Trailhead and parking area are at The Basin, off Rt. 93 in Lincoln, NH. The Basin exit is 2.1 miles north of exit 34A and 3.4 miles south of Exit 34B. Parking is available on both sides of the highway, but is most convenient (and the trail directions are described from) the west (southbound) side. If traveling north, you can reverse direction at exit 34B.
Situated on a high plateau below Cannon Mountain and the Cannonballs, Lonesome Lake is one of the state's most popular and scenic mountain ponds. A loop trail around the lake shows you tranquil waters, mountain vistas, docks and beaches, and dark bogs. If that's not enough, there's also Lonesome Lake Hut, where you can stop in for lemonade while you enjoy the views. The easiest way to access the lake is via Lonesome Lake Trail from Lafayette Place Campground, but by far the most scenic route is via Basin-Cascades and Cascade Brook Trails from The Basin. This hike combines both of these exciting routes into a nice loop.
From the parking area, walk down the paved walkways into the Basin. Cross the bridge over the river, passing a powerful cascade. Follow the path past a beautiful aqua-tinted pool with a sand beach and along the river, by more cascades and smoothed rock waterways. Continue down to the main attraction, The Basin, an amazing curved waterfall through carved rock into a huge, swirling pool underneath a half-domed rock ceiling. Just past The Basin, cross a bridge and bear right off the paved path onto Basin-Cascades Trail. Pass Pemi Trail on the right and continue at easy grades through the woods, heading toward Cascade Brook. The trail quickly reaches the brook and follows it closely, passing many beautiful sets of cascades, where there are opportunities to walk out onto the rocky brook bed and explore. One notable unnamed waterfall spans the width of the brook as it tumbles and slides into a huge pool. Not far past this, 0.4 miles from the paths in the Basin, a spur on the left descends to Kinsman Falls, a straight, narrow plunge over a small cliff. The trail then passes by the top of the waterfall.
In 0.1 miles, the trail crosses the brook on medium-sized rocks and climbs a steep pitch on the other side. It continues to follow the brook closely, passing a few more exciting cascades before the trail (and the brook) levels somewhat. The trail then continues uphill to a viewpoint overlooking Rocky Glen Falls (just off the trail), whose name suits it well. Just past this, turn right and step down into a gorge to get a closer look at the waterfall. The brook is walled in above and below this picturesque waterfall. This is 0.4 miles from the brook crossing. Continue 0.1 miles as the trail swings left to follow the brook, passing the site of a former bridge, to the end of the trail and turn right onto Cascade Brook Trail (and the Appalachian Trail). This trail quickly crosses the brook on large rocks, an easier crossing than the first one. The wide, rocky trail ascends at easy grades, following the brook at a distance, for half a mile to a junction with Kinsman Pond Trail. Bear right to stay on the trail, as it leads away from Cascade Brook. It eventually joins the small, rock-filled outlet brook of Lonesome Lake and turns to follow it, becoming steeper and rougher. As it approaches the lake, it climbs steeply on rock staircases and crosses a few muddy sections on bog bridges, then passes a marsh and reaches Lonesome Lake in 0.8 miles from the last trail junction.
Turn left onto Fishin' Jimmy Trail and emerge at the prime viewpoint of the lake, a bridge over the outlet brook at a small wooden dam. From here, there are gorgeous views over the water to the Cannonballs and off to the distant Franconia Ridge. The reflections of the mountains in still water are picturesque. If there are no other hikers at the lake, this is a very peaceful place to spend some time. The trail continues around to a dock, where there is a better view of the Franconia Ridge. It is also a good place to go swimming. Here, the Fishin' Jimmy Trail heads off to the left for the Lonesome Lake Hut, just a short distance away. Turn right onto Around-Lonesome-Lake Trail to continue around the lake. After passing a few viewpoints over the lake, the trail enters a bog. Boardwalks take the trail through the peat moss, crossing several inlet streams. In 0.2 miles from the dock, the trail leaves the bog. Turn right onto Lonesome Lake Trail as it follows the north shore for 0.2 miles past a few viewpoints up to the Kinsmans and Cannonballs to a trail junction. If you do not wish to make a loop descent, continue straight onto Cascade Brook Trail back to the outlet bridge and return the way you came. To continue on the loop, turn left to stay on Lonesome Lake Trail, immediately passing Dodge Cutoff on the left. The rocky trail heads straight downhill, but soon swings right into the first of two very long switchbacks. After the trail turns the corner into the next switchback, it becomes easier and less rocky. In 0.8 miles from the lake, pass Hi-Cannon Trail on the left, cross a bridge over a small brook, and continue 0.2 miles to Lafayette Place Campground. Cross a paved road a continue straight onto a gravel path. Cross another road, and at the end of this path, turn right onto another paved road and follow blue blazes into the woods at a sign for Pemi Trail. It is an easy two-mile walk along the Pemigewasset River back to The Basin.
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