Hiking, New Hampshire, United States, Waterfalls

On the Waterfall Hunt in New Hampshire’s White Mountains

I’m endlessly chasing waterfalls, so naturally when Kubo and I arrived in New Hampshire this past September, we were giddy to learn there were many waterfalls for us to try to catch!

We were based in Conway, which is in the White Mountains.  Luckily there is no lack of information on the waterfalls in the area, and my aunt even picked up a great brochure for us that had a checklist of all the waterfalls (and covered bridges) in the area.  Though some waterfalls require quite the hike to get to, many are roadside or just a short jaunt into the woods.

One thing to note, that unlike waterfalls in the western US (or Iceland, the king of waterfalls) which are fed by snowmelt throughout the summer, the waterfalls in New Hampshire can be a bit puny come September as there isn’t the snowpack sustaining them.  Some might even disappear!  I am guessing the best time to see the waterfalls will be at their peak in the spring months.  Just have to manage your expectations, that’s all!  Don’t expect Skógafoss, but do expect beautiful, dense forest views, and that ever calming roar of falling water.

Jackson Falls

Jackson, NH
Roadside

This is a set of cascades on Wildcat Brook in the town of Jackson.  It is right alongside the road, so no hiking required.  It is a very popular place for swimming and picnicking

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Labor Day weekend crowds at Jackson Falls
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Jackson Falls

Lower Falls

Kancamagus Highway
Roadside

So many of NH’s waterfalls are roadside, which makes them easy to access if hiking isn’t your thing.  Lower Falls is no exception.  These small cascades are popular for swimming and picnicking on the shores.

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Soaking up the sun along Lower Falls

Rocky Gorge

Kancamagus Highway
Roadside

Rocky Gorge is another sight alongside the Kancamagus Highway.

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Sabbaday Falls

Kancamagus Highway
Gravel path ~0.3miles to falls

I found one of my favorite waterfalls of the trip!  Sabbaday Falls had one of the higher flows, and is just in such a pretty setting!  Because the trail is very accessible (people in high heeled boots walked it), you won’t have this to yourself, but it’s awesome nonetheless.  The pools of water are a pretty aqua color, there’s tons of moss (I love moss!), and the viewing walk ways let you get close to the action.  It is tight quarters, so I recommend a wide angle lens if coming here for photography (I used my Nikkor 10-20mm lens).  Swimming is not allowed here.

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The lower plunge of Sabbaday Falls
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Sabbaday Falls
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Sabbaday Falls
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Walking platforms allow you to get an up close view of Sabbaday Falls

Falling Waters Trail: Stairs & Swiftwater Falls

Franconia Notch
Rocky, rooty, tough-in-spots singletrack
Parking lot can fill up, so might have to take shuttle
3+ miles roundtrip, all depends on when you turn around

Arghhhh I messed this one up!  I miscounted the falls, so we didn’t see the final Cloudland Falls, which is the one I wanted to see.  Nonetheless, the hike was still beautiful, and we got to spend time at Stairs Fall and Swiftwater Falls.

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Stairs Falls on Falling Waters Trail
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Swiftwater Falls on Falling Waters Trail

Silver & Flume Cascades

Crawford Notch
Roadside

Silver and Flume Cascades are near each other right alongside the highway, and tumble down the mountainside.  We parked in a nearby overlook, and spent a decent amount of time sitting next to Flume Cascade, admiring the view.  Despite being next to a highway, it is a rather peaceful spot.

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Silver Cascade in Crawford Notch
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Silver Cascade
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Flume Cascade
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Small portion of Flume Cascade. Like Silver Cascade, it runs down the entire mountain side

Bemis Brook & Arethusa Falls Trail: Bemis, Coliseum, & Arethusa Falls

Crawford Notch State Park
Tough rocky, rooty single track that can be stupidly steep at times (I mean like vertical steep)
<4 miles roundtrip

This is a crazy beautiful hike, even if you’re scrambling on a vertical surface at times!  We turned off on Bemis Brook Trail so we could see Bemis and Coliseum Falls before rejoining the Arethusa Falls Trail.  I highly recommend going up Bemis Brook Trail because this is the trail that has the steep, nearly vertical section and I find it much easier to go up such things than down.  We had Bemis Falls all to ourselves, and Coliseum Falls to ourselves for quite awhile.  Both of these falls are unique and gorgeous, and Coliseum Falls definitely got added to my favorite waterfall list (but is there a waterfall that isn’t on that list?!).

Arethusa Falls is the tallest waterfall in New Hampshire (at ~160 foot drop), and appears to be quite the popular hike.  I struggled capturing it’s height with my camera, as the flow was low and it just kept appearing so short.

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Bemis Falls
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Coliseum Falls
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Snuck a photo of myself in with Coliseum Falls
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Arethusa Falls, with some people for scale
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Arethusa Falls
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Arethusa Falls

We only scratched the surface of all the waterfalls in this area.  There are many more that are roadside, or require short hikes of <0.5 miles to get to.  Luckily my aunt lives in the area, so the waterfall hunt shall continue during future trips!

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