Skip to main content

Kancamagus Highway (NH 112 through the White Mountains of New Hampshire)

The Kancamagus Highway is a portion of NH 112 spanning from Conway to Lincoln through the scenic White Mountains of New Hampshire. Locally known as the "Kanc", the 34.5-mile drive is a recognized National Scenic Byway, offering travelers an abundance of history and spectacular beauty in addition to being considered one of the best fall foliage viewing areas in the world. The road opened up one of the last unconquered wilderness areas in New Hampshire, a region that the 1850 state Gazetteer called "unfit for human habitation." The two lane highway links the valleys of the Merrimack, Pemigewasset and Saco rivers, crossing over Kancamagus Pass at 2,855 feet in elevation, winding through some of the most difficult and gorgeous terrain in the state. A number of scenic vistas are found along the way offering remarkable views of the surrounding White Mountains, Swift River, Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge. You will not find services through much of the drive, until you get to Lincoln, but you will find plenty of opportunities to take a hike of various lengths to places like Sabbaday Falls, Champney Falls and Mount Hedgehog.

The Kancamagus Highway was named after the last sagamore, or chief, of the Penacooks, who dominated a confederation of indigenous tribes living in New Hampshire in the 17th Century. By 1685, when Kancamagus became sagamore, the Penacooks were only a shadow of what they had been. Kancamagus and his predecessors tried to live in peace with the English settlers, but they were betrayed and humiliated. Kancamagus tried to keep the peace for the Penacook Confederacy. However, around 1691, the white Englishmen brought war and violence to the region. Kancamagus led the Penacook Confederacy and left the area heading north to what is now the Canadian border region of New Hampshire.

The highway started as two small town roads, two unconnected roads in Passaconaway and Lincoln. The road to Passaconaway was completed in the year 1837. One hundred years later in 1937, these two town roads were extended in both directions from Passaconaway and Lincoln and were later connected. Staked out and built partly by CCC workers during the Great Depression, it took two decades to carve a road through fir shaded glens and over boulder choked rivers. A supervisor sent from Washington once reported back thus: "Quality of work: Excellent. Morale of workers: High. Progress of construction: Negligible."

Federal Forest Highway No. 8, as it was then known, was finally turned over to the state of New Hampshire in 1957. When New Hampshire Highway Commissioner John Morton wrote to federal officials in 1957, urging them to approve funds for completion of the highway, he listed the reasons in order of priority: first the concerns of local lumber and paper companies who wanted access to logging areas; then fire protection; then the value of an east-west shortcut for commercial truckers; and finally, almost as an afterthought, he mentioned recreation. It lies entirely within the White Mountain National Forest, but is maintained by state highway crews, opening to through traffic in 1959. The highway became so popular, and was somewhat dangerous as a dirt road, so it was recommended it be paved. The paving of the highway was approved and was paved in 1964. Even though it was paved, the highway was closed in the winter months until 1968 when it was plowed for the first time. Today, the Kancamagus Highway is a valuable through route crossing the White Mountains and recreational opportunities are among the top reasons for travelers to visit this wonderful road.


Tourist map of the Kancamagus Highway (courtesy of GreatRuns.com) that are also available at the New Hampshire welcome centers from time to time.


Let's begin our scenic tour of the Kancamagus Highway from east to west, starting from NH 16 in Conway and across the White Mountains to I-93 in Lincoln.

The Kancamagus Highway begins at NH 16 in Conway if you are going west. This NH 112 shield is one of the first things you see when driving the byway.

Brake for moose. It could save your life. Plenty of these signs in New Hampshire and plenty of moose to avoid striking in New Hampshire as well.

No gas along the highway, but plenty of trees.

A roadside pulloff will lead you to this sign explaining a brief history of the Kancamagus Highway and the man the highway was named after, Kancamagus.

You'll start to see mountains in the distance.

A popular attraction just off the Kancamagus Highway is the Albany Covered Bridge. Located roughly six miles west of Conway along the Swift River, the Albany Covered Bridge is a 120 foot long Paddleford truss covered bridge that was initially built in 1858, but was destroyed by a storm a year later which flooded the Swift River and swept away the new bridge. 

Approaching the Lower Falls of the Swift River.

Swift River looking east from Lower Falls.

Lower Falls.

