After setting up camp, we drove 2 miles to the Basin. There are many hiking and biking trails starting from the campground, including one to the Basin, but it was late afternoon and we wanted to get to the water before dark.
Every time I explore the Basin it seems new to me. We began directly off I-93 in Lincoln with paved trails for biking and accessibility, quickly reaching the river and boulders. Trails guided us further, but the temptation to walk upriver on these massive structures took us in and out of the woods.Cascade Trail goes all the way to Lonesome Lake and beyond. Storm damage a few years ago has made most of the upper trail impassable. In high water, crossing the river to continue following the trail pictured below would not be recommended! Groupon from North Ridge Mountain Guides for an afternoon of waterfall rappelling at Cloudland Falls. Perfect! The trip gathered right at the campground, so we took our time cleaning up in the morning and met up with our 8-person group; two guides, a family with two teens, and another adventurous gentleman. Our ages ranged from 14 to mid-40's. Rule number 1 if you are middle-aged and out-of-shape and hiking a mountain with excited adventurers...bring a camera! I quickly let the group know to not wait up for me, as I was NOT rappelling, so I could 'take lots of pictures' and 'experience the journey'. I truly did both, but mostly to let my heart rate slow down! Falling Waters Trail directly from the Lafayette Campground parking area. From the trailhead, there is a sign saying Cloudland Falls is 1.3 miles. It is the first leg of a popular AT route crossing the Franconia Ridge. What the sign does not tell you is that climbing this trail changes you. The trail starts off easy, and quickly guides you to beautiful small falls. The entire trail up Little Haystack is beside the river, so it is highly recommended if you are traversing the Ridge to take this portion on the ascent- the descent is very steep and wet. Because I was able to 'experience the journey', I had opportunity to say hi to some of the other hikers. A troupe from Quebec was on our same route, having slept at Lafayette the night before as well. I also met a man who was determined to summit the mountain solo and complete the ridge trail, against his girlfriend's wishes. Then there was a man with a similar camera to mine who spent 15 minutes with me teaching me some nuances of water images. Though the trail was not at all crowded, sharing the journey with strangers seems important to me. I love people's stories. Eventually I reached Cloudland Falls, scrambling over rocks and roots and crossing the water itself a few times. The guides began setting up their ropes safely and unobtrusively. They were well organized and clearly loved and respected this space. There are only a handful of guided New England waterfall rappelling opportunities, with few waterfalls as glorious as this 80' drop. We stayed at the falls about 5 hours, setting up gear and getting instructions. It was an extraordinary mix of resting on sun-soaked rocks in the roar of the water and exhilarating adrenalin rushes. Here's a link to a video of Ben rappelling! If you continue above the falls toward the summit of Little Haystack, the water and views continue to impress.