The Franconia Range ~ 9.0 mile loop ~ Elevation gain to Mt Lafayette is 3,850′ ~ Estimated time is 7.0 hours to complete.
The Franconia Range boasts some of the highest peaks within the White Mountains…we will be traversing four of them on this day hike. Through northern hardwoods and yellow birch, red spruce, balsam fir and Canadian hemlock we will hike over the summits of Little Haystack (4,760′), Mt Lincoln (5,089′), Mt Truman (5,030′), and Mt Lafayette (5,260′), known as the Franconia Ridge.
Departing from the Lafayette Place parking area in Franconia Notch State Park, our hike begins and ends at the trailhead of the Falling Waters Trail. Crossing several brooks on rocks, as we ascend the south bank to Stairs Falls, we pass by some overhanging rocks (Sawtooth Ledges), cross smooth rock slabs, ascend past boulders to Swiftwater Falls, a beautiful 60′ cascade. Beyond, the trail continues on some switchbacks and along an old, gravelly logging road to the bottom of Cloudland Falls…looking up at the 80′ cascade, preparing for the final steep ascent to Franconia Ridge through boreal forest. Spruce and fir trees gradually become shorter, hinting that treeline is not far ahead. Falling Waters Trail ends at the Franconia Ridge Trail at the summit of Little Haystack Mountain. We have hiked 3.4 miles of this journey.
For the next 1.6 miles, The Franconia Ridge Trail, part of the Appalachian Trail, is above treeline with spectacular views in every direction. It is completely exposed to the elements…
With the use of cairns (piles of stones used to mark trails) as our guide, the trail is easy to follow. The trail takes us up and over Mount Lincoln, down a col between Mounts Lincoln and Lafayette, and finally up to the summit of Lafayette, which at 5,260 feet is the high point of this hike and 5.0 mile from the trailhead. Franconia Ridge Trail ends at the summit of Mount Lafayette, near the foundation of the old hotel that used to stand there.
From Mount Lafayette we descend to the west at a moderately steep grade, via the Greenleaf Trail making our way to the Greenleaf Hut, 1.1 miles from the summit. This Hut is an ideal place to take a break, enjoy the views, get some refreshments and use the restroom.
From Greenleaf Hut, we continue our descent on Old Bridle Path. At 7.4 miles into the hike (1.3 miles from Greenleaf Hut), the trail descends some stone steps. At about 8.1 miles, we approach the edge of the ravine of Walker Brook. The trail continues to descend and reaches the junction with Falling Waters Trail along Walker Brook at 8.8 miles. We will continue straight to our vehicles, 2.9 miles from Greenleaf Hut ,to complete our adventurous day of this 9.0 mile loop.
The Presidential Range ~ 6.6 miles round trip ~ Elevation gain is 2,750′ ~ Estimated time is 6.0 hours to complete.
The Presidential Range contain the highest peaks of the Whites. These mountains are named for several of the U.S. presidents, with the tallest being Mt Washington (6,288′), named for the first president. On this day hike we will climb Mt Eisenhower, named after Dwight D. Eisenhower our 34th president.
This out and back hike of 6.6 miles begins on the Edmands Path, a trail which J. Rayner Edmands, a popular trail builder, re-constructed from an existing route in the early part of the twentieth century. His style of trail building was to make the trail as easy on the hiker as possible, with well-graded pitches, carefully placed stones, and lots of switchbacks. The Edmands Path is one of the most gentle trails to a 4,000-footer in the White Mountains. This is not to say that it is a walk in the park. You need to ascend more than 2,700 feet, and the upper part of the trail in now rocky due to erosion.
The Edmands Path ends at Mount Eisenhower Loop at 2.9 miles. With a turn onto the loop we have a final 0.4 mile (300 feet), to the summit with incredible 360 degree views…on a clear day! We will then retrace our steps to return to the trailhead.