Hiking Mount Lafayette, Franconia Ridge Trail Loop In New Hampshire: The Ultimate Guide
Are you planning to hike Mount Lafayette in New Hampshire? This complete guide to Franconia Ridge Loop Trail will tell you everything you need to know!
The hiking trails in New England don’t get as much attention as those on the West Coast, but they can be really incredible. The Franconia Ridge Loop is one of the most popular. It is a challenging hike that takes you up three of the state’s famous 4,000-foot peaks, Mount Lafayette included!
This is a must-take path for a variety of reasons. The first is how easy it is to get to the trail, making it one of the most popular NH hikes. Plus, the hike includes a loop (thus why it’s called Franconia Ridge Loop). No need to plan for a pick-up, leave a vehicle at the end of the route, or hike back because the trail begins and ends in the same parking lot.
And of course, the views are incredible! When you take the Franconia Ridge Loop, you get to hike up three mountains in one day and see a lot of New Hampshire’s beauty.
Of course, the trail’s countless waterfalls are a big draw. The scenery is a photographer’s dream, and anyone who sees it will want to capture it forever.
In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about hiking Mount Lafayette, including the Franconia Ridge Trailhead. Let’s jump in!
Overview of Mount Lafayette Hike
The Franconia Ridge Loop trek takes hikers over White Mountain National Forest to the summits of three 4,000+ footers: Mount Lafayette, Little Haystack, and Mount Lincoln. It is not for someone with a faint heart.
You’ll cross a few beautiful waterfalls, several rocky, steep slopes, and the Greenleaf Hut, a simple shelter for overnight hikers.
Check out any changes in the weather before you go out because you are vulnerable on the alpine ridgeline for about a mile and a half. As a result, the weather can be severe and change quickly, which is very risky.
On the other hand, the White Mountains offer some of the loveliest views in the region of New Hampshire on days with little to no fog and clear skies.
This is one of the most popular day hike loops in New Hampshire for a reason. Peakbaggers can climb two 4,000-foot peaks in a matter of short distances, and it offers gorgeous vistas along the ridge.
For those who want to see a sunset or sunrise on the ridge summit, the loop offers camping possibilities close to both ends, making it a perfect overnight alternative.
This 8.5-mile circle trail offers breathtaking views. You must overcome approximately 3,700 feet of significant elevation to reach the summit. The Mount Lafayette hike will last anywhere from 6 to 8 hours depending on your pace.
You can also perform the loop in an extended version. With this route, you will traverse all of the significant peaks in the Franconia Range. But you need to be seriously in shape for this option! You’ll be in for a long day if you want to complete this “loop” with the Flume and Liberty out and back part, but it also makes for a fantastic overnight walk. The journey will cover 15.3 miles in total.
Mount Lafayette Trailhead and Parking
Route 93 North and South, which travels between Kinsman and Franconia Range mountain passes, provides easy access to the entire Franconia Notch State Park, including the Franconia Ridge Loop Trail.
It’s a beautiful drive to the trailhead no matter where you’re coming from, with mountain ranges bordering you on each side.
Pull into the Lafayette Place parking lot and walk east down the road to find a posted trailhead to begin your hike. Many vehicles and hikers are likely to be on this busy trail, so you won’t be able to overlook it. Don’t worry about getting lost!
The Old Bridle Path has a designated parking lot in case the area is already jam-packed. It’s also trendy on the weekends. Highway 93 has an extra two-mile stretch each way for additional overflow parking.
Best Time To Hike Mount Lafayette
The most significant time to trek the Franconia Ridge Loop is from late May to September, although you can do it anytime.
During these months, you can anticipate higher temperatures and more clear skies. To avoid the crowds, plan to visit during the weekdays.
And make sure to start early in the day! Since the trek would take at least six hours, you don’t want to run the danger of running out of light.
Conditions can shift rapidly and dramatically due to the region’s reliance on the weather. Before leaving the house, ensure you are ready for any weather. We suggest bringing a backpack with water, a raincoat, and a sweatshirt since the White Mountains have a unique weather pattern.
Things To Consider Before Hiking Mount Lafayette
Even though the Franconia Ridge Loop trail is well-marked and straightforward to follow, there are some things to consider before going to Mount Lafayette. Here are some of them:
First-timers and inexperienced hikers should not attempt this hike. It’s not a good idea for families with young children or novice hikers to embark on this trek. This trail is challenging because of many stream crossings, steep hills, and icy sections. Artist Bluff & Bald Mountain is an excellent option for those searching for an easy White Mountains trek with stunning views.
