Fin and Fern, conveniently located next to the Boat Services dock. However, it’s a more upscale dining option and it fills up quickly. Instead, we opted for a quick and budget-friendly meal at Stonecutters Kitchen. While the food wasn’t exceptional, it served the purpose for a cheap and easy meal.
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 9
Spend a day in Camden to enjoy this idyllic fisherman’s town. Take your pick of how you want to spend this day.
Camden Hills State Park. If you enjoy hiking, visit Camden Hills State Park, an excellent location for outdoor activities. Parking costs $6 for out-of-state adults. Within the park, two of the most renowned hiking trails are Mount Battie and Mount Megunticook. These relatively short trails offer captivating panoramic vistas that overlook the Camden area.
View from Mt. Megunticook
Sunset Sail. For those who want to experience sailing on a decade’s old schooner, Schooner Appledore hosts a relaxing and interactive sunset sail. The crew does an amazing job entertaining the passengers, allowing them to help hoist the sails, constantly keeping the drinks flowing, and walking around chatting with everyone on board. Each sunset sail hosts around 25 people so prepare for a bit of a crowd. Schooner offers both day sails and sunset sails, each lasting 2 hours. Find more information about timing and prices here.
Read our Guide to Camden to learn more about how to spend a day in Camden (coming soon).
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 10
Time on the Road: 3-hour drive to reach the Kancamagus Highway from Camden.
The Kancamagus Highway is one of New Hampshire’s most scenic drives, as it travels past rolling mountains, lush pine forests, and cascading waterfalls. Along the way are opportunities to complete several short hikes, in addition to quick overlooks to gaze over gorgeous mountain views.
This drive is the perfect way to experience the beauty of the White Mountains in a low effort way. Driving the highway is easy-going, for it follows a wide paved road. It is best driven in the fall when the leaves transform into their autumn glory.
8:00 A.M. Drive to the Kancamagus Highway
Drive 3 hours from Camden, Maine to Conway, New Hampshire. Conway is located on one end of the Kancamagus Highway.
11:00 A.M. Early Lunch
At the start of the Kancamagus Highway lies Cheese Louise, an artisan grilled cheese shack. Cheese Louise offers yummy grab & go meals that will fuel a day of exploration on the Highway. They serve multiple varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches, as well as some salad options. Everything we ate here was fresh and delicious!
11:30 A.M. Drive the Kancamagus Highway
Begin the drive of the Kancamagus Highway. There are many stops to take along the way including waterfall overlooks and short hiking trails. We were interested in just seeing the best sights, which we have listed below in order from Conway to Lincoln.
Albany Covered Bridge. This scenic covered bridge was built in 1858. New England has many covered bridges with the purpose of protecting trusses and decks from harsh weather. This a quick stop and is worthwhile to see one of these scenic bridges. Regular sized vehicles can drive through the bridge, and visitors can walk inside of it.
Lower Falls. Lower Falls provides a scenic view of small waterfalls cascading over granite rocks. During the summer, it becomes a popular swimming spot, filled with children playing in the falls. If you’re seeking a quiet and tranquil experience, it might be best to skip this stop unless you’re interested in swimming.
Rocky Gorge. Rocky Gorge is a picturesque stop along the Kancamagus Highway. The Swift River flows through a narrow flume, creating a charming small waterfall. Visitors can walk onto the rocks when the water level is low, and there’s a bridge for great views. Additionally, visitors can cross the bridge and follow a short path to reach Falls Pond.
Champney Falls. Champney Falls, considered by some as a top experience and by others as a walk in the woods, unfortunately didn’t fit into our schedule. The falls are reached by a 3-mile round-trip hike, attracting those seeking a more immersive nature experience.
Sabbaday Falls. Sabbaday Falls is the most popular stop along the Kancamagus Highway, and for good reason! To reach the Falls there is a short 0.7 round trip hike along a wide gravel path. Boardwalks travel next to the rushing waterfall, granting visitors a close look into the gorge and crystal-clear pools.
The following overlooks each provide scenic views over forested mountains:
- Sugar Hill Overlook
- CL Graham Wangan Overlook
- Pemigewasset Overlook
- Hancock Overlook
5:00 Arrive in Lincoln
Arrive in Lincoln, NH. This town is a convenient place to stay during a trip to the White Mountains, since this small town is located only 10 minutes from Franconia Notch State Park, and it sits on one end of the Kancamagus Highway.
