The White Mountains of New Hampshire in the United States is one of my favourite destinations for a mountain adventure. The White Mountains National Forest includes the mountain range that runs through New Hampshire and Maine. Hundreds of hikes are possible for all levels and different tastes. Hiking to Mount Lafayette’s summit via the Franconia Ridge Loop is one of the more famous hikes in the park.
About Franconia Ridge
The Franconia Ridge Loop Trail includes four different trails: the Falling Waters Trail, the Franconia Ridge Trail, the Greenleaf Trail and Old Bridal Path.
The loop takes hikers across three peaks: Mount Little Haystack, Mount Lincoln and the famous Mount Lafayette.
- distance: 13,5 kilometres
- elevation gain: 1100 meters
- altitude: 1600 meters
- estimated time: 6 hours
- Franconia Ridge Loop AllTrails map
The trailhead sits across the street from the Lafayette Campground. It is a 15-minute ride south of the charming town of Franconia. I suggest heading out early as the Lafayette Place East parking fills out fairly quickly, especially on nice summer days.
Also, the Franconia Notch State Park charges a visitor fee. You can find out more on the State Parks’ Website here.
Save it for later.
Hiking to Mount Lafayette’s summit is a full-day hike. Please make sure to have the necessary gear to stay safe, warm and hydrated on the trails. Hikers must consider the weather and their abilities when planning this hike.
For a full list of the hiking gear that I usually bring with me on a hike such as this one, check out Essential Hiking Gear.
On the Trail to Mount Lafayette Summit
Falling Waters Trail
From the parking, head out on the Falling Waters Trail, which runs along a stream for several kilometres. The trail is aptly named since it allows you to admire the falls throughout the ascent.
A short detour also takes you to Shining Rock, a shiny, wet rock face reflecting the sunlight. The views from the side of this rock wall are amazing.
You will reach the first peak, Little Haystack, after five kilometres of hiking and scrambling among rocks and scree. The intersection for the Franconia Ridge Trail is at the top of Little Haystack. The views of the surroundings are splendid.
Franconia Ridge Trail
This trail follows the Franconia ridge for the next two kilometres to reach the Lincoln summit and the top of Mount Lafayette. The surrounding mountains are visible through the clouds on each side of the treeless ridge for the whole two kilometres.
The wind might also be fierce since the whole length of the ridge is above the treeline. For this reason, you have to make sure you dress accordingly and bring along layers you can add once at the top.
The summit of Mount Lafayette stands just over seven kilometres from the start at 1600 meters high and is usually rather busy. Hikers will take advantage of beautiful days from spring to fall. Some will also hike in the wintertime.
I understand the reason for the popularity of this summit, considering the 360-degree views are breathtaking. Each side offers a magical scene above the clouds.
From Mount Lafayette summit, you will head down on the Greenleaf Trail to the Greenleaf Hut. The descent is quick through the rocks strewn on the trail. It is a steep scramble down.
Some hikers will take a break at the hut and spend time around Eagle Lake. Note that the hut is closed during the winter months.
The Old Bridal Path
The Greenleaf Hut marks the intersection of the Old Bridal Path Trail. This trail continues down to bring hikers back to the Lafayette Place East parking.
You will head back into the forest to hike along the wooded trail. On the way, you will come upon an area that serves as a makeshift rest area for hikers where the whole Franconia Ridge is visible above allowing you to retrace the route from one peak to the next. It is quite impressive to realize how far you have travelled on the loop.
Hiking in the White Mountains offers amazing scenery and a good challenge. If you appreciated this hike on Mount Lafayette, you would certainly enjoy conquering Mount Washington.
For another challenge in the northeastern part of the United States, you might want to look into spending some time in the Adirondacks. They are a wonder for hikers during all seasons. Read about my hiking weekend in Keene Valley, the heart of the Adirondacks.