Pemigewasset Wilderness Backpack Loop
Mt. Garfield, Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln
Little Haystack Mtn., Mt. Liberty, and Mt. Flume

Mountains:  Mt. Garfield (4500'), Mt. Lafayette (5260'), Mt. Lincoln (5089'), Little Haystack Mtn. (4760'), Mt. Liberty (4459'), Mt. Flume (4328'), Franconia Falls, 13 Falls, Garfield Pond (3860')
Trails:  Lincoln WoodsTrail, Franconia Falls Trail, Franconia Brook Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, Franconia Ridge Trail, Osseo Trail, Appalachian Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Pemigewasset Wilderness
Location:  Lincoln, NH
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summits, views, 4000-footers, alpine zone, river, brooks, waterfalls, cascades, ponds, loop hike, backpack
Distance:  26.1 miles  
Elevation Gain:  6450 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 15:15   Typical: 16:30  
Outing Duration:  See the Mileage Splits section for daily estimates  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  05/21/2009 (Thursday) (2 days)  
Last Updated:  10/01/2009  
Weather:  60-80 degrees, sunny
Author:  Bill Mahony

Beaver Pond (photo by Bill Mahony)
Beaver Pond (photo by Bill Mahony)

Route Summary   

This is a two-day backpack that makes a long loop through, and on the edge of, the Pemigewasset Wilderness. It summits five 4000-footer peaks: Mounts Garfield, Lafayette, Lincoln, Liberty, and Flume. It also climbs Little Haystack Mountain which, although it is over 4,000 feet, doesn't qualify for the 4000-footer list. There are fantastic views from every peak as well as along the ridges. Other places visited en route include Franconia Falls, 13 Falls, and Garfield Pond.

Day 1: Franconia Falls and 13 Falls
  • Start on Lincoln Woods Trail which is to the left of the visitor center.
  • Walk on this nearly level trail for 2.8 miles, passing junctions with Osseo Trail and Black Pond Trail (both on the left) after 1.4 and 2.6 miles, respectively.
  • Tree growing over a rock
    (photo by Bill Mahony)
    Tree growing over a rock (photo by Bill Mahony)
  • At the 2.8-mile point, look for Franconia Falls Trail on the left. This junction is just before the Franconia Brook crossing that divides Lincoln Woods Trail from Wilderness Trail.
  • Turn left and follow Franconia Falls Trail for 0.4 mile, enjoying the falls and cascades on Franconia Brook.
  • When you reach a sign that says "end of trail", turn around and retrace your steps for 0.4 mile back to Lincoln Woods Trail.
  • Turn left and cross Franconia Brook, via a long footbridge, to Wilderness Trail.
  • Immediately after crossing the brook, take a left onto Franconia Brook Trail which is barely 0.1 mile beyond the junction for Franconia Falls Trail.
  • Walk along the easy grades of Franconia Brook Trail for 5.2 miles, passing the southern junction with Lincoln Brook Trail on the left after 1.7 miles. Franconia Brook Trail is not well marked and can be lost easily at some of the brook crossings. Trail maintenance and muddy footprints are sometimes the only sign of where the trail goes. This is especially true where the trail has been diverted around beaver ponds.
  • After 5.2 miles on Franconia Brook Trail, you will reach several points in quick succession: first is 13 Falls (waterfalls and cascades on Franconia Brook), then the northern junction with Lincoln Brook Trail on the left, a spur to 13 Falls Campsite on the right, then a junction with Twin Brook Trail also on the right.
  • After enjoying the falls, unless you are camping at 13 Falls Campsite, just keep going straight ahead on Franconia Brook Trail through all these junctions.
  • Continue for 1.1 miles, and then shortly after crossing Franconia Brook, look for a backcountry campsite to spend the night.

