Best Day Hike On The East Coast: Franconia Ridge Traverse
Americas Hiking

Best Day Hike On The East Coast: Franconia Ridge Traverse

Yeah, I said it. And I’ll say it again. Franconia Ridge Traverse is the best day hike on the East Coast.

This trail is the magical fairytale shit that dreams are made of. You want enchanted forest? You want whimsical waterfalls? You want to climb up a mountain’s spine and feel like you’ve conquered wild Scotland?  Great, because you can have all that in one day hike. It’s goddamn magical. There may as well be wild unicorns running in slow motion on the mountain tops.

First, let’s cover the basics. Franconia Ridge Trail Loop is a 8.5 mile loop trail in the White Mountains National Forest of New Hampshire. You’ll cover 3805 feet of elevation gain and bag 3 peaks, including the highest mountain outside the Presidential Range – Mount Lafayette.

Before you even start this journey, know that the weather in the White Mountains is about as unpredictably temperamental as a borderline teenage girl off her meds. It can go from sunny to shitstorm at the drop of a hiking pole. On top of that, the weather in the whites is substantially different from the climate elsewhere in the region so trying to get a read on it is pretty difficult. If you’re one of those people peruse the Weather Channel app a week before your hike, don’t even bother. Expect the unexpected, and dress accordingly. Me on the other hand, I packed a hoodie, got to the trail head on a beautiful July day and said “Oooooh! It’s warm! I don’t need this! I get hot when I walk anyway! I don’t want to carry this!”


I’m stupid.

Falling Waters Trail
The Jungle Book scenery along Falling Waters Trail

There are a number of different routes you can take to get to the ridge including the Falling Waters Trail, The Old Bridle Path, the Liberty Springs Trail or the Garfield Ridge Trail. The way everyone seems to take is going up Falling Waters Trail, so we went with this option. From the Lafayette Place trailhead, we took the Old Bridle Path .2 mile to the Falling Waters Trail. The path up is thru some fairytale forestry. We hit some slippy rocks, passing 2 small waterfalls on our way to the big guy.

Franconia Ridge Trail's small falls
One of the first mini-falls you’ll pass on the trail

Soon enough we hit Cloudland falls, an 80-foot waterfall, which is phenomenal if you’re into that sorta thing. I for one, don’t care about waterfalls because if you know the first thing about me, you know I don’t do water. Regardless, you’ll love it, so long as you’re not some bah-humbug waterfall scrooge like I am.

Spotting wild Beckys in the wilderness, partaking in a selfie for their Insta


Cloudland falls
Desso getting up close and personal with Cloudland falls

The next part kinda sucks. You’re about to rock 2,100 feet of elevation gain in 1.6 miles. Have fun with that.

This is how you’ll feel once you break thru the tree line

Guess what else happens when you break the tree line? It gets mad chilly. And it gets windy AF. And you don’t have a hoodie because you’re the asshat that wanted to save space in your bag for extra Snack Packs. So now you’re on top of a cold misty 4,760 foot mountain, in 40 MPH winds in a t-shirt and shorts. But it’s okay. Because you have pudding cups.

Up, up, up

Welcome to peak 1, Little Haystack Mountain. Seriously, bring a coat. No one wants to be in one of the most beautiful places in the country, pitching a hissy because they’ve come down with a case of the shivers.

From Little Haystack, to Mount Lincoln, to Mount Lafayette, you’re experiencing the most scenic, and most exposed part of the hike. You’re walking along the vertebrae of nature’s finest. Right up it’s spine.

However, be aware that the weather & fog dictates your views. As soon as we hit the Haystack (heh, see what I did there?), it was pretty much “Welp. I guess I’m walking into a cloud now.”  Most of the hike from Haystack to Lincoln was thru thick fog. I wasn’t happy about this visibility. I’m like legally blind, this is the same thing I see when I take my glasses off. The internet builds up those expectations, man. I wanted that picture perfect view. National Geographic’s “World’s Best Hikes” slideshows got me all hype, fam. Plz make the sky open. 1 like = 1 prayer.

Starting to catch some partial views Along the ridge

Slowly and surely, as we climbed towards Lafayette, the sky began to open up. I could catch partial glimpses of the waves of mountains through the fog. It was like nature’s version of the 90s when I used to watch scrambled porn static on Channel 99.

Then comes the grand finale…..

What we’ve driven 7 hours for….

Climbed all day for….



All the way to Mount Lafayette and we get cloud.

Then it happened.

Justine atop Mount Lafayette summit

We must have a magical mountain fairy-god unicorn. Because right when we were ready to begin our descent the sky opened up completely. For just a few minutes, beautiful blue skies and views all the way down the knife edge! I couldn’t believe it.

A perfect view!

I was so ecstatic that I completely forgot I was cold. Genuinely, one of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen in my life. The happy ending to our fantastical alpine adventure.

It’s not really the end, you’ve got a big ass descent down some major piles of rocks along the Old Bridle Path until you make your way back to Lafayette Campground. Where we were welcomed with a sign that said something along the lines of “Be mindful, loose bear.”

Thru the fog on the way down

But you’re all high on nature and pudding packs, so everything’s fine.


Distance: 8.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3805 feet
Route Type: Loop

Cost: Free to hike, Lafayette Campground cost $25 per site per night to camp. You can make a camping reservation here.

Tips: Pack for every type of weather. Be sure to bring your rainies and your warmies.Mentally  prepare for the fact that you could experience super shitty visability along the ridge. Go mid-week to avoid crowds.


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Welcome to the adventures & misadventures of a solo female traveler. Detailed itineraries, fresh discoveries, photo recaps, and all the storytime so you can live vicariously thru my journals as I weasel my way across the world.