Are you planning a New England fall road trip and scouting the best fall foliage spots? If so, then you need to add Artist Bluff Lookout in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire to your list. I was initially worried this would be an Instagram trap but I can 100% say that reality matches and exceeds what you see in pictures. Having seen firsthand, I wholeheartedly believe that the Artist’s Bluff Lookout point is one of the best places to see fall colors come alive and is an absolute must for fall road trippers and leaf peepers.
In this guide, I’ll provide information on how to find the correct path that will take you directly to the lookout point and tips for avoiding the mistakes I made (like picking the wrong parking lot and trailhead).
If you’re coming from Stowe, Artist’s Bluff is only a 1.5 hour drive!
- What is the Artist Bluff Lookout?
- How to Get to the Artist Bluff Lookout
- Tips for Hiking to the Artist Bluff Lookout
- Bonus! Explore Franconia Notch State Park at Flume Gorge
- FAQs About Artist Bluff Lookout
What is the Artist Bluff Lookout?
The Artist Bluff Lookout refers to a vantage point along the Artist Bluff Trail that’s become a popular stopping point for its exceptional views. From the lookout, you’ll find panoramic views of Cannon Mountain, Echo Lake, and Franconia Notch State Park blanketed in autumn colors. If you’re searching for the fiery red, orange, and golden hue landscapes that we typically associate with fall, then this is the viewpoint you’re looking for.
How to Get to the Artist Bluff Lookout
I learned this the hard way but getting to the Artist Bluff Lookout isn’t straightforward because the viewpoint is one point along the Artist Bluff Trail, which has a few trailhead entry points. If your goal is to get to the lookout point as fast as possible, then do not follow the AllTrails Map (linked here for reference). Taking the full loop trail will add an extra quarter mile of steep incline that you can otherwise skip.
Artist Bluff Lookout Parking
There isn’t an official parking lot to get to the viewpoint and you actually have several options of places to park depending on how you want to get to the lookout.
- ⭐️ Echo Lake Beach (my recommendation if you want the shortest route to the lookout!)
- Cannon Mountain RV Park (a great alternative if parking at Echo Lake Beach is full)
- Parking lot near Artist’s Bluff Loop Trailhead (official starting point for the Bald Mountain or Artist Bluff Trail)
All of the parking options are relatively close together but to minimize confusion, I’d recommend parking at Echo Lake Beach if you want the easy hike option to Artist Bluff Lookout (well… maybe not easy but definitely the short trip option).
Artist Bluff Lookout Hike
The 2 most commonly used trail entry points that people take to get to the Artist Bluff lookout are:
- ⭐️ Trailhead across from Echo Lake Beach – my recommendation as it’s the most direct path to Artist Bluff and back
- Artist’s Bluff Trailhead – start of the full Bald Mountain trail loop and the Artist Bluff Trail, which is where AllTrails will have you start
The fastest way to get to the Artist Bluff Lookout is to start at the trailhead that’s on the opposite side of Profile Road from the Echo Lake Beach parking lot.
Note, there are no markers or signs that will guide you to the trail opening. Also, because there are people who are trying to get to Bald Mountain, you can’t necessarily depend on following the crowd (this is actually how we ended up walking from Echo Lake Beach parking lot to the Artist’s Bluff Loop trailhead and taking the longer way to the lookout).
You’ll know you’ve found the shortcut when you see a small trail sign that says Artist’s Bluff Trail (0.5 mi).
I’m surprised there isn’t a Google Maps pin for this trail opening but the rough GPS coordinates that I found based on retracing my steps are 44.17897° N, 71.69476° W.
Artist Bluff Lookout Shortcut: 44.17897° N, 71.69476° W
Once you find this trail marker, the path to the lookout is relatively straightforward. Because of the incline, it’ll take about ~30 minutes to get to the viewpoint but you’ll want to spend at least an hour to savor the views of the notch.
⌛ TIME SPENT: 1-2 hours
📍 ADDRESS: GPS Coordinates for Artist Bluff Lookout Shortcut
Artist Bluff’s Trail to Bald Mountain (skip if you’re not interested in hiking the full loop)
If you’re interested in a little more hiking that also includes stopping at the summit of Bald Mountain, then you may want to hike the full Artist Bluff Trail (also referred to as the Artists Bluff Trail). Going counter-clockwise, the trail starts at the upper parking lot off of Highway 18, takes you to the Artist Bluff Lookout point at about the halfway point (~0.75 miles in), and will peak at Bald Mountain before circling back down to the parking lot.
