A week or two ago I went for another long hike in New Hampshire. It was a glorious fall weekend; temperatures exceeded 25°C and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The fall foliage was peaking on the mountainsides of the magnificent White Mountains.
I’ve climbed more than a dozen mountains in New England in the past half year, but this particular hike stands out from the rest. For starters it was the longest one I’ve done in the United States so far. Second, the combination of fantastic weather and fall colors made it downright glorious.
I summited three mountains that day: Little Haystack, Mount Lincoln and – the ultimate destination of the day – Mount Lafayette. These three peaks, among several others, are connected by a superb trail that runs along Franconia Ridge. The Franconia Ridge Trail is a section of the famous Appalachian Trail, which starts way south in Georgie and ends at Mount Katahdin in Maine. In New Hampshire the AT essentially follows the entire length of the spine of the White Mountains.
My loop hike can be divided into three sections.
Ascent to Little Haystack
The ascent starts at the trailhead at Lafayette Place in Franconia Notch. From the car park I followed the Falling Waters Trail all the way to Little Haystack, the first summit of the day. The first section of this trail runs past a series of beautiful waterfalls and underneath nice fall foliage. It ends with a steep and straight climb to the summit.
Franconia Ridge Trail
From Little Haystack the trail follows Franconia Ridge north towards Mount Lincoln first and Mount Lafayette after that. In my opinion Mount Lincoln offers the best views. And those views were – for lack of a better word – phenomenal. To the left lie Franconia Notch and the Kinsman Range; to the right lie the Pemigewasset Wilderness and the Presidential Range. The orange-colored valleys was something that I had never seen in my entire life.
Descent from Mount Lafayette
At the summit of Mount Lafayette the loop bends left and descents down to the car park. The descent consists of two trails. The Greenleaf Trail leads to the Greenleaf Hut, which offers meals and beds to weary hikers, and the Old Bridle Path continues down to Lafayette Place and Franconia Notch. I hiked past picturesque Eagle Lake and downright spectacular Walker Ravine back to the car park. A series of lookout points provided fabulous views down of Walker Ravine, which was the brightest orange, and of Franconia Ridge above.
The entire loop was 14 kilometers long and it took me five hours and twenty minutes to complete it. This time of year New England is one of the best places in the world you can be. Fall in New England is best experienced by hiking, road tripping in a rental car or renting a motorhome.