5 Scenic Waterfall Hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

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From alpine cascades to hidden waterfalls, explore these 5 scenic waterfall hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

5 SCENIC WATERFALL HIKES IN THE WHITE MOUNTAINS OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

By Bearfoot Theory’s East Coast expert Katherine Oakes.

These 5 scenic waterfall hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire are some of the most popular outdoor travel destinations for hikers, backpackers and of course, waterfall peepers. The 30+ waterfalls are nestled in between peaks, situated conveniently along the roadside, or on the way up to some of the tallest summits in the Whites with shelters nearby for an overnight stay. As a kid, some of my best memories were made while splashing in the crystal clear pools, sliding down slippery rock faces and wearing blisters like a badge of honor thanks to damp feet put back in boots too soon during the summer.

The best thing about the White Mountains’ waterfall hikes are their accessibility. There are out and back hikes and loop trails that cater to every skill level. Since there are so many options to pick from, you can choose your own adventure: sloping and well-traveled pathways with visitor centers and cafeterias? Or maybe it’s a multi-day trip with big vertical gains and alpine trails. Whatever you decide, these hikes are scenic, adventurous and totally worth your while.

And as it goes with all of the destinations shared on Bearfoot Theory, please remember to Leave No Trace. That means picking up any trash you see on the trail, practicing good trail etiquette, and being respectful to other hikers. 

Ready to get out there? Here are five scenic waterfall hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

The Gem Pool, The Gorge + The No-Name Waterfalls

From alpine cascades to hidden waterfalls, explore these 5 scenic waterfall hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

  • WHERE IT IS + HOW TO GET THERE

For hikers who want to see more than just waterfalls, this hike delivers. From Mount Washington’s Cog Railway Base Station parking lot, which is easily accessible via US 302 North, you can enter onto the scenic Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail and take in more than three waterfalls. It’s a relatively short hike with quick vertical gains, but if you’re up for it, continue to hike up to the alpine where you can check out the Lake-of-the-Clouds Hut and up Crawford Path to the summit of Mount Monroe.

  • HIKING TO GEM POOL & THE GORGE

Just 2.1 miles from the parking lot, you’ll find yourself at the Gem Pool. This gorgeous glacial pool is fed by a tumbling cascade that is one of the many no-name waterfalls on the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. It’s a great spot to stop and cool off before the next half mile of the trail where you’ll climb 1,000 vertical feet. About 0.2 miles from the Gem Pool, take a right on a side path marked by a carved wooden sign that leads you to the Gorge. After a rocky scramble up the headwall, the trail evens out and you’ll finally reach The Gorge — it’s hard to miss, thanks to the grandeur of its nameless waterfalls. The path eventually crosses back over to the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail and you can either push on to summit Mount Monroe or turn around and take a quick walk back to the parking lot.

Georgiana Falls

From alpine cascades to hidden waterfalls, explore these 5 scenic waterfall hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

  • WHERE IT IS + HOW TO GET THERE

In the southern part of Franconia Notch, the Pemigewasset River, and Merrimack Watershed break off into cascades and waterfalls, one of them being Georgiana Falls.

The falls have two parts: a lower and an upper section. The top portion is sometimes referred to as Harvard Falls, so if you come across this description in a trail guide or hear it from a passerby, don’t be confused, you’re in the right place! Drive along US Route 3 North to Hanson Farm Road in Lincoln, New Hampshire where you’ll find a free parking lot and a well-traveled yet somewhat unmarked trail with worn out red blazes.

  • HIKING TO Georgiana Falls

Though it may seem precarious, the trail is currently not looked after or maintained by any group or organization. It was formerly maintained by the US Forest Service and is now a popular trail that local hikers and those infamous waterfall peepers visit in the spring and summer. It’s safe and well-traveled, so expect to see other hikers while you’re out there. Be sure to practice your trail etiquette and say hello! To access the lower falls, follow the red blazes for about a mile, alongside Harvard Brook.

From alpine cascades to hidden waterfalls, explore these 5 scenic waterfall hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

To access the upper falls, keep following the brook and red trail blazes for another mile and a half. Since the trail is not well-maintained, it’s not totally clear, so be prepared to do a little bushwhacking to get there, then hike back down. If that’s not your cup of tea, the lower falls is a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy the forested area. Of the 5 scenic waterfalls in the White Mountains of New Hampshire it’s even rumored to be the best spot for catching trout, so bring your pole, lunch and plenty of water. As always, remember to leave no trace and carry out all your trash and belongings.

Learn the 7 basic guidelines of how to Leave No Trace on the trail

The Flume Gorge

From alpine cascades to hidden waterfalls, explore these 5 scenic waterfall hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

  • WHERE IT IS + HOW TO GET THERE

The Flume Gorge is the most famous and busiest on our list of 5 scenic waterfalls in the White Mountains. It’s located in the heart of Franconia Notch on the western side of the White Mountain region. This geological wonder isn’t so much of a waterfall per se, as it is a narrow and long ravine that has been carved out of the bedrock overtime with impressive rapids reaching up to about 9 stories high and 800 feet long. For this reason, it’s a popular tourist attraction and has a well-maintained footpath that is good for people of all ages and skill levels. To get there, drive up US Route 3 North from North Lincoln or take Exit 1 off of the Notch Parkway (I-93) to the Flume Visitor Center.

