For natural beauty, New Hampshire is in a league of its own. And Franconia - a small town on the edge of White Mountain National Forest - gives some of the best views in the entire state. Tourists come from as far away as Washington, D.C. to see the incredible fall foliage in this mountainous little slice of heaven.
With so many hiking trails to choose from, how do you pick the best? To make it easy, I've hiked all the trails in Franconia Notch State Park, and these are the top three trails you absolutely cannot miss:
If you have time for only one hike in New Hampshire, let it be this one. Mount Lafayette has been rated by National Geographic as one of the best hikes in the world. And when you get to the top, it's easy to see why. Hikers get treated to a 360 degree view from the ridgeline that stretches for miles.
At the top, the trail gives you a couple of miles of ridgeline hiking to enjoy these famous, unending views. You'll quickly summit multiple peaks, from Lafeyette to Lincoln to Haystack and more (meaning you can tell your friends you climbed multiple mountains in a day).
It's a tough 7.4 mile hike (with trails that seem to go straight up the mountain). But the views from the top are absolutely worth it. Be sure to have your camera ready - this is one hike you'll absolutely need it for.
Pro Tip: Make sure to check the weather before you go. Plan your trip for a clear, sunny day where you can enjoy the full view. Avoid this exposed hike on days with thunderstorm warnings.
There's a reason this trail is well-loved by painters in the area. This moderate, 1.5 mile hike takes you gradually up from the parking lot to a series of viewpoints where you can get an uninterrupted view of mountains upon mountains. It's not too tough, and in the summer and fall, the natural beauty is unbeatable. The open viewpoints give you stunning vistas of low, green-covered mountains and a pristine mountain lake in the valley - vistas that may make you want to pick up a paintbrush yourself.
Home to one of the top-rated ski areas in Franconia, Cannon Mountain isn't just a one-season kind of place. It also boasts incredible views for hikers throughout the year. For a shorter, tough-but-worth-it hike, this is a great option for you. This short 3.8 mile hike is rated as difficult - and it earns that distinction. Much of this hike rises straight up the mountain, on trails built long before switchbacks became common practice.
Kinsman ridge itself is a well-loved trail in Franconia. Whether you're enjoying the fall foliage, the winter snowshoeing, or the early growth of spring, it's a fantastic place to be. The vista from the top of Cannon mountain gives you views for miles of the White Mountain range. On clear days, you can see all of Franconia Ridge, as well as some of the Presidential Range mountains in the far blue of the distance.
Whether you're skiing, hiking, or riding the trails, the small towns of New Hampshire Franconia is a nature-lover's paradise, with plenty to do and see in all seasons. If you've only got a short while to visit, make sure you hit one of the trails on this list. You definitely won't be disappointed.
Which Franconia trail will you add to your next hiking trip?