The Franconia Ridge Loop hike is perfect in all seasons, the views are unreal and you should do it immediately. That was the shortest trip report ever; oh you want more convincing? Well ok then!
The Franconia Ridge loop will get you to the top of two 4,000-foot peaks, Mount Lincoln (5,089 ft. and Lafayette (5,260 ft.), in 8.9 miles. Along the way you will climb around 4,000 feet and spend 2.5 miles hiking above tree line while your eyes are treated to some of the best views available in New England or anywhere else for that matter. If this doesn’t have you rushing for the trailhead then maybe the waterfalls along the aptly named Falling Waters trail might be more your thing. The bow on this perfect alpine present is that all of this sits right off I-93 so it is an amazing and convenient experience.
We picked this as our first winter hike of the season and we planned to go up the Falling Waters Trail across Mount Lincoln and Lafayette to the Greenleaf Trail, to the Old Bridle Path and back to the parking lot.
A few inches of snow had fallen the night before and forecasts above tree line called for 20 mph wind gusts with temps topping out in the single digits so we packed plenty of warm gear and began climbing. There was plenty of snow, which was a pleasant surprise since winter has not yet been very kind to southern New England where we came from.
The Falling Waters Trail delights you with waterfalls peaking through the snow, which makes you forget the increasing incline.
Eventually the ascent gets steeper and icy; anyone with micro spikes was happy to put them on here. Once the climbing starts it does not stop. The pitch got steeper and the trail began switch backing as trees got thinner and thinner.
It seemed like tree line would be around the next corner or the next or the next but the climb kept going.
On this trail when you emerge from the trees, onto Little Haystack, it is obvious and completely breathtaking!
From here the hike is a 2.5 mile ridge traverse that goes over Mount Lincoln and Lafayette with views of Mount Cannon to the left, Owl’s Head to the right and even the Presidential Range off in the distance. If it gets better than this then I almost don’t want to know about it.
The temperature was a little brisk with sharp gusts of wind but it was nothing that goggles, a facemask and a good shell jacket couldn’t handle. Bundling up was a small price to pay to take in this kind of scenery.
Then 2.5-mile traverse seemed to go by in minutes as we found ourselves following the cairns to the Greenleaf Hut which we could see as a speck in the distance that got bigger with each step towards it.
In what seemed like the blink of an eye we found ourselves back in the trees, looking back at the ridge we traversed and heading back to the cars. The descent via the Old Bridle Path was gentle and less scenic than the Falling Waters Trail but we felt content since we got the epic experience we came for.
The Franconia Ridge Loop is the ultimate White Mountains day hike. If you can deal with the mileage, the climbing and the weather then this should be on your must hike list.