Trip Report: Franconia Ridge – WMNF, NH

First off I’d like to advise all of you to not get a cold during the prime of the fall hiking season. There is nothing quite like waking up totally amped up about a hiking trip, only to find that you can barely handle stairs. Needless to say, that’s why I vanished for awhile. My lungs needed some time to stop wimping out. Blech!

Fortunately, between actually feeling better and a level of stubbornness that only I possess, we finally got back to hiking last weekend – and we went big! Finally checked off #3 (Lincoln) and #4 (Lafayette)! Back when we first started really getting into this whole hiking thing, we all began eyeballing Franconia Ridge. At 8.8 miles and just short of 4,000 feet in elevation gain, we knew it was going to be a tough hike, but we “knew” we could handle it. However, weather just kept getting in the way. Roughly 2 miles of the hike is an entirely and utterly exposed ridge prone to bad weather – sudden storms, high winds, etc. So, we checked the weather every weekend and every weekend it was terrible. This led us to hike less exposed mountains such as Pierce and Kinsman, but Franconia Ridge was always there taunting us from way up in the clouds.

Finally, this past weekend the weather couldn’t have been better and the high summit forecast was perfect, and so – despite it being both Columbus Day weekend and Canadian Thanksgiving – we set off on our hike. How did it go?

Getting There: So remember the directions for Kinsman? Same thing! Turns out the trail head and lot for quite a few hikes is in fact Lafayette Place. I will add though that this lot was nowhere near as full at 7:30am which was a much difference experience than last time when we parked closer to 10am. Good to know!

Franconia Ridge

The Trail: After doing Pierce, Kinsman, Welch, and Dickey, I started to catch on that what one person rates difficult is another person’s easy and vice versa. We found Pierce surprisingly easy and Kinsman hard. Oddly enough, for a trail rated “very difficult”, Franconia Ridge was less intimidating than what we expected (or maybe we were just more prepared?). There were certainly a few difficult sections for our dogs (3 water crossings, some tall boulders, downhill scramble, and a steep slippery rock face), but for the most part it was easy for us humans once we got past endurance struggles. The best part of the hike is almost certainly the ridge itself, so I’d suggest planning in some extra time to enjoy the remarkable views. You’ll be able to see everything from Cannon Cliffs to Mount Washington on a clear day. So stunning! For a super detailed and excellent route, check out Hike New England’s report here.

FranconiaRidge081011-Map

The stats:

  • Starting Elevation: 1,450′ (Lafayette Campground)
  • Elevation Gain: 3,860′ (Cumulative)
  • Highest Point: 5,260′ (Mt. Lafayette Summit)
  • Distance: 8.8 miles
  • Time: 7-10 Hours depending on pace and breaks

On a side note, here’s a word of caution: Don’t do this hike during holiday weekends (for the US or Canada). While other local hikers are usually wonderful folks with trail etiquette, the hundreds of tourists we ran into this weekend were nothing but rude, pushy, and downright arrogant. When they weren’t being rude, we felt like we were a zoo exhibit as they pointed and loudly yelled “Les chiens! J’adore!” which confused the heck out of our dogs who were trying to quietly take a break and stay out of the way off the trail. We even had to “merge” back on to the trail several times after letting groups of 40-50 pass. The highlight? Kina literally got pushed off a steep rock face by a horrendously rude hiker who cut us off. Woah!

photo 1 (1)

Is this trail kid friendly? Dog friendly?: Despite our impressions of this trail, you should know that is a long and strenuous hike. We did in fact see kids, big dogs, and small dogs out on this trail – so we know it’s possible for all of the above. But, it’s super important to make sure that everyone in your hiking party is conditioned and prepared for this hike. Unlike other hikes we’ve done, this one did actually include running into several parties with injured hikers (and an injured dog), so dangers exist!

Happy hiking!

Franconia Ridge

The view from AMC’s Greenleaf Hut. I could have just stayed here indefinitely.

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About Jillian Bejtlich

Hey! I'm Jillian Bejtlich. I’m a lifelong New Englander with a serious love of the outdoors, adventure, and a pretty serious inability to sit still. I’m plagued by the travel bug, and it seems I’ll try any relatively sane and safe thing once. My big goal in life: Get people outside!