Cannon Mountain

(Full disclosure: This post was started almost a month ago, right after the actual events described below took place. True to form, I’m only now getting around to finishing it, and there’s already another one backed up behind it in the pipeline. At least I’m consistent…)

Another weekend, another 4000-footer in our sights. This past weekend’s target: Cannon Mountain (4100 feet), just outside of Lincoln, NH, in gloriously beautiful Franconia Notch in the White Mountains. We’ve driven past it umpteen times in our many, many trips up and down I-93 in this part of the mountains, so when we found out it was on the list of 4000-footers, it became an obvious early target.

Friday afternoon, after setting up shop in Lincoln, we decided to take short warm-up hike, so we trekked the short (but somewhat steeper than expected) hike to Artist’s Bluff, overlooking Echo Lake. As you can see below, the mild effort was well worth it; this should be a gorgeous view come peak foliage season. We then finished off the warm-up hike by making our way to the top of neighboring Bald Mountain before heading back down to Echo Lake to complete the loop.

Echo Lake (as seen from Artist’s Bluff).

Saturday arrived, and we drove the short way to the trailhead at the base of Cannon Mountain. Only problem was that the gorgeous weather brought out every single hiker in the state of New Hampshire (or maybe it only seemed that way), and the parking lot at the Lafayette Place Campground was packed. We (and many others) ended up parking in the grass off the side of I-93, then backtracking to the actual trailhead at the rear of the campground.

We started off on the Lonesome Lake Trail, but less than half a mile later branched off onto the much steeper Hi-Cannon trail that would take us a good way up to the top. Now to be fair, although we did pick up a lot of elevation going up the mile and a quarter (or so) up Hi-Cannon, the multitude of switchbacks that make up the first half of the trail actually made this a very manageable segment. The first half or so of Hi-Cannon didn’t offer up many views, as we were largely in the trees, but once we started to get among the ledges higher up, there were plenty of good sightlines to the Franconia Ridge across the way.

Hi-Cannon eventually terminated at the Kinsman Ridge Trail, which we took the rest of the way to the summit of Cannon Mountain. Because it’s there (and because you’re pretty much compelled to), we also climbed to the top of the old fire tower located at the summit. Yes, it was a bit nippy up there with the lashing winds and all, but the 360-degree views more than made up for it.

Mt. Lafayette and the Franconia Ridge (as seen from atop Cannon Mountain).

Cannon Mountain is also a popular ski destination up here, with an aerial tramway that brings people to the lodge/station at the summit. We took advantage of the station to refill our water bottles (and recharge with a couple of well-deserved cookies :-) before heading back down. Just for variety, we decided to take a slightly different route down, this time heading down the Kinsman Ridge Trail all the way to Lonesome Lake Trail, then taking Lonesome Lake Trail back down the rest of the way. Nothing much to say about the descent, other than to note that the Kinsman Ridge Trail in this stretch is just rocks, rocks, rocks—and steep. (Did I mention the steep rocks?) Let’s just say that I would not have wanted to come up Kinsman Ridge all the way.

Lonesome Lake (as seen from the descent down Cannon Mountain).

Once we reached Lonesome Lake Trail, the rest of the way down was actually pretty easy, especially once we got past the namesake lake itself. The highlight of this segment was running across two hikers that were making their way up the trail to Lonesome Lake. Nothing unusual there—we ran into hikers all along the way up and down—but like us, these hikers were also Aggies! Granted, they were class of 2002 Aggies (D’OH!)… we’re class of 1990 and 1991, making us old Ags relative to them, but what are the odds!

Vital statistics:

  • Total time (round-trip): around 5 1/2 hours, not including the hour or so we spent screwing around at the summit
  • Total distance (round-trip): 6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2300 feet