Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, Little Haystack Mtn.

Mountains:  Little Haystack Mtn. (4760'), Mt. Lincoln (5089'), Mt. Lafayette (5260'), Shining Rock
Trails:  Falling Waters Trail, Franconia RidgeTrail, Greenleaf Trail, Old Bridle Path, Appalachian Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Franconia Region
Location:  Franconia, NH
Rating:  Difficult  
Features:  Summits, views, cascades, waterfalls, hut, brooks, 4000-footers, loop hike
Distance:  8.8 miles  
Elevation Gain:  3860 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 7:20  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 11:00  
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  10/11/2008 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  09/01/2019  
Weather:  Clear, dry, sunny
Author:  Deb Hann, Diane King
Companions:  Nine SDHers, two dogs

View (photo by Mark Malnati)

Route Summary   

This is a loop hike starting and ending at the Lafayette Place parking area. It summits Little Haystack Mountain, Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette, all of which rise well over 4,000 feet (over 5,000 for Lincoln and Lafayette) and offer staggering views. The 1.6-mile segment between Little Haystack and Lafayette is atop an open ridge. During the ascent on Falling Waters Trail, there is about a half-mile stretch along Dry Brook where you will be treated to several cascades, including Stairs Falls, Swiftwater Falls (60 feet), and Cloudland Falls (80 feet). A short detour will bring you to Shining Rock which is an immense slab running about 800 feet long and rising for 200 feet.

  • Start out on Falling Waters Trail (which for the first 0.2 mile is also the same trail as Old Bridle Path).
  • After 0.2 mile, turn right to stay on Falling Waters Trail and follow that until its end on Little Haystack Mountain, 3.2 miles from the parking area. The first mile of this trail is pretty easy but then becomes quite steep. View (photo by Mark Malnati) About halfway up this trail you will start passing a series of pretty cascades. And 2.8 miles from the parking lot, there is a 100-yard spur path leading downhill to the right to Shining Rock. The detour is worth it just to see this huge slab, but it also provides an outlook over Franconia Notch.
  • From the end of Falling Waters Trail, turn left onto Franconia Ridge Trail which is also part of the Appalachian Trail (AT).
  • Follow Franconia Ridge Trail/Appalachian Trail on moderate grades 0.7 mile up to the summit of Mount Lincoln.
  • Continue on Franconia Ridge Trail/Appalachian Trail across moderate grades for 0.9 mile which will lead you down the other side of Mount Lincoln and then up to Mount Lafayette's summit.
  • From Mount Lafayette, turn left to descend on Greenleaf Trail, being careful to avoid Garfield Ridge Trail which goes straight ahead.
  • Descend steeply on Greenleaf Trail for 1.1 miles until reaching Eagle Lakes and Greenleaf Hut.
  • Turn left to get on Old Bridle Path.
  • Follow Old Bridle Path for 2.9 miles all the way back to the parking lot (upon reaching the junction with Falling Waters Trail 0.2 mile before the parking lot, turn right). Most of the descent will be on steep grades but the last mile eases up considerably.
Trail signs (photo by Mark Malnati)

Franconia Ridge Trail (photo by Mark Malnati)

SDHers on the ridge (photo by Mark Malnati)

Cascades (photo by Mark Malnati) Shining Rock (photo by Mark Malnati)

Place         Split
Falling Waters Trailhead (1780') 0.0 0.0
Little Haystack Mtn. summit (4760') 3.2 3.2
Mt. Lincoln summit (5089') 0.7 3.9
Mt. Lafayette summit (5260') 0.9 4.8
Greenleaf Hut and Eagle Lakes (4220') 1.1 5.9
Old Bridle Path trailhead (1780') 2.9 8.8

Franconia Ridge Trail (photo by Mark Malnati)


Map of hike route on Franconia Ridge to Little Haystack Mtn., Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Lafayette (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

On Saturday, October 11 we hiked Franconia Ridge, doing a loop to summit Mounts Lafayette and Lincoln. The hike is 8.8 miles and usually takes 7-1/2 to 8 hours. The foliage, being very close to peak, provided us with a spectacular show!

This is a strenuous hike, so please consider your abilities and limitations before deciding to do it; it requires prior conditioning. Also, be sure to pack layers, hats and gloves. At this time of year with our hours of daylight waning, an early start is imperative.

