The Arduous Trek to Mt. Lafayette Summit
Reaching the summit of Mt. Lafayette in the Franconia Range is any adventurers dream. The impressive mountain boasts as the highest peak of the Franconia Ridge, a mountain range located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This hike reigns at the top of my list of hikes that I have completed, and also one of the most strenuous (but totally worth it).
The summit of Mt. Lafayette sits at an impressive 5,249', and is accessible by a hike up to the summit via the Old Bridle Path/Greenleaf Trail or the Franconia Ridge Loop Trail. The Franconia Ridge Loop Trail is part of the impressive Appalachian Trail, and is a 8.8 mile round trip loop trek. I decided to take Old Bridle Path, which is a 8.4 mile round trip there-and-back hike. Hikers who decide to take the loop trail will be given the opportunity to visit Mt. Lincoln (5,089') and Little Haystack Mountain (4,800'), as well as witness a series of beautiful waterfalls along one portion of the loop trail.
My long day began at the Lafayette Place parking lot. From the lot, I hiked approximately 0.2 miles before reaching a wooden bridge and the trailhead. From this point, I had an option whether to turn towards Old Bridle Path or the Falling Waters Trail.
The Old Bridle Path trail ultimately leads towards Greenleaf Hut, which lies next to the beautiful Eagle Lake. For approximately the first mile, the hike is not too strenuous and features a dirt paved trail with minimal challenges. After trekking through the dense pines, the trail eventually opens up to beautiful views of the mountains that I was surrounded by in every direction.
After approximately 1.5 miles from the trailhead, I stumbled upon an opening that featured numerous large rocks and boulders. I decided to take a break, kick my feet up and admire the beauty in front of me. I had a snack, allowed my heart rate to decrease, and even enjoyed watching the little chipmunks run around beneath me.
After enjoying my break, the trail soon became quite a challenge. The dirt trail transitions from a soft, paved trail to a rocky/boulder stair trail that definitely gets the heart rate increasing.
At this point of the trail, it quickly becomes quite strenuous for the rest of the ascent towards Greenleaf Hut. Immense boulders lie along the trail, which requires quite a bit of endurance and stamina to overcome. The steady uphill trek continues for approximately another mile before the trail opens to amazing views of the Greenleaf Hut and Eagle Lake, which were definitely a site for sore eyes (and sore legs).
The Greenleaf Hut offers snacks, warm soups and baked goods for hikers to enjoy. It also offers 40 rooms for guests to book in advance.
Upon arriving at Greenleaf Hut, I enjoyed a nice picnic lunch and a warm cup of a soup. I took quite a few minutes enjoying lunch, the opportunity to rest my feet, and admired views of the surrounding wilderness and mountains. From the Greenleaf Hut, the view of Mt. Lafayette and the ascending trail ahead was quite intimidating. However, I didn't let that dwindle my anticipation and excitement to reach the summit. The 360 degree views and pinnacle of Mt. Lafayette that I longed for was just a mere 1.1 mile ahead.
After departing Greenleaf Hut, I entered into the pine forest for a few hundred feet until the forest cleared and I ultimately entered an alpine terrain. The majority of the trail towards the summit is exposed along the alpine mountainside, and the weather can change drastically. The wind picked up, and made for a very challenging hike for the rest of the trail. Good thing I came prepared with my wind breaker! I braved the wind and continued the ascent to the top, and let out a huge sigh of relief upon arriving to my destination.
The views from atop Mt. Lafayette were incredible and worth every challenge and obstacle along the way.
From the summit of Mt. Lafayette, hikers have the option to take Old Bridle Path back to the trailhead or continue on along the Franconia Ridge Trail, headed towards Mt. Lincoln and Little Haystack Mountain. If hikers decide to take the Franconia Ridge Trail, they will take the exposed trail and walk along the Appalachian Trail towards Mt. Lincoln for 0.9 miles. Upon arriving to Mt. Lincoln, the trek to Little Haystack Mountain is another 0.7 miles. After Little Haystack Mountain, hikers will take Falling Waters Trail for 3 miles before returning to the trailhead and parking lot.
I spent approximately an hour atop Mt. Lafayette before retracing my steps back down Old Bridle Path towards the trailhead.
This journey proved to be quite arduous and exhilarating, and was worth the muscle cramps and aching feet the following day. Climbing a mountain is one of the most exhilarating experiences, and the accomplishment that is felt is staggering. I highly recommend this trail for my more adventurous readers. The adventure will definitely provide you with remarkable memories and stories to be told for many years to come!