Day 2: Garfield, Lafayette, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, and Flume
  • To start off you day, get back on Franconia Brook Trail in a northerly direction.
  • Follow Franconia Brook Trail for 1.1 miles (this mileage may vary if you pick a different camp spot from the author) until reaching a T-junction with Garfield Ridge Trail which is also part of the Appalachian Trail (AT). The Appalachian Trail is always blazed in white.
  • Turn left and walk on Garfield Ridge Trail / Appalachian Trail for 0.7 mile which will bring you to a junction with Garfield Trail on the right.
  • Continue straight ahead on Garfield Ridge Trail / Appalachian Trail for 0.2 mile. At the height-of-land, take a short spur path on the left to the summit of Mount Garfield where there are fantastic views and a foundation from an old fire tower.
  • Ridge (photo by Bill Mahony)
    Ridge (photo by Bill Mahony)
  • After enjoying the views, turn left off the summit to descend down Garfield Ridge Trail / Appalachian Trail in a southerly direction.
  • After 0.5 mile, you will see Garfield Pond on the right. You can make your way over to its shore by following a faint spur trail that may be wet in places.
  • When you're done at the pond, turn right to resume hiking southerly on Garfield Ridge Trail / Appalachian Trail.
  • After 2.3 miles over ups and downs with some views, you will reach the junction with Skookumchuck Trail on the right. At this point you are on an open ridge with great views.
  • Continue on Garfield Ridge Trail / Appalachian Trail for 0.8 mile, climbing steeply up to the summit of Mount Lafayette which marks the end of Garfield Ridge Trail. Franconia Ridge Trail / Appalachian Trail continues straight ahead and Greenleaf Trail leaves to the right.
  • When you've finished enjoying the views, keep hiking south, now on Franconia Ridge Trail / Appalachian Trail.
  • After 1.0 mile, you will reach the summit of Mount Lincoln.
  • Descend from Lincoln in a southerly direction, still on Franconia Ridge Trail / Appalachian Trail which will bring you to the summit of Little Haystack Mountain and the junction with Falling Waters Trail (on the right) after 0.7 mile.
  • Descend Little Haystack Mountain to the south, still on Franconia Ridge Trail / Appalachian Trail.
  • After 1.8 miles, you will reach the junction with Liberty Spring Trail on the right. The Appalachian Trail also goes right. Keep going straight on Franconia Ridge Trail (no longer part of the Appalachian Trail).
  • After 0.3 mile, you will arrive at the summit of Mount Liberty.
  • Continue on Franconia Ridge Trail for another 1.1 miles which will bring you to the summit of Mount Flume.
  • Descend the other side of Mount Flume for 0.1 mile which will bring you to a junction with Flume Slide Trail on the right, and Osseo Trail starts straight ahead where Franconia Ridge Trail ends.
  • Hike downhill on Osseo Trail for 4.1 miles until it ends upon meeting Lincoln Woods Trail (at a junction you passed by early on the prior day).
  • To complete your trek, turn right and walk on level ground for 1.4 miles back to the large parking area on Kacamagus Highway.

Day 1: Franconia Falls and 13 Falls
Place         Split
Lincoln Woods Trailhead (1160') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Lincoln Woods Trail / Osseo Trail (1300') 1.4 1.4
Jct. Lincoln Woods Trail / Black Pond Trail (1410') 1.2 2.6
Jct. Lincoln Woods Trail / Franconia Falls Trail (1440') 0.2 2.8
Franconia Falls 0.4 3.2
Jct. Lincoln Woods Trail / Franconia Falls Trail (1440') 0.4 3.6
Jct. Lincoln Woods/Wilderness / Franconia Brook Trail (1440') 0.1 3.7
Southern jct. Franconia Brook Trail / Lincoln Brook Trail (1760') 1.7 5.4
Northern jct. Franconia Brook / Lincoln Brook / Twin Brook Trails /13 Falls Campsite (2196') 3.5 8.9
Backcountry camp spot (2600') 1.1 10.0

Daily Rating: Easy/Moderate
Daily Elevation Gain: 1550 feet (cumulative)
Daily Typical Hiking Time: 6:00
Daily Typical Outing Duration: 8:00

View of Mounts Liberty and Flume, taken from Haystack Mountain
(photo by Bill Mahony)
View of Mounts Liberty and Flume, taken from Haystack Mountain (photo by Bill Mahony)

