Or why it took 3 attempts to finally trek it successfully 🙂 A tribute to spending 2 years in New Hampshire and learning how to hike there! First time we weren’t advised on proper footwear and the waterfall part of the climb can be very slippery (definitely not appropriate for gym sneakers). Second time we arrived too late (after 11am) and it is a full day hike that I wouldn’t dare to start with a group at 11am. Third time was a charm – one autumn day I told Lindsay “now or never” and us two mountain goats drove to Northern NH and completed the hike in <6 hrs in less than optimal weather 🙂
Franconia Ridge Loop is one of my favorite full day hikes in NH. It is a very popular trail in the summer and you can safely hike it alone as you will see lots of folks along the way. It is also clearly marked (if you can see 10 feet ahead of you that is 🙂 There are 2 options to hike the trail – do the whole loop or just do small portion of it to the AMC Greenleaf hut and back.
All Trails rates it as hard but I would say it is a moderate (but long) hike with wonderful waterfall and ridge views along the way. For best pictures hike it on a clear fall day – the foliage colors and panoramas from the ridge line are spectacular! As a bonus you will ascend three peaks, 2 over 4000ft (Mt Little Haystack and Mt Lincoln) and one 5000 footer (Mt Lafayette – the highest mountain outside the Presidential Range). #threebirdswithonestone
What to bring:
- 3L of water, food for a day, first aid kit,
- hiking shoes with lots of traction on the soles and ankle support (for wet rocks around the waterfall and 3500ft of elevation in 4 miles),
- rain gear and layers for on top (1/3 of the hike is on exposed ridge above tree line),
- camera, a smile, and a good friend 🙂
From the trailhead I recommend you start the hike on your right – follow the Falling Waters trail up as it is easier to climb over wet rock and take in waterfall views when you are ascending (and not descending). If you would like to hike the opposite loop, here is a guided itinerary by a fellow NH female hiker:
Having climbed the waterfall, there is about an hour hike to the top of the ridge in a shady, wooded area. No time to rest just yet 🙂
Once you get to the ridge, you will turn left to follow the ridge line north and make the loop towards the AMC hut on your way down. The ridge is above tree line (be prepared for inclement weather even in summer) with 360 views (usually…but not in our case) and 4000ft drops on both sides. The trail is well marked and easy to follow (on a clear day…).
It was clear at the bottom, but at the top we were hiking deep into the clouds with 0 visibility and thick fog…and even managed to get lost off trail… #donttellmom
After you summit Mt Lafayette, you will head down towards the AMC hut to finish the loop. I like to take a break above tree line weather permitting, snap some pics and grab a snack. Then I’d visit the AMC hut on the way down for fuel replenishment – hot cocoa and a home-made baked good treat. From the AMC hut to the parking lot is “supposedly” easier downhill than the Falling Waters trail. I hate downhill so I can’t vouch for “easier”.
Be safe and happy trails!!!