Grafton County High Point Trip Report

Mt Lafayette

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.