Waterfalls of the White Mountains

Kaitlyn Gilligan- Discover the Power of Parks Interpretive Ranger-SCA NH Corps

Who doesn’t love waterfalls? The White Mountains have some of the best waterfalls in New England. I tend to go see waterfalls when the weather is overcast or a little rainy. This makes for a less crowded trail and more time at the falls in solitude. Having rain a few days prior, makes for excellent conditions at the falls (but beware that the trails and rocks could be more slippery!). This summer we haven’t had much rain, so imagine my pictures but 10x better if you see them after a rainfall. Some of the waterfalls in NH you have to hike to, but some are right off the highway. There is a waterfall for everyone. 

Arethusa Falls

Arethusa Falls is the highest single-plunge waterfall in New England. Arethusa plunges 160 ft from the top of a wide cliff face. If you are in Crawford Notch it is a must see! Rather than taking the direct route up Arethusa, I recommend taking Bemis Brook trail which will eventually attach to Arethusa Falls Trail. Bemis Brook creates a series of small and fascinating waterfalls on your way to see Arethusa falls. The falls at Bemis Brook might not be tall, they are nothing to look over. They are composed of stair step falls which drop consecutively for about 30 feet. The shallow pools have layers of red granite underneath that looks like horseshoes. You will first pass Bemis Falls then Coliseum Falls, after this you will climb steeply back up to the main trail. Another reason this trail is one of my favorites is that you can add on Frankenstein Cliffs to your hike if you want. This trail goes around the steep mountainside and has great views of Crawford Notch.

Start: 1.5 miles South of the Willey house off of route 302 in Crawford notch, you will find Arethusa Falls trailhead. 

Distance: 5.6 mile loop including Frankenstein cliff

                  2.8 miles Arethusa Falls Trail

Difficulty: Bemis brook trail Easy.  Arethusa to Frankenstein cliffs Moderate. The downhill from Frankenstein cliff is steep and loose gravel. 

Ripley Falls

Ripley Falls is another waterfall in Crawford notch. Ripley Falls is a quick and easy hike for a great reward. The waterfall drops 100 ft down a vertical face of granite. The rock wall is at about a 60 degree angle so the water maintains contact with the rock most of its descent. At the base of the falls there are multiple large boulders, good for sitting down and having a snack. 

Start: Ethan Pond Trailhead off of Route 302 in Crawford

Distance: 1.2 mile out and back 

Difficulty: Easy 

Gibbs Falls

Gibbs Falls is a 35 ft horseshoe tail waterfall. I stopped at Gibbs Falls on my way up and down climbing Mt. Pierce. Mt Pierce is a 4,000 footer but it is one of the easier ones if you wanted to start that journey. This waterfall is gorgeous, it flows into a nice, clear pool you can take a dip in or just soak your feet after a big hike. The trail is called Crawford Path and it is one of the oldest maintained trails in the United States. It will lead you up to Mt. Pierce and eventually over to Mt. Washington. If you just wanted to go to the falls it is an easy 0.2 from the parking lot. 

Start: Mt. Clinton Road(closed in winter ) Crawford Connector lot

Distance: 0.4 miles 

Difficulty: Easy 

Basin Cascade Trail

This trail is one of my favorites. It starts at the Basin which is a large pothole created in the Pemigewasset River. It is 30 feet wide and 15 ft deep. It formed about 25,000 years ago as the Ice Age receded. Melted water from the glaciers eroded the granite bedrock and for many years after sand and stones were whirled around by force of the river creating the smooth sidewalls of this waterfall.  Then the trail continues onward towards Kinsman Falls and Rocky Glen Falls. Kinsman Falls is a narrow 15 ft plunge into a big pool that is hidden away on the side of the trail. This pool is big enough to take a swim in on a nice hot day if you wish. The water is generally very cold so beware. Next you will hit Rocky Glen Falls which falls 35 ft over jagged steps between narrow gorge walls into deep pools. All along this trail is great scenery and places to sit and admire the beauty. If you wish for a longer hike this trail continues on to Lonesome Lake and Kinsman Pond. 

Trailhead: The Basin on Interstate 93 parking on both north and south bound

Distance : 2.2 mile out and back 

Difficulty: Easy. Continuing on to Lonesome Lake or the Kinsmans will be more difficult. 

The Basin
Kinsman Falls
Rocky Glen Falls

Cloudland Falls

Cloudland Falls is on the Falling Waters Trail, in Franconia Notch State Park. This trail is one of the busiest in the park as most people do this hike as a loop going up Little Haystack over to Mt Lafayette and down Old Bridle Path. However many people hike just to see Cloudland falls. Along the hike, you pass several different falls including Stairs Falls, then Swiftwater Falls, and then the highest is Cloudland Falls reaching about 80 ft.

Start: Falling waters Trailhead along interstate 93. The trailhead does fill up quickly on the weekends

Distance: 1.3 miles from the trailhead 

Difficulty: moderate 

Gem Pool

Gem Pool is along the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, which is one of the most popular and easier of the trails to climb Mt. Washington. But like most of these hikes you can just hike to the waterfall and head back down. Gem Pool is a cascade that pours into a green-tinted pool of water. Many people swim in this pool and take a break from their hike. This trail was gorgeous as it follows the river most of the time and there are bigger cascades the farther you go up.

Start: Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail/ Cog Railway parking lot

Distance : About 2 miles out and back to Gem pool

Difficulty : Easy

Glen Ellis Falls

The next waterfall, you can find in Pinkham Notch. It is a 64 foot plunge with a deep green pool at the bottom known as Glen Ellis Falls. A short walk down a series of staircases, will lead you to the falls. Because of its easy access, it can get crowded. I recommend going on a weekday if you don’t want to wait in a line to get a picture. This is one of the most powerful waterfalls and as the water gushes from the top it creates a fine mist that surrounds you, very refreshing on a hot summer day. The Falls are believed to have been created following a series of avalanches from the overhanging cliffs on the east side of the valley.  

Start: Trailhead is on Rt. 16 in Pinkham Grant, about one mile south of Wildcat Mountain.

Distance: 0.6 mi round trip

Difficulty: Easy

There are many more waterfalls that I could not include in this blog and I encourage you to get out and explore them all. Some others not included but I recommend are Franconia Falls, Sabbaday Falls, Georgiana Falls, Crystal Cascades and Nancy Cascades.


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 AmeriCorps 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.

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