Table of Contents

Note Mount Liberty and Mount Flume now have their own page.

These notes are written to help you compare the various routes that are commonly used to hike to the peaks. They are written on the assumption that you have a guidebook and a set of maps, so no directions are given to trailheads, and the trails are not described in any detail. I have omitted hikes that are substantially longer or more difficult than the standard ones, or that are simply less often used. The fact that a trail is not mentioned here does not imply that it is unsuitable.

Mountain Weather Forecast

The Recreation Report for New Hampshire and Western Maine gives a two day forecast for higher elevations (separate forecasts for elevations of 2,500 to 4,000 feet and for above 4,000 feet). There is also a point forecast for Mount Lafayette. That point forecast unfortunately only claims an elevation of about 3,500 feet; expect the actual temperatures to be a bit lower and the wind speeds a bit higher! The Mount Washington Observatory's Higher Summits Forecast is also useful.


The map below is a fully interactive Google map, you can zoom in or out and click on any feature. Specifically clicking on the P symbols will allow you to get driving directions to the trailheads.

View Lafayette and Licoln in a larger map

Huts and Established Trailside Campsites

The Greenleaf Hut is located at treeline at the junction of the Old Bridle Path [ow: 2.9 miles, 2,150 feet, 2:30] and Greenleaf trail [ow: 2.7 miles, 2,250 feet, 2:30]. It allows an easy two day loop over Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette, and in conjunction with the other huts allows traverses of various lengths to be made.

Franconia Notch Recreational Trail (Bike Path)

The bike path (maintained by the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation) connects many of the trailheads in Franconia Notch, and is useful when making loops with only one car. The following table gives the cumulative distances (in both directions) and elevations of several locations on the path.

Distances on the Franconia Notch Bike Path
Location Elevation Distance
Visitor Center 1,400 0.0 8.8
Whitehouse Bridge 1,400 0.9 7.9
Basin (West) 1,520 1.8 7.0
Lafayette Place 1,770 3.5 5.3
Profile Lake 1,960 4.8 4.0
Old Man Viewing 1,960 5.5 3.3
Cannon Tramway 1,980 6.0 2.8
Echo Lake 1,940 6.6 2.2
Skookumchuck Trailhead 1,700 8.8 0.0

Routes to Peaks

Mount Lafayette

This is almost always climbed (when done alone) by the Old Bridle Path to the Greenleaf Hut and the Greenleaf Trail to the summit of Mt. Lafayette (rt: 8.0 miles, 3,600 feet, 5:50). There are excellent views along the Old Bridle Path, and the last mile up the Greenleaf trail is entirely above treeline. This is a deservedly popular trail, do not expect solitude on a nice summer weekend! It is often combined with Mt. Lincoln (see discussion of loops below).

There are two other ways of doing Mt. Lafayette alone. It may be done entirely by the Greenleaf Trail (Rt: 7.6 miles, 3,300 feet, 5:25). This does not have the great views that the Old Bridle Path has, but it does pass through the wild Eagle Pass. Another possibility is by the Skookumchuck and Garfield Ridge trails (rt: 10.2 miles, 3,550 feet, 6:50), the latter going up the north ridge of Mt. Lafayette above treeline. Both of these are much less crowded than the popular Old Bridle Path. They can be combined, going up the Skookumchuck and Garfield Ridge trails and down Greenleaf Trail (lp: 8.9 miles, 3,550 feet, 6:15), with 250 fewer feet if done in the opposite direction. With only one car this will require a 2.8 mile walk along the Franconia Notch Recreational Trail.

Mount Lincoln

Normally done by taking the Falling Waters Trail to Little Haystack, then following the Franconia Ridge Trail (rt: 7.8 miles, 3,400 feet, 5:35) along the ridge, with great views, to the summit of Mt. Lincoln. It is often combined with Mt. Lafayette (see discussion of loops below). The Falling Waters Trail has a very steep section, and the Franconia Ridge Trail is very exposed to the weather.

Both (Franconia Ridge Loop)

This is a classic, the views along the ridge are spectacular if the weather cooperates. It is done in either direction, using the Old Bridle Path, Greenleaf, Franconia Ridge and Falling Waters trails (lp: 8.9 miles, 3,900 feet, 6:25). About 2 miles of this is above treeline, you get great views but are exposed to the weather.

To summarize, here are the distances, elevation gains and book times of the various possible routes to the Mount Lafayette and Mount Lincoln:

Routes to Mount Lafayette and Mount Lincoln
Route Distance Elevation Gain Book Time
Mt. Lafayette by Old Bridle Path 8.0 3,600 5:50
Mt. Lafayette by Greenleaf 7.6 3,500 5:25
Mt. Lafayette by Skookumchuck 10.2 3,550 6:50
Mt. Lincoln by Falling Waters 7.8 3,400 5:35
Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette 8.9 3,900 6:25

Winter Routes

On a clear day the views from either peak, and from the ridge between them, is spectacular, so this is an extremely popular winter hike. Both the Falling Waters Trail and the Old Bridle Path are broken out soon after a storm. This is, however, a very dangerous place in bad weather, and almost every winter at least one party gets lost descending from the ridge in a whiteout. These are not mountains to climb in bad (or even, in my opinion, merely dubious) weather!

Note: Greenleaf Hut is closed in winter.

Mt. Lafayette in Winter

The Skookumchuck Trail is very rarely used in winter, and is very unlikely to be broken out. Hence almost everyone climbs Mount Lafayette by the Old Bridle Path. The trail is moderate most of the way, with a couple of steep pitches ("The Agonies", as the croo call them) that can be difficult to negotiate without crampons. The climb above treeline (about ½ miles) has at least one spot which can be moderately difficult to negotiate when it is icy.

Mt. Lincoln in Winter

The Falling Waters Trail is rather difficult in winter, as the sections near the falls are often icy, and early in the season, before the streams are frozen and covered with snow, the crossings may be "interesting". In addition the final climb to the ridge is steep. The trail along the ridge (about ¾ miles each way) is easy as long as the weather is good.

Franconia Ridge in Winter

A spectacular trip that involves around 2½ miles of hiking above treeline. While people do it in both directions I prefer to go up the Falling Waters Trail, as I find it easier to negotiate the sections along the falls going uphill. As noted above, it is not a hike to do in bad weather!