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.
Length: 0.5 miles (one way)
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.
Length: 2.7 miles (one way)
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.
Length: 1.6 miles (one way)
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.
Sam Willey Loop
Length: 0.5 miles
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.
Length: 0.75 miles (one way)
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.
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!