Hiking 12 Miles on Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire

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White Mountains

Hiking Franconia Ridge White Mountains

White Mountains, New Hampshire

Today I woke up at 4am. I was about to head up into the White Mountains of New Hampshire and hike a small section of the famed Appalachian Trail. If you don’t already know, the Appalachian Trail (aka “AT”) is a 2000 mile long hiking trail that extends from Georgia to Maine.

The area I hiked is called Franconia Notch, and it’s a beautiful mountain pass in the north of the state of New Hampshire. There is a high ridge on the East side of the pass that traverses the top of many mountain peaks. I started hiking at 5:30am up the Liberty Springs Trail, deep into the woods.

Mount Liberty was the first peak I would reach, after a very steep hike up the side of the mountain. On the way I passed a camping area with raised platforms for tents, available to those who were on multi-day treks along the Appalachian Trail. It seemed very busy, but everyone was still just waking up. I had the trail to myself.

White Mountains Appalachian Train

Section of Appalachian Trail

Only one hiker crossed my path up to Mount Liberty, and he was heading down. It was obvious he was a “Thru-Hiker” on the AT. These are the people that try to hike the entire 2000 mile trail from start to finish. It’s easy to pick them out, because they look like they’ve been hiking for 5 months in the wilderness, completely avoiding humanity.

Once at the top of Liberty, I headed North along the ridge-line to summit 3 more peaks. Little Haystack, Mount Lincoln, and finally the tallest of them, Mount Lafayette. There were quite a few hikers along this ridge later in the day, people were heading up to this scenic area for some exercise.

Mt. Lafayette

Rock Cairns on the Trail to Mt. Lafayette

Mushrooms Along the Trail

Mushrooms Along the Trail

There were fields of bright green moss along the trail and many colorful mushrooms. The wind was strong while hiking exposed on the ridge, and I threw on a light jacket when I stopped to rest. The 4 peaks I climbed were all around 5000 ft high, making it a bit chilly even in the summer.

The total backpacking trip was 12 miles, and my legs were nice and sore by the end. But it was an invigorating and refreshing hike on a beautiful day into the wilderness of New Hampshire!

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Have any questions about Franconia Ridge? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

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  1. Matt,
    I got myself interested in reading Stephen Pern’s book again that I just ordered a used copy of ‘The Great Divide: A Walk Along the Continental Divide’ from Abe’s Books.

    I think I still have a copy in storage but that’s in another country.

    We have parts of our possessions in three countries now – one of the possible downsides of travel… :-)

    1. You should invest in a Kindle! Your whole library available at your fingertips, and weighs less than a single book. I love mine. The battery charge lasts a month too. One piece of technology that is definitely worth it’s weight when traveling.

  2. Nice article – I see the trees in the photo are conifers. Are there broadleaved trees lower down? I am more of a fan of broadleaves.

    We are toying with the idea of moving to D.C. and one of the attractions is the Appalachians.

    I guess in the back of my mind I knew from school geography that the mountain ridge extended a long way, but I didn’t know it went from Georgia to Maine – that’s quite something to tackle.

    I read a book a long while ago ‘The Great Divide’ by Stephen Pern. He walked the Rockies from Mexico to Canada.

    He went by car with his girlfriend beforehand, stashing food along the way.

    Then he started out alone from Mexico – within the window of avoiding too much heat in the South and too much snow in the North – I am sure you would enjoy the book if you could get a copy – may be out of print now.