On our first of 2 September days in New Hampshire, we did a quick hike up Bald Mountain for a peek at the peaks ahead. It was a cool day. While snacking on an overlook we watched a dark grey cloud pass over Mount Lafayette in the distance, leaving behind a white hat on this 5,249-foot mountain, our first summit the next day.
The 8.9ish-mile ridge loops takes you up over “The Agonies” to the summit of Mount Lafayette. From there a stone-framed ridge trail leads to the summits of Mount Lincoln and Little Haystack before the loop descends for what felt to my calves like eternity. On our first part of the loop we got a good look at The Agonies and first ascent.
I’ve never hiked a loop where you can basically see the full trail with its ups and downs from a single lookout. The picture below shows Little Haystack in the center with a sloped treeline showing the gradual descent that is the Falling Waters trail leading back to the parking lot.
This trail is listed among the best in the world and right away you get why. Everything is right. The alpine views begin unfolding as the trail flirts with the treeline for a bit.
Four trails seamlessly connect to form this loop. The majority of hikers went up the Falling Waters trail while we took the Old Bridle trail up, hiking clockwise while most did it counter. Going this way, we shared this stunning trail with only a handful of hikers. The Bridle trail offers a scenic, gentle ascent at first with a few fun scrambles higher up. The best part was that after a few miles, before the final push to the summit of Mount Lafayette, you reach the glorious AMC Greenleaf hut. These huts welcome hikers with clean restrooms and drinking water refills. They also sell homemade sweets and bowls of soup for $2. We stopped here and chatted with the same hikers we had leapfrogged with all the way up.
Cairns mark the rest of the way up through piney shrubs and some loose rocks. At this point hikers were descending from the other direction. A lot of them were hiking with happy dogs.
Here’s from the summit of Mount Lafayette.
Which way to go? The ridge trail continues in both directions, overlapping with the AT. A few years ago I met a southbound thru hiker on the AT. Over popsicles on a steamy summer’s day her told me about his journey thus far. Granted he was only in NY, but at that point he said his favorite part of the trail was the section in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I finally see what he was talking about.
The summit was quite crowded and covered in biting black flies. One guy was meditating and there were the handful of girls striking obligatory yoga poses. I just wanted to take it in, the majesty of these mountains, but the flies vied hard for attention. Bug spray was no match.
Don’t take my word for it, but I thiiiink that highest peak in the distance is Mount Washington, another adventure on the to-hike list, but more than an hour’s drive from where we were. Maybe next time.
The ridge trail isn’t nearly as narrow as I expected. Squint and you see they’re not ants but humans coming from the other direction.
For about 1.8 miles you’re hiking on a ridge, stopping at the peaks of Mount Lincoln and Little Haystack along the way. Mountains in every direction. It’s a dream.
It’s very freeing to hike to the top of a mountain and stay up there on a ridge. Usually we hike up and then after taking it in from the one lookout we go back down. What a treat to not only go above the treeline but to stay there while continuing onward.
Here’s Mount Lincoln.
Then up to Little Haystack.
After this peak, we descended on the Falling Waters trail. It felt like a long long way down before we hit the waterfalls. I don’t understand why so many hikers choose to go up this way. It was brutal enough going down.
Waterfalls are a nice way to conclude a long, spectacular hike. This took us about 7 hours and my feet were pretty sore after.
We went back to our motel, which after a summer of stormy camping trips, felt luxurious. A bed! We get a bed! And there aren’t spiders in the shower! We even had a minifridge and a microwave and a TV. Best of all, we caught a marathon, maybe it was on the History channel. We ate weird tacos and drank Pinot Evil from plastic cups while learning all about how the moon is hollow and really an alien station. Our hiking chats often drift to aliens and monsters so this was a fitting refuel.
For dessert we drove to a convenience store down the street. What kind of mural did they have on the outside? I’m glad you asked. On the outside of this convenience store is a mural for Betty and Barney Hill, abducted from just up the street in the White Mountains in 1961.
We were advised to read The Blue Planet Project, a book of dubious origins also referenced in the new Twin Peaks season. I’ve already read the book. You can find it online. When I need a break from the news and this world, I read about aliens. Carl Saga’s The Demon-Haunted World is coming on my next trip.