Hiking: The Falling Waters and Bridal Path Trails Loop Over Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette | White Mountains, NH | June 27, 2008

The Falling Waters, Franconia Ridge, and Bridal Path Trails take hikers on a loop up and over Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette above Franconia Notch in what is one of the classic New Hampshire hikes of the White Mountains.

About the Hike

This hike takes you from the floor of Franconia Notch, up to the summit of Little Haystack. From there, you hike across the fairly narrow Franconia Ridge to reach Mount Lincoln. You descend on the ridge and then make the final climb up to the summit of Mount Lafayette. From Lafayette, you start hiking back down along the Greenleaf Trail until you reach the AMC Greenleaf Hut. That’s where you get on the Bridal Path, finish descending the ridge and hook back into the Falling Waters Trail before reaching the Lafayette Place Trailhead parking lot.

All told it’s about a 9 mile loop with and a gain and loss of several thousand vertical feet.

It’s best to start out early and take your time. Not only that, but you’ve got to watch the weather, since the two miles or so of hiking along the Franconia Ridge and the descent from Lafayette are all above treeline are exposed to the full force of the weather. You have to watch out for thunderstorms and any other kind of inclement weather since there is no protection up there. We had our eye on some thunderheads throughout the day but thankfully they all stayed to the north and south of us.
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Getting there

Parking for this loop hike is available at the Lafayette Place Trailhead just off of Interstate 93 in Franconia Notch.  This is a large parking area that supports the Bridal Path and Falling Waters Trails, but on weekends it can fill quite quickly and it is best to get there as early as possible.  Even better, plan the hike for a weekday and parking is a lot easier.

Since the parking area is located within a State Park (Franconia Notch State Park), there is no day use fee for parking.

The Hike

Starting out at the Lafayette Place Trailhead parking lot in Franconia Notch State Park, the Bridal Path and Falling Waters Trail start out together for about a quarter mile or so of fairly easy walking.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
The Falling Waters Trail crosses over the creek and then makes its way across the slope to the Dry River where it turns and starts to climb up the creek’s ravine. There’s a reason this trail is called the Falling Waters trail. You hear the falling water the entire time and for about half the trip, you are basically walking up the river, fording it and climbing around the waterfalls along the way.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Before reaching the summit of Little Haystack, there’s a short side trail out to Shining Rock. We didn’t bother going out, but it offers views of Franconia Notch and Cannon Mountain.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
From there, it’s a fairly quick scramble up to the summit of Little Haystack where you break above treeline just below the summit area. From here on out, you are above treeline until you drop back down on the shoulder of Lafayette on your way to the Greenleaf Hut.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
The trail descends slightly after Little Haystack before climbing over a small hump and then slowly making its way up to the summit of Mount Lincoln. Nothing is overly difficult about this hike, the grades are fairly mild and the trail is well marked, however you are on a fairly narrow ridge that is well above treeline.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
You quickly reach the summit of Mount Lincoln and from there, you can finally see Mount Lafayette beyond (at Little Haystack it’s hidden behind Lincoln). The summit area offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding area and if the weather is good, it offers a good place to stop and take in the Franconia Ridge and surrounding mountains.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
The trail descends a bit more than it did after Little Haystack from Lincoln as you continue along the ridge on your way to Lafayette.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Again, not a difficult hike, but it is exposed and in bad weather it could be a tough, if not impossible hike. You make your way along the ridge, over a smaller hump and then begin the ascent of Lafayette itself.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
The top of Lafayette offers some great views of the Franconia Notch and Ridge, along with views into the Pemigewasset Wilderness and the North Country.

From there, you begin descending down a shoulder of Lafayette on the Greenleaf Trail. This trail is fairly exposed for about half the trip down to the hut.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
It eventually makes its way to treeline and then shortly passes by Eagle Lake and then reaches the Greenleaf Hut. During the summer months the hut is open (you need reservations to say overnight) to the public. There are bathrooms and running water.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
It’s about 3 miles from the hut down to the Lafayette Place Trailhead and it’s a whole lot of down. You’re in the woods right after you leave the hut but then as you make your way down the ridge, the woods opens up a bit along a cliff line and you have views back up to Lafayette, Lincoln and the rest of the Franconia Ridge.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
After that you drop fairly steeply off the end of the ridge and then eventually come back to the point where the Falling Waters Trail had veered off. From here, it’s just a bit back to the trailhead and your vehicle at the parking lot.

Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop hike - 7/27/08
You can see the entire photoset for this hike on Flickr.


AMC White Mountain Guide, 28th: Hiking trails in the White Mountain National Forest (Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide)For more information on Hiking, Climbing and Skiing in the White Mountains
We have produced a short guide to the recreational opportunities available in Franconia Notch State Park. If you are looking to hike, the best guide to the trails of the White Mountains is published by the Appalachian Mountain Club. The White Mountain Trail Guide provides descriptions and maps for all of the hiking trails of the White Mountains. AMC also produces a map for the trails in the Franconia Notch Region, as does National Geographic in their Trails Illustrated series.

Comments

  1. I had planned to hike the Falling Waters Bridal Path loop this past August with my 8 year old and 11 year old sons. However, the forecast calling for thunderstorm that particular week forced me to cancel our trip until next year.

    Your pictures of the trail along the way are a big help since it will be my first time hiking this trail, and my sons first 4,000 footer and first 5000 footer.

    I showed the pictures to my sons and they are psyched. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete

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