Camp at Lafayette Campground, White Mountains
New Hampshire › Lafayette Campground
Added by Chris Mongeau
Experience vibrant, New England foliage and cooler, mild weather while staying at this less crowded campsite. Nearby you can hike a part of the Appalachian Trail to Lonesome Lake, and to the Flume Gorge.
The White Mountains offer some of the most prime foliage sightseeing (aka 'leaf peeping') in New England. Tourists flock to the Franconia Notch State Park area and surrounding parts of the White Mountains every October, but camping is generally less common. October can be a cold month in New Hampshire, with an average low of about 36 degrees Fahrenheit, but if you have the right gear, the foggy mornings and cool days are perfect for a camping/hiking trip.
The best camping option for the Franconia Notch area is the Lafayette Campground, located right on I-93. Here you can set up camp and access almost all of the major points in the area without even using a vehicle. All sites are $25, and their peak season ends October 9th—anytime after this date is considered "Walk in season." The campground has a convenience store, fire rings at every site, picnic tables, restrooms and showers.
Lafayette Campground also has a recreational path which connects with the Appalachian Trail, where you can hike to the beautiful Lonesome Lake. The roundtrip distance of this hike is 3 miles, and despite being on the shorter side, it's perfect for a relaxing morning or afternoon in the mountains. If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can even jump in the lake for a very cold swim. The trail loops around the lake, offering some really great views of the surrounding mountains.
After hiking to Lonesome Lake, you can head back to the campground and follow the recreational path south towards the Basin for another short, easy hike. The Basin is a 20-foot deep, granite pothole with a waterfall pouring into it. The rushing water has smoothed the stone surfaces over thousands of years, creating a beautifully carved, crystal clear pool. There are picnic tables and benches throughout the trails at the Basin, making it a great spot for a picnic lunch by the river.
If you continue further south on the recreational path after hiking through the Basin, it eventually will end at the Flume Gorge—a glacially-carved gorge full of lush and diverse plant life. The Flume Gorge does cost for admission, but it's well worth the $16 considering everything else in this area is free to enter. The hike through the gorge is relatively easy with some stairs and inclines on gravel, and takes about an hour and a half at a leisurely pace. Hiking through the 90 foot granite walls surrounded by moss and ferns feels like you've been transported to a rain forest, and the pinnacle of this hike (in my opinion) is getting to cross the scenic Sentinel Covered Bridge.
After these three hikes, drive south down I-93 to Lincoln, NH, where you can take the historic Kancamangus Highway (Rt. 112) through the White Mountain National Forest to Conway, NH. Driving the Kancamangus is an absolute must in you're in the area during the fall, because it offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, brooks and rivers. The total distance is 36 miles between Lincoln and Conway, making it about a 2 hour roundtrip without stops.
If you only have one day, consider skipping one of the hikes and you should have plenty of time to do the rest of this itinerary, as the area covered is relatively small. Mornings in the White Mountains during the fall are typically foggy, so it's usually best to save the drive down the Kancamangus for the afternoon when visibility is better. The total hiking distance including the roundtrip to Lonesome Lake and the hike through the Basin and Flume is 8.3 miles, most of which is on level ground with little incline.
- Ten Essentials
- 3-season or winter sleeping bag
- Flannel layers
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Rain jacket
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Camping, Chillin, Hiking, Photography
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Another Hike To Add To The Itinerary
One of the "favorite hikes in the Whites" is also easily accessed from the campsite, the Franconia Ridge Loop. A full day hike, but worth it! This Campground is a great place to stay.
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Photograph Fall Foliage on the Kancamagus Highway
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Driving the Kancamagus Highway is something you can do as a way to cross the White Mountain National Forest quickly from I-93 in the east to Conway, or it can be an entire day's activity.