On the Summer Solstice, we hiked the Kinsmans from via Lonesome Lake Trail from Lafayette Place. It was a beautiful hike on a hot sunny day.
|0 mi||0 mi||Start at Lafayette Place Campground|
|1.2 mi||1.2 mi||Lonesome Lake Trail to Lonesome Lake|
|0.4 mi||1.6 mi||Cascade Brook Trail to Lonesome Lake Hut|
|2 mi||3.6 mi||Fishin’ Jimmy Trail to Kinsman Ridge Trail|
|0.4 mi||4 mi||Kinsman Ridge Trail to summit of North Kinsman Mountain|
|0.9 mi||4.9 mi||Kinsman Ridge Trail to summit of South Kinsman Mountain|
|0.9 mi||5.8 mi||Kinsman Ridge Trail back to North Kinsman Mountain|
|0.4 mi||6.2 mi||Kinsman Ridge Trail back to Fishin’ Jimmy Trail|
|2 mi||8.2 mi||Fishin’ Jimmy Trail back to Lonesome Lake Hut|
|0.4 mi||8.6 mi||Cascade Brook Trail back to Lonesome Lake Trail|
|1.2 mi||9.8 mi||Lonesome Lake Trail back to parking lot|
Hiking the Kinsmans Via Lonesome Lake
We started this hike from the parking lot at Lafayette Place Campground in the morning on this year’s Summer Solstice. It was technically still a spring hike as we finished before the actual time of the astronomical solstice that afternoon. Nonetheless, it felt like summer all day with high temps in the 80s, sticky humidity, and afternoon thunderstorms rolling in. Knowing it would be a busy hiking day, we got to the campground early, around 8:30am, and the lot was already filling up quickly. After nabbing a spot, we took advantage of the facilities that the campground had to offer (note: they have many water filling stations and restrooms), and started up Lonesome Lake trailhead. Although this 1.2 mile boasts a steady climb up a very eroded sandy and rocky trail, it is heavily trafficked and very popular. When you get to the top and see the stunningly gorgeous Lonesome Lake peeking through the trees, it is easy to see why. There are multiple places to set up a hammock or wade into the lake for a swim. Additionally, AMC’s Lonesome Lake Hut offers a large dock, a place for hikers to rest, refill water, or even spend the night if you make a reservation.
Once we reached Lonesome Lake, we turned left on Cascade Brook Trail to walk 0.4 mi around the south edge of the lake to the hut. The trails around the lake follow bog bridge after bog bridge – a good thing to protect this heavily used area. We were grateful to have some flat sections between steep trails. The scenery was absolutely magnificent in the morning light and we enjoyed soaking it all in.
Past Lonesome Lake Hut, we continued 2 mi up Fishin’ Jimmy Trail, a section of the Appalachian Trail – so follow the white blazes. This trail ungulates with a few ups and downs in the first half mile or so and then climbs steeply to Kinsman Pond Campsite. Much of the trail is quite rocky and rooty, making footing pretty challenging. Many sections have flat stepping spots cut into the rock and even wood steps bolted to the slabs to aid hikers. They made it a little more manageable, but this section really took a toll on us. In the sweltering heat and humidity, I felt sluggish and fatigued long before my muscles were actually tired. Taking a few breaks and trying to stay hydrated helped and we made it up, albeit at a much slower pace than we usually hike.
Kinsman Pond Campsite is only 0.1 mi down Kinsman Pond Trail from the juncture here, so that would be a great option for making this a backpacking trip. As we were day hiking, we skipped that detour and headed up Kinsman Ridge Trail, climbing 0.4 mi of more steep sections in the beautiful sunshine to the summit of North Kinsman Mountain. There is a viewpoint here that is one of the best in the Whites in my opinion. From an open rock ledge, you can see Cannon Mountain, topped with its giant antenna, and look out across Franconia Notch to Franconia Ridge running over Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Liberty, and Mt. Flume. On this day, there was a huge thundercloud rising over Waterville Valley further south and the storm was dumping rain there and sending rumbles of thunder across to us. We had a quick bite to eat and admired the views until the swarming black flies chased us away – they’re bad in the late spring to early summer!
We continued 0.9 mi along Kinsman Ridge Trail toward South Kinsman Mountain and hoped that the localized storm across the valley wouldn’t end up over us. The skies remained clear as we passed through the col and rose up to emerge on the mostly bald summit of South Kinsman Mountain. The large cairn here and stunted trees make for a great summit area, but the storm was clearly growing larger so we took our pictures, smiled to ourselves, and quickly headed back to retrace our steps for the hike out.
Coming back, there were some steep climbs up the slabs that we had to downclimb on the hike in and then a steep descent down Fishin’ Jimmy Trail and its bolted-in wood steps. With the growing clouds providing ample motivation, we made quick time back to Lonesome Lake and back to our car, barely pausing for breaks.
This was a great hike on a beautiful day. We luckily avoided the scattered storms and I emerged from the woods filled up by the natural beauty that we witnessed.