It’s often hard to imagine an exotic vacation in your own backyard but what if you could see beautiful waterfalls, climb above the clouds and be submerged in an array of vibrant colors? Would you believe then?
As summer rapidly moves to a close and September is racing in with the autumn hot on its heels, I thought I should start my new blog with one of the most stunning hikes in the White Mountain the Franconia Ridge Loop Trail. This loop consists of the Falling Waters Trail, Franconia Ridge, the Greenleaf Trail and the Old Bridal Trail. It is not an easy hike, at 8.8 miles with a 4000 foot elevation gain and two Mounts over 5000 feet each, many guidebooks rate it as strenuous hike but if you are up for the challenge you will be rewarded with breathtaking scenes.
Access to the trailheads is very convenient and parking can be found right off of I-93. When heading north watch for a Trailhead Parking sign about a mile and a half after the Basin.
This hike is best in September when the foliage can be seen in mid to northern New Hampshire. I enjoyed starting the hike on Falling Waters Trail so when I get to the ledge opposite of the Franconia Ridge, I can sit back and enjoy the view of what I have already hiked. But either of the trails, Falling Waters or Old Bridal, offer amazing views which will be enjoyed no matter which trail you start on.
Falling Waters Trail, which weaves in and out of Dry Brook, is the home of, not one but three beautiful waterfalls. The first and smallest of the three waterfalls is Stairs Falls. Stairs Falls is a beautiful cascading fall that’s under 20 feet high. Don’t be fool by its size, though it’s one of the prettiest falls. Swiftwater Falls is the second fall. It’s a bit larger and a beautiful site to see. This fall cuts through the path. The final fall is the Cloudland Fall. Cloudland is the largest, running about 80 feet high, of the three falls. Cold sprays of water cool hikers when the waters are high. The view of this fall is stunning.
As amazing as the falls are, your adventure doesn’t end here. As you reach the end of Falling Waters Trail, you will find yourself reaching the summit of Little Haystack Mountain. Little Haystack stands just over 4000 feet. It is not considered one of New Hampshire 4000 footer though. It lacks this recognition because Mount Lincoln’s col stands just 200ft below it. The views when you reach the top of Little Haystack, with Mount Lincoln to the north and Mount Liberty to the southwest, are stunning. Your breath will be taken away as you look out over New Hampshire as far as the eye can see. The hike only gets more impressive as you reach the peaks of Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette. At Mount Lafayette if you are really lucky you may find yourself above the clouds and starring out into light fluffy pillows rolling over the lower hills and trees. Always beware of the weather when hiking on the Ridge. The weather can change fast and suddenly so be sure the weather is in your favor for hiking. On top of Mount Lafayette, the highest of the three peaks, is the best place to enjoy the surrounding and lunch! I suggest a nice rest here.
After lunch, the decent begins but the beauty isn’t over. Greenleaf Trail to Greenleaf Hut is the next destination. Greenleaf hut can be stayed in but must be booked well in advance. Old Bridal Trail will be the last trail you will take. This trail will take you back to the parking lot. Old Bridal trail offers a look back at the Franconia Ridge and a stunning panorama picture of the foliage. I suggest you grab a quick rest here and enjoy the spectacle before you continue on. The foliage shines rich with gold, reds and sunshine oranges.
Remember when hiking safety first! Please check out the link below for safety tips and items to take with you on your hike!