Expedition to Franconia Notch State Park

By: Andrea Klaphake, Franconia Notch State Park Interpretive Ranger

One of my goals before interpreter season, was to get to Franconia Notch before I moved and started working there as an interpretative ranger at the end of June. But I wanted to do it in a unique way, which is why I spent three days and two nights hiking west from Crawford Notch on the Appalachian Trail (June 3rd-5th). This hike was not only my introduction to Franconia Notch State Park, but a lesson in hiking safe and hiking smart in the White Mountains.

The weather is known to change frequently in the Whites, even in the summer months. From the moment I started my hike near the Ethan Pond trailhead, with my two friends, we were bombarded with clouds and drizzling rain. There were several opportunities to turn back but after assessing the risks involved, we felt confident to proceed with our thoroughly planned hike. The weather forecast called for: rain, drizzle, 40-50 F, wind, wind, rain, and of course, a ton of fog over the next three days.  Let me show you what I experienced on my way to my state park!

Stating in Crawford Notch, happy and prepared for what the trail has to offer.
Bog bridges are quite prevalent until Zealand Falls

The rain held off for the majority of the first day but the damp conditions made the bog bridges and walking on rocks hazardous. We had to concentrate on footing and walking with intent for the entire time on the Appalachian Trail.

Ethan Pond is a spectacular site that isn't far off the main trail (.1 of a mile). Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

The most impressive stretch of trail that I set my eyes on was after Thoreau Falls. Winding and smooth, the trail is less rocky and hiking is very enjoyable as you approach Zealand Falls, and then another ascent up to the Zealand Falls hut. My crew and I stopped at the AMC Zealand Falls hut in order to recharge and regroup. Yes, our boots and socks got soaked because of puddles and rain, but the smiles never evaporated from our faces.

Zealand Falls- The power of this waterfall seemingly transfers to whoever stands besides it.

At the end of the first day, my group and I had hiked around 12 miles and camped out at the Guyot Campsite.  After a long day, we tried to dry some clothes out, but eventually we grew sleepy and our eyelids felt heavy.

For the second day, we were sore and still tired, but we hiked up the .8 mile route back up to the Appalachian Trail and hiked 6 miles to the Galehead Hut to try to contact our friends coming from the opposite direction. We planned to meet at Garfield Ridge Campsite, which we did quite successfully!  The second day was definitely our ‘easy’ day.

The Guyot shelter was a great break from the elements. The AMC hosts were extremely helpful in letting us know updates on the weather.

The third day was an exciting day. It was the day that I was about to embark on Franconia Notch territory! It was also another 12 mile day and filled with a lot of decent after we climbed the Franconia Ridge. Despite that we couldn’t see the views, there was something about being on top of the mountains when they were cloudy that one could appreciate.

Common theme of our hike.


The trail while I was ascending Mount Lafayette at about 1 p.m. on the third day. My friends are somewhere in the fog.


Happy as a peach to be on top of Mt. Lafayette.


30 miles later and we are in Franconia Notch State Park!

After hiking down the tumultuous Liberty Springs Trail, to end in the southern end of Franconia Notch State Park, we were thrilled to be done and to find the car safely in the parking lot (after we had swapped car keys with friends on the trail). Now it is time to inhale carbohydrates and reflect on what we just accomplished!

3 Weeks Later…

After hiking the Franconia Ridge with clouds and fog surrounding me, I knew I had to do it justice by hiking it on a warm, sunny Sunday. On June 24th, I headed out around 6:30 am and started at the Falling Waters trailhead to ascend the ridge that left me wondering. This is what I saw:

Approaching Mt. Lafayette from the south on the Franconia Ridge.
Looking back south at the Franconia Ridge.
Natural rock formation and Shining Rock in the background.
For comparison...


The White Mountains



Finally, situated in Franconia Notch, I'm prepared to let hikers know that there'll be days where you can't see anything, and then you'll have those perfect days when you can see all the way to Canada.
Again, for comparison...

I hope my journey to Franconia Notch teaches two things. One, to always feel prepared before a hike for a variety of weather conditions. Two, hike the same trail twice. After hiking this 30 mile stretch of trail, I intend to suggest hiking tips for all levels of hikers by giving programs and informal programs. Check the July schedule out for more information on how to hike safe and smart in the White Mountains and for other educational programs.

There are spectacular sights around each and every corner. My first expedition to Franconia Notch was indeed unique, and I am even more thrilled that I got two very different perspectives of Franconia Notch.


Discover Power of Parks SCA Interpreters

Discover the Power of Parks is presented by New Hampshire State Parks in collaboration with the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps and made possible by generous financial support from Eversource. The program offers a look into the natural world through hands-on programming. Interpretive programs focus on connecting participants with nature and building appreciation for New Hampshire's unmatched natural heritage. Programs include guided hikes, interpretive tours, and imaginative environmental workshops for children and families. Programs are offered free to guests with paid park admission fee. No pre-registration is required.

3 thoughts to “Expedition to Franconia Notch State Park”

  1. Beautiful pictures, Andrea and informative narrative. Hope you have a great summer at Franconia Notch State Park!

  2. Very informative. My daughter and friend are hiking the same route this week. they are not terribly experienced hikers but very determined. Not sure if your blog comforted me or caused me more concern. Did you happen to notice if there was any cell service along the way. Was hoping they would check in occasionally. Also are there enough hikers along the way so if they happened to get into trouble someone would come across them in a reasonable amount of time. They are both nurses and have lots of medical training but as far as hiking goes their experience is limited to day hikes. Thanks for your perspective.

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