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Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop

HARD 1520 reviews

Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop is a 8.4 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Franconia, New Hampshire that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
8.4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
3,802 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dog friendly

backpacking

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

bird watching

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

blowdown

bugs

muddy

rocky

scramble

snow

washed out

This is a very popular full day hike for good reasons. On a clear day, you are unlikely to find better views in New England. Combine this with strenuous and nerve-wrecking hiking on the 'knife-edge' between Mount Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette and you have the recipe for a great day out. As a bonus you will ascend three peaks, including the highest mountain outside the Presidential Range - Mount Lafayette.

hiking
rocky
snow
2 days ago

hiking
snow
3 days ago

hiking
snow
16 days ago

We went on 3/9/2019 and decided to go clockwise so that the wind was at our backs when going down the ridge. It was a good decision. Wore snowshoes all the way up to the summit, then Hillsounds down the ridge and down Falling Waters. Could have worn the Hillsounds the entire way. Stopped at Greenleaf and ate lunch sitting on the leeward side. Not a cloud in the sky and temperature was 20-25 F at the summit, but the windchill was significant on top. Very warm below treeline on the way down Falling Waters.

hiking
20 days ago

Fantastic hike. Overcast but clear. Views are indescribable! Ascended Bridal Path route. Trail was in very good condition- easily done with microspikes. From AMC Hut to Lafayette was a little slick above tree line, but was expected. We were very fortunate there was very little wind on the peak which allowed us to continue to Lincoln and then Haystack at a very leisurely pace ( about 1 hour from Lafayette to Haystack).
The trail heading down from Haystack (Falling Water) was a MESS!!! Lots of postholes, which made the decent slow and unsteady!
Overall, the hike was gorgeous! Terrific views for at least 4 hours. At the summit of loop incredible 360 degree views - Cannon Mountain one one side, the Presidential Traverse on the other! Worth the 6 1/2 hours to complete the hike!

hiking
scramble
snow
28 days ago

Perfect winter day, mid 20’s no wind. Great views of presidentials and the rest of the whites all the way to Mt Mansfield.

hiking
snow
29 days ago

Lotsa doggos. Beautiful view of the other 4000 footers. Ridgeline between the two peaks is pristine. Microspikes and trekking poles a must. Few awesome spots to slide on the tush down.

hiking
snow
30 days ago

Started up Old Bridle Path, there was a lot of fresh snow, so we were breaking trail for the majority of the trail to the hut. Beautiful views with blue skies. From the hut to Lafayette the first .4 miles was best in snow shoes. Then we needed to switch to micro spikes. Very very windy and there was a lot of large sections of the hike that had a lot of ice. We are pretty new to Winter Hiking in NH but we managed well and took our time, the clear weather helped but on a day with poor visibility I wouldn’t recommend continuing unless you have did this route many times. Winds were very strong so we went out and back the same route rather than walk over the ridge. Great day with beautiful views, my favorite hike in NH.

Took us around 5.5 hours to get to Lafayette and back. Cautious on the way up but we could descend at speed with the snow and the trail being defined. Some very steep parts but managed it well.

hiking
1 month ago

I don’t even know how many times I’ve hiked this trail. It’s a necessity if you want to see the best of the Whites. It’s a tough climb but totally worth it. Come prepared and watch the weather. Summer it’s gorgeous, Fall and Spring wet and often chilly. My favorite hike in the whole world.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

Still my favorite hike of all time. Challenging with diverse terrain and beautiful views. Will keep coming back.

great hike. on 2019 feb 2nd, did clockwise. windy up top and cold, but it was fine. snow was not super well packed at first but i think after today, it will be fine. didnt use snowshoes, only used microspike on the ridge. crampon might be better with the ice...
anyhow, it was awesome

