A Waterfalls Tour: Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire
By Marty Mayne
For some, April signals the end of winter. For others, in search of rushing waterfalls, April is the prime viewing month. With the abundant water from melting snow there is no better season for viewing and photographing waterfalls, rushing brooks, streams, and rivers than April and May.
Nowhere in New England are waterfalls more abundant and accessible for viewing than Mt. Washington Valley in New Hampshire.
Spring is dubbed Bud to Blossom in Mt. Washington Valley. Not only are flowering trees in bloom, and spring flowers popping up throughout the Valley, but lodging properties throughout Mt. Washington Valley are offering special Bud to Blossom packages. Each includes a gift of a silk potted rose and coupons to enjoy special offers at restaurants, stores, and attractions throughout Mt. Washington Valley.
Create your own self-guided waterfall tour
Everyone from kids on spring vacation to photo buffs will enjoy the rush of the falls at this time of year. Here is a guide to some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the valley, consider visiting any or all of these choices.
An important note: while there is no admission to see the falls, you will have to pay $5.00 for a one-day or $5.00 for up to 7-day pass to park at any of the White Mountain National Forest parking areas. These passes are available at any area Ranger station, and at a variety of places throughout Mt. Washington Valley.
Measuring in at about 176 feet, these are the highest single falls in New Hampshire. A bonus here is Bemis Brook Falls, Fawn Pool and, Coliseum Falls which can all be visited at the same time.
Directions: Take Route 302 toward Bretton Woods and look for Crawford Notch State Park entrance. Turn onto a paved road just beyond the park and park on the short side road below the railroad tracks. The trail starts to the left of the private road above the RR tracks and it's about 1.3 miles to the falls (2 miles if you take the trail to Bemis Brook Falls, Coliseum Falls & Fawn Pool).
Glen Ellis Falls
The Ellis River plunges 64 feet to the basin below in a torrent of white water here. Make sure to stop and read the signs that describe the geology and history of the area.
Directions: The turn-off to the falls is 0.7 miles south of Pinkham Notch on Route 16. This is also the parking area for the Glen Boulder and Wildcat Ridge Trails. A tunnel takes you to the other side of the highway where you turn right to reach the falls. It's a relatively easy 0.2-mile walk to the falls.
This is a two-tiered spectacular waterfall, with a dramatic 60' wall of water, followed by a 20' plunge, ending with the river making a 90 degree turn at the bottom.
Directions: Park at the AMC Pinkham Notch Camp and take the path on the left of the Trading Post – the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. The falls are a 0.3 mile walk up. For the adventurous at heart, keep going up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, and watch the spectacle of skiers in Tuckerman Ravine on a sunny day in May.
There are three drops in the waterfalls, beautiful pools, and a pothole formed by the swirling waters and sand. While you can't swim here, it‘s a great spot for picnics.
Directions: Take the Kancamagus Hwy from Conway. The Sabbaday Falls Picnic Area is about 3.5 miles west of where Bear Notch Road joins the Kancamagus Highway. The falls are a short 0.33 mile hike in.
This is actually a series of falls along Thompson Brook at Wildcat Ski Area. The views to Mt. Washington from the highest ledge are worth the trip!
Directions: Take Route 16 to Wildcat Ski Area. To reach the falls, take the "Way of Wildcat" Nature Trail from the ski area's parking lot. At the far end of the trail loop, you'll find the path to the falls. It's a 0.7 mile easy trek to the falls.
Flume Cascade & Silver Cascade
These falls are easily viewable from the car, but you can get close for a better look. Directions: On Route 302, just below Crawford Notch Depot.
In Warmer Weather
Ripley Falls & Kendron Flume
An easy hike will bring you to these falls. With swimming holes at the top of the falls and pools upstream to cool off this is a great warm weather excursion. It's not safe, however, to climb the face of the falls.
Directions: The Arethusa-Ripley Falls trail is off Route 302 at the old Wiley House station.
These falls are one of the popular watering holes for locals on a hot summer day. Easily accessible, they offer wonderful pools and small falls to cool off under. A few picnic tables nearby offer the perfect spot for a picnic lunch, dinner or cocktail.
Directions: Take Carter Notch Road about 3/10 mile from Route 16A in Jackson.
Directions: Access the trail head from West Side Road., about ½ mile beyond the point where West Side Road turns toward Conway.On a full moon night, this is one of the most romantic places in the world.
The water supply for the area is located above this, so no access is allowed above, but this series of small falls, and pools offers the perfect place to cool off. You'll hike about ½ mile in, following a well-marked trail to find them.