The primary trail access is the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center at the southern terminus of the trail. The trail starts at the rear of the visitor center, in the back of the parking lot. You can also take the pedestrian bridge over the river to access the Lincoln Woods Trail
The first 2.5 miles of the trail, reaching the Franconia Brook
Tentsite, is fairly wide open and smooth with only short sections of basketball-sized rock. It is mostly under canopy. It is also offset from the East Branch Pemigewasset River with trees blocking views of the river for the first half mile or so before the trail creeps back towards the river. There are several points to stop and look out over the river bed with the mountain tops poking out from behind the trees across the river.
At the Franconia Brook
Tentsite, recognizable by a large wooden notice board, the trail approaches a gate (at a compostable toilet) and appears to turn hard left toward the river. The gate has a sign alerting users to the closure of the Thoreau Falls
Bridge, which crosses the East Branch Pemigewasset River connecting the Wilderness Trail
to the Cedar Brook Trail
(and essentially the East Side Trail). Behind the gate, the trail narrows and looks less used and maintained than the previous 2.5 miles of trail. Hikers should cross the gate to continue on the East Side Trail; the left turn goes to the river where hikers can cross the river to access the Lincoln Woods Trail
The next 2.5 miles of trail are along singletrack. The trail also follows more tightly along the river and eventually pops out into the river at a large boulder. Hikers will come to a gap in the land where a bridge once stood and will have to navigate an alternate path; this is not the Thoreau Falls
Bridge. The trail begins to climb 100 feet in the last half mile. At the very top of the climb, the trail ends at the Cedar Brook Trail
. Left will take hikers to the Wilderness Trail
and river. Right will take hikers partially up Hancock mountain and towards Kancamagus Highway.