Hiking: Lonesome Lake from Lafayette Place | Franconia Notch, New Hampshire | July 22, 2013

Lonesome Lake is located just west of Franconia Notch and is sits in a basin between North Kinsman
Mountain and Cannon Mountain that is raised above Franconia Notch.  The lake is home to the Appalachian Mountain Club's Lonesome Lake Hut, along with a number of trails that surround the lake and head off to Cannon, North Kinsman and Franconia Notch.

We were staying at the Lafayette Place Campground in Franconia Notch State Park which is a great base of operations for many of the trails in central part of Franconia Notch (including the Falling Waters/Bridal Path Loop over Lafayette and Lincoln to the east).  It saves you from having to fight for a parking spot in the chronically overfilled parking areas for the trailheads (since you can leave your car at your campsite).

For the Lonesome Lake Trail, it actually passes through the Campground on its way to Lonesome Lake so we were literally able to put our packs on at our site and start hiking within a minute or two on the official trail.

Finding the Lonesome Lake Trailhead

The trailhead for the Lonesome Lake Trail is only accessible from the southbound lane of I-93 (which is the Franconia Notch Parkway) at the parking area located just east and south of the Lafayette Place Campground.  If you are traveling northbound on I93, you can change direction at the next exit (the Cannon Mountain Tram exit).  Once off of I93, there are two parking areas, one to your immediate left and one to your right.  The 2nd left hand turn is to the campground and has no day hiker parking available.  This is a popular trailhead, especially on weekends and it is best to get here early in order to secure a parking spot.

Our Hike

From our site we followed the Lonesome Lake Trail to the eastern shore of Lonesome Lake.  From there we followed the Around Lonesome Lake Trail to the Lonesome Lake Hut, then rejoined the Lonesome Lake Trail where it begins climbing to the Kinsman Ridge Trail.  From there we followed the Lonesome Lake Trail around the rest of the lake to its intersection with the Around Lonesome Lake Trail.  From there we followed the Dodge Cutoff to the Hi-Cannon Trail and descended to its intersection with the Lonesome Lake Trail and returned to the Lafayette Place Campground.

Hiking the Lonesome Lake Trail

From the trailhead, the Lonesome Lake Trail is a steady, but easy climb of 1.2 miles to Lonesome Lake with about 950 feet of elevation gain.  The Trail begins by passing through the Lafayette Place Campground.  There's a large trail sign at the back side of the campground and the trail enters the wood, crossing a small stream and then making its way up the slope on an old bridal path.  After about a tenth of a mile the Hi-Cannon Trail intersects the Lonesome Lake Trail.  The Hi-Cannon trail climbs more or less directly up the mountainside, while the Lonesome Lake Trail makes the climb via three long switchbacks that moderate the difficulty of the climb.  If you are ascending to Lonesome Lake, it is best to avoid using the Hi-Cannon Trail.

The Lonesome Lake Trail quickly begins gaining more elevation as you make your way along three switchbacks up the mountainside.  The route is not difficult to hike, but it is a steady walk as you make your way higher.  After about seven tenths of a mile you reach the height of land and the trail levels off before descending slightly to the shore of Lonesome Lake.  At that same point, the Lonesome Lake Trail intersects with the Dodge Cutoff and the Around Lonesome Lake Trail.

While you can access the shoreline of Lonesome Lake from this area, the trail itself does not go down to the shoreline and the immediate area surrounding the lake is quite wet.  There are several better locations to access the lake, especially in front of the Lonesome Lake Hut.

We turned left on the Around Lonesome Lake Trail (which at this point is also the Cascade Brook Trail) and followed the trail around the lake towards the Hut.  The crosses through a number of wet areas near the shoreline of the lake on baordwalk and puncheon with occasional views of Cannon and Kinsman Ridge across the lake.

Just before reaching the outlet of Lonesome Lake, the Around Lonesome Lake Trail joins the Fishin' Jimmy Trail as the Cascade Brook Trail turns off and descends to Franconia Notch.  The trail then crosses the outlet of Lonesome Lake, which offers great views of Cannon, Kinsman Ridge and the Franconia Range on the other side of the notch.  This is also an easy place to reach the water of Lonesome Lake.

We continued a bit further west to where the Fishin' Jimmy Trail turns and climbs to the hut and the Around Lonesome Lake Trail continues along the shoreline.  This area has several small decks and the edge of the pond, while filled with rocks, offers something of a beach if you wish to go swimming.  Given that it was one of the hottest weekends of the summer when we were there, we decided to spend an hour or so relaxing and swimming while we were at the Lake.

From the beach area in front of the Lonesome Lake Hut, the Around Lonesome Lake Trail continues westerly through boggy areas along the shoreline on some fairly extensive sets of boardwalk.  The trail crosses one especially stunning open bog area where several small streams go down into Lonesome Lake.  This open area provides some stunning panoramas of the surrounding mountains.

The trail reaches drier ground after re-entering the woods and intersects with the Lonesome Lake Trail that had come up on the northern shore of the Lake.  From here the Lonesome Lake Trail continues to ascend to the Kinsman Ridge Trail.

We turned east (right) on the Lonesome Lake Trail and continued on the trail until we reached the intersection we had first come to with Cascade Brook/Around Lonesome Lake Trail.  Besides being somewhat wet (due to high water conditions at the time), the walk around all of Lonesome Lake is quite easy and very pleasant.  I especially enjoyed the section of trail through the open bog that allowed for views of Cannon, Kinsman Ridge, the Lake and the Franconia Range.

Instead of descending via the Lonesome Lake Trail though, we followed the Dodge Cutoff from this trail junction three tenths of a mile to its intersection with the Hi-Cannon Trail.  The Dodge Cutoff is a relatively easy walk, at first gaining a bit of elevation, then descending to a wet col before ascending to the Hi-Cannon Trail.  At the time we walked it, the trail was suffering from maintenance neglect.  There was an obvious footpath, but shrubs and tree branches were seriously encroaching on the trail, making it slightly more difficult than normal to follow.

From the intersection with the Hi-Cannon Trail, we descended on the Hi-Cannon Trail.  This trail avoids switchbacks and instead makes its way down the fall line of the mountainside.  It is steep and seriously eroded in places.  There is plenty of loose soil and eroded rock that can be very slippery when wet.  The trial descent would be intermediate to difficult and a climb on the trail would be a difficult hike.  The Hi-Cannon Trail descend about 0.8 miles from the Dodge Cutoff to its end at its intersection with the Lonesome Lake Trail.

After reaching the Lonesome Lake Trail, we descended the few tenths of a mile, passing the bridges we had crossed on the way up, before ending back at the Lafayette Place Campground.

Trail Information

The trail blazing system in New Hampshire is not always that easy to follow or all that clearly marked, but the Lonesome Lake Trail is blazed with yellow paint, the Cascade Brook and Fishin' Jimmy Trails are white blazed.

The total mileage for this semi-loop is as follows:

  • Lafayette Place Campground to Cascade Brook Trail Intersection - 1.2 miles
  • Around Lonesome Lake Trail - 1.0 miles
  • Dodge Cutoff - 0.3 miles
  • Hi-Cannon Trail - 0.8 miles
  • Lonesome Lake Trail from Hi-Cannon Intersection to Trailhead - 0.4 miles
For a grand total of 3.7 miles, all of which are pretty classic White Mountain hiking.  It's a trip that can be taken in less than half a day, but if the weather is warm, it is well worth your time to slow down and enjoy the trip by taking a break on the shore of Lonesome Lake and relaxing while taking a swim in the lake.  We really enjoyed ourselves and this is one of our favorite quick hikes when we are visiting Franconia Notch.

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.