The spring thaw brings "the ultimate rock concert" to Mt. Washington Valley

Arethusa Falls. Photo by Dennis Walsh, courtesy of Appalachian Mountain Club

What happens after 180-inches of snow falls in Mt. Washington Valley over the winter? “April rains mean waterfalls reign” as winter snow melts.  Each season brings spectacular scenery in Mt. Washington Valley, and with spring comes rushing waterfalls as mesmerizing as the fall colors that will come in autumn months.

In what Yankee Magazine calls “the ultimate rock concert”, Mt. Washington Valley offers a host of ideal locations for waterfall viewing and photo-taking.  Come May those who love to see the water fall will get a good look as snowmelt turns to rushing falls. And the good news? Nowhere in New England are waterfalls as abundant and accessible for viewing as they are in Mt. Washington Valley. Grab a camera and visit the following locations for the perfect spring photo opportunity and a self-guided tour of rushing falls.

Sabbaday Falls: There are three drops in the falls, pretty pools and a pothole formed by the swirling waters and sand. You can’t swim here, but it‘s a great spot for picnics in the summer. And the gravel, handicapped accessible path that leads to the falls offers easy access making these falls among the most popular in New Hampshire.

Directions: Take the Kancamagus Highway from Conway. The Sabbaday Falls Picnic Area is about 3.5 miles west of where Bear Notch Road joins the Kanc. The falls are a short 0.3 mile hike in.

Glen Ellis Falls: The Ellis River plunges 64 feet to the basin below in a torrent of white water in Pinkham Notch.  The deep green pool of water beckons below, but unfortunately beware – it’s off limits to swimmers. 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.

Crystal Cascade: Often overlooked by hikers anxious to reach Tuckerman Ravine, this waterfall just off the Tuckerman Ravine Trail is worth the side track. Crystal Cascade drops a total of 100 feet in two uneven segments with a shallow dark pool in-between. Thea two-tiered spectacular fall starts with a dramatic 60-foot wall of water, followed by a 20-foot 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.

Thompson Falls: This is actually a series of falls along Thompson Brook located at Wildcat Ski Area. The views to Mt.. Washington from the highest ledge are worth the trip.  The falls are a sequence along the brook with the lowest cascade of Thompson Falls crashing over an overhanging rock ledge that takes on the shape of a gigantic clam.

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.

Arethusa Falls: Measuring in at about 176 feet, these are the highest single falls (longest drop) in New Hampshire. A bonus here is Bemis Brook Falls, Fawn Pool and Coliseum Falls can all be visited from here. The multi-tiered plunge appears to fall from the sky. The streams of water range from extremely powerful during the spring snowmelt to more of a trickles during the summer. The gracefulness and sheer height of the falls is what makes this waterfall a must-visit.

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).

Flume Cascade & Silver Cascade: These falls are easily viewable from the car, but you can get close for a better look.  Silver Cascade is a tall mix of plunges and cascades that hop and skip from left to right down the southwestern side of Mount Jackson in what are rushing falls in May and a ribbon of water in the warmer summer months. The falls continue under US 302, eventually converging with the Saco River below the highway. Due to the ease of access from Crawford Notch, this waterfall has dazzled millions of tourists over the years, making it one of the most popular waterfalls in New England and are heavily visited and photographed as a result. At Flume Cascade, the Silver Cascade’s neighbor, small falls and plunges end up in the Saco River below the highway. The falls are especially lovely in early spring when some of the water is still frozen. During this time, the waterfall not only looks larger and rushes more, but the ice formations created here over the rock face can create a dazzling photo op.

Directions: On Route 302, just below Crawford Notch Depot.

Ripley Falls & Kendron Flume:  Ripley Falls is a beautiful 100-foot sheet of whitewater flowing over a smooth rock wall, especially in May as the snow melts. The rock wall is at about a 60-degree angle. At Kendron Flume, the mountain waters of Kendron Brook surge through a narrow pass and slide for a distance through a narrow shoot, especially during the summer snow melt. 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.

Jackson Falls: These are one of the popular watering and swimming holes for locals on a hot summer day. Easily accessible, they offer wonderful pools and small falls to cool off under, easily accessed from Carter Notch Road.  During the spring melt, the rushing waters make for great photo ops. 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.  The falls are easily viewable from Carter Notch Road.  There are a few easy car pull-offs alongside the falls.

Diana’s Baths: On a full moon night, this is one of the most romantic places in the world and perfect for a little moonlit skinny dip in the warmer months! The water supply for the area is located above this, so no access is allowed above, but this series of small falls and pools along Lucy Brook offers the perfect place to cool off in a natural whirlpool-like swimming hole. You’ll hike about a half mile in, following a well-marked trail to find them.

Directions: Access the trailhead from west Side Rd. about ½ mile beyond the point where West Side Road turns toward Conway.


Categories: Features, Seasonal Guides – Spring