Some say Arethusa Falls, the incredible waterfall in the White Mountains region, is the best in New England.
By Cathryn McCann
Aug 18 2017
Tucked away within the Crawford Notch State Park in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, a waterfall from the headwaters of Bemis Brook plunges nearly 140 feet to a rocky pool beneath. This is Arethusa Falls, and while not the tallest in New Hampshire (that would be Dryad Fall), it is still a spectacular sight, with its rushing waters seeming to drop elegantly from the sky. At the height of the afternoon the sun shines just above the fall, casting its bright rays into the water cascading over the granitic cliff, highlighting the blue-gray of the water and the orange and brown tones of the rocks. Some say it’s the best waterfall in New England, but leaving personal preferences aside, Arethusa Falls is nonetheless a must-see for visitors from near and far.
This magical place remains largely undiscovered, in part because of the moderate-to-difficult (but certainly doable) hike required to get there. From the parking area off Route 302 in Hart’s Location, hikers can take the Bemis Brook Trail to the Arethusa Falls Trail and out to the waterfall, for a total distance of one and a half miles (one way). There is also the option, before or after checking out the waterfall, to hike the Frankenstein Cliff Trail, which forms a loop with the Arethusa Falls Trail, for a total distance of about five miles.
There’s a large parking area located on a side road off Route 302 in Crawford Notch State Park from which the Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliff trails can be reached. The shortest trek to the falls is via the Arethusa Falls Trail; you can also take the Bemis Brook Trail to the Arethusa Falls Trail.
The hike is rated as moderate to difficult, due to its steepness and tricky terrain. Although the Arethusa Falls Trail is on the shorter side, proper hiking equipment and footwear is still necessary, especially if you plan to go on to the Frankenstein Cliffs.
Upon arriving at the base of the waterfall, you quickly realize why Arethusa Falls is regarded as one of the best waterfalls in New England. Although estimates of the falls’ height vary from 125 to 200 feet, the water rushing from the top seems to be coming right out of the sky. To get a full view, visitors must clamber downstream.
Downstream, there are some shallow (but rocky) areas to dip your feet into.
Up close to the falls, get ready to enjoy a cool mist from the rushing water.
Although it’s obvious upon arrival that Arethusa Falls is no small cascade, that fact is most clear when you view the fall from the side.
And in case waterfalls don’t leave you spellbound, the beauty of the surrounding area — with its mountains and lush forest — still makes the trip worthwhile.
Have you ever visited Arethusa Falls? Let us know!