Where to Stay in Lincoln
Lincoln is a convenient place to stay during a trip to the White Mountains, since this small town is located only 10 minutes from Franconia Notch State Park, and it sits on one end of the Kancamagus Highway. Sadly, there is not much to see or do in Lincoln, and it is not the prettiest area to wander. It is best to spend your time inside of the park during a stay here.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn and it provided a standard and comfortable hotel experience. Its proximity to many of Lincoln’s restaurants was convenient for our stay.
Other highly rated hotels include the Lincoln Log Cabins (stay in your own private cabin with a view of the mountains), InnSeason Resorts Pollard Brook (a resort with one- and two-bedroom suites, making this a great pick for families), and Launchpoint Lodge (a beautiful property that is adult-only).
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 11
Franconia Notch State Park
Franconia Notch State Park lies in the heart of the White Mountains National Forest. With forested ridges to climb, gorges to wander, lakes to play in, and signs for moose crossing, this is a park perfect for outdoor lovers, family road trippers, and weekend campers.
You have the whole day to see this park. Read our Guide to Franconia Notch State Park for a full list of things to do here.
We spent the day hiking the Franconia Ridge Loop, a challenging 8-mile hike that takes travelers to the summit of three mountains. With steep grades and considerable distance, it’s ideal for fit mountaineers seeking stunning views of New Hampshire’s forests and distant peaks. But despite its difficulty, completing this loop doesn’t require extensive hiking experience. This hike takes 6-8 hours to complete. Read more about our experience hiking the Franconia Ridge Loop here.
Of all of the activities we did in Franconia Notch State Park, hiking the Franconia Ridge Loop was our favorite as it provided the most beautiful views and rewarding experience. However, there are many other great things to do here that do not require extensive hiking. These experiences include:
Flume Gorge. Franconia Notch’s Flume Gorge is a beautiful outdoor adventure past cascading waterfalls, across historic covered bridges, and amidst New Hampshire’s pristine forest. Hiking the Flume Gorge is a top experience in Franconia Notch State Park, and its two-mile-long trail is possible for people of all ages to enjoy.
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway and Ski Area. The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway is the nation’s first passenger aerial tramway and has been taking visitors to see its grand views for over 80 years. On a clear day, you can see the mountains of four states and Canada. We greatly enjoyed our experience at Cannon Mountain, and found it a great thing to do, especially for non-hikers.
Echo Lake. Echo Lake is a scenic natural lake nestled amongst the White Mountains. Canoes, kayaks, and peddle boats are available for rent at the Lake, allowing visitors to take in its crystalline surface and wondrous views.
Artists Bluff Trail. A popular hike from Echo Lake is the Artists Bluff Trail. This is a 1.5-mile loop hike that takes hikers to a viewpoint over Echo Lake and Cannon Mountain. This hike is relatively easy and is many visitors’ favorite experience in the Park.
View of Echo Lake in the fall from the Artists Bluff Trail | haveseen/shutterstock.com
New England Road Trip Itinerary: Day 12
Drive or Fly Home
Return home or continue your travels.
If you have some time in the morning, consider adding a short activity in Franconia Notch State Park. We chose to explore the Flume Gorge before heading home and found it to be a serene and enjoyable short walk. The walk around the Flume Gorge typically takes about an hour.
Best Time to Do This New England Road Trip
The best time to do this road trip is in September to early October when the summer heat fades from Cape Cod and New Hampshire’s forests start to become an assortment of reds, yellows, and oranges.
Note that ferry access to Isle au Haut’s Duck Harbor is only available until early October.
Franconia Notch State Park is subject to seasonal closures from late October to early May.
We did this road trip in early August and still loved the experience. We were able to enjoy warm summer days, lush green forests, and fully accessible trails, but the wow factor of the Northeast’s autumn foliage was missing.
If you have any questions about this New England road trip itinerary let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to New England
BOSTON: For information about Boston, read our article Best Things to Do in Boston. We also have a detailed guide on how to day trip to Plymouth, Lexington, and Concord from Boston.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Don’t miss our article about the best things to do in Franconia Notch State Park and how to hike the Franconia Ridge Loop. We also have a guide to 10 great stops along the Kancamagus Highway.
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK: Check out our Acadia National Park Travel Guide for important travel information, sample itineraries, and how to plan your visit. For a list of must-have experiences, read our article Best Things to Do in Acadia National Park. Go off the beaten path and explore Isle au Haut.
USA ROAD TRIPS: Planning your next big adventure in the USA? Check our our USA Road Trip Guide for travel ideas and sample itineraries.
If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.
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