Trail Distance: 8.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3350'
Terrain Rating: Difficult
Hike In: 8:30AM
Hike Out: 2:52PM
Trailhead: Lafaytte Place Parking Lot in Franconia Notch on I-93.
This popular loop trail covers two of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. The Whites, and especially this hike, can be quite busy in the summer so make sure to get here early to nab a parking spot!
Starting from the parking lot, take the Falling Waters Trail (continue on when you see the Old Bridle Path junction after 0.2 miles) to Little Haystack Mountain (4,800'). Don't wear your sneakers on this one - hiking boots are a must! At 0.7 miles, you will cross a beautiful cascade called Stairs Falls. The trail becomes quite steep after this. The ascent is rocky and will require scrambling.
The day was extremely humid, so I was glad I brought a lot of water. For the next 2.3 miles, you will continue up Falling Waters, scrambling up rocks and going through a few switchbacks. At the end of your last switchback at 2.8 miles, you will have great views of Franconia Notch. At 3 miles, you will reach the Little Haystack Mountain. Look for the signs to Lincoln and Lafayette. You're now on the Appalachian Trail!
Crossing the ridge to Lincoln is only 0.7 miles, and another 0.9 miles to Lafayette. All 3 summits offer good (but windy) lunch spots. It's likely that you will run into groups of hikers and their dogs here in the summer. The views from here are spectacular. No wonder it's one of the most popular loop hikes in the Whites! This might be a good time to put on your extra layers. The wind is pretty strong up here.
After Lafayette begins your steep descent down Greenleaf Trail. After 1.1 miles, you will reach an AMC Hut. The descent requires scrambling down a few big rocks. The path then narrows to Old Bridle Path, which you will follow for 2.9 miles back to the Old Bridle Path/Falling Waters junction. These last few miles can be tough on your feet if you are a beginner hiker, but keep pressing! At the junction, it is only 0.2 miles back to the parking lot.
- 4L of water
- 1 KIND granola bar, 2 ClifBars, 1 Bagel, 1 Jar of Justin's PB (to share)
- LL Bean Hiking Shoes, Hiking Socks
- Yoga pants, Non-cotton t shirt
- Standard daypack
- Extra clothes packed away: hiking socks, hiking pants, windbreaker, lightweight long-sleeved shirt
- Emergency Gear: Map & GPS, Sunscreen, Headlamp, reduced First-Aid Kit, Swiss Army Knife