The Franconia Ridge Loop is best to hike counter-clockwise. While you can walk the loop in any direction of your choice, going up the Falling Waters and back to the Old Bridle Path is the path of least resistance. The Falling Waters trail is strenuous in descent due to its muddy and slippery sections, so to avoid accidents, better hike it on the way up. We recommend it to anyone planning this hike.
When the skies are clear, you’ll have an easier and more pleasant hike. On rainy or overcast days, the peaks you’ll be traversing will likely come with fog. As a result, you will have oversight of the breathtaking scenery on the Franconia Ridge Loop. Keep an eye on the weather and schedule your hike for a day that appears to be sunny and clear if you have the opportunity. These precautions will help ensure a safe and enjoyable White Mountains hike.
Hiking Mount Lafayette Via Franconia Ridge Trail
Are you ready to finally hit the trail? Here is what it will look like when you hike Mount Lafayette through Franconia Ridge Trail!
The trailhead is marked as the “Old Bridle Path” parking lot and can be found on the right side of Interstate 93, heading north. This is where you’ll start.
There is a bifurcation in the route immediately after starting the hike, which leads either the Old Bridle Path to the left or the Falling Waters Trail to the right. We’ll take the Falling Waters Trail on the right in this journey.
Falling Waters Trail
As you ascend the Falling Waters route, you’ll come upon several waterfalls running practically alongside the path for several miles. You’d better get your cameras set because there are a lot of waterfalls here that are photogenic.
You’ll have to cross at least five streams during the first ascent to keep on track. A sturdy pair of waterproof boots and some creative footwork over the rocks are all you need to avoid having your feet wet on these hikes!
The Falling Waters trek begins gently, but as the mountainside steepens, it swiftly gains momentum. When climbing, you’ll be following blue blazes, so keep your eyes peeled for them to find the quickest routes up.
Once you’ve hiked the waterfalls for about 1.5 miles, you’ll enter the forest and follow a dirt and rock trail to the summit. After eight switchbacks, the ascent is steep until you reach the first summit.
A 0.1-mile detour to Shining Rock is also an option, although it’s unnecessary. With a little extra effort, you can mark your way uphill until you reach a rocky section that indicates you’re getting close to the summit.
The first peak, Little Haystack, will reach approximately 3 miles up! The views from the top of the mountain are breathtaking. Have a snack and some downtime as you take in the stunning views of Mount Lincoln and the Franconia Ridge as you gaze up at the White Mountains.
Continue up to Mount Lincoln, the second highest point on your journey. Mount Lincoln, which you can observe from Little Haystack, is the one that obscured your view of Mount Lafayette, the final and third summit.
As you approach the peak on your left, the blazes will turn white instead of blue, so keep an eye out for them.
Protect yourself from the sun here since you won’t have a lot of cover.
Although the terrain is rough and steep, there isn’t a lot of scrambling required in this location. Throughout your journey, you’ll see breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. There’s a lot of wind around here! There’s no denying that a nice raincoat or windbreaker would be helpful.
You’ll see Mount Lafayette’s summit as you reach Mount Lincoln’s top. Before completing the final push through the meadow and up Mount Lafayette, take a quick pit stop and refuel.
Mount Lafayette’s vistas are the most impressive among the three peaks, so spend the most time on it if you can.
The entire ridge stretch of the route is less than 2 miles long, and it’s breathtaking from start to finish. It will take 1.5 hours to climb the ridge, including 20-30 minutes of rest.
Take in all the scenery and take a break because afterward, you’ll need to be ready for the steep ascent.
The last section of the Franconia Ridge Loop path returns to the parking lot via Old Bridle Path. Greenleaf Hut, a backpacker’s lodge located a little over a mile from the summit, is the first stop on the itinerary. From the ridge, you can see it, so it’s not that far away.
To descend Mount Lafayette, do not follow the ridge trail in the same way as the descending path. If you want to get back into the parking lot, don’t do it that way. Go to the rock piles and turn left to get to Greenleaf Hut instead.
If it’s been raining recently, expect a muddy hike. There’s a risk of tripping! You can also stop by Greenleaf Hut for a short break if you’d like. For the final three miles to the parking lot, stop at this point for some free drinking water and then continue on your way.