Day 2: Garfield, Lafayette, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, and Flume
Place         Split
Backcountry camp spot (2600') 0.0 0.0
Jct. Franconia Brook Trail / Garfield Ridge Trail (3420') 1.1 1.1
Jct. Garfield Ridge Trail / Garfield Trail (4180') 0.7 1.8
Mt. Garfield summit (4500') 0.2 2.0
Garfield Pond (3860') 0.5 2.5
Jct. Garfield Ridge Trail (AT) / Skookumchuck Trail (1380') 2.3 4.8
Mt. Lafayette summit (5260') 0.8 5.6
Mt. Lincoln summit (5089') 1.0 6.6
Little Haystack Mtn. summit (4760') 0.7 7.3
Jct. Franconia Ridge Trail (AT) / Liberty Spring Trail (AT) (4260') 1.8 9.1
Mt. Liberty summit (4459') 0.3 9.4
Mt. Flume summit (4328') 1.1 10.5
Jct. Franconia Ridge / Flume Slide / Osseo Trails (4240') 0.1 10.6
Jct. Lincoln Woods Trail / Osseo Trail (1300') 4.1 14.7
Lincoln Woods Trailhead (1160') 1.4 16.1

Daily Rating: Moderate/Difficult
Daily Elevation Gain: 4900 feet (cumulative)
Daily Typical Hiking Time: 10:30
Daily Typical Outing Duration: 15:00

View (photo by Bill Mahony)
View (photo by Bill Mahony)


Painted Trillium
(photo by Bill Mahony)
Painted Trillium (photo by Bill Mahony)

(photo by Bill Mahony)
Toad (photo by Bill Mahony)

Wood Frog
(photo by Bill Mahony)
Wood Frog (photo by Bill Mahony)


Trail map of hike route in the Pemigewasset Wilderness hike to Franconia Falls, 13 Falls, Mt. Garfield, Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, Little Haystack Mountain, Mt. Liberty, and Mt. Flume (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

I planned this loop in the Pemigewasset Wilderness two weeks in advance, knowing that I had an upcoming Friday off from work. I figured I could get out early on the Thursday and put some miles on the trail and get to do some camping to boot. I wanted a loop hike and even with a sleepover I knew this would be somewhat challenging in the time I had. Knowing that I could camp just about anywhere on this hike I was somewhat flexible in my plans for the night. I figured if I got a late start on Thursday that I could stay almost anywhere along the Franconia Brook Trail and still have a decent night sleep. I even planned to take the Lincoln Brook Trail, drop my pack and summit Owl Head if I got an early enough start… but let's start at the beginning.

I managed to leave work by noon on Thursday, which with a full tank of gas, got me to the trailhead with all of my gear by 3:00 p.m. I had packed most of my gear ahead of time and had to slip some food items and other last minute goods in just before I started (M&M's would not have done well in the car during the heat of the day). I had weighed my pack at 50 pounds the night before and I was somewhat nervous about the weight for such a long hike. The pack was a bit ungainly and looked very tall. Most people traveling up Lincoln Woods Trail are carrying very light packs and I felt a little "large" with my load. I try not to overpack, but I'd rather have extra gear than fall short. I also carried two full water bladders because I was concerned that water would be hard to find on Garfield and Franconia Ridge Trails.

Since this is a long trip report, I've divided it into sections:

Day 1: Franconia Falls and 13 Falls
Day 2: Garfield, Lafayette, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, and Flume

Left: Franconia Falls
Right: 13 Falls
(photo by Bill Mahony)
Franconia Falls (photo by Bill Mahony) 13 Falls (photo by Bill Mahony)

Day 1: Franconia Falls and 13 Falls   

I started out on Lincoln Woods Trail which was easy, and was pretty in the spring-like conditions. I met a man from Minnesota who was collecting his daughter from Yale and wanted to come up to see some nature. He was telling me that he was looking forward to retiring (probably long after paying that Yale tuition) and hiking the Appalachian Trail. I considered myself lucky that I was here now doing what he was waiting for retirement to do (the moral of the story is don't wait I guess). After about a half-mile my friend from Minnesota (who's name I never got) stopped to await the return of the remainder of his party from farther up the trail.

