Hiking Lincoln Lafayette on Labor Day weekend was not my idea of a good idea. One of
the most popular hikes on one of the most popular weekends of the yearÖ it turned out
to be a good day. It started off with waking up way too early in Conway. The sun
still set. Knowing that getting another 45 minutes of sleep was not going to happen,
I got up and prepared for the long drive to Franconia Notch. At this time of morning,
seeing moose crossings are a very good possibility. The morning fog was heavy on The
Kanc, keeping speeds down below the limit, at times to a crawl. Besides a flock of
turkeys that forced me to come to a complete stop, no animals were in danger from the
Ranger. Due to an early start, I decided to stop in Lincoln at Flapjacks for breakfast.
Itís a great place for fuel for the day with friendly service and home-style food.
Taking my food to go, I started my way towards Lafayette Place, and if youíve every
driven that far on 93 north, itís directly across from the cliffs of Cannon Mountain.
After meeting up with my croo, we headed into the woods. Looking back, I was happy
that we decided to hike the loop clockwise; I strongly suggest this assuming somewhat
dry weather. After .2 miles the junction of The Old Bridal Path and Falling Waters
Trail comes and itís time to choose. If youíre not hiking to any of the summits,
take a right, where three waterfalls await you within 1.5 miles. One of them the best
Iíve seen to date in NH. We headed left up Walker Ravine. The trail ascends the
ravine at a moderate rate for the mile or so. At 1.6 miles, the path takes a sharp
left turn and ascends a little more sharply on rock steps. Around this point, you
get a look at the summit of Lafayette through the trees. Around 2 miles in, you come
to your first viewpoint on a cliff high above Walker Ravine overlooking the Franconia
Ridge. Those of you like me who fear standing on the ledges of cliffs can enjoy the
view from a few feet back. Others will enjoy standing on the edge of life itself as
you look upon the greatness of the WMNF. The trail soon begins the steepest parts
before you reach the hut; some call it Agony Ridge, as you come upon the only part
of the path where you need to stop and take breath every ten minutes or so. At 2.4
miles in, there is aside path that you can take which offers additional looks of the
ravine and the summits above. Further are views backwards to Cannon Mountain and
before you know it youíre at the Hut. Passing the south side of the Hut and the
Eagle Lakes, the trail dips shortly then rises, passing over a couple knobs. At
3.2 miles, the trail goes left passing a sandy open area on the right. Soon the
trail climbs above the scrub and into the open where the grade becomes more moderate.
At 3.6 miles, the trail bears left around a ledge on the right and you hike through
a couple of small switchbacks and before you know it your at the summit of Lafayette.
Although on this day Lafayette was in the clouds, we enjoyed a lunch break on the
east side behind a small drop along the Appalachian Trail, where we noticed a large
increase in travel, so donít expect any privacy from here on.
Leaving the summit of Lafayette, the trail descends at a moderate rate until you come
upon a scrub patch. From here it climbs up and down humps and sags. At this point
the clouds started to clear and we could admire the views around us, including a very
large landslide the goes a mile down the east side of Lafayette. After a mile on the
AT, you come to a very large cairn, which we assumed was the summit of Lincoln. No
summit coin was to be found. From here it descends sharply keeping on the east side
of the ridge. A half mile later, it levels off and you approach the summit of Little
Haystack and the beginning of the Falling Waters Trail. The trail is a constant
rock hopping nightmare for 2.5 miles. Thirty minutes into descending, you come upon
the Shining Rock side path, and the trail continues to the right. The next hour or
so is somewhat humdrum, until you come to the first water crossing. At this point,
the balls of my feet were starting to burn, so a dip into the river was well needed.
The next half mile you come upon three waterfalls that make the climb down well
worth it. Having the brook to stop at and cool off your feet after all the previous
hiking is a blessing. After the third stop, the next mile goes from rock hopping
to hiking down an actual trail with dirt. Shortly after you cross the brook for
the last time, you join back up with the Bridal Path and reach the trailhead shortly
thereafter. All in all, a great hike. Besides the lack of views from the summit
due to weather, an A+ hike.