A little further upstream on the Swift River (and at another roadside pull-off from the Kancamagus Highway) is Rocky Gorge.

Rocky Gorge.

Back on the road.

The Russell-Colbath House was built in 1832 and is the only original structure left from the town of Passaconaway.

Sabbaday Falls is a short hike away from the Kancamagus Highway. Apparently someone was getting married at the waterfall that day.

Sabbaday Falls is a multi-tiered waterfall and there are plenty of places to observe the various cascades.


A classic car looms along the Kancamagus Highway.

Views from the Sugar Hill Vista.

The Sugar Hill Vista has great views of Mt. Tremont, Owl Cliff, Bear Mountain and Sugar Hill itself.



The C.L. Graham Wangan Ground scenic vista is the next overlook that you encounter.

Approaching Kancamagus Pass at 2,855 feet above sea level.





It's all downhill from here. But first, let's stop at the Pemigewasset Overlook, or "Pemi" to those who know the local lingo.

The Pemigewasset Overlook has some great views of the Osceolas.

The Pemigewasset Overlook has some great views of the Osceolas.

Let's enjoy our downward descent.



One last look at the Osceolas.



Approaching Lincoln, New Hampshire. Lincoln is home to Loon Mountain, which is a popular ski area.

As we approach I-93, the Kancamagus Highway starts to draw to a close. However, NH 112 continues past US 3 in North Woodstock and goes through some more scenic territory on its way to US 302 and NH 10 in Bath, New Hampshire.



How to Get There:


Sources and Links:
White Mountains New Hampshire - Kancamagus Highway
KancamagusHighway.com - History of the the Kancamagus Highway in NH
New England Today - How the Kancamagus Highway Got Its Name and How to Pronounce It
New England Today - The Kancamagus Highway | History of New Hampshire’s Scenic Corridor
Welcome to North Conway, NH - Kancamagus Highway Attractions & Map for 2020

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Sunshine Bridge (Donaldsonville, LA)

Located about halfway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in southern Louisiana, the Sunshine Bridge spans the lower Mississippi River near the city of Donaldsonville as part of the longer Louisiana Highway 70 corridor, which connects Interstate 10 and Airline Highway (US 61) with US 90 in Morgan City. In the years following World War II, the only bridges across the lower Mississippi River in Louisiana were located in the area of the state’s two largest cities – Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Postwar agricultural and industrial development along the river in this region led to the planning of a series of infrastructure projects in southern Louisiana that were aimed at spurring this development and modernization of the Delta region. One of these projects was known as the Acadian Thruway and was developed in the 1950s as a toll road intended to connect greater New Orleans with Lafayette and points west while providing a high-speed bypass of the Baton Rouge metro area. The Thruway, which

Old River Lock & Control Structure (Lettsworth, LA)

  The Old River Control Structure (ORCS) and its connecting satellite facilities combine to form one of the most impressive flood control complexes in North America. Located along the west bank of the Mississippi River near the confluence with the Red River and Atchafalaya River nearby, this structure system was fundamentally made possible by the Flood Control Act of 1928 that was passed by the United States Congress in the aftermath of the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927 however a second, less obvious motivation influenced the construction here. The Mississippi River’s channel has gradually elongated and meandered in the area over the centuries, creating new oxbows and sandbars that made navigation of the river challenging and time-consuming through the steamboat era of the 1800s. This treacherous area of the river known as “Turnbull’s Bend” was where the mouth of the Red River was located that the upriver end of the bend and the Atchafalaya River, then effectively an outflow

Huey P. Long Bridge (Baton Rouge, LA)

The decade of the 1930s brought unprecedented growth and development to Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure as the cities of New Orleans and Baton Rouge cemented their place as leading urban centers on the Gulf Coast. In the immediate aftermath of the success garnered by the construction of the massive bridge on the Mississippi River near New Orleans in 1935, planning and construction commenced on the state’s second bridge over the great river. This new bridge, located on the north side of Baton Rouge, was to be similar in design and form to its downriver predecessor. Completed in 1940 as the second bridge across the Mississippi River in Louisiana and the first to be built in the Baton Rouge area, this bridge is one of two bridges on the Mississippi named for Huey P. Long, a Louisiana politician who served as the 40th Governor of the State from 1928 to 1932, then as U.S. Senator from 1932 until his death by assassination at the state capitol in Baton Rouge on September 10, 1935