Grafton County High Point Trip Report
Date: January 27, 2002
Author: Roy Schweiker
The loop described is one of the classic hikes in New Hampshire, summer or winter. It is only a mile and
300 feet of elevation harder than Lafayette alone, and should be chosen unless one of the following applies:
* The weather is too bad to stay above tree line longer.
* The water is too high to cross Dry Brook safely.
* You are from the west and bored with alpine hikes, and would prefer to spend the extra time
bushwhacking in scrub near Greenleaf Hut.
The trailhead is across from Lafayette Place, Franconia Notch State Park Parkway Northbound, exit at
"Trailhead Parking" sign after The Basin. Southbound, exit at Lafayette Place and walk through underpass
to other side of parkway. Currently there is no fee.
From the northbound parking lot, the combined trails circle right 0.2 mile to Walker Brook, where Old
Bridle Path continues uphill along the brook. Crossing the bridge, Falling Waters Trail continues to circle
across a ridge and down to Dry Brook, which it crosses. There are a total of 5 unbridged crossings of this brook,
which today were frozen over but may be troublesome, in spring particularly. The trail turns sharply
uphill left along the brook, ignore an unofficial path which continues straight ahead. The trail passes several
falls and cascades, and after the fifth crossing ascends the side of the ridge. A sign warns of the alpine area ahead,
but it takes a few more minutes of climb through ever-smaller trees before the trail bursts out in the
open and quickly reaches the summit of Little Haystack. Turn left on the Franconia Ridge Trail for Mt Lafayette.
Nearly this entire section of the Franconia Ridge Trail is above tree line and exposed to the weather, and the
ridge is narrower than most of the Presidentials, making for a spectacular trip. The trail descends slightly
from Little Haystack, then climbs to the summit of Mt. Lincoln halfway along. A longer descent over a
bump and a final climb of 400 feet lead to the summit of Mt Lafayette.
Take the Greenleaf Trail down to the AMC Greenleaf Hut. After a short distance the trail zags right to
avoid a cliff band, then switchbacks left to regain the ridge down. Watch for these turns in times of poor visibility.
The trail enters thick evergreens and crosses a shallow col to the hut, where meals and bunk space
are available during summer months by advance reservation. The hut is closed in winter.
To return to the parking lot, turn left on the Old Bridle Path, which follows the obvious ridge
south-southwest from the hut. The last mile wanders in the woods back to the bridge.
About 9.0 miles around loop with 3800 feet of elevation gain, it took me 8 hours but faster hikers in summer
can do it in much less. There were people doing the loop in snowshoes, crampons, and just boots:
yes, somebody snowshoed all the way to the summit. A woman asked me where the survey marker was as all the
rocks were coated with ice, I said I didn't know and she should just climb the 2 highest rocks like I did.