Running east-west from Conway over the mountains to Lincoln, the 34-mile Kancamagus Highway (Route 112) is a National Scenic Byway and one of the most incredible drives in the White Mountains. Much shorter and a lot less traveled than the prime tourist route along US-302 and US-3 through Crawford and Franconia Notches, The Kanc, as it’s often called, takes you up and over the crest of the peaks, giving grand vistas over an almost completely undeveloped landscape—great for fall-color leaf-peeping. Fall is definitely prime time for the drive, but any time of year (except maybe winter, when it can be a bit hairy) it’s a lovely trip, lined by lupines in early summer and raging waterfalls in the spring.
Near the midpoint of The Kanc, the Russell-Colbath House dates from the early 1830s and now houses a small museum (Sat.-Sun. summer, free) with an on-site historic interpreter and exhibits describing the lives of the White Mountains’ early settlers. From the house, the short loop Rail N’ River Trail explores the effects loggers had on this region in the 1890s, when everything you see along The Kanc (and most everywhere else) was devastated by clear-cutting.
Three miles farther west, just east of the crest and an easy half-mile walk from the well-signed parking area, Sabbaday Falls is a lovely little waterfall roaring through a narrow gorge. In a series of noisy, splashing cascades, the river drops down through a polished pink granite gorge, barely 10 feet wide but surrounded by dense forest. It’s an ideal picnic spot, and only 10 or 15 minutes from the road.