The Franconia Ridge Loop; Mt Haystacks, Mt Lincoln, Mt Lafayette Hike
Mileage: 8.8 miles Directions 44.142182,-71.681457
Rise: 3800′ Facebook
Hike Time: 5 hours Weather
Significance: High Peaks, Waterfalls, Views THE FIRE TOWER PAGE
Here is some of what you need to know: When looking at the map I went counter clockwise, going up the Falling Water Trail and coming down the Old Bridal Trail. The most Direct route to the Lafayette summit is the Old Bridal Trail.
-The Franconia state park campground is within walking distance of the trail head.
-How much water? I drank 3 liters with temps in the 80’s. Water sources listed below.
-Bring sunscreen, their is no shade at the top.
2. Click on the flags for more information
3. Click on the pictures to make them large
From the parking area I took the Falling Water Trail (blue blazes) to get to the top. The first half mile is not terrible, but after that you are looking at a rise of about 2,700 ft over 2.5 miles. My rule of thumb is 1,000 ft of elevation gain over 1 mile is going to be tough. The good news is that you will see a couple of waterfalls on your way up. At about 1.5 miles you will cut into the woods and that will be your last chance to get water for awhile. After the falls it is one foot in front of the other until you reach the top.
Somewhere around 4600 ft in elevation the trees open up and I finally got to see what had been surrounding me the whole hike. The Kinsmans and Cannon mountains had been to my back and Lafayette was at my side. Their are signs to stay on the trail and they did a good job making a well defined path.
The first peak is the summit of Little Haystack at 4,760′. Here you get the first chance to take in the grandeur of the White Mountains. You are surrounded by mountains and Large tracts of wilderness. The Franconia Ridge/Appalachian trail runs the top of the ridge from the Haystack, across Lincoln, and then to Lafayette (1.5 miles). Everything is above treeline and relatively easy compared to the crazy climb up from the parking lot.
The Summit of Lafayette is the highest of the 3 peaks 5,249′. I found more of the same awesome views of Owls Head, Garfield, Cannon. The trail along the ridge is busy but due to the fame of this peak and the direct trail to here it had the most people parked on it. Many take the Old bridal trail directly to the top, 3.7 miles/3500′
From Lafayette I Took the Green Leaf/old Bridal Trail down to the car. This is a 3.7 mile/3500′ descent. I feel like coming down a steep mountain like this is just as hard on your body as it is going up.
The awesome part of this trail (other than the views) is the Green Leaf Hut(Lodging). Here is a great place to rest, refill your water (free), and buy some snacks (cash only). After the Hut the Blazes turn yellow; it is only about 2.5 miles/2 hours to the bottom.
What about Garfield?
My plan was to hike to Garfield and then return to the Old Bridal Path for my exit (Total hike 16 miles). From Lafayette you can see the dramatic drop and rise between the two mountains. I walked 1.3 miles towards Garfield and then turned around when I saw what was ahead; It looked as though I had not dropped any elevation and their was a long way to go. Going there would have been fine, but the thought of having to come back helped to change my mind. Here are the elevation changes as best as I can figure: After leaving Lafayette you will drop 1600 feet then climb up 700 feet to Garfield, then reverse the numbers for the return, it is about 8 miles round trip (do not forget to add the mileage and elevation changes from the rest of the hike ).
Side note: I was told their is water and a campground near the summit of Garfield.
This loop is easily one of the best hikes on the east coast. I could have spent a week hiking and playing in the Franconia Notch area. Be sure to save time for swimming, train, and gondola rides, all of which are near by. Let me know how your trip went and send some pics. Check out Nearby Frankenstein cliffs and Ripley Falls