New Hampshire: Franconia Ridge Loop – 13km

Finally, hiking day in the hiking Mecca of White Mountains, New Hampshire… the Franconia Ridge Loop.

Today’s loop takes in 5 water crossings, 3 mountains, 1 mountain hut, parts of the Appalachian Trail. Lots of great views. Oh, and lots of rock hopping.

Good Mrs and I haven’t found a name for this particular loop hike. Yes, Appalachian Trail but also Falling Waters Trail, Greenleaf Trail and Old Bridle Path. Let’s call it the Franconia Ridge Loop. The hike is in Franconia Notch State Park and it is a tough one. Some stats:

  • Falling Waters Trail climbs 2840 feet in 2 miles, I.e. almost 1 km climb over 3.2 km from the trailhead to Little Haystack Mountain.
  • Little Haystack Mountain to Mount Lincoln is another 240 feet up, 80 meters.
  • Mount Lincoln to Mount Lafayette is yet another 200 feet / 65 meters higher. Between the mountains, the trail is up and down crossing ridges.
  • Greenleaf Hut sits at 4,200 feet (2,200 feet above the car park)
  • Total loop around 9 miles.

The stats…

And the map…

The Forest Rangers advised doing this hike anti clockwise. Reason is that coming down the rockiest part, Falling Waters Trail, is not advised when tired. Anyway, you want the steepest part over and done with when you are still fresh in the morning.

Good Mrs and I were at the trailhead at 7.40am and there were already a dozen or so cars there. First off is hiking up the Falling Waters Trail.

Signs

Oh oh – 1/2 a mile into the trail and we hit our first water crossing. I made it across fine but Good Mrs was nervous about this. She also expected more crossings (yep, 4 more). We went our separate ways agreeing to meet by the car at 2pm.

Here, but not further

My first break next to one of several waterfalls. Redfaced as it had been all up, up, up…

Scenic break next to waterfall

There are essentially two parallel water streams here off Falling Waters Trail… Trail on left side…

Trail on water

Fifth and final water crossing.

Yet another one…

Majority of Falling Waters Trail path looked as follows.

Rock, rock, rock everybody

Suddenly, rare scenery of a more traditional forest hike.

Deep in the forest

Then I crossed the tree line, close to the top of Mount Little Haystack. Looking back from where I came. Yep, I climbed nearly 1,000 meters.

Off Mount Little Haystack

This picture is taken from the same spot as the previous pic. The ridge line and the next mountain you hike to, Mount Lincoln.

Off to Mount Lincoln

Top of the world on Mount Little Haystack. Conquered the first of today’s 3 mountains.

Top of Mount Little Haystack

Moving right along… on part of the Appalachian Trail.

Trail on ridges

Down there off Mount Little Haystack is the trailhead and parking. Some distance…

Long way up

The “narrow” ridge line where I just walked.

Ridge trail

Approaching Mount Lincoln…

Mount Lincoln

The Greenleaf Hut is visible down off Mount Lincoln, the second mountain “conquered”.

Top of Mount Lincoln

Surprised to see plenty of kids with dad or parents up here. They breed them tough in this environment.

Today’s tallest peak next, Mount Lafayette. All I need now is just to get there.

Mount Lafayette

Short distances and lots of elevation.

Signs on Mount Lafayette

Top of the world at Mount Lafeyette. Mind you, nearby Mount Washington is 1,000 feet higher again, but not for today.

Top of Mount Lafayette

Mount Lafayette at 5260 feet is definitely self portrait worthy…

Top of the world feeling

I noticed many French speaking people on the trail, likely from Quebec given proximity.

Suddenly a glider approached the top of Mount Lafayette. It came closer than below, but I missed that photo opportunity. Coming back…

Glider

The path towards Greenleaf Hut next – steep and rocky.

More rocks…

Between Greenleaf Hut and Mount Lafayette, looking back up

Down from Mount Lafayette

Arrived… time for lunch.

Welcome to Greenleaf Hut

Greenleaf Hut had a lovely setup. You could even purchase coffee in a mug for $1. What a hiking indulgence to have with my sandwiches.

Greenleaf Hut

My lunch view off Greenleaf Hut. View of lake with Mount Lafayette in the background. Superb.

My lunchtime view

Plenty of dogs around. During my lunch, a fight broke out between 2 dogs up the mountain. Sound transfers long distances in this environment.

After lunch, I headed down the Old Bridle Path from Greenleaf Hut towards trailhead and car park.

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) volunteers who staff the Greenleaf Hut still cart their supplies this way. Must be fit as. I saw several on the trail.

Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) volunteer

The lower part of the trail goes through lovely forest appearing older than it is (forests here are only about 100 years old due to extensive logging prior). You can still get some interesting tree formations in 100 years.

Interesting looking tree

After about 1.5 miles (2.5km) of climbing you start to get glimpses of views between trees, generally as the forest is thinning out and also there is more very large rock slabs are along the trail.

Below is the road that we arrived on, I93 aka Styles Bridges Highway (zoomed in).

I finished at 1.55pm just as Good Mrs estimated. She is good, better than me to estimate my own hike ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival).

One of my all time top 3 hikes. Challenging but satisfying. And the views…

 

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