Brooks, rivers, and mountains sure are scenic, but they usually also spell something else: waterfalls. As you might have guessed, the White Mountains are full of them! In fact, we have well over 100 plummeting, tumbling, and trickling waterfalls found within our region.
What is the best waterfall in the White Mountains? We’ll leave that answer up to you. Here are a few scenic plunges to get you started.
As with all things outdoors, exercise caution during your travels. Waterfalls (and their pools) can be rocky, slippery, and dangerous. Wear proper footwear, avoid precarious spots, and prepare for your trip ahead of time by purchasing a trail map, researching your route and the current water conditions, and packing the necessities. Plan alternative adventures as well – parking lots can fill up early on busy summer days.
ARETHUSA FALLS (Crawford Notch, NH)
Edward Tuckerman was on to something in 1875 when he discovered and named Arethusa Falls in honor of a mythological nymph-turned-fountain. Just like Arethusa herself, this waterfall is downright magical.
To get the first waterfall on our list, look for a sign along Route 302 as you reach the southern stretches of Crawford Notch State Park. You can choose from the large parking area or continue up Arethusa Falls Road to try your luck at the smaller, closer lot. Cross the train tracks and follow signs for the Arethusa Falls trail, and your 1.5-mile (one-way) journey begins. Along the way, you can expect the typical hallmarks of a hike in the White Mountains (aka rocks and roots). Persevere. This moderate hike ends with the staggering sight of Arethusa Falls’ 160’ continuous drop.
Hikers looking to change up their route on the way back can opt to take the scenic Bemis Brook side trail, which reconnects with the Arethusa Falls trail in less than half a mile.
GEORGIANA FALLS (Lincoln, NH)
Looking for waterfalls in Lincoln, NH? Look no further. Georgiana Falls’ 30-foot cascade is reached in 1.5 miles out and back, and it is well worth a side trip while you’re exploring all of Lincoln’s offerings
To get there, take Hansom Farm Road (located right off Route 3). You’ll find a very small parking lot on the right, and the trailhead for Georgiana Falls just ahead. Sure, you have to cross beneath the highway with the aid of two overpass tunnels, but this stretch is still surprisingly scenic. Trees filled with fluttering leaves arch overhead, and the babbling waters of Harvard Brook are a tonic to any frazzled, post-highway-driving nerves.
While the incline is gentle, you will encounter uneven footing throughout your trip, so wear boots! You’ll be extra thankful for them once you reach the base of Georgiana Falls and spot a root-y path snaking up the right side of the waterfall. Follow it to the top for the full view.
Tip: Partway up the hike, the path will fork – stay to the left to reach Georgiana Falls.
KINSMAN FALLS (Franconia Notch, NH)
But what if your tastes lean less towards glacial potholes and more towards traditional waterfalls? Opt for the Basin-Cascades Trail, a 1-mile (one way) route that brings you past several distinct waterfall features. Our favorite of these is Kinsman Falls, which waits half a mile up the trail. The imposing rock walls that frame this 20’, ribbon-like plunge are something straight out of a fairytale. Linger and take pictures, but also tread carefully – the narrow path that descends to this fall is best left to the surefooted.
If you’re so inclined, continue another half mile along the Basin-Cascades Trail to see the triple tiers of Rocky Glen Falls (topping out at a combined 40’). Then? Head back down the trail!
Photo Credit: Caitlin P. Farrar
CRYSTAL CASCADES (Pinkham Notch, NH)
Take a trip to Crystal Cascades, and you can claim you climbed up Mount Washington – well, at least the very beginning of it. This stunner is set up just 0.7 miles from the Tuckerman Ravine trailhead at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch, and it has a total combined drop of 90 feet between its upper and lower falls. Expect this waterfall to be absolutely bustling during the summer and fall foliage seasons, so pack your patience – the views are well worth it.
BEAVER BROOK FALLS (Colebrook, NH)
If your legs are protesting or you are traveling with a group that would rather spend more time watching waterfalls than walking to them, pick Beaver Brook Falls. This massive, 80’ waterfall is visible from the road, and it’s – dare we say it? – picture perfect. To get there, take NH 145 through Colebrook. Keep heading north – Beaver Brook Falls, a grassy expanse, and several picnic tables are waiting!