Boulders (photo by Bill Mahony)
Boulders (photo by Bill Mahony)
The East Branch of the Pemigewasset River was loud off to the right and the Osseo Brook flowed quietly on the left. I pulled over to splash some cool water on my face and realized just how tall my pack was. Leaning over rivers to get water was going to require some care. I saw a few parties on the "road" and the path was clearly well traveled. I arrived at the junction with Franconia Falls Trail and a sign marked the turn. This path used to require a permit, but the ranger station told me that they no longer require this.

The path to Franconia Falls was easy to follow and goes right next to Franconia Brook just before it flows into the East Branch Pemi. You can hear and see falls on the right almost immediately after taking the trail and there are numerous spots along the brook to see interesting falls. The real treat is a ways up where the huge rocks have water cascading over them. I spent some time here taking pictures and enjoying the views. I took off my pack and left it by the trailside knowing that I would have to come back this way. This made walking on the slippery rocks feel more doable. I followed the trail up to a sign that says "end of trail" which overlooked a particularly cool set of hydraulics and what looked to be a deep pool. The area was similar to Sawyer Rocks and some other areas of the Swift River right along the Kancamagus, but here there were no crowds.

Back on Lincoln Woods Trail you cross a big footbridge that marks the line between Lincoln Woods Trail and Wilderness Trail and is also the junction of the Franconia Brook Trail. You can see the stone abutments where the train tracks used to cross the river and Franconia Brook Trail follows one of the old rail beds along the eastern side of Owl's Mountain.

This was far different from the trail I just left. The path was clearly less traveled, but I could see footprints in the mud. The trail gained some elevation and the hike was pleasant as I got behind the shadow of Owl's Head. I decided that following Lincoln Brook Trail in a loop around (and up) Owl's Head was too much distance and would make me rushed to set up camp for the night or leave me too far from the summit of Garfield in the morning so I just kept going on Franconia Brook Trail which is a more direct route to Garfield.

Brook (photo by Bill Mahony)
Brook (photo by Bill Mahony)
Spring was in full regalia with painted trillium (Trillium undulatum) and trees with full sets of leaves. Many of the trees grew up over large boulders, making for an interesting forest scene. The trail comes upon this large beaver pond with a view of the east Pemi mountains in the background. The frogs were croaking like crazy and I was hoping to see a moose as evening approached. The path winds right along the side of this pond for a bit, which gave some spots to take pictures.

I then came upon a second beaver pond that was smaller, but had completely flooded the rail bed so the trail "shortcuts" around the pond until the elevation rises a little. Shortly after this, another beaver pond dams up the trail and you have to walk across the dam to get by. Some blown down logs helped complete the crossing, but the water was over five feet deep (and clear) so you didn't want to slip.

Finally I arrived at the first major brook crossing on Hellgate Brook. There were rocks to hop across, but the jaunt was not without drama given my pack. The wet rocks were slippery and I didn't need to get my boots wet this early in the trip. The second crossing over Redrock Brook was even trickier, and I had to scout up the brook a bit to find a suitable path. I decided to sit for some food after crossing and enjoyed some calories and water while letting my socks dry out. For the first time the bugs were swarming a little (black flies not skeeters), so I didn't linger quite as long as I would have liked. I used the stop to fill my filtering water bottle so I wouldn't use my water bladders before the dry-ridgeline part of the trip. From this point until camping for the night I was drinking quite a bit of water despite the fairly flat hike.

I came to a sign that showed the no camping area around the 13 Falls tentsite, so I knew that my hiking for the day was coming to an end. I could hear the falls and stopped to take some pictures. Given another day with some more time, I would probably swim and sit for a longer period of time. For now I went over to the tentsite thinking that I would camp there if the site were empty. It wasn't empty so I moved past the junction of the other trails up Franconia Brook Trail to a spot just after the final Franconia Brook crossing (major one anyway) where the map showed a level ridge. The trail was quite swampy here, but just to the north of the path was a stand of aspens that would surely hold a small tent. I found a nice level spot well off the trail (and well beyond the quarter-mile no camping boundary).

