• Maria

A Hike Up the Franconia Ridge

If you've ever gone hiking in the White Mountains, or ever even thought about going hiking in the White Mountains, the one trail that is sure to catch your eye is the famous Franconia Ridge.

Featured in National Geographic's "These 10 Hiking Trails Will Blow Your Mind", the Franconia Ridge is showcased as one of the most beautiful hikes in not only the White Mountains, but in the world. Hitting the stunning peaks of Mount Little Haystack, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Lafayette, this hike offers 360 degree, breathtaking views of the White Mountains from 4,000+ feet up.

Adventurers from around the world travel far and wide to hike this 8.6 mile route, but lucky for us, we're just a quick 5-10 minute commute to the trailhead. I hiked this trail for the second time last weekend and just like the hike before, it was absolutely stunning.

  • 8.6 mile loop

  • 7.5 hours

  • Hard

  • Falling Waters Trail to Old Bridle Path, but you can go either way

  • The Lafayette Place Parking lot (trailhead) is located in the Franconia Notch, across from the Lafayette Place Campground

  • Backpack

  • Windbreaker - preferably with a hood

  • Sweatshirt or long sleeve shirt

  • Hiking boots

  • Hiking socks

  • Food - snacks and a meal (like a sandwich)

  • Water - lots of it

  • First aid supplies

  • Sunscreen

  • Tissues

  • Hand sanitizer

These are some pretty basic essentials I'll usually bring hiking, but make sure to only pack what you absolutely need. There's nothing worse than a heavy backpack weighing you down while trying to climb a mountain.

Lafayette Place Trailhead | 8:15 am

The trailhead to the Franconia Ridge is located at the Lafayette Place Parking Lot. Because this is a pretty popular trail, the earlier you arrive to the trailhead, the better. Parking might not cross your mind when planning a day trip in the wilderness, but when I arrived around 8:15 am (which was early for me), I got one of the last spots.

There is usually a shuttle to the overflow parking lot at Cannon Mountain, but due to COVID-19, the shuttle is not running this season. The state has also become increasingly more strict about hikers parking on the side of the road in the Notch, so make sure you plan accordingly!

Falling Waters Trail | 2.8 miles to Little Haystack | 8:30 am

After parking my car and getting things ready, my journey began on the Falling Waters Trail around 8:30 am.

This trail is not very hard at first. It has a gradual incline that follows a river and leads to some really pretty waterfalls along the way. There are some tricky parts of the trail that are steep and/or a little wet, but nothing unmanageable.

Falling Waters Trail
Final Stretch of the Falling Waters Trail

As you continue on the trail though, it does becomes increasingly more difficult. Once you begin the final stretch and start approaching the peak of Little Haystack, expect big steps, large rocks, and a very steep, but rewarding ending.

The nice thing about this trail is that although it is difficult, you're below the tree line pretty much the entire way. So even if it's 89 degrees and sunny on your way up, you'll be hiking in the shade the whole time.

Peak of Mount Little Haystack | 4,760 feet | 11 am

After about 2.5 hours of hiking, I cannot explain how satisfying it was to finally reach the peak Mount Little Haystack. The 360 degree views from up there are just gorgeous and will keep you wanting more as you begin the traverse over to Mount Lincoln.

Franconia Ridge
Trail from Little Haystack to Lincoln

But before you begin traversing, think about applying some sunscreen or putting on a long sleeve shirt. You're in direct sunlight from now until you start your descent, so you're skin may be vulnerable to the suns powerful rays.

Honestly, it didn't even cross my mind that I would need any sun protection on this hike and I got a nice sunburn because of that. So don't be like me, make sure you protect yourself!

Peak of Mount Lincoln | 5,089 feet | 11:45 am
View from Mount Lincoln looking back at Mount Little Haystack

The hike from Mount Little Haystack to Mount Lincoln is a little deceiving. Just looking from one peak to the next, the trail seems pretty flat and the peaks don't look that far away from each other. When you're actually on the trail though, it's a long and steady, up and down hike for about 30+ minutes.

In the photo above, the two peaks to the left of Mount Little Haystack are Mount Flume and Mount Liberty, respectively. If you're up for an even greater challenge, you could add those two as part of your hike. Start at Mount Flume and traverse all the way over to Mount Lafayette, hitting five peaks along the way! Just keep in mind the trails begin and end in different locations.

Peak of Mount Lafayette | 5,250 feet | 12:30 pm
Mount Lafayette
If you look very closely, you can see the Indian Head!

After another 30 minutes of literal ups and downs, I finally made it to the last peak, Mount Lafayette. As beautiful as the views were, and as tired as I was from all the walking, I didn't stay too long before continuing down the Old Bridle Path.

For some reason, there were swarms of bugs flying all around and although I love being outside and enjoying nature, I try to avoid bugs at all cost. Something I'm sure many people can relate to.

Overall, traversing the 1.7 miles from Mount Little Haystack to Mount Lafayette took about 45 minutes between each peak, even with a break at each one.

Old Bridle Path | 3.8 miles to trailhead | 12:45 pm

The Old Bridle Path is just beautiful. Being above the tree line the majority of the way down, you're face to face with views of the entire White Mountains region. There are also plenty of look out points to stop at enjoy the beautiful views. Just be careful as you descend, this path is steep and the views are distracting, so keep an eye on your footing!

If you look closely at the photo above, you can see the AMC Greenleaf Hut in the distance. Although this hut wasn't open for overnight stays or indoor dining, it was still open for snacks, bathrooms, and water refills. Be sure to check the AMC website for their latest updates if you want more information on their huts this season.

Lafayette Place Trailhead | 4 pm

Finally after a long, 7.5 hour day, my hike along the Franconia Ridge was finished.

Overall, this is an awesome hike. Although it's long, it's worth it and will certainly be a journey you will never forget. The next time you are looking for an all-day hike in the area, give the ridge a try, you won't be disappointed!


Have you hiked the Franconia Ridge before? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!

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