Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Across Franconia Ridge on a Full Moon Hike

A full moon on a Saturday night make a great combination for an evening hike in the White Mountains. So I along with my son Ryan, his girlfriend Jen and seven other hikers...Jill, Nancy, Christina, Todd, Eric, Brent, and Kyle joined up to hike across Franconia Ridge to watch the sunset and full moonrise. Our route would take us up Falling Waters Trail, across Franconia Ridge Trail over the summits of Little Haystack (4,780'), Lincoln (5,089') and Lafayette (5,260') then down Greenleaf Trail past the Greenleaf Hut and finally the Old Bridle Trail back to the beginning.

Ready to go!

Falling Waters Trail has many waterfalls

On my drive through Franconia Notch it appeared there might be a parking problem as cars were lined up on the highway in both directions at the trailhead parking lot. I was hoping that many hikers had already completed their hike for today and there would be some open parking spaces, turned out I was right and there was plenty of parking for our group.

Ryan at the top of a waterfall

We met at the trailhead for a 3:30 start. The weather forecast was calling for cloudy evening skies. There was some concern that we might not see the moon but everyone kept positive thoughts. There was bright sunshine through high thin clouds as we started our hike at 3:45. Before departing Brent passed out multi-colored glow sticks to give our group some color during the dark hours of the hike. We briefly stopped for a group photo shot and then we were on our way with Jill in the lead.

Ryan and Jen coming up the Falling Waters Trail

Lonesome Lake glows beneath the sun

Ryan on Little Haystack

The Falling Waters Trail usually adds some extra time onto this part of the hike due to the photo opportunities from the many waterfalls along the way. We did in fact get lots of waterfall pics and managed to keep moving at a good pace. The temperature was quite warm and it felt good to splash some cold water on the face during the occasional water crossings.

A view south toward Flume and Liberty

A view north toward Mount Lincoln

Taking a break on Little Haystack

Owl's Head

Franconia Ridge Trail to Mount Lincoln

As we climbed higher a nice cool breeze was starting to blow. After two and a half hours we arrived at the top of the Falling Waters Trail and onto the summit of Little Haystack. We took our first break. It was cool and I stayed out of the stiff breeze while swapping my short sleeves for long sleeves. This was the first opportunity to see the views from both sides of Franconia Ridge and they were spectacular. The sun was dropping behind a bank of clouds and it was still a little early for the moonrise.

Ryan and Jen on Franconia Ridge

Todd capturing the view

Looking back at Little Haystack

Our next destination was Mount Lincoln where we were hoping to catch the first glimpse of the moon. The hike across Franconia Ridge at this time of day was euphoric. We watched the sun's last light on Owl's Head and the Bonds to the east. To the west Lonesome Lake was glowing beneath the setting sun. The sky, the clouds, the colors and the shadows were continually changing as we made our way across the ridgeline.

Fading sunlight on the Bonds

Last sunlight of the day on Owl's Head

Up on the summit of Lincoln we met a couple of hikers with one taking photos of the other creating huge soapy bubbles against the backdrop of mountains. I'm sure it made some very unique photographs. We took another break hoping to maybe start to see the moon rise from behind the distant clouds. No luck and we continued on to Mount Lafayette in the quickly fading light.

On the summit of Mount Lincoln

Sun dropping behind a cloud bank

Brent and Eric

Evening shadows

When we reached the summit of Mount Lafayette it was dark enough for the headlamps. There was a cold wind blowing and I put on my windproof shell. I also hunkered down out of the wind and had something to eat. It was at this point that the moon started to peek out from behind an opening in the clouds. The full moon finally emerged in its entirety. It was short-lived and for the rest of the evening was in and out of the clouds.

Arriving on the summit of Mount Lincoln

Group shot on Mount Lincoln

Onward to Mount Lafayette

Lincoln slide as daylight fades

We started our descent to Greenleaf Hut and it wasn't long before the wind died down and the temp warmed up. Far below in the valley there was a fireworks display and it was interesting to look down on them from high above. We reached the hut and took a brief break to replenish our water and use the facilities. Back on the trail and in the woods it was quite dark as we made our way back down to the trailhead.

Moon peeking

Here it comes

Full Sturgeon Moon

Full moon finally pops out of the clouds

Somewhere around 11:30 we returned to the parking area after an 8.8 mile loop. Hiking after dark with headlamp was a new experience for me. With a great group of hikers I found it to be very enjoyable! Even with a full moon that wanted to hide behind the clouds it was still a lot of fun and I look forward to doing it again sometime. Hopefully the next time the clouds will be a little more forgiving and the moon a little less bashful! 

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!


  1. Great post, Don! I've been reading your blog for a while now - pretty cool to find a photo of myself in this post! Good to meet you guys on Lincoln - here's hopes for the moon showing itself properly the next time. Chris @ White Mountain Images

    1. Thanks Chris...nice to have captured you in one of my photos! Your photographs are spectacular!

  2. Replies
    1. It was a fantastic and memorable hike!