The spot looked perfect... I even had to kick some moose poop out of the area to set up my tent. A tree fifty feet away was ideal to hang my food bag. I set up all my gear for the night and didn't put the fly on my tent so I could have the unobstructed view of the sky. The tall aspen overhead had no leaves yet so the view was clear. I would have liked to be above treeline, but camping there is not allowed. I was ready for bed by 9:00 p.m. and after consulting my maps for twenty minutes or so, I turned in. While the sleep wasn't perfect, I did get some good rest and woke up at 5:00 a.m. (which is near my normal waking time). I packed up my gear and was excited for the day's hike.

Left: Franconia Brook Trail with water flowing right down the path
Right: Franconia Brook Trail crossing a beaver dam
(photos by Bill Mahony)
Franconia Brook Trail with water flowing right down the path (photo by Bill Mahony) Franconia Brook Trail crossing a beaver dam (photo by Bill Mahony)

Day 2: Garfield, Lafayette, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, and Flume   

I started at 5:45 a.m. and I only had 2.0 miles to cover to get to the summit of Mount Garfield, but that two miles covered nearly 2,000 feet of climbing. The end of Franconia Brook Trail was easy to scale, but somewhat steep in parts. I started to see some snow, but not really on the trail in any meaningful way. I can see why it is called Franconia Brook Trail since the trail climbs in the middle of the brook for many sections near the top.

Getting water was easy, but I had to rock hop up much of the trail to avoid the really wet spots. I saw the sign at Garfield Ridge Trail and I thought, "now it's an easy walk up to the summit". The trail still had to climb over 1,000 feet in less than one mile. The trail was dry, but steep in many places. I imagined that this is what Sabbaday Brook Trail looks like without snow. The climbing was strenuous, but views of the eastern Pemi's could be seen at several rest points on the trail.

Garfield Pond (photo by Bill Mahony)
Garfield Pond (photo by Bill Mahony)

It's amazing how slowly you travel a half-mile when it is up a steep slope. Nevertheless I made it to Garfield's summit around 7:00 a.m. and was greeted with some nice morning views and had the summit to myself. Owl's Head looked tiny from here and Lafayette looked to be ten miles away (although it's less than four). The eastern Pemi's also looked pretty distant from here. Somehow the distance judgment is thrown off by the views. I drank some water and hiked about the summit for a few minutes, but the call of the summit of Lafayette was too alluring and I left Garfield.

The trip down from Garfield brings you down to to around 3,600 feet, which wouldn't really be worth mentioning except that the summit of Lafayette is over 5,200 feet so you are set up for another climb of 1,600 feet. Fortunately, this climb is over a longer track so it is not so steep. Garfield Pond is at 3,860 feet, just to the west of Mount Garfield and for some reason the main trail doesn't go to the pond. It even looks like they (whoever that is) have tried to discourage people from going to the pond by blocking an obvious path with logs.

This did not deter me (nor anyone else probably) and I made my way to the side of the pond. No moose here, but it was after 7 now and they were probably sleeping or something. The pond looked like it could have used some exploring, but I didn't have the time or the patience to battle... the snow. Yes, in the woods between the two mountains, despite an overnight low in the 60's (okay, maybe 50's up here) and 60 degrees at 7:30 a.m., the trail still had significant patches of snow.

Mount Garfield and its south cliffs to the right (photo by Bill Mahony)
Mount Garfield and its south cliffs to the right (photo by Bill Mahony)

After some minor grumbling about it being late May and snow being for skiing, I put on my gaiters and slogged through the patches of snow. Most of the trail was good, but some snow cropped up here and there. Finally I came to a sign that told me I was in the alpine zone... I'm glad they told me because the open vistas and wind were too subtle a clue. Well, I guess that the point was that I couldn't camp here. Looking back at Mount Garfield I could see that there was a dramatic cliff on the south side of the mountain and I was surprised that there was no trail to it from the "basin"... it will make a nice bushwhack when I do Owl's Head later.

Now I thought I was close to the top. Well I wasn't. Lafayette has two false summits (as viewed from this trail anyway) and on top of the first one I could see two people up on the summit already (curses, and it wasn't even 10 a.m. yet). They saw me and moved on toward Mount Lincoln, leaving the summit to me. I took lots of pictures up on Lafayette and decided to have breakfast now that I was sure that I beat the crowds to the summit.

