A Quest for Summits – Franconia Ridge, White Mountains, NH

I have quite a few weekend trips planned in the very near future, so I need to stay on top of telling you all about them! The most recent was a day trip up to the Whites to hike part of the Franconia Ridge, one of the most popular hikes in the White Mountains. Mike and I had absolutely perfect weather for the hike – low-70s at the trailhead and about mid-50s on the ridge, with minimal winds. It was great picture taking weather!

Trailhead sign – someone forgot their walking stick, and two people forgot their glasses…

The classic Franconia Ridge hike encompasses three “peaks” – Little Haystack (4,760 ft), Mount Lincoln (5,089 ft), and Mount Lafayette (5,260 ft). I put “peaks” in quotations because one of them isn’t actually considered a stand-alone peak. In the White Mountains a peak needs to rise at least 200 feet above a ridge it shares with other mountains. Therefore, the first “peak” we hit on our hike, Little Haystack, is actually considered a subpeak of Mount Lincoln (rising only 25 feet above the low point on the ridge). That would explain why Little Haystack is not on the Appalachian Mountain Club’s 4,000-footer list. So only two of the three peaks we bagged today (all of which were over 4,000 feet) count towards the list! I’m going to write a letter. Getting to Little Haystack was hard work! Just kidding, I don’t actually care that much.

The view from Little Haystack

We took the popular route of the Falling Waters trail up to Little Haystack, where we followed the Franconia Ridge Trail along to Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette. Then we took the Greenleaf Path to the Old Bridle Path, which led us down to where we started for one big 8.9 mile loop. There is approximately 3,850 feet of elevation gain on this hike – so we had to work for our views!

The Falling Waters trail is where most of the elevation is gained (read: very steep!). It is much easier to go up this trail than down it, especially because it can get pretty wet. Wet rocks = slippery rocks! This trail follows the Dry Brook for a ways and you need to cross that brook quite a few times. Luckily (or not) the brook’s water level was very low during our hike, which probably has to do with the drought that New England (and many other places) is in. After a little over a mile we reached Cloudland Falls. We stopped for a few minutes to admire the 80-foot cascade and have someone take our picture before moving on up the trail.

Cloudland Falls

After the grueling 3 miles of Falling Waters trail, we reached the top of Little Haystack. We paused long enough to take a selfie and eat some jerky before continuing along the ridge to Mount Lincoln.

The walk along the ridge was a lot of fun because we had such great weather. It was barely windy up on the ridge, which is very unusual for the area. The sky was clear and we could see for miles. I decided to keep my camera out for the whole way along the ridge. Mike kept getting annoyed at me for asking him to repeatedly take it out and put it back in my pack.

Looking back to Little Haystack

It was a bit windier at the top of Mount Lincoln. We stopped here briefly for another picture before heading to Mount Lafayette.

At the top of Mount Lincoln

At this point, we were highly motivated to get to Lafayette because we had decided earlier that this would be our lunch spot! But I still couldn’t resist stopping to take pictures along the way because it was just so beautiful!



We stopped for a quick bite at the top of Lafayette. This peak was significantly windier and a bit chilly, so we put on our sweatshirts and huddled in the old foundation of what was once a hiker hut and stables for horses (yes horses, hence “old bridle path”).

The crowded summit of Lafayette
Saving my hat from blowing away!

The hike down the Greenleaf Trail was super rocky and steep, but the views were still incredible!

The fragile alpine zone plant life
View of Mt. Lincoln from the Greenleaf Trail
View of the ridge from the Old Bridle Path

I was hoping to see some foliage on this hike, but it was still a bit too early for it. We did see a few trees that were beginning to change colors. Hopefully when we return in a few weeks we’ll see a bit more color. But I really shouldn’t complain because it was such a beautiful day for a hike! Time to find another mountain to climb!

Happy Hiking and Happy Adventures!




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