Mts. Lafayette and Lincoln
Hiking/Walk DATE: 06/17/2017 - 06/17/2017
Trip/Event Location: Lincoln, NH
Max # People: 15
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Strenuous
FUN hike on these 5,000 footers in the Franconia Range followed by a swim/BBQ at the Mad River Lodge!
With an elevation of 5,260 feet, Mt. Lafayette stands as the highest mountain in the Franconia...
We will meet at the trailhead for the Franconia ridge trails. This is easily accessible from I-93. Heading north on I-93, stay alert as the road narrows to one lane going north in Franconia Notch. Almost immediately as it narrows, you will see a big brown sign directing you to exit right for Trailhead Parking. Exit there and park anywhere. We are driving a blue Toyota Tacoma truck. There is also parking on the west side of the Interstate at Lafayette Campground. If you are heading north, you will need to continue driving to the exit for Cannon Mtn, where you will crossover, and head back south towards the campground. You can easily cross over on foot to the meeting point on the east side, by walking under the highway in the pedestrian tunnel.
Franconia Ridge - Mt Lafayette (5249'), Lincoln (5089'), and Little Haystack (4800')
Distance: ~8.9 miles
Pace: Easy does it. Guidebooks says it'll take 8 hours and they are usually right on. For us, we did it in 8.5 hours.
Trailhead: Lafayette Place, north of Lincoln, NH.
We were thinking Lafayette and Lincoln were going to be a sort of…it was creating your own adventure because nature won't do it for you type hike but BOY we were wrong... touché nature. These clouds were gorgeous. A very enjoyable hike today!
At 7:30am on Saturday morning, suddenly all of the reasons and excuses were gone, and everything was ready. We were ready. We ran down our packing list one more time, made our lunch, and headed for Franconia Ridge from the Mad River Lodge.
Jon and I managed to cajole another 10 enthusiastic GO members to join us.
Our decision was to travel clockwise. We would begin on Old Bridle Path. Most hikers go counterclockwise.
We reached Lafayette Place around 7:50am, and after shuffling about with packs and footgear we were en route by 8:05am. There was an overcast above us so we could not see any peaks. The temperature was comfortable - ideal climbing weather!
Old Bridle Path begins honestly enough, clearly heavily used but decently maintained. The footing was relatively flat-ish for the first mile or so, even runnable if one wasn't carrying a pack. Before too long, the steady ascent steepens and gives way to the wild jumbled rockiness of our glacial past.
Roughly halfway to the AMC Greenleaf Hut, we emerged up onto some magnificent, open granite ledges, fringed with patches of mountain laurel, with views to the west of Walker Ravine, and also ahead to a profile of Franconia Ridge. We met the Mountain Momma’s, entirely gay friendly, with some wearing beads!
Our first landmark, pre-hut, would be The Agonies, no doubt a term of endearment given by hut croo for an especially steep and especially rocky area in an area already pretty rocky and steep. There is no upper limit to what the croo will shuttle up and down; their loads could spook a yak. I think they must all keep the ibuprofen companies on speed dial.
Apparently named because horses used to ferry tourists to the Lafayette summit, Old Bridle Path looked anything but passable by horse, especially several miles in, where nonstop rocky areas require some careful navigation.
Slightly mystified, we continued moderately along The Agonies, stopping here and there to try to get a decent photo of the fabulous terrain.
We quickly reached Greenleaf Hut (~4200') and paused to check it out (it's pretty sweet!) It's the third highest in elevation of the AMC huts, with only Madison Spring and Lakes of The Clouds higher. We'd traveled ~2.9 miles at this point.
We continued on the somewhat-less-steep Greenleaf Trail for ~ 1.1 mile, passing by Eagle Lake on the way. Soon, the trees went from scrubby to gone. Clouds down in the valley below presented a dramatic atmosphere as we scampered and ambled up through the alpine zone toward Lafayette's summit.
There is something akin to a silence above treeline that I find positively irresistible. I also appreciate the feeling of total isolation when clouds are below, omnipresent, visible yet blocking visibility, a hitchhiker picked up by every passing inhalation.