hiking
rocky
snow
2 months ago

Hiked this on 1/15/19. Cold day - 10F at bottom at start, with 15-25F mph wind forecast. Started up Falling Waters route based on advice. Due to previous cold weather the streams were low and not a factor. Waterfalls were frozen over in veils of ice, like bells - but neither of our phones worked due to cold temps, so no pictures. Hike to Little Haystack is challenging and steep, lots of switchbacks and was fully snow or ice covered. Off the packed part of trail in snowy areas you can post-hole up to mid-thigh. Ridge hike that day was tough - wind gusts to 50-60MPH or so and steady at 30-40, and hard to stay on trail! We pretty much flew through the ridge - very brutal and exposed in those conditions. We were layering up right below treeline on the way up and two hikers passed us. They came back 5 minutes lighter with wide eyes and started layering up!! Trail is very well marked along ridge - with rocks on either side or frequent cairns. After Lafayette on the way down we did have a little difficulty keeping track of the trail and got a little off the path for a while a couple times - be very careful. It was like being on the moon that day - above treeline was a whole different environment. Once we got below treeline on Bridle Path the hike down was quick and easy - clear and calm conditions. It took us 6 hours without much stopping - just snacks, water, etc. No time wasted on the Ridge Trail - so on a clear day with time for gawking I'd budget 7 hours. Micro spikes were essential and worn from lot to lot. Great hike, quite challenging - my dogs are barking today.

hiking
2 months ago

As others have said, this is also one of my all time favorite loops summer or winter.

Please take note that sometimes the streams on Falling waters trail can be very treacherous and sometimes raging so much that you cannot, or should not cross.

In the winter if you're planning on doing a loop, I would suggest starting up Falling waters so you can choose to turn around if the streams are too much. Either that or hike for 8+ miles up Bridal, down falling waters only to have to bushwack to the highway to get over the last stream and back to your car.

I hiked this about a month ago and stream crossings were not possible due to heavy snow/rain/melt so we went up and down bridal path which is not ideal but still fun.

hiking
2 months ago

This is one of my all-time favorite loops in New England, White Mountains. I approached from the Falling Waters/ Haystack side, walked the ridgeline over Lincoln, and Lafayette. Don't get half way to Garfield before realizing that the Greenleaf Hut Trail goes down the front face of Lafayette.

There are a couple of risky river crossings with minimal markings on the approach. Nice steady climb up with some steep stuff in the last 3/4 mile to Haystack. Once on the ridgeline, there no little to no cover as you are above the trees for the entire time your hiking over Lafayette and even .6 miles down the face. Winds can pick-up out of nowhere so be prepared for anything.

At the Greenleaf Hut going down, starts the gradual incline picking up to some steep sections .7-1.0 mile down. Near vertical rockfaces are frozen with ice in the winter so microspikes/ crampons are necessary in areas, during the winter. The rest of the movement down is at a moderate grade.

This trail is super fun in the winter, just be prepared. Its not easy, and anything can happen.

hiking
2 months ago

lovely day hike. did on 1/5/18. definitely watch out for the upper section of old bridle, super icy in a few spots. broke out my crampons for that. fantastic views. I did the loop clockwise, which i would reccomend, although I think it would be great either direction!

2 months ago

beautiful and fun

hiking
2 months ago

Started late with my friend at 9:30AM and wasted a lot of time taking pictures. Wouldn't mind doing that again, mad views. The ice was pretty thick and the microspikes were not really holding on at some places. Would definitely advise crampons. Went up falling waters and down old bridle, but old bridle IS REALLY ICY at some places. So climb up that rather climb down.

Anyways had a beautiful sunset at Lafayette, and descended in the dark. Was fun.

hiking
2 months ago

Epic hike! Hiked on 12.27 solo and took 3:57 for the entire loop. Other reviews recommended to go at it counter clockwise so I went up Falling Water and then down Bridle. Microspikes were definitely essential. The cold killed my phone while I was taking pictures before Lafayette so I must come back! I regret not bringing goggles because it was so bright with sun/snow and the wind.

Falling Waters - good workout, be careful at the first water crossing. Looks a little sketchy and the ice isn’t too thick in some places. Take your time to cross.

Little Haystack to Lincoln - gorgeous views, super windy when you make it out of the tree line.

Lafayette to Hut - follow the cairns! With all the wind and snow there’s no telling where the trail is and not much footprints to follow. Look for the cairns to guide you.

Greenleaf - all down hill from there!

hiking
2 months ago

amzing and tough hike did on 12/30/18 counterclockwise. Waterfalls going up Falling Waters Trail were AMAZING as were the views on the ridge. Busted ass to make up for a late start. 5 hrs 15 min. Going up FWT almost made me question my sanity. Microspikes the whole way, snowshoes went for a ride. Going down from Lafayette was a little tricky to navigate...pay attention to the cairns. Look out for a sharp left, steep section of packed/crusted snow was very slippery...had to dig in really hard with microspikes...crampons would have been ideal especially w/ tired legs going down but managed ok.

hiking
2 months ago

Ditto to all those before me :)

hiking
2 months ago

Went up on 12/27/18. Highly recommend going up falling waters trail and down old bridal path. Spikes are a must if you intend to tackle this in the winter. Weather was clear and the snow was well packed. Slid down many of the steepest parts coming down the mountain. Water crossings were tricky but doable.

