Friday, January 8, 2010


Looking for an afternoon of off-trail snowshoeing with some good trail-breaking, I opted for a favorite short trip to some small ledges overlooking the Lafayette Brook valley at the north end of Franconia Notch. The sun had made a rare appearance down in Lincoln, but up here all was still grey and would remain so, extinguishing any hope of enjoying the unique view of Mt. Lafayette from the ledges. I went ahead with the trip anyway, parking at the bottom of the access road at Exit 34C leading down to the Hugh Gallen Memorial and the Lafayette Brook bridge. (Thanks to John Compton for the tip on this road being plowed this winter.) Some snowmobiles went by as I crossed the bridge on the recreation trail. They might have wondered where this fellow with the huge pack was heading.

All the trees up here were fantastically caked with snow. There was about two feet of unconsolidated powder, making for some slow trail-breaking through the somewhat brushy woods.

There was wintry beauty overhead.

It took nearly two hours to climb and then descend to an open ledge with a view up the Lafayette Brook valley. The clouds were at about the 3200-foot level, rendering the upper slopes invisible.

The hardwoods across the valley, at the base of the backside of Eagle Cliff, were draped in white. There is said to some old-growth hardwood in the lower valley here, which is part of the National Forest's Lafayette Brook Scenic Area.

The clouds lifted enough to reveal a view of "Sleeping Chief Ledge," so named by fellow bushwhacker Chris Whiton for its appearance when seen from the Lafayette Brook bridge. It's an interesting off-trail destination.

The ledge from which the preceding photos were taken.

The steep slope of open woods behind the ledge. Above here the growth was quite scrubby.

Farther up the slope I visited another open spot that on a clear day provides a dramatic view of Lafayette's bare crest rising at the head of the valley.

Not a breath of wind stirred this day, preserving the remarkable coating on the trees.

On the slope to the north of the ledges I snowshoed down through some fine birch glades. This was one of several areas burned by forest fires in the White Mountains in 1903.

No real views today, but a rewarding exploration nonetheless.


  1. I love that little "inlook" ledge - such a great view up the Lafayette valley! Since the road is out of sight, it feels like you are beyond the reach of civilization.

    I hauled myself up to those ledges from the brook below last summer - that would be a real impossibility in the winter. I'll have to try the approach from above next time.

    Great photos! The north end of the notch has retained some spectacular frost over the last week!

  2. Chris,

    You're right, those spots have a real remote feeling despite being a mere half-mile or so from the bike path. I noticed on that trip that there was no highway noise at all, and it was a quiet windless day. I scrambled up there once from the floor of the valley also, in summer, and agree that it would be desperate in winter.