In a previous post, I mentioned that we went on a couple of trips this year with friends who were brand-spanking new to hiking and camping. We had so much fun on our Mt. Greylock trip in August that we immediately planned another trip for early October. We settled on a weekend car camping trip to the Lafayette Campground in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire. Knowing how unpredictable White Mountain weather can be, we figured car camping would be the safest bet – and the best bet to ensure that everyone had a good time. Though the weather never did cooperate – it started raining on Friday evening when we entered The Notch and didn’t stop until Sunday afternoon after we were done packing up – we still managed to have a good time.
On Saturday, we woke up and set out on a short 2-mile hike to The Basin, which is basically a big glacial pothole carved by the Pemigewasset River. Since it’s right off of highway 93 you’ll find lots of tourists stretching their legs, but it’s still worth a look. The power of the swirling water is pretty incredible. In 1839, Thoreau visited The Basin and wrote, “this pothole is perhaps the most remarkable curiosity of its kind in New England.”
After The Basin we were all feeling good, so we decided to continue up the Cascade Brook trail to Lonesome Lake. It was an additional 2.6 miles, but we knew that the Lonesome Lake hut would provide a nice rest spot and a hot lunch. As far as White Mountain hikes go, it was a pretty flat stroll up to the lake, which sits at 2,760′. There were a couple of tricky brook crossings along the way, but we all managed to get across without major incident. The cool, rainy weather kept the bugs at bay and the fall colors enhanced the already-spectacular views.
We were all happy to dry out for a bit when we reached the hut a few hours later. We watched from inside as the rain began to fall harder and, finally, after filling our bellies with potato soup, we began the hike back to camp. An hour later we were back at our tent sites, eager to get the fire going.
Where: Franconia Notch State Park, Lafayette Campground
Directions from Boston: Take I-93 north. Pull-offs for the park begin around Exit 34A. Some pull-offs are located on only one side of the highway. Lafayette Campground, for example, is on the Southbound side.
Difficulty: From Lafayette Campground: Basin is a flat, easy 2 mile walk. The full Cascade Trail loop is an easy to moderate hike just under 6 miles long, with occasional steep sections.
Summary: Franconia Notch is a beautiful park with plenty of natural attractions and hikes for all levels of ability. The Lafayette Campground offers a typical wooded car camping experience and serves as a great “basecamp” for a lot the park has to offer.
- Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra Trail Runners – My new favorite shoe
- Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots – Jess has put some serious miles on these boots
- Black Diamond Bullet Day Pack – I bought this with trad climbing in mind, but find it to be a nice multi use day pack as well
- Trails Illstrated: Franconia Notch Trail Map – Amazon.com
- AMC White Mountain Guide, 28th: Hiking trails in the White Mountain National Forest – Amazon.com
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