This New Hampshire foliage drive loops around Lake Winnipesaukee and Squam Lake, offering beautiful views of both mountains and water.
By Aimee Tucker
Sep 09 2016
At the southern tip of Lake Winnipesaukee, the colorful houses of Alton
Bay shimmer in their watery reflection.
Distance: about 75 miles round trip
Each fall the cluster of lakes at the heart of the Granite State becomes a glimmering mirror to the bursts of color along the shoreline. This loop foliage drive around Lake Winnipesaukee and its smaller neighbor to the northwest, Squam Lake, features plenty of stops where you can snack, shop, and take in the shimmering colors along the water.
Begin at Alton Bay at the southern fingertip of Winnipesaukee—the state’s largest lake, with roughly 180 miles of shoreline—and head west on Route 11. A scenic pull-off provides a sweeping vista of the mountain-rimmed lake, but if you’re willing to take a 3.4-mile hike up nearby Mount Major, the reward will be dazzling views of the lake below and the adjacent Ossipee and White Mountains.
Continuing along Route 11, you’ll pass Ellacoya State Park in Gilford. Turn onto Route 11B and head into bustling Weirs Beach. Squeeze in a stop at the Swiss-inspired Kellerhaus for a staggering display of ice cream, fudge, and classic candy before picking up Route 3 north. In Meredith stroll to the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen retail gallery, and the unique selection of shops at Mill Falls Marketplace. If it’s just not fall for you without a hot cider doughnut, a quick detour out Route 25 east leads to Moulton Farm, where you can gather apples, pumpkins, and homemade baked goods, and even explore a towering corn maze.
Leaving Lake Winni behind (for now), continue on Route 3 toward Squam Lake, famous for its scenery in the 1981 film On Golden Pond. In Holderness, grab a bite with lakeside views at Walter’s Basin. Picking up Route 113, loop up and around Squam toward historic Center Sandwich. The road winds and weaves like a smooth ribbon through the forest and past stone walls. When the town emerges, take a few moments to admire the 1793 Old Baptist Meeting House and browse the antiquarian selection at Hill Country Books before heading south on Route 109 past the grounds of the Sandwich Fair, held each Columbus Day weekend since 1909.
Arriving in Moultonborough at the crossroads of Routes 109 and 25, you’ll find one of the most historic emporiums in America: Old Country Store & Museum. The aisles are packed with a chaotic array of knickknacks, penny candy, pickles, maple products, locally made jam, and more (much more)— but what would you expect after more than 200 years in business?
Pick up Route 109 again, and continue along the northern shore of Winnipesaukee for the 18-mile stretch to Wolfeboro, where Main Street beckons, with favorite spots like Black’s Paper & Gifts for a stuffed loon souvenir, Bailey’s Bubble for a classic ice-cream cone, and eateries with gorgeous water views. You might want to try the Wolfetrap Grill & Rawbar (a brief walk north, overlooking Back Bay) for a lobster roll, for instance, or the Downtown Grille Café while keeping watch for the scenic cruise ship M/S Mount Washington as it journeys across the lake.
As for your own journey, set out for the final leg following Route 28 south back down to Alton Bay. By now you’ve nearly completed your double lake loop and almost certainly have eaten well—so all that remains is to stop at a final scenic pull-off, take in one last long look at the rich natural beauty of autumn, and then start planning for next year.
SEE MORE:New Hampshire Foliage Drive | Photographs
Mount Major. Alton. hikenewengland.com/Major000506.html
Ellacoya State Park. 266 Scenic Road, Gilford. 603-293-7821; nhstateparks.org
Kellerhaus. 259 Endicott St. North (US 3), Weirs Beach. 603-366-4466; kellerhaus.com
League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. 279 Daniel Webster Highway (US 3), Meredith. 603-279-7920; nhcrafts.org
Mill Falls Marketplace. 312 Daniel Webster Highway (US 3), Meredith. 800-622-6455; millfalls.com/shop
Moulton Farm. 18 Quarry Farm Road, Meredith. 603-279-3915; moultonfarm.com
Walter’s Basin. 859 US 3, Holderness. 603-968-4412; waltersbasin.com
Old Baptist Meeting House. 12 Church St., Center Sandwich.
Hill Country Books. 25 Grove St., Center Sandwich. 603-284-7008; www.abebooks.com/hill-country-books-ctr-sandwich-nh
Sandwich Fair. 7 Wentworth Hill Road (Route 109), Center Sandwich. 603-284-7062; thesandwichfair.com
Old Country Store & Museum. 1011 Whittier Highway, Moultonborough. 603-476-5750; nhcountrystore.com
Black’s Paper & Gifts. 8 South Main St., Wolfeboro. 603-569-4444; blackspapernh.com
Bailey’s Bubble. 5 Railroad Ave., Wolfeboro. 603-569-3612; www.facebook.com/BaileysBubble
Wolfetrap Grill & Rawbar. 19 Bay St., Wolfeboro. 603-569-1047; wolfetrapgrillandrawbar.com
Downtown Grille Café. 33 South Main St., Wolfeboro. 603-569-4504; downtowngrillecafe.com
M/S Mount Washington. 211 Lakeside Ave., Weirs Beach. 603-366-5531; cruisenh.com
Editor’s Note: This post was updated September 16, 2016.