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Hike the Whites

Why Mount Lafayette is the best hike in New England

A hiker explores Mount Lafayette, the highest point on Franconia Ridge.
A hiker explores Mount Lafayette, the highest point on Franconia Ridge.(Jeff Romano for The Boston Globe)
The Greenleaf Hut is seen on Mount Lafayette in Franconia, N.H., in 2011.
The Greenleaf Hut is seen on Mount Lafayette in Franconia, N.H., in 2011. (Herb Swanson/Appalachian Mountain Club/AP)

The Boston Globe and Appalachian Mountain Club teamed up this summer to ask readers to pick their favorite White Mountains hike. After two weeks and more than 55,000 votes, the winner of our Hike The Whites bracket was Mount Lafayette, which defeated the more famous and much taller Mount Washington (6,288 feet to 5,260 feet).

For anyone who has hiked more than a few trails in New Hampshire, picking a favorite is like picking a favorite color M&M. They’re all pretty great. So in the end it came down to one peak that’s recognized as New England’s king of the hill, Mount Washington, for serious hikers only, and another, Mount Lafayette, that’s more for the masses, doable for both the experienced and the leisure hiker.

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When it was over, we asked the folks at Appalachian Mountain Club, who maintain these trails and the huts that line them, and who know the White Mountains better than anyone, why they think Lafeyette toppled Washington and 63 others to come out on top of our Hike the Whites competition.

Here’s what they had to say:

“There are few hikes as iconic, as scenic, or as justifiably popular as the ascent of 5,260-foot Mount Lafayette. The highest peak on the alpine prow of Franconia Ridge, it towers over Franconia Notch to the west and lords over the entirety of the Pemigewasset Wilderness to the east. Lafayette is also one of the most accessible “must-do” hikes in the White Mountains from points south, making it an excellent option for a day-trip from the Boston area.

“No matter your route to the top, gorgeous, panoramic vistas make it well worth the climb. On a clear day, the ridge walk between Little Haystack Mountain, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Lafayette is the hike that keeps on giving with sweeping views for miles around, including the Presidential Range and Lonesome Lake.

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“Bonus points for casually working this fun fact into conversation over your summit PB&J: Originally called “Great Haystack,” Mount Lafayette was renamed to honor the Marquis de Lafayette for his assistance during the American Revolution.”

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