SDHers on the edge (photo by Mark Malnati)

Due to extreme conditions that can occur above treeline, weather should cancel any plans you have for this route. If conditions look ominous, you should decide if it is prudent to turn back and forego exposure on the ridge.

Seven hikers and two dogs left Lafayette Place parking lot (the trailhead) at 8:00 a.m. We later met up with two more SDHers who had a later start. Thanks to co-leader Diane who led the hike, and all who waited or started down to hook up with me while I chased my dogs. I actually did some extra mileage thanks to my dogs who seem to make friends wherever they go and ended up trailing behind the rest of the group. I thought I would catch up with Faye and Mark, but never did; Faye must be working out!

View (photo by Mark Malnati)

This is one of the most popular hikes in the Whites. The trails were busy. One park ranger I spoke with said they expected 300-400 hikers on the ridge on Saturday. I believe it and think I met most of them!

We ascended Falling Waters Trail to Little Haystack Mountain. This trail can be steep in spots and passes by several points of interest. There are a series of waterfalls and a slanting cliff (Shining Rock) to take your mind off your aching knees.

Once you are above treeline, it is all worthwhile. This ridge offers wide views of the "Pemi" Wilderness. Foliage was bright, the sky was blue and there was an occasional high cloud. We were treated to the soft "whoosh" of a glider on the ridge. If I hadn't been too tired I would have gotten pictures.

Jack and Diana on Franconia Ridge (photo by Mark Malnati)

Once at the summit of Little Haystack, we followed Franconia Ridge Trail over the summits of Mounts Lincoln (5,089 feet) and Lafayette (5260 feet).

The descent started down Greenleaf Trail and we stopped at Greenleaf Hut for a potty break and warm drink. Then we picked up Old Bridle Path which took us right to the parking lot where we began our day.

It was a great day in the Whites for me, and I learned how to curse my dogs in French! The rest of the group stopped for Nachos and brew before heading home.

From co-leader Diane: As usual Deb did a fantastic job in setting us up for a fabulous hike. She picked the peak foliage weekend of the season (and a clear, dry, sunny day) and got us off to an early start so we could park in the lot and not off-road.
Shining Rock (photo by Mark Malnati)

Leaning cairn with the cliffs of Cannon Mountain in the background (photo by Mark Malnati)

View of Kinsman Ridge (photo by Mark Malnati) View of Cannon's cliffs and ski slopes (photo by Mark Malnati)


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The trailhead for this hike is located on the east side of Franconia Notch and is accessed from the Lafayette Place parking area on I-93 in Franconia Notch State Park. There are parking areas on both sides of the Parkway (I-93) with a foot-travel tunnel running underneath the highway connecting the two points.

Traveling northbound on I-93:
  • Take I-93 North through Franconia Notch.
  • Once in Franconia Notch State Park (where there is no median strip and the highway signs are brown instead of green), take the first exit after The Basin.
  • After driving past The Basin parking area, you will see a sign for "Trailhead Parking 1/4 mile", and then the exit sign will simply say "Trailhead Parking". This is the Lafayette Place parking area even though it isn't signed as such from the highway.
  • The trailhead is located directly off of this parking lot.

Traveling southbound on I-93:
  • Take I-93 South through Franconia Notch.
  • Once in Franconia Notch State Park (where there is no median strip and the highway signs are brown instead of green), take the first exit after Exit 34B.
  • After driving past Exit 34B, take the next exit signed as "Lafayette Place Campground - Trailhead Parking".
  • The trailhead is accessed by taking the pedestrian tunnel beneath the highway to the parking lot on the east side of the notch.

Other Notes   

Franconia Notch Hiker Shuttle

Parking lots can fill up quickly in Franconia Notch State Park, especially on weekends and during foliage season. Parking alongside the road is not allowed. A hiker shuttle (about $5 roundtrip per person) is available to transport folks between the trailheads and a large overflow parking area. Please refer to the New Hampshire State Parks website to see details for the Franconia Notch Hiker Shuttle.

More Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, Little Haystack Trail Reports   


View of Franconia Ridge (photo by Mark Malnati) View (photo by Mark Malnati)


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