Mount Lafayette, located just east of I-93 (aka Franconia Notch Parkway) in Franconia Notch, is the highest peak in New Hampshire's White Mountains outside of the Presidential Range (6th highest overall). This is one of the most popular hiking peaks in the White Mountains because: (1) there is a popular 8.9 mile loop hike that is all class 1, (2) the summit is above treeline, (3) the mountain is right off of a major Interstate, and (4) as such, it is only about a 2 hour drive from Boston. This is as opposed to Mount Washington which can be class 2 near the top and often reached via the much slower NH SR-16 (about a 3 hour drive from Boston). On a clear day, you will have excellent views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range looking east from the summit.
The most popular method of hiking Mount Lafayette is the Franconia Ridge Traverse that consists of a loop hike linking 4 class 1 trails and 3 summits (Lafayette, Mount Lincoln - 5089', and Little Haystack Mountain - 4780'). This itinerary starts and ends at Lafayette Place, the trailhead for the Old Bridle Path and Falling Waters Trails. Hiking north to south you would start at Lafayette Place (1780') and head up the Old Bridle Path reaching the Greenleaf Hut (4220') in 2.9 miles. From there continue east 1.1 miles on the Greenleaf Trail to the summit. Leaving the summit, travel south on the Franconia Ridge Trail 1.7 miles to Little Haystack Mountain (4780') and then west down the 3.2 mile Falling Waters Trail back to Lafayette Place. Total loop distance: 8.9 miles. This is popular both north to south and vice versa.
Hiking along the exposed Franconia Ridge between Lafayette and Little Haystack during the winter can be quite fun, however, be prepared for a lot of snow and consider bringing snowshoes (esp. Jan - Feb). Alternative routes include approaching from the Skookumchuck Trail and Walker Brook Ravine. Walker Brook Ravine is a YDS class 3 climb during the summer, an ice climb in early winter, and a snow climb during the winter.
LAFAYETTE PLACE TRAILHEAD (1780'): The Lafayette Place parking lot is the trailhead for the popular Old Bridle Path and Falling Waters Trails. This trailhead is located right off of I-93 near the northern end of Franconia Notch State Park. It is on the east side of I-93, north of "The Basin" and south of Profile Lake where you can see the Old Man of the Mountain. This is about a 2 hour drive from the Boston area and just north of Lincoln, NH.
GREENLEAF TRAILHEAD (1980'): This trailhead is also on I-93 and north of Lafayette Place. It is located at the Cannon Mountain Tramway parking lot on the west side of I-93.
None if you are parking at trailheads in Franconia Notch State Park which include Lafayette Place and the Greenleaf Trailhead. The area around the summit includes areas in the Lafayette Brook Scenic Area (northwest), the White Mountain Nationa Forest (southwest) and the Pemigewasset Wilderness (east) so make sure you check the Camping Section if you wish to camp here.
Like many places in the NH White Mountains, you can climb this peak year round. Winter is an especially enjoyable to climb this peak as it is often overrun with hikers during the summer months.
In general there is no need to camp on or near this peak. The two organized options are the seasonal AMC Greenleaf Hut at 4200' and the seasonal Lafayette Campground around 1780' across I-93 from Lafayette Place. You can call the campground at: (603) 823-9513. Although the Lafayette Campground isn't officially open during the winter it is possible to stay there. The AMC Greenleaf Hut area is a popular area for winter camping, even if the hut itself is closed.
If you don't mind camping farther away the Liberty Springs Tentsite to the south and the Garfield Ridge Tentsite to the north are also possibilities. To reach Liberty Springs Tentsite travel 1.9 miles south of Little Haystack on the Franconia Ridge and head west 0.3 miles on the Liberty Springs Trail. This site is run by the AMC and has a caretaker on site during the summer months. Ammenities include 8 large wooden tent platforms, a spring (which incidentally does not require any treatment), and a composting toilet. The current fee is $8 per person per night. The second option involves travelling north and then east along the Franconia Ridge Trail from the summit of Lafatette. In approximately 2.5 miles you will reach the summit of Mount Garfield. An additional half mile descent to the east will place you at the Garfield Ridge Tentsite. Facilities and charges at this site are similar to the Liberty Spring site with the addition of a covered shelter here. The spring located approximately 100 yards before the tentsite also contains potable water which does not require treatment. Be aware that both tentsites are frequently busy during summer weekends and are available on a first come/first serve basis. Thanks to Archangl for information on the Liberty Springs and Garfield Ridge Tentsites.
If you would like to camp in the backcountry, there are lots of Backcountry Camping Rules to be aware of.
Use the following resources for weather conditions in the White Mountains:
MOUNT WASHINGTON OBSERVATORY: Higher Summits Forecast
FRANCONIA NOTCH STATE PARK
Franconia, NH 03580
PINKHAM NOTCH VISITOR CENTER
P.O. Box 298
(on NH SR-16 just south of Wildcat ski area)
Gorham, NH 03581
Tel: (603) 466-2721
Fax: (603) 466-3871
AMC Outdoors.org Website: Trail Conditions Message Board
Views From The Top: Current New Hampshire Trail Conditions
A Natural Death by Rob Buchanan. On the life and death of Guy Waterman