Backpack the Franconia Ridge Loop

Details

Distance

14.5 miles

Elevation Gain

3000 ft

Route Type

Loop

Added by Christian Coxen

This should take roughly 2 nights, 1.5 days, with pristine wilderness and breathtaking panoramas. With good steep trails, epic multi-level waterfalls and swimming holes...so get ready for some sheer joy.

This is a multi-day backpacking loop in Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire (located in the the White Mountains).

Leave the car at the Lafayette Place Campground, (about 1700' elevation), then head up 1.4mi to Lonesome Lake. If you start hiking in the evening, as the sun is setting, you can stop here to set up hammocks a couple hundred feet off the trail, and hunker in for the night.

In the morning, hike up 1.7mi to reach the summit of Cannon Mountain (4077'). Trails shouldn't busy until you reach the summit, since a gondola takes tourists up the North side of the mountain. The trail is just shy of vertical at times climbing up and over granite slabs - you'll definitely break a sweat and feel a little burn on the sea-legs. This beautiful trail breaks into some branch silhouetted views as you near the peak.

The Kinsman Ridge Trail (2mi) will take you down the Northeast side of the mountain back to Franconia Notch Parkway, where you cross and start up the Greenleaf Trail (2.7mi) to the Greenleaf hut. At the hut, fill up on water and enjoy some sun on the rocks. For the night, set up camp a quarter mile down the mountain from the Greenleaf hut at one of the designated camping areas, since they don't allow camping in the Alpine.

The next day, it is only another 1.1 mi from the hut to summit of Lafayette Mountain at 5261'. At the summit there is a breathtaking three hundred and sixty degree view, especially looking south down the Franconia Ridge. Mosey the next 1.6 mi to enjoy the ridge, and stop often to take it in.

After the awe of the ridge, begin your trip down via the Falling Waters Trail, (3.2mi), from the Peak of Little Haystack at 4761' back to the car at 1700'. Falling Waters Trail is the perfect way to finish up a beautiful trip - picture lounging in pools at the base of cascading waterfalls with a splash of tequila. I was a happy clam.

I highly recommend the Franconia Notch area.

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Chillin
Camping
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Swimming
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Hiking
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Family Friendly
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

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Reviews

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Know before you go!

We just finished this hike and although it was beautiful (minus having no views on Franconia ridge due to weather) it was extremely challenging to do with backpacksif you’re not accustomed to it. All of us have done big hikes in the white mountains but not with heavy packs— to give you an idea. The 7-8 miles on the second day can really tire you out for the last day if you’re not in shape. Also very important to note now: there are no official tent sites at either of the locations mentioned. You have to be .25 miles from amc huts and technically 200ft off trail so stealth camping was the only option. We did find a spot the first night by wandering away from lonesome lake off the trail that leads up to Kinsman ridge. It looked like people had already been there so we didn’t feel as bad impacting the ecosystem. Definitely get there early so you have time to find your stealth spot and enjoy the lake. The next day we found a stealth spot about 1/4-1/3 mile down the green leaf trail from the hut (we had stopped at the hut to ask for directions to the “designated tent sites” mentioned but no one knew anything about it). It looked like there were a bunch of flat little spots where people had camped so that was nice. I wish the article had been clearer about where down the mountain these were to save us some anxiety. Hope this helps!

Beautiful wilderness, ridge views, waterfalls, fresh air, great trails challenging at times mellow at times. Highly recommend.

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4.5/5

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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