Lonesome Lake Winter Hike
Hiking/Walk DATE: 03/23/2019 - 03/23/2019
Trip/Event Location: Lincoln, NH
Max # People: 15
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Lovely setting on a lake below Cannon Mountain, with photo perfect views of the Franconia Range and the Kinsmans from the shore!
Your destination is the Lafayette Place Campground. Northbound on the Franconia Notch Parkway, note your mileage as you pass Exit 34A. Continue on the parkway about 4 miles to an exit sign: TRAILHEAD PARKING. Smaller signs list the Bridle Path and Falling Waters Trail, but this exit is also for the Lonesome Lake Trail. Leave your car in the parking area and walk through the foot tunnel under the parkway to the west side. [You can park on the other side of this tunnel by travelling further north on the parkway, turning around at the Cannon Mountain exit, and then take the Lafayette Campground exit; you'll recognize us with our blue Toyota Tacoma truck]. When you emerge from the tunnel, bear left around the log cabin. Farther on you'll see a sign on your right for the Lonesome Lake Trailhead. Continue to the end of the south parking area.
Eight of us decided to head out into the New Hampshire wilderness for a winter hike up to Lonesome Lake in Franconia Notch. For some members, this was the first time in some time and they were more than ready to get back on the trails!
Looking at Sandwich Dome from our house, we could tell that the rain event we had around the house on Friday, turned to all snow in the higher elevations. We were in for one crazy adventure!!!
This was going to be the last weekend we would leave our Christmas tree up on our deck so we were happy to enjoy it one last time fully coated in snow. It seems like our cat Sunshine, also enjoyed it too!
We made it to the trailhead around 11:00 and got ourselves all geared up. It was going to be cloudy, windy with high temperatures in the 20s.
We started on the Lonesome Lake Trail, which gains 950 feet in elevation over 1.6 miles, making it a very pleasurable and gradual climb to the lake that takes a little more than an hour to reach. The last time I’ve been here was last winter when I decided to bag the Kinsmans and have been wanting to return since then. Some other mountains that are reachable from the lake are Cannon Mountain and the Cannonballs.
All of us had snowshoes for the hike and most people we encountered did the same. This trail is crowded…we leapfrogged a few large groups…I would say we must have ran into 25+ people on our hike…all heading to Lonesome Lake Hut. Thus, the trail was broken but for folks not using snowshoes, they were sinking in a bit.
At the beginning of our hike, we were in hardwoods, with the snow sticking to tree trunks and branches. Once we got closer to the lake, we were in spruces covered in a layer of white and it felt like we had just walked out of a wardrobe straight into a wintery-Narnia!
When we finally made it to the frozen lake, we saw a faint trail of footprints leading across the surface over to Lonesome Lake Hut (a backcountry hut maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club [AMC]) that we decided to follow. Before the traverse, we bundled up thinking we would have to deal with brutal winds but it wasn’t that bad once we were on the frozen lake.
We ventured inside the hut for lunch before beginning our trek back down the mountain. Lonesome Lake Hut is one of the few AMC huts that’s open during the winter on a caretaker basis. The hut was crowded but we were able to find a table. It was comfy and all the body heat of everyone inside warmed it up!
For our return, we first took the Around-the-Lake trail that was broken, but with the wind, covered with snow. It had some nice viewpoints of the lake and we crossed several frozen inlet brooks before reentering into the woods. On our descent, we ran into a few people with heavier packs planning to spend the night at the hut. Bob brought his butt sled for the descent and it worked really well. We got back to the car a little after 2:00 and settled in for a 30 minute drive back home.
For the guys returning back to our house, we met for a pit-stop to visit a little hidden gem, Smarts Brook Gorge. We took the Pine Flats Trail from the Smarts Brook trailhead parking lot off of Route 49. The top of Smarts Brook still had a hard, crusty layer on top but we could still catch the water running downstream. We soon began an easy climb above the gorge with a terrific view of the thick, frozen cascades on the other side basking in the sun! Lined up, one after the other, they looked like giant frozen soldiers guarding the entry to a mystical kingdom! We had to investigate and marveled at the sheer size and beauty.
We continued on our merry way further up on Pine Flats. This section of the gorge was not accessible and because of that, had this aura of magic. After the gorge, we reached the plateau of the trail, finding ourselves beneath towering red pines!
Back at the house, Sunshine was waiting for us! Six members returned back to our house to hang out by the fireplace, enjoy some appetizers and shared stories of our past adventures. The view from the house of snow covered Sandwich Dome was breathtaking.
Jon grilled up some chicken and kielbasa on the gas grill, roasted vegetables and potatoes in the oven, with a creamy topping for the chicken and fresh salad. While we were dining, the alpenglow lit up Sandwich Dome. The meal was topped off by a yummy Black Forest Cake!
Some members were a little concerned when they began this hike that they were going to be terribly out of shape since they haven’t been hiking is a while. They felt absolutely great the entire time. So great, in fact, that they decided to go hiking again real soon!
For those of you that have never hiked in the winter, you should (with the appropriate gear, of course!)! Hiking in the winter is nice because the trail is usually completely covered in snow, which evens out the trail and makes it easier to navigate (you don’t have to worry about walking around rocks or tree roots), the air is always crisp, and the scenery is always beautiful.
Mike and Jon
There are 101 photos in Album (Note: Move mouse pointer over larger pic and click on NEXT for better viewing)
phoenix Mar 25, 2019 at 8:29 PM
Another good thing about a winter hike is that there were still plenty of parking spaces at 11 am!
freespirit Mar 24, 2019 at 4:02 PM
Mike & Jon! Great time hiking Lonesome Lake with the group and also enjoyed our comaraderie apres hike and the wonderful dinner as well! Many thanks! James