AMC Outdoors, January/February 2002
One of the finest snowshoe trips in the White Mountains is a trek to the serene shores of Lonesome Lake in Franconia Notch State Park. The lake sits in a basin under the twin peaks of 4,293-foot North Kinsman and 4,358-foot South Kinsman. But the prize on this jaunt is simply the dazzling beauty of the Franconia Ridge. The snow-choked ravines are like fingers between the crusty ridges. On a sunny day, the combination of the wind-drifted snow on the frozen lake and the Kinsman pair is like a perfectly executed oil painting.
The snowshoe trek begins at the well-signed Lonesome Lake Trailhead. The trailhead is also used by snowmobilers riding the paved bike path through the notch. Begin by crossing a hand-railed footbridge over the Pemigewasset River, cross the Pemi Trail, and pass through the campground along the yellow-blazed trail. As you leave the campground, the trail begins a long moderate climb of 1,000 feet through the hardwoods over a series of switchbacks. You’ll cross one small wooden bridge over a brook at about 0.3 mile and then cross one more just after that. The trail largely follows an old bridle path. As it winds its way up the ridge, it is sometimes narrow.
While resting, look behind through the birches to see the sparkling Franconia Range. The forest changes as the ascent continues. Soon evergreens reign. The sounds of the traffic rolling along the road down below become a memory as quiet takes over during a short dip to a junction near the edge of the lake. Here, the Cascade Trail heads left and the Dodge Cutoff goes right. A small path at the junction heads down to the eastern shore of the lake.
At this point, you have to make a decision. If it is sunny and the lake is sufficiently frozen, it is a pleasure to snowshoe directly across the ice to the shores by AMC’s Lonesome Lake Hut. Look closely and you will see the cabins from the eastern shore. (See also an article on AMC huts in the winter.)
However, there is also the option of taking the Around-Lonesome-Lake Trail, a 0.8-mile loop. The trail is flat and made up of a number of different trails. The downside is that portions of it pass through frozen boggy sections that are traversed by narrow log bridges. Take the Around-Lonesome-Lake Trail by making a left on the Lonesome Lake Trail. The blue-blazed trail nears the shore and after 0.2 mile, the Around-Lonesome-Lake Trail bears right. After that, the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail will enter. Take it and bear right, cross a log bridge over a stream, and start to look for the snow-covered beach.
Across the lake is an awe-inspiring view, the majestic Franconias. From left to right, there’s Mount Lafayette at 5,260 feet, Mount Lincoln at 5,089 feet, and Little Haystack Mountain at 4,760 feet. You’ll be impressed with your accomplishment.
How to get there: From the south, exit the Franconia Notch State Parkway at the sign for Lafayette Place Campground. Turn left into the parking area. An underpass will lead to the other side of the road and the trailhead.
From the north, exit the Franconia Notch State Parkway at the sign for Lafayette Place Campground. The trailhead is opposite the brown visitor center.