The girls and I have been hiking mountains all spring and summer to get ready for our highest (to date) mountain hiking adventure in Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire. All our “training” paid off because we had a wonderful 9-mile hike that included three mountain summits — Little Haystack, Lincoln and Lafayette — and an overnight stay at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Greenleaf Hut. We left the mountains ready for more, which is the sign of a well-planned adventure with kids.

This mountain loop in the notch was my first mountain-hiking trip as a teen. I went with a high school friend and her dad, and brought back many memories from the trip. After hearing my stories, the girls decided that this would be a great end-of-summer adventure for us.

After surfing the web, reviewing our AMC Guidebook and talking to a ranger in Franconia Notch, the girls and I set out to climb the Falling Waters Trail on Little Haystack Mountain. The ranger said it was a tough climb up but a bit more difficult going down so that sealed the deal on where to start.

We could hear many of the hikers who we shared the trail with long before we saw them because it seemed everyone had trekking poles. I never realized how much noise these things make and I have to say, I didn’t like it. Chirping birds and rustling leaves are much more appealing. I prefer to choose less popular trails, particularly on a holiday weekend, but I couldn’t adjust our schedule to visit this area another time. We were stuck with a clattering (but friendly) crowd up the mountain.

The trail description in the AMC guide includes several references to “climbs steeply” as well as “ledgy scramble” and “continues steeply.” I told the girls we were taking this trail slowly and making plenty of stops. The ranger said it would likely take us about 31/2 hours to hike the 3.2-mile trail (about a 2,900-foot elevation gain). We did it in 41/2 hours and that suited us just fine.

There are not many open views on the way to the summit of Little Haystack but there are some very nice waterfalls. Once we got above the tree line it is truly a breathtaking view.

Franconia Ridge Trail is considered by many to be one of the most picturesque segments of the Appalachian Trail. We can attest that the ridge really is amazing in the sunshine.

We hiked along the Franconia Ridge Trail to Mount Lincoln and then worked our way over to Mt. Lafayette, the highest mountain in our loop at 5,260 feet.

We hiked down the Greenleaf Trail on Mount Lafayette to get to the Greenleaf Hut for our overnight stay. We had a five-course meal and slept in a bunkroom overnight. We met some really nice people who shared our interest in hiking and spending time outdoors. My teens really enjoyed the experience. But if you stay at the Greenleaf Hut you should be ready for a lot of together time — bumping elbows at dinner and a 24-person mixed gender open bunkroom. The girls and I agreed that the food, prepared in a very rustic kitchen with no electricity, was one of the highlights of our hut experience. But I think watching the amazing sunset over the mountains was the crowning glory of our day.

Our second day included a multi-course breakfast and an easy hike down the Old Bridle Path. There were quite a few vista points along this trail and even with our stops to take in the view, it still only took us about two hours to hike the three miles back to our car.

My teens and I had a great experience on these trails but I do offer a note of caution to parents. The trail loop to these mountain summits is rated as difficult. We saw many young children happily hiking these trails so it is a doable adventure for families. But the caution signs at the trailhead (and noted in local guides) to wear appropriate gear and be prepared for any kind of weather at the summits should not be taken lightly. Wear hiking boots, bring plenty of water and snacks, and take these trails at your own pace to ensure everyone in your family has an enjoyable experience. It truly is worth the effort.

Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at:

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