Mike, Scott, & I had decided to head up to New Hampshire to squeeze in some hiking. So, on the morning of Tuesday, June 12th, we got started heading up to the Whites without having decided where we were going to hike exactly. After some discussion, we had narrowed it down to either Franconia Ridge or Moosilauke. Partly because they know I am working on the various lists, and partly because the weather was supposed to be great during the morning, we decided to hit up Franconia Ridge. Scott & Mike had done this hike previously, but had never had good weather on the ridge. They were hoping for a different outcome. I had not read much about this actual hike, only had the views of the ridge (from across the notch) on my last hike fresh on my mind.
After parking at the Lafayette Campground hikers lot, we got onto the trail at 10:00am. We started up the Bridle Path to the junction of the Falling Waters Trail. Crossing the bridge onto Falling Waters, I quickly realized how readily available I wanted my camera to be.
As the name implies, the trail follows, and crosses a couple of different brooks with waterfalls that increase in size the higher up the trail you go. It really is a beautiful trail. The first mile, mile and a half, seem to meander through the woods slowly gaining elevation. It then begins a steep climb just before the largest of the waterfalls reveal itself. Cloudland Falls is an 80 foot tall waterfall that was quite stunning.
The steep climb continues over the next mile or so towards the summit of Little Haystack. At about 2.8 miles, we took the .1 mile spur path to the Shining Rock overlook. Shining Rock has a consistent flow of water seeping down it. From the floor of the Notch, it glistens in the sun earning its name. Unfortunately, the overlook wasn’t much of one on this day, as it was quite hazy at that time.
Back up the trail we pushed. My heart was definitely pounding as we ascended the last quarter of a mile up to the summit. As the trees began to thin out and get smaller, my desire to reach the summit and, finally, stand on the Franconia Ridge only intensified. Also, I was freaking starving and couldn’t wait to dig into a PB&J wrap!
Even as hazy as it was, standing on the 4,760 foot summit of Little Haystack, it was readily apparent to me why Franconia Ridge is revered as one of the best stretches in all the 2,184 miles of the Appalachian Trail. With 360˙ views, and the trail now above tree line, it is just a spectacular sight. To the west, looking at the granite cliffs of Cannon & along the ridge to the Kinsmans, with Moosilauke hulking in the distance, I was able to reflect on previous hikes. Looking to the east, overlooking Owls’s head, and off to the Bonds, and the south towards Liberty & Flume, I was dreaming of future hikes. And to the north, miles of trail along the knife’s edge up to Lincoln and Lafayette were waiting to be imminently tackled.
The next 1.7 miles were a nice easy jaunt, up and over Lincoln, and on up to Lafayette. We paused up on Lafayette to don our Warrior Helmets earned a couple days prior at Warrior Dash. It’s funny to me that people looked at us, but no one dared questioned why we were wearing such ridiculous garb. We enjoyed the summit for a bit, taking in the views and enjoying the highest peak of the day (5,260′).
On the way up, I had been setting the pace for the majority. Beginning the descent, I was going much slower. I think I was making sure I wasn’t feeling anything in my knees on the rough terrain coming off the peak of Lafayette on the Greenleaf Trail. Anyway, I caught back up with the guys just before the Greenleaf Hut. We stopped here for a bit to use the facilities and grab a bit more water. It was only my second time in a hut, having stopped at Lonesome Lake on my last hike. Scott & Mike were extolling on the pleasantness of staying in one, and despite my desire to “tent it,” I’m certain that I will give a hut a try someday.
After leaving the hut, I felt like my legs were back and was able to continue on my normal pace for the last 3 miles or so, on the Bridle Path, back to the car. It was a fairly easy 3 mile descent, with some great views looking back on the hike we had just conquered.
- Date: 6/12/12
- Elevation: Little Haystack – 4760′, Mount Lincoln – 5089′, Mount Lafayette – 5260′
- Elev Gain: I’ll have to, once again, go back and calculate the total elevation, but from Lafayette Campground to the summit of Mount Lafayette: ~3560
- Mileage: ~9
- Trails: Up: Bridle Path -> Falling Waters -> Franconia Ridge Trail -> Greenleaf Trail -> Bridle Path
- Time: about 6 hours.
- NH 48 Peaks #6 (Lincoln) & #7 (Lafayette)