July 30th, 2016
I had limited time today so I decided to head into Franconia Notch, a relatively short 2 hour drive for me. The goal was to hike something, preferably some 4000+ footers… but I hadn’t totally decided on what yet. My other goal was to up my speed and maintain a 2+ MPH pace across the entire trip alternating between a brisk hike and some running/jogging. I’ve been nursing a knee injury since December but lately have been feeling much stronger. Today would be the test!
About an hour into the drive I decided to give Cannon and the Kinsman’s another shot. I had done this exact hike back in November in winter-like conditions (read about it here), I’ve never done it in the summer months.
The weather forecast was incredible. A high in the low 80’s, a slight breeze, partly cloudy, no chance of rain… it was perfect! This also meant everyone else had the same idea. I was about 1/4 mile away from the trail head parking area at Lafayette Place Campground when I started to see the cars parked along the side of I-93 South. This is typical on beautiful summer days like this in the White Mountains. The horde of tourists, hikers, and campers overflow the parking lot and spill onto the interstate.
I joined the conga line and parked my car about 1/4 of a mile from the parking area. Oh well… a little extra mileage to warm up/cool down isn’t the worst thing.
Lonesome Lake Trail
I got to the trailhead at 10AM… Yeah… a bit of a late start.
I weaved my way through the masses of car campers setting up shop along side the Lonesome Lake Trail Head and onto the lesser populated portion of trail. This section of trail is super gradual and easy. Excellent footing and almost groomed appearance made this a good spot to start jogging.
I’d only stay on Lonesome Lake trail for 1/2 a mile before splitting off on Hi-Cannon.
This is where things start to get interesting. Hi-Cannon earned it’s place on the “Terrifying 25” list of “scary trails” in the White Mountains… To be honest, it’s not all that scary. However, it can be challenging. This trail gains nearly 2000 vertical feet of elevation in just under 2 miles.
The climb up Hi-Cannon alternates between moderate grade walking to short scramble sections. The steeper sections typically have good footing and there’s no real risk of a catastrophic fall. Today was very dry and hot so traction was great. My new Altra Lone Peak 3.0 (Review coming soon!) Shoes felt great and gripped the trail well.
About a mile into the Hi-Cannon trail I came across the Hi-Cannon Ladder. Probably the most photographed ladder in the White Mountains. This ladder spans a gap up a steep incline, to the left of the ladder is a considerable drop through the bush that would probably suck to fall down. While it can look pretty daunting in pictures the ladder is easy to get up.
I hustled my way up the lower sections of Hi-Cannon. Despite the huge mass of cars at the parking area I only passed by two other groups of hikers making their way up.
A half mile later I popped out at the first outlook. This outlook is a large downward sloped featureless rock that leads to a huge drop off a cliff. Last time I was here it was icy and I didn’t crawl out on to it… today I stopped here for a snack. Beautiful day!
After my snack I moved on towards the Junction of Kinsman Ridge Trail and the Cannon Mountain Summit cutoff. I turned right onto the summit trail and kept on trucking.
Cannon Mountain Summit
2.4 Miles and about 1 hour after starting the hike I popped out at the observation tower on the summit of Cannon Mountain. The weather couldn’t be more perfect. Visibility was high and Franconia Ridge looked incredible in the distance.
Looking south I got a glimpse of my path to North and South Kinsman.
The tower was busy today, lots of tramway riders, families, children and other hikers. I didn’t hang around long. After a few pictures I was back down the stairs and heading back towards the Kinsman Ridge Trail junction.
Kinsman Ridge Trail
Right after the junction I started losing elevation. Heading downhill pretty rapidly to about 3400 feet. The initial descent on Kinsman Ridge Trail is pretty rough terrain. Lots of loose large rocks make for a technical descent. I didn’t move fast here as I’m still pretty terrified of messing up my injured knee!
The Cannon Balls
The Cannon Balls are a series of 3 smaller peaks (a little over 3000′ in elevation) just south of Cannon’s main summit. Kinsman Ridge Trail traverses two of these peaks and weaves around the middle one. The northern most peak known as North East Cannon Ball sits at 3,769 feet in elevation and earned its spot on the New England 100 highest peak list. The terrain along this route is fun, offering some scrambles and lots of elevation gain/loss.
After traversing the Cannon Balls things mellow out for a bit. Long sections of spongy soft ground are a pleasant relief. I started to jog and pick up the pace here.
The climb up to North Kinsman’s summit is fairly steep and grueling but short. At the 5.7 mile marker and 2 Hours 53 Minutes into this trip, I popped out at the summit of North Kinsman. The actual summit isn’t very rewarding, however there is a great outlook just a few steps away.
After a couple pictures I hopped back on the trail and started towards South Kinsman. The section between North and South Kinsman is pretty rugged and rocky.
After hanging out at the summit of South Kinsman for a few minutes I moved on. Backtracking down the Kinsman Ridge trail on the same path I came in on. My energy was running a little low by this point so I didn’t stop much to take pictures. I just kept on trucking until running into the Fish’n Jimmy Trail.
Fishin’ Jimmy Trail
The Fish’n Jimmy Trail is the most direct route down from Kinsman Ridge. This trail winds past Kinsman Pond and follows the Kinsman Pond Brook down towards Lonesome Lake. It features lots of moisture, lots of rock hopping, and some man made stair features/ladders.
After about 2 miles on the Fishin’ Jimmy trail the Lonesome Lake Hut came into view. This is a very popular AMC Run hut. Many people hike in the short 2 miles from the road to spend the night here and enjoy the Lonesome Lake waterfront property.
I didn’t stop at the hut as I had already refilled my water from a stream. At this point I had to decide if I wanted to go around the Lake to the right towards Cascade Brook Trail, or to the left on the Lonesome Lake loop which hugs the coastline of the lake clockwise. I chose left… taking the Lonesome Lake Loop for about 1/2 a mile.
Now back on the Lonesome Lake trail, I only had about 2 miles left to hike. This section of trail is super gradual and smooth. This was a good opportunity and perfect terrain to run on.
An AMC Hut Croo member was lugging up supplies to the Lonesome Lake Hut. I couldn’t help but notice the 30 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer on her back! That’s one way to get a good workout in.
Now back in the car camping area I had to navigate my way through the masses of campers back to the road to where I parked my car.
First off… My new Altra Lone Peak 3.0 shoes are awesome!
Today I hiked about 12.5 miles… It took me a total of 5 Hours and 39 Minutes including breaks. I reached my goal and exceeded 2.1 MPH throughout the hike. While it’s certainly not a speed record, it’s faster than I’ve moved since my injury in December. It was a beautiful day, and my knee is feeling strong enough to run again!
I really love this loop. I’ll definitely be back to do it again in the winter months.