Last revised: December 31, 2023
By: Adam Burns
New Hampshire is located in the heart of New England and home to the beautiful White Mountains, location of Mount Washington. This mountain is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288 feet.
Each September and October, thousands of tourists flock to New Hampshire, and throughout New England, eager to view the fabulous fall colors. Aside from the central Appalachian states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia, New England is the best location in the nation to view the foliage of autumn.
There are currently three locations in New Hampshire offering train rides during the fall season, the Hobo Railroad, Winnipesaukee Railroad, and Conway Scenic Railway.
While all three provide fine experiences, the Conway Scenic is particularly noteworthy. They maintain a section of the old Maine Central that runs through the heart of the White Mountains running north from Conway.
The view afforded during these trips any time of the year are spectacular, but especially breathtaking during the fall. They also maintain a fleet of passenger cars, which are handsomely restored. In addition, some are fully climate-controlled and include dome cars. This is one of the finest excursions in the nation and very much worth a visit!
For anyone with an interest in New England's rail history, New Hampshire was a fascinating state; there were very scenic lines hugging river banks and snaking through the White Mountains, built by names like the Maine Central and Boston & Maine.
These rail lines are now maintained by heritage railroads that operate excursions for the public. In addition, one could find many local branches serving individual customers along highways, within city streets and back alleys, and small industrial spurs where the tracks barely seemed to fit between buildings closely hugging the right-of-way.
It was a quite sight that was not necessarily unique in New England but much more common than in other parts of the country.
(North Conway): One of New England's top heritage railroads also hosts one of the top fall foliage trips.
Located in the heart of the White Mountains the scenes and vibrant colors along the Conway Scenic are unquestionably worth the ticket price! Today, it operates sections of the old Boston & Maine's Conway Branch and Maine Central's Mountain Division.
The former takes you south along the Saco River where guests can view distance mountains and nearby farms during the 7 miles to Conway. The latter is much more impressive from a visual standpoint.
The Mountain Division was well known for its spectacular scenery, long before a heritage railroad was born; during the Maine Central era the railroad regularly hosted fall foliage excursions through this region.
Departing north from the North Conway depot the train stays long the Saco River until climbing out of the valley several miles out of town. At this point you are fully immersed in mountains until you reach Crawford Notch State Park, the highlight of the trip. Trains operate as far as Fabyan Station before turning back.
(Lincoln): This tourist line is based in Lincoln and hosts trains along the Pemigewasset River. During select dates in October you can ride their Fall Foliage Specials between Lincoln and Woodstock for beautiful scenes of autumn in this part of New England.
They also operate dinner trains celebrating the fall season. The Hobo Railroad began hosting excursions in 1986 over 7 miles of a former Boston & Maine branch (freight service was, and still is, provided by the Plymouth & Lincoln Railroad).
Your trip departs south along the Pemigewasset River as you are surrounded by the beautiful White Mountains in every direction. The entire journey offers a wonderful experience to see New England's stunning fall colors by train.
(Meredith/Weir Beach): Owned by the same group as the Hobo Railroad this operation is based in Meredith. Like its counterpart, the Winnipesaukee Railroad also hosts Fall Foliage Specials during September and October.
They have two stations; one in Meredith and another in Weirs Beach (both of which are situated along Lake Winnipesaukee). The entire line runs from Meredith to Lakeport (8.3 miles) over the same ex-B&M branch operated by the Hobo Railroad.
The scenery along this stretch is somewhat different as the tracks stay near the water almost the entire way. However, there is still plenty plenty of foliage and fall colors to see during your journey, making this ride arguably as scenic as the Hobo Railroad.