AT in a Day: Franconia Ridge to Route 302

AT in a Day: Franconia Ridge to Route 302

For anyone who aspires to conquer the Appalachian Trail, those who have completed the journey and want to hike down memory lane, and even those who simply want to taste the experience, Backpacker Magazine promotes AT in a Day. Their goal is to unite the hiking community to collectively complete the Appalachian Trail in a single day.

Sounds fun, right? That’s what I thought! So this year I got online to register for a section. Most of the options were only three or four miles, but one stood out: A 25+ mile section (not counting the approach trail and side excursions) from Franconia Ridge to Route 302 that was marked as a “challenge.” It’s moments like this where I’m blind to common sense. Challenge accepted. But why horde all the pain and suffering for myself? I called my brother Brad and roped him into the masochism. After all, misery loves company.

The following is a photo diary of our journey. If you’re looking for trail descriptions, please refer to the Pemi Loop, Franconia Notch to Mt. Garfield, Mt. Garfield to Mt. Guyot, Mt. Guyot to Mizpah Spring Hut posts.

Whitehouse Trail Sign
We slept in a van down by the…well, in this case, mountain. The alarm interrupted our slumber at 3 a.m. and we were on the trail twenty minutes later, a race to catch the sunrise on Mt. Liberty.
Mt Liberty Sunrise 1
We made it to the summit of Mt. Liberty just in time for the show.
Mt Liberty Sunrise-2
And what a show it was as the sun continued to rise over the Pemigewasset Wilderness.
Mt Liberty Sunrise 4
How far are we hiking today? Maybe we should get going…
Mt Liberty Summit
Looking back at the Mt. Liberty summit in the early morning light.
Franconia Ridge Trail Sunrise
The sunrise continued to work its magic over Franconia Ridge.
Franconia Ridge Trail Near Liberty
Oh, sure, Brad was all smiles at the beginning of the hike. The thing is, I knew what I was getting us into, so I only had myself to blame. Coincidentally, Brad also had me to blame. I’m sure we’ll be on speaking terms again by the holidays.
Liberty Flume from Haystack
Looking back on Mt. Liberty (the first pyramid) from treeline on Little Haystack Mountain.
Little Haystack Photo Opp
I stopped for a photo on Little Haystack. Note all the photos we’re taking at the beginning of the hike…yeah, that changes by the end of the day.
Little Haystack Summit
The summit of Little Haystack Mountain.
Haystack to Lincoln
The Franconia Ridge Trail from Little Haystack to Mt. Lincoln.
Alpine Grass Mt Lincoln
Alpine grass on the summit of Mt. Lincoln. Did I mention it took us 18 hours to complete this hike? Totally worth it—otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten this precious shot for Instagram:

Lincoln to Haystack
Looking back at Franconia Ridge to Little Haystack from Mt. Lincoln.
Franconia Ridge from Lincoln
Another shot of Franconia Ridge and the Appalachian Trail on the south side of Mt. Lincoln.
Cannon from Lincoln
The view from Mt. Lincoln across Franconia Notch to Cannon Mountain.
Lincoln View Lafayette
The big beauty, 5,260-foot Mt. Lafayette as viewed from Mt. Lincoln.
Lafayette View Lincoln
Looking back on Mt. Lincoln and the Appalachian Trail from Mt. Lafayette.
Lafayette View Pemigewasset Wilderness
“See that mountain in the middle over there,” I said. “No, not the one closest to us on the left—the one in the middle just before that other big ridge. That’s our half-way point.”

“Stop talking,” Brad replied.

Lafayette View Garfield
The view of the Garfield Ridge Trail/Appalachian Trail from Mt. Lafayette to Mt. Garfield.
Garfield Ridge Trail from Lafayete
The Appalachian Trail’s northbound descent of Mt. Lafayette via the Garfield Ridge Trail.
Garfield Ridge Trail
A cool stretch of forest on the Garfield Ridge Trail portion.
Mt Garfield Summit
A hiker summitting Mt. Garfield.

After descending Mt. Garfield to the spring at the Garfield Ridge Campsite, it probably wasn’t a good sign when we were talking to a thru-hiker, and upon telling him where we were going, he looked at us like we were crazy. “Where’d you start?” he asked, as if he hadn’t heard us correctly.

Garfield View Owls Head
The view of Owls Head and the Pemigewasset Wilderness from Mt. Garfield.
Garfield Bonds View
The view of Galehead (front middle) and the Bonds from Mt. Garfield.
Garfield View Franconia Ridge
Looking back at Mt. Lafayette and Franconia Ridge from Mt. Garfield.
Appalachian Trail Garfield NoBo
Is it: A. The Appalachian Trail; B. A small waterfall; or C. All of the above? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.
Galehead South Twin View
It might not look like much, but this climb of South Twin Mountain from the AMC’s Galehead Hut was the most challenging climb of the day. It gains 1,122 feet in elevation over .8 of a mile.
South Twin View Pemigewasset-Wilderness
The view of the Pemigewasset Wilderness from South Twin Mountain. There are also views of the Presidential Range from South Twin, but realizing our hike was likely going to end in the dark, we didn’t delay long here.
South Guyot Summit From AT-Split
The view of the open South Guyot Summit just before the AT turns to ascend Mt. Guyot.
AT Blazes Turn
The turn.
Mt Carrigain from Zeacliff
Fast forwarding quite a bit, here’s the view of Mt. Carrigain and Carrigain Notch from Zeacliff.
Zeacliff View Whitewall Mountain
The view of Whitewall Mountain from Zeacliff. “You can see where the Appalachian Trail crosses at the base of the mountain,” I said.

“I’d rather not know,” Brad replied.

Whitewall Mountain
We made it to the base of Whitewall Mountain, and despite there still being 6 miles left to our hike, this was the last photo I took.

After beginning our hike at 3:20 in the morning, we finished at 9:30 p.m., completely spent. Total miles: 28.4. In other words, we hiked 1% of the Appalachian Trail for AT in a Day. Not too shabby.


Definitely not too shabby. You guys rock! Fran may kill you for the ring pic though. Well at least you called it the precious. You make me want to put on my hiking boots and hike a mountain. Well, maybe my sneakers and go for a walk. They say soaking in a tub with epsom salts helps the soreness but you orobably already know that.

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