Hiking Mount Lafayette – Franconia Notch’s Highest Peak

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Article Categories: Hiking

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.

 

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Height: 5,249 feet (1,600 m)
Length: 8.5 miles (13.68 km)
Duration: 3-6 hours
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation Gain: 3,600 feet (1,097 m)

 

Trail Map

Mount Lafayette Trail Map

Map Courtesy of 4000footers.com

 

Trails

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.

Looking for more? Check out our complete guide on each of the mountains on the ridge, or our full guide to Franconia Ridge: Mount Lincoln, Mount Liberty, Mount Flume

 

Falling Waters Trail

Waterfall on the Falling Waters Trail

Mount Lafayette

Views of Franconia Ridge

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.

Mount Lafayette

Mount Lafayette Winter Hike

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.

 

 

Trail Conditions

All trails to the summit are well traveled. Summer conditions are almost always fine. Winter can experience significant ice and snow buildup.

 

Weather Forecast

Lincoln, NH

Today
Mostly cloudy, with a high near 24. West wind 5 to 10 mph.

Tonight
Isolated snow showers between 11pm and midnight, then snow likely between midnight and 5am, then a chance of freezing drizzle. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 18. South wind 5 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.

Tuesday
A chance of freezing drizzle before noon, then a chance of snow between noon and 1pm, then isolated snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 26. West wind 20 to 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible. Little or no ice accumulation expected.

Tuesday Night
A slight chance of snow showers before 11pm. Cloudy, with a low around 18. Northwest wind 15 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph.

Wednesday
A chance of snow showers. Cloudy, with a high near 26. West wind 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.

Wednesday Night
A chance of snow showers. Cloudy, with a low around 23. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New snow accumulation of less than half an inch possible.

Thursday
A slight chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 29. Little or no snow accumulation expected.

Thursday Night
A slight chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 19.

Friday
A slight chance of snow showers before 7am. Partly sunny, with a high near 25.

Friday Night
A slight chance of snow showers after 7pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 15.

New Year's Day
A chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 23. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Saturday Night
A chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 18. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

Sunday
A chance of snow showers. Cloudy, with a high near 25. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

Sunday Night
A chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 6. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

 

Franconia Ridge

Max DesMarais
Max DesMarais

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