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Cannon Mountain and Lonesome Lake Trails in NH

All NH Hiking Trails >> Cannon Mountain


Parking Lot GPS Location: N44° 08.554' | W071° 41.014'


I’ve been itching to add Cannon Mountain in NH to my small but noble list of “Four Thousand Footers” and today’s first splash of rain won’t deter me. The morning fog is still burning off of the mountains as I switch on my windshield wipers at the trailhead parking for Franconia Notch State Park. The forty-eight peaks in graced with the title of “Four Thousand Footer” are revered by hikers and backpackers and many summit these mountains simply so they can add another to their personal lists. I’m particularly excited, however, to explore Cannon because even at its short measure of 4,100 feet, it boasts fantastic views from both the summit and trail. I’ve heard a lot of hiking rumors about the adventurous trail at Cannon Mountain, the sheer fun of hiking its moderately steep, but definitely manageable trail.


Cannon Mountain Lonesome Lake Trails

Around ten AM myself and two fairly experienced friends (I like to hike in threes for a cozy but not scary-if-danger-arises group) set off in the light misty rain. Its early in November, a month that usually finds the White Mountains under more snowfall than rain, but 2008 was a slow year for snow. Nearby the automatic snow-makers and grooming machines at Cannon Mountain Ski Resort could be heard at full throttle. We use the trail that passes through the Franconia Notch tent camping area and hike the shared portion of the Lonesome Lake/Cannon Summit Trail. This portion of the trail is characterized by frequent switchbacks; although longer in distance, they allow for less of an incline. I notice, as we reach the split where the trail to Lonesome Lake veers to the left and Cannon to the right, how rich looking the forest has become in the recent rains. Every tree is a vibrant green, all in different shades and textures, of course, and even the ground beneath my feet glows with life.

After the split in the trails I notice a decrease in switchbacks, but not a strenuous incline. Instead we’re hiking a trail that makes a slow, winding ascent to the summit. I’m beginning also to become aware of the amazing views on this trail. It sweeps, for the most part, along the side of Cannon Mountain and shows off gorgeous views of Franconia Notch. The trail is markedly less difficult than other “Four Thousand Footers”, such as the nearby Franconia Ridge Trail. For those hiking with dogs or kids, however, it is good to note the ladder in the middle of this hike. That’s right – I was pleasantly surprised as I turned the corner on a final switchback to discover a wooden ladder leading from the part of trail I stood on up to where it continues, 50 feet above me. The rungs were a bit far for a child’s reach and I found them slippery with rainwater, but the excitement of this new trail element overjoyed me. From the top of the ladder the scenery transformed into murky grey rainclouds, but even the devious weather couldn’t mask the continuous, gorgeous views.

After climbing the ladder, the Cannon Trail transforms into a rather rocky terrain. I am doing a lot more squatting and grabbing than I had bargained for, but just as soon as the rocks come, they’re gone. As I near the summit I discover from both the path of the trail and a fellow hiker (one of the few we passed, despite it being a Saturday) that in order to reach the summit and summit tower, we have to traverse a rather flat trail across the top of the mountain. This is where most of the views drop off as we’re still below tree-line and I’m now surrounded by miniature pines.

At the summit we discover a New Hampshire Boy Scout Troop; the boy scouts have proved to me that Cannon is, after all, a kid hike-able trail. Boisterous and fun, the boy scouts share a bench with us while we eat the wraps we packed. Just before the summit, nestled in a small pine grove, are a few benches and areas to rest and enjoy the mountain air. Myself and the boy scouts are extra grateful for this area of shelter today because of how rainy and windy the weather has gotten. I notice that the Cannon trail is great for less than perfect days because of its limited exposure. The tip-top of the mountain is home to a huge look-out tower, from which I see not only deep into Franconia Notch State Park, but also Cannon Mountain Ski Resort and the Tramway. The tower is tall and puts me way above tree line, a great way to enjoy the view from Cannon Mountain with less exposure and less steep inclines. Looking out over the Franconia Notch State Park I can truly bask in a love for hiking and an appreciation for New Hampshire’s unique landscape.

On our way down from the summit, my friends decide to take the cut-off trail to Lonesome Lake at the split that we previous avoided. The trail to the Lake is similar to the Cannon Trail, but finds a boardwalk trail around Lonesome Lake and an Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Hut at the end. I have hiked the perimeter of Lonesome Lake last winter using snow shoes and I can testify to the lake’s beauty and the ease at which it is to hike the trail. The AMC Hut at Lonesome Lake is an extremely well-maintained site and is perfect for hikers in need of a sheltered break. The Hut, staffed by The Appalachian Mountain Club, has an indoor area complete with tables and a cooking area, as well as flush toilets and the option to rent a bed for the night. The staff is friendly and helpful and the entire site is beautiful. We stumble out of the hut, warmed by hot drinks, to check out Lonesome Lake again before our short descent to the trailhead and the car. The lake is placid and mysterious, busy with swimmers in the summer and frozen over in the winter. This time of year finds it simply beautiful, the perfect picture of the vivid New Hampshire woods. Half an hour later I’m standing by the car looking up to Lonesome Lake and the summit of Cannon Mountain, wishing I were looking down instead.


by Jillian Jason, Writer




Cannon Mountain Trails are located in Franconia Notch NH.

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Cannon Mtn in New Hampshire is commonly misspelled: "Canon Mountain." This report is about hiking Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire.




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