Cannon & the Kinsmans Loop Hike
Hiking/Walk DATE: 05/05/2018 - 05/05/2018
Trip/Event Location: Lincoln, NH
Trip Leader(s): shep5
Max # People: 6
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Very Strenuous
Join me for a loop hike from Franconia Notch encircling over Cannon Mountain (4100'), the Cannon Balls and North and South Kinsman (4293'/4358'). We will utilize the Hi-Cannon Tra... Driving directions to the location and spot to meet at:
From the Lincoln (Exit 32) continue following Route 93 North for another 9.6 miles to Exit 34B. Cross under the highway and reverse direction by taking Route 93 South for 2.1 miles to the Lafayette Place Campground. Immediately take the left into the parking lot...additional parking is just past the ranger cabin. Look for a gray Hyundai Elantra.
For GPS Users: Layfayette Place Campground parking lot (44.142243,-71.683647). To obtain custom directions, copy and paste the GPS coordinates directly into Google Maps.
On Saturday, May 5th, I arrived at the Lafayette Place Trailhead at about 7:45. I got ready and headed up the Lonesome Lake Trail just before 8AM. It was mostly clear with blue skies; however, Mounts Lincoln and Lafayette were still cloud-covered.
Initially, there was a little snow and ice on the trail, but it was passable with bare boots. It only took about 10 minutes to reach the trail junction with the Hi-Cannon Trail, and I turned onto this trail. Almost immediately there was a pretty good monorail, but it was fairly sturdy so I could walk on it or along side it at times. Just before reaching the Dodge Cutoff, I finally relented and doned microspikes as there was snow throughout the woods and on the trail. Even though this route was steep, the snow made it a bit easier with the rocky trail all filled in and smoothed over. By a little after 9AM, I reached the first views over Franconia Notch. The opposite ridge was still in the clouds, but there was a good view down to the parking lots. I was surprised these were still only about half-full. Just beyond these ledges, the trail turned up the mountain and in a few minutes I was at the foot of the ladder. This was easy enough and further along I came to the first of several ledges with awesome views over Lonesome Lake and over to the Kinsmans. Continuing along the trail, I arrived at the junction for the Kinsman Ridge Trail at 9:45 and headed for the summit. The summit of Cannon Mountain (4100') had a weather station/observation platform on it and I was standing atop of this only 15 minutes later. It was very windy and I quickly took in the view (the westward view was clear) and then I backtracked along the trail to the Kinsman Ridge Trail junction.
Back at the Kinsman Ridge Trail, I started my descent. This was steep and icy. I took my time and there was one small section, which I had to bushwhack around, as the ice would have been too difficult to cross without falling off the ledge. There were periodic views of the Cannon Balls and by 10:40 I reached the bottom of the col and shortly beyond this point I passed the junction with the Lonesome Lake Trail. I proceeded along the ridge trail as I began my ascent of the first Cannon Ball. I was somewhat relieved that this part of the trail had been used; however, the snow was not as packed and I was occasionally postholing. The snow depth was still 2-3 feet in spots. The trail was steep, but managable and there were wonderful views looking back towards Cannon. By 11 I was on the summit of the first and highest of the Cannon Balls (3769'). I began my descent with great views of the Kinsman Mountains. As I headed into the col, I reached a series of small ladders, but these were all buried except for one. The trail was easy to follow with the occasional blaze for confirmation. The trail went around the summit of the second Cannon Ball and then descended again into the col. This was where it got interesting. I reached a stream and lost the trail. I followed the brook for a bit, but found no sign of the trail and I was postholing up to my knees alot. Finally, I figured I'd better backtrack and I discovered where the trail made a sharp right as it began ascending the third Cannon Ball. The snow pack on the trail was becoming less firm and I continued to posthole more and more. It was tiring and my pace slowed a bit. It was around this time that I ran into one guy who passed me from behind and a woman who was going in the opposite direction. There were occasional views of the Kinsmans ahead of me and I reached the top of the third Cannon Ball at approximately 12:30. Being that this was the western most summit of the Cannon Balls and the most exposed to the prevailing winds, there were parts of this trail, which were actually snow-free, but that didn't last as I descended again to make my way over to the Kinsmans. As I began to climb again up the shoulder of the Kinsmans, there were intermittent views back towards Cannon and Franconia Ridge, which was now out of the clouds. Finally, by 1:20PM I reached the trail junction with the Fishin' Jimmy Trail. What a relief being on a well-used and packed trail again!
I continued southward along the Kinsman Ridge Trail, as it began to climb North Kinsman Mountain. There were immediately granite ledges; however, these were easy as the snow was still piled up and ramped up and over the ledges. There were good views along some thinly wooded areas and by 1:45 I reached the summit of North Kinsman (4295'). As the actual summit was treed, I headed for the ledge with views of Cannon and the Franconia Ridge. There were half-a-dozen other hikers here and I chatted a bit. Afterwards, I headed further south along the ridge by descending off of the summit. Here again there were a series of steep granite ledges, which were for the most part still buried. This made the going very easy and in the col there were areas of blowdown, which didn't obstuct the trail in any significant way. By 2:30 I emerged from the trees out onto the false summit. I continued further south and reached the true summit of South Kinsman (4358') marked by a large cairn about 10 minutes later. I had the summit to myself for a bit until a couple from Idaho arrived. We chatted for awhile before I began to retrace my steps back over North Kinsman and down to the junction with the Fishin' Jimmy Trail, which I reached again by 3:35PM. I descended back via this trail. It was steep, but easily manageable except for a few areas, where woods steps are bolted to the rocks. These were encased in ice and it was a little tricky to climb down these. Still for the most part, I made good time and reached the Lonesome Lake AMC Hut at 4:45. I went down to the shore and took in the view of Lafayette and Lincoln across the lake. As I turned onto the Lonesome Lake Trail and crossed the outlet, there was a great view of the Cannon Balls. The snow was fairly deep still and this persisted until I had descended about half-way down, when the snow and ice-cover became more minimal...and eventually became more or less snow-free by the time I had reached the junction with the Hi-Cannon Trail again. It was only another 10 minutes or so until I reached the parking lot (5:30PM).
It was a really spectacular day to be out and this loop around Cannon Mountain, the Cannon Balls and the Kinsman is always amazing with wonderful views throughout the day. Even with the slow progress and postholing across the Cannon Balls, it was so worth the effort. For as nice a day as it was, I was surprised that there were relatively so few hikers...normally, these trailheads are overflowing with cars out onto the interstate. In any case, I finally think that I'm ready to hike on solid ground again. With the rate things are going and the amount of snow, which still persists, the trails still may not be snow-free for another 2 weeks up in the White Mountains.
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