Lake Francis in the Connecticut Lakes Region of New Hampshire. This past weekend my husband and I headed all the way up to the Canadian border to spend some time hiking the northernmost hikes in the AMC White Mountain Guide.
A whole three hours above Mt. Washington, there is not a whole lot up here except some tourist cabins, very large lakes, and lots and lots of forest!
These hikes are little…4 miles was our longest one and that included the road walk back to the car…little but very very worthwhile and if you’re ready to get away from the crowds, consider a weekend such as this one, base camping and doing all these little hikes and more!
The Cohos trail runs through the region of the Connecticut Lakes and the trails are for the most part newly made and well marked. You’ll be driving along and see brown signs with large yellow lettering on the side of the road and wonder…”Hey, I wonder where that one goes!”.
We focused on 4 hikes from the guidebook, 3 were along the Cohos trail and one was a significant distance off of it.
Garfield Falls was our first hike and a good 10 miles off of the Cohos Trail.
You drive way out on Magalloway Road north of First Connecticut Lake until you’re willing to swear you are lost, but then you come to a nice kiosk, sign, and even privy! You can make a 1 1/2 mile loop on Garfield Falls and we began by hiking down the dirt road to the far end of the trail.
The lower section was relatively innocuous to the point we wondered why the AMC had brought us way out here for it. However soon enough we came around a corner and WOW!
Really can’t be adequately described! We actually walked out into the river and around large ledges to get some unique views of it! Well worth the hour of exercise! From the falls you climb rather steeply back up the slope to the parking lot.
In the afternoon we headed all the way up to the Canadian border for the Fourth Connecticut Lake Trail. It’s a little disconcerting to have to walk around the US Customs building with all its high fences and security cameras, but soon enough you are on the trail! You begin by climbing up the actual border cut, steep and very very rugged. After 1/2 mile you exit the cut to the left and hike down to the lake shore and then take a nice loop around the lake.
Fourth Connecticut Lake is the headwaters of the Connecticut River and a beautiful and very peaceful beaver pond. Peaceful enough in fact that the largest beaver I’ve ever seen was just hanging out on the shoreline wondering if he should move given our presence!
My husband was happy to be done hiking for the day after that, but I wanted a little more so he dropped me at one end of the Moose Alley Trail and picked me up at the other end.
This trail is not described in the AMC Guide but is a short section of the Cohos trail mentioned in passing in the guide. For me, just because it was there, it was intriguing! It begins at one end of the Falls in the River Trail (which is in the AMC Guidebook) and ends on Magalloway Road. It was a wonderful late afternoon stroll through open woodlands and small bogs.
The next day we did the Falls in the River before we went home. We hiked in from the south as we always like to hike uphill instead of downhill if we can help it. The trail itself was very beautiful winding in and around spruce and fir trees. We approached the falls within 1/2 mile and were actually disappointed to approach it from way up on the hillside without a good aspect of it from afar.
The trail finally came to the falls right at its head and there was a side trail towards its bottom. So we had to climb down the slope we’d just climbed up. Still had difficulty finding a good viewing spot. We had to cross some blow downs and get right out in the river. It was definitely worth it though! Not just dramatic but a scary amount of water was flowing down through this steep sluice and all we could think was “Wow! Don’t want to do that in a boat!”
From the falls we then had to hike what felt like a long 1 1/2 miles out (maybe it was because the day was hot), but it still was pretty and well worth it! Back down the road to the car and then we stopped by Lake Francis for a swim before we headed home!
Like I said, this is up there but if you’re looking for something totally unique to do in New Hampshire and away from the crowds of Mount Washington, this could be your solution! You will find all of these hikes except for Moose Alley in the AMC White Mountain Guide. They are not on the AMC maps (they are too far north) but with the trailhead decriptions in the book and some good detailed road maps you can get a good idea of where you are going.
To make reservations:
Please call AMC Lodges and Huts, at (603)466-2727 available Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm.
AMC Backcountry Information Specialist