Old Bridle Path
There are a few steep, rocky sections of the Old Bridle Path, but most of the trail is moderate. These are the portions of the path that will require the most handwork.
If you pack trekking poles, you’ll be glad you did. Because of the hike’s length, your legs will likely be tired, so go slowly and carefully.
Shrubs, wild sedges, and alpine cranberries are just some of the plants you’ll find in this portion of Northern New England.
A rock staircase will lead you to a junction with the Falling Waters Trail, from which you can return to the trailhead.
What To Bring to the Mount Lafayette Hike
These are the things you should carry with you to have good times when you embark on this challenging Mount Lafayette hike:
Hiking Clothes: Reliant on the time of year you’re trekking, you’ll need appropriate clothing. Wear a sweat-wicking shirt and breathable slacks in the summer to keep cool. Wear layers, a jacket, and trekking socks in the winter.
Hiking Poles: You won’t use these on every hike, but keeping some in your car for emergencies is a good idea. If you’re planning on trekking up Mount Lafayette, consider bringing a lightweight, robust hiking pole to make the ascent go more smoothly. This hike is on the difficult side!
Water and Food: A constant clean drinking water is vital. We encourage carrying your reusable water bottle to reduce the amount of disposable plastic used. Don’t forget to pack some food if you get hungry while hiking.
Bug Sprays, Brimmed Hat, and Sunscreen: Hiking is notorious for causing sunburns and bug bites, two of the most aggravating side effects. To avoid these, you should use sweatproof sunblock and bug spray. Also, if you’re planning a day hike in the sun, carry a brimmed hat or cap.
First Aid: Since it is a long hike to the summit, everything is possible, and it’s better to be cautious than sorry. Bring a first aid kit with you or an emergency blanket.
Durable Backpack: Everything you’ll need for a day on the trail will fit perfectly in a tough day pack. For extended day hikes, we recommend a backpack that is both comfortable and breathable.
Where To Stay When You Hike Mount Lafayette
Hiking Mount Lafayette through Franconia Ridge Trail Loop only lasts 6 to 8 hours, which is suitable for a day hike. But, if you want to include it in your adventure in the White Mountains and other surrounding areas, it is great to have a shelter to prepare for coming activities.
Here are the closest yet incredible lodging options for you when you hike Franconia Ridge Trail Loop!
See why Parkers Motel is the guest house of choice for so many visitors to the area.
With a family-friendly atmosphere and a wide range of services for visitors like you, this motel is an excellent value.
Parkers Motel’s rooms come equipped with a flat-screen TV, conditioning systems, and a refrigerator, all of which are complimentary to visitors.
Take advantage of the outdoor furniture and picnic area while you’re here. Visitors to Parkers Hotel can also reap the hotel’s on-site pool and grilling area benefits. Parking is free for those arriving by vehicle.
Some of the area’s most prominent attractions, including the Pemigewasset River and Loon Mountain Ministries, are nearby. The Parkers Motel is an excellent site for travelers.
Also, Parkers Motel is just a short distance from Aloto Gelato and Fresolone’s Pizza, Pasta & Sub. Guests of Parkers Hotel can quickly achieve the nearby tourist attraction of Georgiana Falls, which is an excellent place to kill some time while in the area.
The trailhead at the Lafayette Place Campground is just a short drive away. It is excellent as a stop before doing your long hike in the mountain!
We’re confident that your stay at Parkers Motel will be memorable, as you take advantage of all the area offers.
StonyBrook Motel & Lodge
With its proximity to Franconia Notch State Park and the picturesque village of Franconia, Stonybrook is ideal for exploring the area’s many sights and activities.
New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Lake Region are never more than 45 minutes away from Stonybrook.
It has eight acres of beautiful grounds available to its visitors, all of which are yours to enjoy.
If you choose to relax by the bubbling Gale River, take a dip in The Pond, or enjoy a Personal Barbeque, you’ll have a wonderful time at the site!
Enjoy the lodge’s interior Open Hearth Fireplace, lawn sports activities, and more; you have complete freedom to design your time here precisely how you want it for as long as your vacation permits!
Extensive vacation stays for individuals, couples, and families are welcomed and accommodated through Custom Packages, which you can request in advance.
StonyBrook is an excellent stop for meals to fuel up before or after the long loop towards Mount Lafayette’s peak. It serves breakfast and is close to several other restaurants.