Greenleaf Hut looked pretty close and I was glad to have been up here early enough. I sat on the easten side of the peak to have some lunch. As I was finishing and putting my boots back on, I heard the hooting and yelling of a group of people just behind me on the summit. A fox, which I thought was a dog at first, came down the trail loping along with a big hairball in its mouth. I don't think it saw me and I was able to turn on my phone camera and snap a picture before it loped down out of sight. With company on the summit I decided to head toward Mount Lincoln.

Rocks and Flume Slide (photos by Bill Mahony)
Rocks (photo by Bill Mahony) Flume Slide (photo by Bill Mahony)

I couldn't see the fox ahead of me, but he had a good head start. I did see some little grey birds picking at the moss of the alpine tundra. They were not afraid of me and did not fly away when I got close. There were two of them and they almost seemed reluctant to fly. As I got close to the summit of Lincoln the view back to Lafayette was impressive and the visibility was excellent, but not perfect. I could see Mount Washington in the distance to the northeast and Cannon Ski Area was clearly visible.

As I started to make my way toward Little Haystack Mountain, many groups were headed my way. On the way down from Mount Lincoln I met a guy who was running from Haystack over to Lafayette, which I thought would give one hell of a workout. He asked if I was a thru-hiker (on the AT I assume), and then commented that, "You look like a thru-hiker with the big pack and the beard and all." I guess I have that look. Other people I met seemed to have the same impression... I guess that having a beard is to hiking what having a British accent is to cricket... you are immediately assumed to be an expert.

The hike above treeline is enjoyable (in nice weather anyway) because of the views and the ease of walking. I eventually made my way to Little Haystack. As I was coming from Lincoln I couldn't see where Little Haystack was distinct from Mount Lincoln, which it turns out it isn't. The best part of Haystack was the view back over the ridges toward Lincoln and Lafayette. I was starting to feel a bit gassed by now and I could see Mount Liberty and Mount Flume and they looked very far away (but the sign says it is less than two miles!).

Ridge with patches of snow near the top (photo by Bill Mahony)
Ridge with patches of snow near the top (photo by Bill Mahony)

Coming right down from Haystack is a very steep bit that required some finesse with a full pack. The drop down to the col is pretty sharp anyway, but I had plenty of energy for going downhill... going uphill I was starting to wilt a bit. I was now scrutinizing the map to see just when I would be climbing and when I would go downhill. This is about when my first water bladder ran dry and now I started thinking. My pace had slowed considerably, I was using up water quickly and the sky was starting to get darker... no rain looked imminent, but one never knows.

At the summit of Mount Liberty I took a nice lunch break (it was just after 1:00 p.m.) and exchanged pleasantries with two gentlemen from the Montreal area. I also got some pictures of Mount Flume from the Flume Slide side. The weather over Lafayette was looking ominous now... I was glad I was heading down. As I was finishing lunch a group of hikers summited from the same direction I had come. I wanted to keep well ahead of them so I moved on toward Mount Flume. The trip off of the Liberty summit is fairly steep, but I was still okay with heading downhill. I caught sight of a grouse or some large bird that was afraid of me but wouldn't fly away – it just ran. I got some pictures of it, but it managed to keep some distance.

Ridge (photo by Bill Mahony)
Ridge (photo by Bill Mahony)
As the trail moved back up toward Flume I was really dragging. I thought it would take me forever to get to the summit. I was walking up 50 yards at a time and then resting. Since the distance between the summits of Liberty and Flume is only one mile, I summited Flume before 2:00 p.m. I did not stay on top of Mount Flume for long – a look back at Lincoln showed the peak to be in the clouds now. I met two hikers who were commenting that seven times out of ten you have no view from the top of Mount Flume and we had hit the 30%. I was impressed at the sharp climb on the slide side of the mountain and could not imagine going down with a pack. Climbing it would have been scary. Luckily I was headed off the more gradual side. I was a bit apprehensive about the Osseo Trail after seeing how steep the slide trail was.

