Hiking Franconia Ridge
Franconia Ridge was one of my first big hikes in New Hampshire and it continues to be one of my favorites. Fittingly, it was recently in Backpacker Magazine as one of the top ridge hikes in the country. On a clear day you can see across Vermont and into New York. On a stormy day the ridge walk is can be like standing outside in a hurricane.
Towering above Franconia Notch State Park, Franconia Ridge is made up of three mountains, Little Haystack, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Lafayette. Coming in at 5,260 feet Lafayette is the tallest of the three on the Ridge and the 6th highest mountain in the state. Most people hike the Ridge as a day trip doing the Franconia Ridge Loop. Doing the loop will take you over a distance of 8.9 miles and you will gain 3,900 feet in elevation.
All of that climbing up is well worth it. Once above treeline you will spend another 2.5 miles of hiking with unobstructed views. On a nice weekend day expect there to be large crowds taking advantage of the weather. When the weather is forecasted to be not so nice you will want to give the hike a second thought. Franconia Ridge has been known to take the brunt of storms coming from the west. This means frequent lightning strikes and strong winds.
Many people prefer to do the loop by going up the Old Bridle Path to Lafayette first. This way they do all of the up hill at once. From the top of Lafayette it is mostly downhill. I like to take Falling Waters Trail up and walk north along the Ridge. This way on the way back down when it is open I can stop in at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Greenleaf Hut for a water refill and to buy a Snickers Bar. Falling Waters is also better to ascend in the winter because it is steep and slippery with frozen water falls.