StonyBrook is a terrific place to stay when hiking trails and engaging in other recreational pursuits!
Best Western White Mountain Inn
Keep this Franconia motel in mind when planning a walk up Mt. Lafayette or any other outdoor activity.
The White Mountain Inn, a Best Western property, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Located in Franconia, New Hampshire, this hotel prides itself on providing the most exemplary customer support and amenities at a reasonable cost.
You’ll be just minutes away from three popular ski resorts at this Franconia hotel: Cannon Mountain, Loon, and Wildcat Mountain. Several other neighboring recreational activities include hiking and biking.
Franconia’s most popular attractions are the Mount Washington Auto Road, the Mt. Washington Cog Railway, and Santa’s Village.
High-speed Internet connection and cable television are available in each hotel’s Franconia, New Hampshire hotel rooms.
A complimentary breakfast is available each morning in the hotel’s non-smoking lobby. Plus, this New Hampshire inn offers additional amenities besides an indoor swimming area and a fitness facility. The hotel’s business center will be a big help to business travelers.
Reserve a room at the Best Western White Mountain Inn in Franconia, New Hampshire, for exemplary service and a convenient location!
For reservations, either uses a credit card by the confirmed guest staying in the accommodation or fill out an authorization form before the person arrives. Get in touch with the property and arrange for them to obtain the authorization paperwork.
Also, pets are only allowed in specific rooms labeled as such. Pets are welcome here, so don’t hesitate if you’re planning a trip to the top of Mount Lafayette.
This quaint New Hampshire motel is in Franconia, New Hampshire, on the banks of the serene Gale River. Nearby, you’ll find all the natural and man-built wonders that have established this part of the world as a popular vacation destination for over a century.
Two minutes from town and only two miles from Franconia Notch State Park, Hillwinds Lodge is well situated to provide guests with quick and straightforward access to a wide range of recreational opportunities.
Everything from hiking and bicycling to swimming and fishing is just a short walk away. Mount Lafayette’s trailhead is only a short drive away, as well.
Each of the guest rooms in this hotel is large and brightly lit. You can choose between a view of the river or the pool and gardens from the hotel’s 30 rooms spread across two floors.
Double occupancy rates can range from $79 to $149 + tax, depending on the season and hotel type. As a first responder or a senior citizen, you could be eligible for exceptional savings. Stays of four or more nights are eligible for reduced rates.
Appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, and coffee makers are all available to you. Also, you can set each room to a different temperature depending on the season. High-speed internet and cable TV come standard.
It’s a pet-friendly motel! Taking your puppy on a hike can be even more fun when you have this option. Breakfast is complimentary as well. Request gluten-free choices if you wish!
Hillwinds Lodge is the perfect spot to relax before or after a strenuous climb. Set it up as a resting place after your hike, or use it as a preparation ground to ensure everything is in order.
Gale River Motel and Cottages
You can enjoy stunning views of the Franconia Notch and Mount Lafayette from the picture window in your big room.
New Hampshire’s Gale River Motel provides travelers with cheap, pleasant lodging just a short drive away from the state’s most beautiful sights and attractions.
Weary travelers and families visiting the area are always welcome at the Gale River Motel, which offers various services to suit everyone’s needs. Its playground is a draw for children.
The older kids will have fun playing horseshoes, shuffleboard, and other lawn activities, while the whole family will enjoy the outdoor pool.
Also, it’s a pet-friendly accommodation place for pre-approved pets.
Are you up for a hike? Check out the hiker’s section for ideas or request a custom itinerary. At the Gale River Motel, backpacks, water bottles, and maps are free.
The Gale River provides mountain vistas from every motel room and easy access to the hotel’s facilities. Plus, two fully-equipped cottages have everything you need for a comfortable stay.
Outdoor hot tub, shuffleboard, horseshoe pit, picnic area, and bonfire pit are just some of the facilities available at this resort.
Are you not convinced yet to choose this as your place to stay when you hike Mount Lafayette? There are also special discounts! Not to mention that the trailhead to Mount Lafayette is just a few minutes away from this location.
Camping At Mount Lafayette
If you are down to see sunrise and sunset when you hike Mount Lafayette through the Franconia Ridge Trail, then your best option is to set up a camp. Fortunately, there are several camping choices in the area. Here are some of them!
The location near the trailhead is the ideal location for camping.
Franconia Notch State Park’s attractions, including the Mount Lafayette trailhead, can be reached from Lafayette Place Campground.