Rocky paths wove upward linking hive-like cairns together like knotted string. Tiny pale wildflower clusters with miniature, dense, green foliage huddled low and brightly.
Lafayette's summit (5249') was just past a flock of stray boulders.
Mere hints of surrounding peaks showed through, but it was apparent that the sun was hard at work.
A granite enclosure of sorts remains from years past. I admire infinitely whoever built that thing. Foundation? Paddock? Fabulous, regardless.
Lots of eye candy as this ridge is known for!
After lunch, our sojourn adjourned toward Mount Lincoln via the Franconia Ridge Trail which is blazed white, for it is also the Appalachian Trail.
The thru-hikers were as always easy to pick out – beards, huge packs, minimal clothes, rather unforgettable odors (weed, hikerfunk, etc, the most common).
The only thing better than walking on an amazing ridge above treeline is to do it when the clouds are flying about, and the only thing better than that, is to have all of the above plus an encounter with surprise wild ginormous rocky formations.
They don't show much on the map, and photos don't do them justice. You simply have to go there and experience them yourself, or if you can't, at least enjoy it vicariously through my trip report and Jon's pictures!
Flume and Liberty (remember them?) remained visible to the south.
The geographically spastic area between the much hailed summits was like no other, and in a hike of consistent badassery, it was downright extraordinary.
Move over peak baggers, GOers have arrived!
Sadly, it doesn't show well in our photos, but the alpine wildflowers up here are beautiful!
Franconia's reputation for hosting hordes of tourists was realized after 12pm. A mere tourist-gaggle couldn't really do significant damage on our journey, but still, lingering upon Lincoln (which was lovely) and Haystack (equally lovely) would have been sort of a drag due to the population.
And as all the ancient texts reveal, GOers are transient beings, oft becoming skittish when not in motion. In a moment of urgency, they bolted off the final summit and onto Falling Waters trail.
Falling Waters Trail is stepper than the Old Bridle Path, and the difference was significant.
It was steep as shit and rushing downward was, for me, out of the question. Self preservation, ya know? I just imagine the sound and sensation of, say, a torn ACL, and I slow my bad self-right on down. Simple as that.
This is not to say it wasn't a really beautiful trail. I enjoyed its rather crude welcome. And true to its name, its middle/lower section was adorned with quite a few waterfalls, including one little 0.1 spur path that led to Shining Rock.
What is Shining Rock? We wondered. At only 0.1 mile off the trail, it was a deal we could not refuse. We headed down (yes, down) to investigate.
How peculiar! It turns out that it's a rock, a rock that is shining. It's basically a tremendous granite wall, a not-quite-vertical cliff, with a sort of flat waterfall along most of it. I imagine the ice climbers probably dig this like mad.
The trail remained quite rocky at times until finally flattening out as we neared the trailhead. We were mostly back at the car around 4:30 pm.
After the hike, most of us returned back to the Mad River Lodge for drinks/apps on the deck followed by another delicious meal prepared by Jon! Thanks everyone for all the great conversations.
Thanks for joining us on one of the most beautiful places in the Whites! Fantastic group of buddies for such a strenuous hike. This trip is one to remember!
Trip Report by Mike Boisvert
Photos by Jon Normand
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What Members Are Saying About This Trip/Event
- Always humbled by walking the Lafayette/Lincoln ridge! The weather was definitely in our favor bringing the undercast below us and us GO members above the clouds. Absolutely no rain and the most stunning views. It was wonderful to see, converse, and meet many peers from so many states. Another epic adventure coming from the Mad River Lodge in NH. Thanks, Mike & Jon. - TIMber64
- One of the best hikes in The Whites made more memorable with the cloud undercast. A great day to be in the mountains w/a fun group of guys! - JDNnh
- Incredible hike! - Joeinmaine
- Mike and Jon...I'll add to that great trip report both your leadership and hospitality for an incredible day of great hiking. Bravo to you both...it's amazing how you just arrange the weather the way you do! Thank you!! - Joeinmaine