Osseo Trail was steep, but the stairs(!!??), make it seem less trail-like and more Disney-like. Don't get me wrong... what I needed now was Disney... in fact a little shop built with White Mountain decor and serving Mount Washington Sundaes would have been okay with me right now. Some of the points provided some nice views of the eastern Pemi's and the stairs made for an easy stroll down the mountain. Toward the bottom of the steeps the woods changed from alpine to lowland forest and I got this nice view of Whaleback Mountain and a nice cliff face on its east side. I also saw two toads and one frog who were kind enough to pose for my pictures. As Osseo Trail winds down toward Osseo Brook, the view over the brook is pretty and the trail is well shaded from the sun. I kept my eyes open for wildlife, but did not see any.

By the time I got to the Osseo trailhead at Lincoln Woods Trail I was done. I still had 1.4 miles to go and since I had already covered this ground it was a trudge. I eventually made it back to my car for a change of footwear and some cleaning up in the bathroom. This was a great trip, albeit tiring toward the end of the second day. The diversity of terrain and vegetation made all 26 miles fun. The 16 miles of the second day, while manageable, will probably make me limit future trips to 10–12 miles per day, so I have time and energy to enjoy the whole trip.

Gear Notes: My sleeping pad (Coleman – $25 at Walmart) seemed to lose air overnight. I reinflated during the night; it didn't go completely flat, but close. The Marmot Titan 2 was very easy to set up (after practicing), especially without the fly or guylines and I used my poncho as a suitable footprint. The small footprint size was handy because finding a large clearing would have been much more challenging. The sleeping bag (15 degree) was not really tested since the temperature never went below 60 for the night and I barely zipped the bag. The medium sized compression sacks work well enough, but are too big in diameter to fit my pack (which is large). The small sack I used for the tent was a much better fit. I will get some more smalls for the next trip.

Cannon Mountain (photo by Bill Mahony)
Cannon Mountain (photo by Bill Mahony)

Trail sign for Franconia Falls (photo by Bill Mahony)
Trail sign for Franconia Falls (photo by Bill Mahony)

Ladders on the steep part of Osseo Trail
(photo by Bill Mahony)
Ladders on the steep part of Osseo Trail (photo by Bill Mahony)

Whaleback Mountain
(photo by Bill Mahony)
Whaleback Mountain (photo by Bill Mahony)

Trail with a grouse on it
(the dark spot on the right side of the trail)
(photo by Bill Mahony)
Trail with a grouse on it (photo by Bill Mahony)


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The Lincoln Woods Trailhead is located in Lincoln, New Hampshire, off of Rt. 112 (Kancamagus Highway).

From Rt. 16:
  • From Rt. 16, turn west onto Rt. 112 (Kancamagus Highway).
  • Travel for about 30 miles, then turn right into the signed Lincoln Woods parking lot.
  • This turn is about 5.5 miles after the hairpin turn in Hancock Notch.
  • The trailhead starts to the left of the visitor's center which is straight-ahead when you drive into the parking lot.

View (photo by Bill Mahony)
View (photo by Bill Mahony)
From I-93:
  • From I-93, take exit 32, and head east on Rt. 112 (Kancamagus Highway).
  • Travel for about 5 miles, then turn left into the signed Lincoln Woods parking lot.
  • This turn is just after the highway bridge crossing the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River, and is 0.3 mile after Hancock Campground which is on the right.
  • The trailhead starts to the left of the visitor's center which is straight-ahead when you drive into the parking lot.


Bathrooms and Lincoln Woods Visitor Center in parking lot.

Other Notes   

There is mention in guidebooks about needing to obtain (free) permits to visit Franconia Falls but this is no longer required.

WMNF Recreational Pass

A parking permit is required to park at White Mountain National Forest trailheads and parking areas. You can purchase a WMNF permit from the forest service and other vendors and can also pay-by-the-day using self-service kiosks located in many parking areas.

For more information on parking passes please refer to the White Mountain National Forest website.

  • $5 per day
  • $30 for a year-long pass
  • $40 for a year for a household

More Franconia Falls, 13 Falls, Garfield, Lafayette, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, and Flume Trail Reports   


Views – In the photo on the right, look carefully to see a fox running away. He is about two-thirds of the way up in the photo and in the center. (photo by Bill Mahony)
Ridge (photo by Bill Mahony) Ridge (photo by Bill Mahony)

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