New England is an ideal place to chase waterfalls (there are more than 100 in New Hampshire alone). Each time a river or stream takes a tumble as it races across this geologically diverse region, it drums its own calming white noise and makes a visual splash. At their most vigorous in the spring, when […]
By Kim Knox Beckius
Mar 01 2018
5 Best Waterfalls in New England
New England is an ideal place to chase waterfalls (there are more than 100 in New Hampshire alone). Each time a river or stream takes a tumble as it races across this geologically diverse region, it drums its own calming white noise and makes a visual splash. At their most vigorous in the spring, when they’re fueled by melting snow, the best cascades aren’t merely a photographer’s dream. These five worth-the-trip waterfalls will reassure you of the perpetual nature of elemental things.
Just follow the showery sounds. They’ll lure you down a short path from the parking lot to the most distinctive feature within Devil’s Hopyard State Park. Chapman Falls zigzags down metamorphic rock steps, tumbling 60 feet in silvery streaks. Stories surrounding the “potholes” at the base of the waterfall originated with early Connecticut settlers, and one popular legend inspired the park’s peculiar name. Could these circular craters be the hoofprints of the devil, left when he hopped around in a rage after accidentally dipping his tail in cool water? Geologists tell a different tale: Trapped sand and stones, whirled by the current, continually drill these mysterious depressions.
Just south of the 45th parallel — the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole — a surprise awaits on the eastern side of Route 145. You’ll already be on high alert for moose in the road, so be ready to tap your brakes when you spy Beaver Brook Falls Wayside. This petite park’s picnic tables provide a front-row seat for watching the falls’ misty, mesmerizing dance. No ordinary horsetail waterfall, 80-foot-high Beaver Brook Falls looks like the perfectly groomed tail of a champion stallion. This Great North Woods cascade is equally enchanting in deep winter, when it’s reliably frozen in time.
Even before George Eastman invented camera roll film, notable mid-19th-century painter John Frederick Kensett immortalized the pulsing twin plumes of Massachusetts’s highest waterfall. Two trails — one easy, one steeper — lead to this 80-foot-tall, V-shaped gush of water, which sends relentless ripples through the green-glass pool below. There’s something about these falls’ intimate woodland setting, the erratic boulders and determined hardwood trees, that captivates the eye and begs to be photographed. Of course, Bash Bish Falls’ popularity means your best bet is a midweek visit, early or late in the day, if you’re serious about capturing scenes of pristine, shimmering beauty.
Springtime isn’t the only season when waterfalls enthrall. Route 26 skirts the Bear River as it wriggles through Maine’s Grafton Notch State Park, and if you’re driving this popular leaf-peeping route north from Newry toward the New Hampshire border, watch for a pullover on the left just inside the park. A fenced-in observation area overlooks Screw Auger Falls, which once powered a lumber mill. Now, this 23-foot waterfall plunging through a rust-toned, chiseled gorge is at its visual peak in the fall, when the water’s energy seems to light up a crown of trees in ultra-fiery yellows, oranges, and reds.
Within the Castle in the Clouds Conservation Area, there’s a hidden diamond of a trail that leads to not one or two but seven sparkling waterfalls. From the Shannon Pond trailhead, the Brook Walk along plummeting Shannon Brook is an easy trek — under two miles out and back — that even kids’ little legs can handle. Each waterfall along the way, even sheer and flowy Bridal Veil Falls, is only a tease for the main event. The final and most dramatic drop, Falls of Song, is a 40-foot stunner tucked into a granite chasm. Take time to listen to its soothing whoosh before the promise of Maine-made Gifford’s ice cream, sold on summer days at Cones in the Clouds near Shannon Pond, propels you back uphill.
Which New England waterfalls are your favorites?