Out-of-towners use it as a gathering place in the Whites. Franconia Notch Recreation Path, Pemi Trail, and Lonesome Lake Trail run through the campground.
Those looking to camp should bring their tents or modest pop-up awnings. Only seven locations are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, while the remaining 88 can only be reserved. For organized groups, there is one designated camping area.
Reservations are advisable for three ADA-accessible locations. However, bookings and full amenities are only offered from the end of May to the beginning of October at Lafayette Place, even though camping is permitted year-round.
A gravel surface refuges the majority of the locations, making them level. There is a picnic table and an open fireplace at each location. Except in the group camping area, no more than two tents are allowable per site.
Two adults and four youngsters under 18 are acceptable on each site. Additional adults that share a campsite will be charged $10 per night (as of writing this post) for each extra adult.
Also, the locations are isolated but not overly wooded. The upper Pemigewassett River’s banks are home to a few of them.
You’ll find a running water faucet and a flushing toilet in the restrooms. A dishwashing station allows you to wash your hands and dishes. Registration and a small camping equipment store are in the Lafayette Place Lodge.
Outside the campground is a tiny picnic spot on the east bank of the Pemigewassett River. These facilities offer free parking and day use.
Liberty Springs Tent Sites
You can tent at Liberty Springs Tent Sites before or after your trek up Mount Lafayette if you wish to stay in the mountains.
For overnight hikers, these campsites are ideal. It’s a terrific site to camp for sunrise or sunset, and it’s only a half-mile from Liberty Spring Trail’s summit.
When the campgrounds are full, alternate campsites closer to the top are less expensive and less crowded.
Tent pads come in seven- and three-person configurations. There is a composting toilet and a bowl for washing dishes. The spring has a seasonal caretaker, and the water is terrific.
First-come, first-served is the sole option for small parties of 5 or less. All amenities except Hermit Lake require using AMC’s Group Notification System for groups of six or more. You can make submissions via the internet.
During the caretaker season, which includes Memorial Day and Columbus Day, there is a cost of $15 per guest per night. There is no charge for residing at the property outside the caretaker season.
Because there isn’t anywhere to take refuge on site, you’ll want to be well-prepared. Throughout the day of your trip, take a look at forecasts for camping. Also, these locations are well-known, so arrive early to avoid the crowds!
Spend time here to replenish your energy and prepare for your next hike to Mount Lafayette or the nearby trailside spring.
As you look out over Eagle Lake from Greenleaf Hut, you can see Mount Lafayette, a nearby peak, which motivates you to hike the Franconia Ridge’s entire length.
It’s about 2.7 miles to the Greenleaf Hut, and the crew is ready to serve you delicious meals and share their knowledge of the area’s trails and wildlife. Take in stunning views of the Pemigewasset Wilderness, Kinsman Range, and the Franconia Notch from the top of Lafayette, New Hampshire.
Co-ed bunkrooms and private washrooms with compost toilets and water sinks are available at Greenleaf Hut. The AMC Huts are located in remote wilderness areas and are only accessible via trekking.
Heating, lights, and electrical outlets are not available in bunkrooms. Bring a warm sleeping bag, headlight, or lantern if you plan to stay the night.
The huts no longer include blankets and pillows, but Effortless Adventures can rent sleeping bags, pillows, and other items.
Also, breakfast and dinner are complimentary to your room rate. Eggs, pancakes, baked dishes, hot cereal, fruit, and morning meat, such as bacon or sausage, are provided at 7 am sharp. Fresh bread, soup, salad, and an entree are all included in the family-style dinner that begins at 6 pm.
If you don’t want to bring your lunch, you can buy soup and baked products daily from 10 am to 5 pm. You must bring your trash or recyclables in and out of the area in compliance with Leave No Trace guidelines.
This site sits roughly at 4,000 feet in elevation, and the summit of Mount Lafayette is about a mile away. It is an excellent place to halt if you’ve already begun your trek!
Congratulations! You just conquered the summit of Mount Lafayette through the Franconia Ridge Loop!
Not one, not two, but three peaks with stunning sceneries reward you in this challenging hike. Not to mention the beautiful waterfalls and plants visible, this trail lives up to its popularity!
Go up there now and enjoy everything that awaits you. Enjoy!
P.S. Don’t forget to stop at some of the top restaurants in Lincoln on the way home. We especially love the brewery!