Mount Lafayette is the tallest mountain of Franconia Ridge at 5,249 feet. It features some of the best views in the entire state, multiple trails, an AMC hut, and gorgeous waterfalls. With easy access right of I-93, Lafayette also happens to be one of the most popular hikes in the state, but you can avoid the crowds if you can handle cold weather, visit during the weekdays, or get to an early start.
As the tallest mountain in the Franconia Range, it is often hiked with the entire, or a piece of Franconia Ridge. It is frequently summited with Mount Lincoln.
Height: 5,249 feet (1,600 m)
Length: 8.5 miles (13.68 km)
Duration: 3-6 hours
Elevation Gain: 3,600 feet (1,097 m)
Old Bridle Path – 8.5 miles round trip – 3,600 feet elevation gain
The old Bridle Path is a 2.9 mile trail that quickly ascends up to Greenleaf Hut. It connects with the Greenleaf Trail 1.1 miles from the summit of Lafayette. It is about .2 miles from tree line, but you get exposed along a ridge that gives fantastic views to the summit of Lafayette.
Falling Waters Trail – 9.6 miles round trip – 3,800 feet elevation gain
The Falling Waters Trail is a common trail for those hiking just Mount Lincoln, or doing a loop hike. This trail features stunning waterfalls (hence the name) that hikers can take a quick dip in. Beware that the falls get very busy in summer months.
The highlighted route above shows a very common loop that includes Little Haystack Mountain and Mount Lincoln. This will add mileage to your hike, but a unique perspective of Franconia Ridge.
The Falling Waters Trail gets quite steep around 1.5 miles into the hike. The terrain gets quite rocky, making for a more difficult footing than most trails. Many choose to ascend this side if they have trouble descending on boulder type sections.
Old Bridle Path and Falling Waters Trail Loop – 8.9 miles – 3,900 feet elevation gain
This is a loop option to combine both of the most popular routes up to Franconia Ridge. This will allow hikers to experience both 4,000 foot summits, the waterfalls along the falling waters trail, and the Greenleaf AMC hut.
Winter Hiking Mount Lafayette
Winter hiking Mount Lafayette often requires microspikes or crampons. Many stretches of the ascent feature steep and icy sections that are dangerous without the proper traction. Hikers quickly ascend above treeline, making it essential to have the proper winter hiking gear and clothing. With this being said, Mount Lafayette is a stunning hike in all 4 seasons. Because this is well traveled, hikers can often get away without snowshoes, however after snowfall, or during warmer times when the snowpack is melting, it is recommended to bring snowshoes.
The parking lot is plowed in all seasons, and is still frequently hiked in the winter.
Solo hiking in the whites can be dangerous, especially in the winter. For the most part, there isn’t much danger, but the key is to be prepared for some nasty weather, and to make sure you could safely stay on the mountain a lot longer than your intentions may be. Most of the people getting in trouble in NH, simply underestimate the severity of potential weather, and don’t take the proper precautions to be safe.
Directions and Parking
There is a lot of parking space on both sides of I-93 at Lafayette Place Parking area and Lafayette campground. Arrive early as this is the most busy section of the White Mountains. People used to overflow park on I-93 when it was not legal. Now, overflow parking, and a shuttle to the trailhead is located at Cannon Mountain just a couple miles down the road.
All trails to the summit are well traveled. Summer conditions are almost always fine. Winter can experience significant ice and snow buildup.
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about