Monday, August 3, 2015

Lonesome Lake - The Perfect Family Hike

View of Cannon Mountain from Lonesome Lake

Lonesome Lake is a perfect hike for kids!
There are a million hikes to choose in the White Mountains - long, short, steep, flat, wet, dry - the list goes on and on.  But if you are planning a hike for a three-year-old, you need to choose wisely.  In my most popular post "5 Best Family Hikes in the White Mountains", I suggest this jaunt up Lonesome Lake Trail to mountain views, bog-bridge trails through meadows, and a comfy lunch spot at the AMC Hut.  It was time to put it to the test. On this perfect summer day, my friend Ingrid and I took her two kiddies - one-year-old Georgie and a three-year-old Ilsa to this iconic spot in New Hampshire's Franconia Notch.  Read below to replicate our adventure...

Adventure: Day Hike to Lonesome Lake

Ilsa crosses a small brook near the campground.
(Photo by Ingrid)
Getting There:  The trail-head for Lonesome Lake is located in the popular Lafayette Campground in Franconia State Park.  The campground is only accessible from a southbound exit on I-93.  If you are coming from the south (like I was), pass the area and take the Cannon Mountain exit, where you can get back on I-93 South.  The parking lot fills quickly on weekends, so plan to get there early.  If you can't, you can park on the I-93 north side at the Falling Waters Trail and take the under-highway tunnel to the campground.

Trail: From Lafayette Campground, take the Lonesome Lake Trail (yellow blaze).  After about 0.4 miles, the trail reaches a junction with the Hi-Cannon Trail.  Continue on Lonesome Lake Trail through hardwood forest.  The trail is uphill but moderate - giving hikers stone steps to help them up steep sections and even a few switchbacks (unusual in the Whites!)  Continue another 0.8 miles (1.2 total now) to the east side of Lonesome Lake.  Take a left and travel Around Lonesome Lake Trail- getting glimpses (and sounds) of the lake and shore.  After about 0.4 miles, you will pass over a bridge that gives clear views of Cannon Mountain mirroring on the clear lake before reaching the platform/beach area and the stairs to the hut.
Ilsa enjoys a swim at Lonesome Lake (photo by Ingrid)
In the summer months, the beach area is a perfect spot to rest or swim in the summer time.  On a hot weekend day, plan on sharing the area with 10-20 people who share your love of nature.  From the swimming area, visitors can get a clear view of Franconia Ridge in the distance.

Bog Bridges Around Lonesome Lake Trail.

Don't forget to visit the hut for a cookie or cup of hot chocolate (and possible bathroom break) before continuing around the lake.  From the swimming area and hut, continue on the Around Lonesome Lake Trail another 0.4 miles onto a path of bog bridges that travels over fragile meadow and wetlands.  Sneak a peak in the small streams and you might see some small trout swimming in the shallows!  As Ilsa informed us, "It looks like a fairyland!"

Soon, you'll return to the junction with Lonesome Lake Trail.  Return the way you came.  If you are a lucky little girl, you might have your Auntie Lindsey carry you down so you can rest your little legs.  Back at the campground, use the restroom before returning to the car for the ride home.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Distance: 4.2 miles round trip including doing the perimeter of the lake.

Summit gets a swim in too!

- Set up your children for success.  Get them excited about their hike - tell them what they might see, what the trail will be like, etc.  Bring trail snacks, treats, a toy, and a change of clothes and towel (for swimming).

- Young children should not carry a backpack (unless they ask to).  Make the experience lighthearted and fun.  Give positive affirmations for good hiking behavior.

- Bring a back up carrier for little kids.  Our three-year-old hiker rocked the hike up (with a couple candy bribes and many stops), but was pooped for the downhill.  We were prepared with a backpack child carrier.

- Take advantage of the hut bathrooms and rooms to allow children to comfortably change clothing.  You can also refill potable water here.

- There is no charge for parking.

- Get to the parking lot early on summer weekends.  It fills quickly!

- Check the weather - the White Mountains are prone to afternoon thunderstorms and variable weather.  Plan ahead and be prepared!
Kids hang out at base of AMC hut.
(Photo by Ingrid)

It was a PERFECT day in the White Mountains -  clear, sunny, warm (but not hot), and not humid.  We all enjoyed our hike up the shaded trails of Lonesome Lake Trail to the sunny swimming beach at the hut shore.  If you are looking for a great kid-friendly hike or just a moderate hike of your own, you won't regret spending your day in Franconia Notch's Lonesome Lake.

You might also enjoy the following posts:
-  Sugarloafs - 2000 footers with Outstanding Views
-  Best Family Hikes in White Mountains, NH
Livermore Trail - Easy Multi-use trail in the White Mountains

Please leave any questions and comments below.  Don't forget to like The Freelance Adventurer on Facebook and on Instagram @FreelanceAdventurer.

View of Franconia Ridge from west side of lake.