Beyond Arethusa: Five Hikes to do in Crawford Notch State Park

By Simone Maule; Interpretive Ranger at Crawford Notch State Park and Ellacoya State Park

From the stunning vistas of the Presidential Range to the spectacle of rushing water cascading over 100 vertical feet down a mountain Crawford Notch State Park has it all. Natural and cultural history meets here in the heart of the White Mountains as visitors come from all over to learn about the tragic tale of the Willey Family, view the fall foliage in brilliant display, and of course, to hike the highest peaks in New England. There is so much to see and do in Crawford Notch and the diversity of hikes available can be overwhelming. If you are considering a visit to the notch and are wondering just what you should do with your spare afternoon – here is a small sample of the many different experiences you can have here.

Ripley Falls on a glorious (although slightly overcast) day

Ripley Falls

Length: 0.5 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Moderate

Ripley Falls has the distinction of being one of the tallest waterfalls in New Hampshire. On top of that it is relatively easy to reach and makes a great destination for folks looking for a quick hike or a break to stretch their legs before continuing on their journey through the White Mountains. The trailhead is located along Route 302 about one mile south of the Willey House Historic Site. The trail itself is a bit rocky and muddy in places so take precautions if it has recently rained. It’s also important to note that you have to cross train tracks about a tenth of a mile in, so make sure to look both ways before crossing.

View of the pond with the Pemigewasset Wilderness in the distance

Ethan Pond

Length: 2.7 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Moderate

The Pemigewasset Wilderness has a plethora of small alpine lakes. These little backcountry jewels sit nestled among the peaks and are prime spots for hikers, backpackers, and anglers alike. Ethan Pond is one of the more accessible lakes in the area and it’s a relatively moderate hike that crosses some very nice sections of the Appalachian Trail. One part of this trail in particular takes you through a beautiful meadow where wildflowers bloom and you can hear green frogs singing the day away. The lake itself has some great big rocks where you can sit and enjoy a grand sweeping view of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Overall it’s a great spot to stop for lunch or a snack and if you are geared up for a longer journey there is an AMC shelter and campsite area located just behind the pond that is available for overnight use. There are two ways to access this trail from Crawford Notch State Park. One option is to start at the Ripley Falls trailhead and take the Appalachian Trail junction up to Ethan Pond 0.2 miles in. The other option is to take the Kedron Flume Trail behind the Willey House Cafe on Route 302 1.3 miles up to the Appalachian Trail Junction. Both routes are roughly the same distance but the Kedron option is much steeper and therefore more difficult.

Blue Bead Lily, Bunchberry, and Pink Lady’s Slipper on Ethan Pond Trail in early July
That classic Willard view

Mt. Willard

Length: 1.6 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Moderate

If you want the classic all-encompassing view of Crawford Notch, Mt. Willard is the hike for you. This relatively easy trail is wide and well-marked. After heading steadily uphill for a mile and a half you’ll step out onto a ledge of granite and if the weather is nice the view is absolutely spectacular. This hike is particularly great if you don’t have much time to climb other vista peaks or you are hiking with a multi-age group. To access this hike head north on Route 302 and park at the Crawford Depot, cross the railroad tracks and you’ll find the trailhead on the other side.

Lovely view of the Saco River from the Sam Willley Loop Trail

Sam Willey Loop

Length: 0.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy

Often overlooked by folks heading to the peaks this trail meanders along the Saco River for a stretch giving you stunning views of the water and occasional glimpses of the towering peaks above. Depending on the time of year you visit this trail is a great spot to look for wildflowers. It’s a mellow half mile and rated easy but you can choose your own adventure hear and make it as long or as short as you like by connecting up with the Saco River Trail which runs all the way down to the Dry River Campground (three miles one way). It’s relatively flat and great for people and families who don’t have the time or inclination for one of the more challenging climbs in the area. Park at the duck pond and cross the bridge, the trail will be on your right.

New England Asters blooming along the Sam Willey Trail in late Jun
Full on view of the Kedron Flume rushing down the mountainside

Kedron Flume

Length: 0.75 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Moderate

Kedron Flume is a gorgeous little brook that zips down along the mountainside. To get there look for the trailhead behind the Willey House Snack Bar and wind your way up three quarters of a mile through the forest. It’s a nice shaded trail although it must be noted that it is quite steep. It’s a great destination in and of itself but you can easily make it a waypoint on your way to Mt. Willey or Ethan Pond by continuing up the Flume Trail for another 0.6 miles where it interconnects with the Appalachian Trail.

The Kedron Flume may not have the same vistas as Mt. Willard but it’s certainly not lacking of gorgeous views

This is but a small sample of the trails, vistas, and destinations you can reach from Crawford Notch. Stop by the Tourist Information Center next to the Willey House Historic Site if you want more information or recommendations for the area. Happy Hiking!

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Discover Power of Parks SCA Interpreters

Discover the Power of Parks is presented by New Hampshire State Parks in collaboration with the Student Conservation Association and made possible by generous financial support from Eversource. The program offers a look into the natural world through hands-on programming. Interpretive programs focus on connecting participants with nature and building appreciation for New Hampshire's unmatched natural heritage. Programs include guided hikes, interpretive tours, and imaginative environmental workshops for children and families. Programs are offered free to guests with paid park admission fee. No pre-registration is required.

One thought on “Beyond Arethusa: Five Hikes to do in Crawford Notch State Park

  1. I love the fact I live here in Pa. and you send me photos if the beauty in New Hampshire. My partner took me to New Hampshire to meet his Mother over 4 years ago.. The visit was too short. But thanks to you I still gt to experience it here and even though it’ s not the same, it is better than not seeing at all.. I love it there. The beauty of the mountains, the rivers,the lakes. Oh I gt excited when things arrive here from you…I won’t give up hope of another visit soon.. I know God created off of this for us, His people and I want to see it all.. Thank you a I hope you continue to keep me updated and send this beauty to me.. I feel special to even receive this to my computer.
    I thank you for all of this and look forward to my next post.

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