  • HIKING TO FLUME GORGE

Once you’ve parked, take the shuttle bus or walk a half mile to Boulder Cabin just north of the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is open mid-May to Mid-October from 9am-5pm, so during the off-season, you’ll have no choice but to leg it up there. From here, you can access the Flume-Pool Loop Trail, which is a 2-mile forested trail on asphalt and then boardwalk planks that take you to the major viewpoints of the Flume: the Flume Gorge, Avalanche Falls, Liberty Gorge Cascade and the Pool. Throughout this easygoing and scenic hike, there are plenty of places to stop, rest and take in the natural beauty of the area. Picture perfect views, towering cliff walls, and glacier-carried boulders make this short loop trail well worth a visit.

Bridal Veil Falls

From alpine cascades to hidden waterfalls, explore these 5 scenic waterfall hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

  • WHERE IT IS + HOW TO GET THERE

In the heart of Franconia Notch, Bridal Veil Falls is a beautiful cascade of tumbling boulders, pools and long sliding rock slabs that make for the perfect natural waterslides. Located off of NH 116, south of Franconia Village, take the Coppermine Road and park along the shoulder of the road. Walk straight up the dirt road and past Coppermine Village. When the trail forks left you’ll see a sign from the US Forest Service hiker sign indicating that you keep going straight here (don’t turn left!) and soon you’ll see yellow blazes but no trailhead sign until you walk a bit further. From here on out, you’ll continue on the clearly marked Coppermine Trail.

  • HIKING TO Bridal Veil Falls

This is a moderate out and back hike that’s only 2.5 miles long with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet. It runs parallel to the Coppermine Brook like a trail of breadcrumbs directing you to the falls. The entire 2.5 miles has a fairly steep pitch but once you cross the bridge over to Bridal Veil Falls towards the end, you’ll discover the perfect rest stop. The falls has two parts: a lower ledge with a calm pool and as I mentioned before, a natural waterslide (!), plus an upper ledge that’s a quick scramble about 50 feet up. It’s worth making your way up to see the top half of the falls just watch your step for slippery lichen and slick rocks.

From alpine cascades to hidden waterfalls, explore these 5 scenic waterfall hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

This trail also connects to the Franconia Ridge Loop which is an extremely popular hike in the White Mountains. Watch out for other hikers making their way down although you do have the right of way going up. After a refreshing dip in the pool and a sunbath on the rock faces, head back out by following the Coppermine Trail to the highway to check this one off your list of 5 scenic waterfalls in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Thoreau Falls

From alpine cascades to hidden waterfalls, explore these 5 scenic waterfall hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that everyone can do.

  • WHERE IT IS + HOW TO GET THERE

Located at the far end of Zealand Notch from Zealand Road, off US 302, Thoreau Falls is the White Mountain’s tribute to writer and naturalist, Henry David Thoreau. From US 302, turn off at the Zealand Campground off Zealand Road and drive in 3.6 miles to the parking area and trailhead sign at the end of the road.

  • HIKING TO THOREAU FALLS

The route to the falls cuts straight through Zealand Notch for 4.6 miles via the Zealand Trail and Ethan Pond Trails. If you’re up for a multi-day hike and staying overnight, you can backpack to the Ethan Pond Shelter which means an extra 1,400-foot climb over nearby Willey Ridge. If not, the Zealand Trail is a moderate hike with an elevation gain of 200 feet that’s not too difficult for most hikers as it follows the path of an old logging road. Keep following the trail’s blue blazes through the forested valley and straight into Zealand Notch where the area opens up for spectacular views of the valley and surrounding peaks. Continue on past Zealand Pond, Whitewall Brook and Zealand Falls an equally stunning waterfall in its own right. As the Zealand Trail ends, look for signs for Ethan Pond Trail and follow the path for about 0.3 miles until you reach the sparkling cascades of Thoreau Falls. There are plenty of large boulders, rock slabs and small crystal clear pools flanking the half-mile-long Thoreau Falls. Stay for a while and enjoy the scenery before heading back out.

What are your favorite waterfall hikes in New England? Let us know if you’re getting out there in the comments below!

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About the author

Katherine Oakes is an outdoor travel, sustainability writer and yoga teacher. As an avid hiker, skier, yogi (namaste) and aspiring environmentalist, her best days are spent getting a little dirt under her fingernails and fresh air in her lungs.

2 Comments on “5 Scenic Waterfall Hikes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

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  1. Great place! It is the ideal place to spend a family holiday. Really the pictures make you want to go.

    Agreed. The White Mountains have so much to offer. Have you hiked much of it? Thanks for reading!

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