The classic 8.2-mile Franconia Ridge Loop features scenery Densmore calls “more like the Alps than the Appalachians.” Hit it midweek for max solitude. From the Lafayette Place trailhead, take the Old Bridle Path .2 mile to the Falling Waters Trail. Negotiate slick rocks up past two smaller cascades to 80-foot Cloudland Falls, then gain 2,100 feet in 1.6 miles to 4,760-foot Little Haystack Mountain.
Turn north onto the Franconia Ridge Trail for 1.5 miles of alpine ridgeline with views of wooded peaks stretching to the horizon. Crest Mt. Lincoln en route to 5,249-foot Mt. Lafayette, where the remains of a hut provide shelter. Turn west down the Greenleaf Trail for a mile scree-field descent to the AMC’s Greenleaf Hut (with water and bathrooms, but reservations required). From here, follow the Old Bridle Trail down the steep spine of Agony Ridge 2.8 miles to close the loop.
Gear Up: Eastern Mountain Sports, 1498 White Mountain Highway, Unit C30, North Conway, NH; (603)356-5433; ems.com
Contact: White Mountain National Forest Offices, (603) 536-6100; www.fs.fed.us/r9
Reservations: For reservations at the Greenleaf Hut, visit www.outdoors.org
-Mapped by Lisa Densmore