Many of you have likely zipped down Cannon Mountain on skis or perhaps enjoyed a tram ride on the mountain. I recently found that Cannon is also an amazing hiking destination that offers several challenging routes to the summit. Like any of New Hampshire’s 4,000 foot peaks, Cannon must be respected and hikers should pack for all weather conditions, bring a first aid kit and understand the potential trail conditions (see newenglandtrailconditions.com for trail conditions and hikesafe.com for information on hiking safety, including the 10 essentials).
The Cannon Mountain Hike
My family and I started our hike in the Basin area, which features a series of waterfalls and an amazing hardwood forest, all within Franconia Notch State Park. I looked around in awe knowing that Henry David Thoreau stood at the same spot on his initial journey to the White Mountains in 1839. We elected to take the Basin Cascade Trail to the Cascade Brook Trail, which offered plenty of shade and the tranquil sounds of Cascade Brook along its 2.5 mile route to Lonesome Lake. While you can also take the shorter, but steeper Lonesome Lake Trail to reach Lonesome Lake, we found that the Cascade Brook Trail has amazing views and a number of excellent spots to dip your toes in the water.
Once we reached Lonesome Lake, we quickly headed for the Lonesome Lake Hut, operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). The hut offers hikers the opportunity to rest their weary legs, purchase snacks, such as homemade baked goods, and socialize with other outdoor enthusiasts. Many hikers elect to spend the night at the AMC huts as they are “bagging” multiple peaks in the White Mountains.
From the Lonesome Lake area, we took the Dodge Cut-Off Trail to Hi-Cannon to Kinsman Ridge, which was an approximately two mile journey to the summit of Cannon. All in all, it was a challenging way to ascend Cannon and there were even ladders to help with one of the steepest sections. Portions of the Hi-Cannon Trail provided spectacular views over to Mount Lafayette and the remainder of the Franconia Ridge.
Once we reached the summit of Cannon, we scaled up a cool observation tower and documented the journey with some pictures. Another way to climb Cannon is to take the Kinsman Ridge Trail up and back from the parking lot of the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway. On that note, we used the Kinsman Ridge Trail to descend the mountain and some family members were kind enough to pick us up at the parking lot.
How Long Does The Cannon Mountain Hike Take?
The entire hike took us about five hours, which includes some time at the Lonesome Lake hut and a slight diversion to an observation area. Most hikers can complete Cannon in 4-6 hours depending on the route, the weather and their abilities.
Other Attractions Near Cannon Mountain
One of the favorable things about Cannon Mountain is that you can also take the aforementioned tram to reach its summit, which is a pleasant ride of less than ten minutes. The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway is the only one of its kind in New Hampshire and was the first to operate in North America.
A highlight of our adventure was that my in-laws used the tram to meet us at the summit. All family members were thrilled to rest for a few minutes at the Tram Summit Lodge, where we enjoyed the views and some beverages at Cafe 4080’. I would be remiss not to mention that you can enjoy a beer from the highest taps in New Hampshire.
The lodge also features a spectacular 360 degree observation deck, where we took a number of photos with the Cannon ski trails and surrounding mountains as the backdrop. In addition to the mountain itself, there are a number of attractions within the Franconia Notch State Park, such as a paved bike path that runs the length of the park, about 9 miles one way, as well as the Old Man of the Mountain Profile Plaza and Historic Site, which commemorates New Hampshire’s emblem.
Polly’s Pancake Parlor – An Iconic NH Restaurant Near Cannon Mountain
In the nearby hamlet of Sugar Hill sits Polly’s Pancake Parlor, an iconic restaurant that legions of people have visited for over 75 years. We make the pilgrimage to Polly’s every time we are in the Franconia area and it never disappoints, although there can be a wait given its enormous popularity.
Quick tip: while Polly’s does not take reservations, you can call ahead to put your name on a waitlist and shorten the wait time. We visited Polly’s the morning after our Cannon adventure, which was a pleasant carbo-load after the strenuous hike.
Most of our family members favor “Kathie’s Combo,” which includes your choice of three pancakes, two eggs any style and either sausage, bacon or ham. Not surprisingly, my teenage son opted for six pancakes! Needless to say, our hike of Cannon Mountain and the trip to Polly’s offered a classic New Hampshire adventure, which we surely will repeat.
More Details On Cannon Mountain and Where To Find It
You can find Cannon Mountain at:
For Cannon Mountain hiking parking information visit https://www.cannonmt.com/things-to-do/activities/hiking