Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Solstice Hike to Cannon Mountain

Winter arrived at 5:44 this morning. I wanted to do my first official winter hike today although it has felt like winter hiking for the past month. I decided on Cannon Mountain (4,100') but was having a dilemma as to which trail to use, Kinsman Ridge Trail or Hi-Cannon. After recent snow followed by a day of rain then a hard freeze the trail conditions were uncertain as I was not able to find any current trail reports for these two trails.

My first choice was the Kinsman Ridge Trail from the tram side as I had not done this before. My plan was to stop by and check to see if this trail had been broken out, if not I would try Hi-Cannon. This would be a solo hike and I knew I didn't have the stamina to break through 2.1 miles of steep, crusty trail by myself.

The frigid weather had subsided and while it was still cold this morning it was not the sub-zero windchills we have recently been experiencing. As I drove to Franconia Notch I noticed the near empty parking lot at Appalachia, only four cars. The high summits were in the clouds, both the Presidentials and  along Franconia Ridge. Cannon Mountain was in the clear.

I pulled into the tram parking lot and was not exactly sure where the Kinsman Ridge Trail started. I followed the trail signs and walked a short distance up the trail just far enough to see that it was broke out. I returned to the tram parking lot, got layered up and put on my pack. I also put the microspikes on right at the car as the parking lot was very icy. It was time to hit the trail!

Even though the trail was broken the snow was still loose and not well packed. It was a continual and relentless hike up. About a mile into the hike I changed from microspikes to Hillsound trail crampons. I met two hikers coming down with their snowshoes on. They got a very early start and I thanked them for breaking the trail. I was starting to realize that I had made a mistake leaving the snowshoes behind. Even though the crampons had a bigger and better bite than the microspikes the snowshoes would have prevented the slippage that I was still experiencing.

As I went up the trail it crossed back and forth on what appeared to be a glades ski slope, a very steep and difficult slope if that's what it was. I saw some deep holes along the side of the trail caused by overturned trees and large rocks. With more snow these holes would be hidden and easily stepped into by hikers, another reason for snowshoes as they would probably prevent dropping down into the holes.

I pushed on and came up onto what I thought was going to be close to the summit. It was not and when I came to a clearing the summit tower was a lot further away than I thought it would be. I carefully watched my footing as the snow was very soft and loose, stepping off the trail would put me in deep snow. I took a short broken out side trail to a nice outlook with views of Franconia Notch. There was also a good view to the observation tower on the summit.

I got back onto the main trail that dropped down into a col before going up through an exposed area then through some trees before coming out onto a ski slope. There were many skiers and snowboarders on the slopes today. I turned onto the short trail that led to the summit observation tower. Just before getting to the tower I took off my crampons, just a bit too soon. The stairs going up the tower were full of frozen snow and ice.

Pulling myself up with the handrail I got to the tower platform without slipping. There was a cold wind blowing so I put on a down jacket. I stayed long enough to get some photos. Before going back down I put my crampons on. This made the trip down over the icy stairs a lot easier and safer. I went out to the ski slope and then cut back onto the Kinsman Ridge Trail for the descent to the parking lot.

The trip down was easier than I thought it would be. I was expecting a lot of post holing but the trail was well packed by the number of hikers I met coming up as I was going down. Back at the parking lot I removed the crampons as I came off the trail forgetting that there was an icy walk to my car. I managed to reach my vehicle without slipping.

I'm hoping for a lot more snow this winter than last winter and a lot less icy trails. Winter has officially arrived and I was glad to start off the season with a hike to one of the 48 4,000 footers. I have now completed 25 winter 4,000 footers. My goal is to complete the remaining summits this winter but that will be dependent on the weather and trail conditions. There are some long hikes on my list. I will do what I can safely accomplish and enjoy the journey!

Enjoy the photos from this hike!

Moon over Cannon

Icy road on the way to the trailhead

Following the signs to the trailhead

Sun coming up

Burl of the day

A view from the trail

Trams passing each other

Tram on the way up

Echo Lake

Franconia Notch cliffs

Cloud covered Franconia Ridge

Summit observation tower

Ice flow

On the summit tower

A view toward Franconia Ridge

The Cannon Balls and Kinsmans

A view to the west

Chairlift to the top of Cannon

Ice on the observation tower

Icy stairs


A view from the trail

Icy Franconia Notch cliffs

Franconia Ridge almost in the clear

A deep hole on the trail

Back at the trailhead

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!


  1. Enjoying your blog! How does your camera holdup in extreme cold weather? No fogging on the lens?

    1. Sorry for the delayed reply, I'm not used to getting comments on my blog.
      The camera holds up very well. I have a clear lens cover that I take off when I'm shooting a pic and that does get fogged up but the actual lens does not. I went through two rechargeable batteries (I carry 3) this past weekend on my hike to Mount Hale, it was very cold! I usually get by on one battery.