Note, you can also take the Bald Mountain Trail, which is the same loop going clockwise from the Artist’s Bluff Loop Trailhead. The round trip hike will take you to Bald Mountain first, then the Artist Bluff Lookout, and then back to the parking lot.
🚶🏻♀️Distance: 1.5 mi
⏰ Duration: <1 hour
🥵 Difficulty: Easy to Moderate (the trail is short but there are some rocky, steep sections in the beginning)
⛰️Elevation Gain: 436 ft
📍 Address: Artist’s Bluff Loop Trailhead
🥾 Hiking Route: AllTrails (go counter clockwise to get to the Artist Bluff viewpoint faster)
Tips for Hiking to the Artist Bluff Lookout
- 🍁 The best time of year to visit Artist Bluff lookout is during fall. Peak fall foliage for New Hampshire is almost always early to mid October, which you can confirm by referring to the New Hampshire Fall Foliage Tracker.
- ☀️ Golden hour is the best time of day. For gorgeous views and less crowds, you’ll want to get there around sunrise.
- 🥾 Be prepared with proper shoes and clothes, especially if you’re visiting during the fall. It’s likely that the ground may be wet from recent rain so you’ll want to make sure you have the right shoes to prevent any injuries on the rocky terrain.
- 🚀 Take the shortcut and don’t follow the AllTrails. You’ll still be able to enjoy the forest on your hike to the lookout while saving yourself unnecessary elevation gain (unless that’s what you want!).
- 🗺️ Plan your route ahead of time to minimize any confusion once you’re in the area.
Bonus! Explore Franconia Notch State Park at Flume Gorge
If you also want to see even more views of Franconia Notch State Park, consider visiting Flume Gorge. Located 10 minutes north of Artist Bluff, Flume Gorge is a natural gorge where a small brook is surrounded by towering granite walls that rise to 70-90 feet high. Centuries of erosion revealed the Conway granite and basalt dikes, which clash to create the deep valley that characterizes the gorge.
The Flume Trail is a 2-mile loop that will take you through the gorge. Along the way, you’ll come across a water basin (“The Pool), cascading streams and waterfalls, and the iconic Flume Covered Bridge. If you’re only visiting the park for a day, I’d recommend making a reservation to guarantee that you’ll be able to visit the gorge.
⌛ TIME SPENT: 1.5 hours
📍 ADDRESS: Flume Gorge Visitor Center
FAQs About Artist Bluff Lookout
If you take the shortcut near the Echo Lake Beach parking lot, the hike to the Artist Bluff viewpoint takes about 45-60 minutes. Most of that time will be spent on the steep climb up to the lookout, as the descent only takes about 15 minutes. If you want to do the full loop that goes up to Bald Mountain, the Artist Bluff Trail takes about 1.5 hours.
To access the shortest path to the Artist Bluff lookout, you’ll want to park at Echo Lake Beach. From there, you can find the trailhead marker for the Artist Bluff trail on the opposite side of highway 18 (GPS coordinates here).
The Artist Bluff Trail isn’t very long but there are parts of the trail that have steep inclines. If you find going uphill generally challenging or don’t have the proper shoes to navigate some of the rockier portions of the trail path, you may find this trail moderately difficult. If you’re in reasonable shape and are accustomed to hiking with moderate levels of elevation gain, you should be fine.
Unfortunately, you cannot drive directly to the Artist Bluff Lookout point. However, you can drive to the parking lot at Echo Lake Beach and take a short, 0.5 mile out-and-back trail to the lookout. Alternatively, you can drive up to the Artist’s Bluff trailhead to start the 1.5 mile loop trail that will take you to the Artist Bluff Lookout and Bald Mountain.
I 100% recommend trekking up to the Artist Bluff lookout, particularly if you’re visiting during the fall. The only reason I’d advise skipping a visit is if it’s raining heavily and you don’t have proper clothes or shoes.
Final Thoughts on Artist Bluff Lookout
With this guide, I hope you’ll be able to see for yourself why Artist Bluff Lookout is undoubtedly one of the best places in New Hampshire to get spectacular views of the White Mountain National Forest and Franconia Notch State Park.
When you get to the area, you can choose to take the short hike that’s easily accessible from the large parking area Echo Lake Beach. Or, you can park at the Artist Bluff trailhead and spend a bit more time on the main trail that will take you up to Bald Mountain.
Just remember that you do not need to follow AllTrails if you want the most direct path to and from the lookout. Only follow AllTrails if you want to start and/or complete either the Artist Bluff or the Bald Mountain loop trails.
No matter which path you’ll take, you’ll find breathtaking views of fall color that makes it super clear why New England is so popular during the autumn season.