3 months ago

Climbed the weekend of 12/16. Trail was hard packed and easy to follow. Conditions were great albeit frigid and windy. I saw a man going up OBT In ripped jeans and no traction, don’t be that guy. Make sure to bring microspikes or snowshoes and dress appropriately. Amazing views, this is a must do if you’re local.

3 months ago

Did this during the winter storm on Nov 27th. The snow got deeper as we kept getting higher in elevation. You definitely need to make sure you have the proper gear if snow is on the ground. 2nd time I've done this trail and always amazing!

hiking
3 months ago

Super snowy and beautiful. Lesson learned: if you are debating about wether or not to carry snowshoes the answer is probably carry them. Left mine in the car, and my legs are feeling all step kicking and postholing through 3-4 foot+ drifts. Well worth it for the views at the top.

hiking
4 months ago

I did this hike back on 10-05-2018 as my first real hike. I made the first peak with out too much trouble. After that I knew I was over my head. Be that as it may it is an excellent experience and awesome hike. The views at each of the 3 peaks and even in-between were great. I went up the waterfall side and down the hut side. Highly recommend this hike. Look forward to doing it again in the winter

4 months ago

Absolutely breathtaking! One of the prettiest hikes I’ve taken on a cold, but sunny, clear day, completed November 12th 2018. Definitely go up the falling waters trail in winter and come down the old bridle path. It’s incredibly icy and much safer to climb up than go down the falling waters path, and still the several river crossings are a bit of a challenge. Microspikes are a must! But so worth the views! It was pretty cold up on the ridge, and quite windy, so be sure to dress correctly.

4 months ago

Simply awesome!

hiking
4 months ago

What a fantastic day of hiking! I've done this hike 20+ times in my life and it's easily my favorite hike in NH. It's is a long loop, and it hard on the body if you're not ready for it and even if you are.

A bit of advice, if you're planning on doing the loop in winter months, I would suggest you start up falling waters and go down Old Bridal path. Sometimes dry creek is impassible and you have to cross it multiple times on falling waters trail. If you hiked up Old Bridal Path and down Falling waters there's the potential that you would need to turn around and go all the way back over the ridge, or bushwack to the highway and follow it back to the parking lot.

The parking lot was about 30 degrees, summits in the clouds. We knew there was snow and ice so came prepared with microspikes, poles, goggles and many layers. The clouds cleared mid-day and the views to Mt. Washington were beautiful.

There were FAR too many people on this hike that really should not have been there. Many people in sneakers, no gloves, and cotton sweatshirts.

Please don't be one of those people. This is a serious hike, particularly in the winter months from October to Feb/March. With the windchill on the ridge, the temp was about 7 degrees F. People die on this hike when they underestimate the weather.

Here is an example :
http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/13200507400/Failure-to-Turn-Back-Failure-to-Follow-Route-Inadequate-Clothing-and-Equipment-Weather-New-Hampshire-Mount-Lafayette

Stay safe, go prepared or don't go. Hope everyone made it down safely yesterday. There were still a lot of cars in the parking lot when we left after hiking out with headlamps for the last mile or so.

4 months ago

this place offers a difficult hike. the hardest part of the hike is the whooping 8.5 miles. it just takes all day. if you plan on hiking this loop, be sure to come prepared. bring lunch and something to nibble on and water is essential. Need the waterproof hiking boots. be sure to dress breathably warm. a hiking stick will be very useful. bring gloves. and last but not least, a portable charger! start hiking as early as possible because by the time you finish the loop, the sun sets and darkness invades. oh yes, darkness, bring a flashlight just to be on the safe side. you may or may not need it but you'll be grateful to have it in case you need it.

my friends and I started to hike pretty 130pm late. we ended up descending in the dark with flashlights from our phones. got lost a few times. slip and slide more often in the dark. our feet were all soaked from descending the falling water trail. altogether, a great hike. would absolutely do it again. early and more prepared next time!

please wear all wheel drives shoe haha.

hiking
4 months ago

Went up clockwise and going down was much more difficult and if wet would have made more difficult. Regardless of how you do this, the hike up top along the ridge is awesome. Great hike. Can't imagine one better in the Whites. Came from Cleveland and can't wait to go back.

4 months ago

Ok

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