From the rush and thunder of springtime cascades to the still-life magic of winter freezes, waterfalls provide an unforgettable hiking destination. But with more than 400 falls throughout the New England states, it can be tough to decide which ones are worth strapping your boots on to see. Here’s a good place to start: The following eight hikes feature a wide variety of hiking options, including mountainous loops, towering single-drops, forested walks, and adrenaline-pumping ledges. Let’s get exploring.
1. Arethusa Falls
Hart’s Location, New Hampshire
The height of single-drop Arethusa Falls is a topic of contention (some say just over 100 feet, others say it’s closer to 200), but its beauty isn’t up for debate. Opt for a short-and-sweet 2.7-mile hike along Bemis Brook Trail and follow the sound of babbling water to the falls, or challenge yourself on the quad-burning Frankenstein Cliff Trail. This 4.2-mile loop climbs through shaded forest and treats you to a breathtaking outlook where you can unpack a picnic and gaze out at the White Mountains stretching into the distance.
2. Moss Glen Falls
The trail to Moss Glen Falls is friendly for little hikers, so make your trek out a family affair. It’s just an easy-peasy half-mile or so from the parking area to the falls, where you’ll be treated to a sight so stunning that a class of artists comes out every year to capture it on canvas. Once you’ve glimpsed the top half of the falls, kick off your shoes and wade in the water for a better view of the bottom half. And if you want to keep walking, the trail extends onwards through lush Vermont forest.
3. Bash Bish Falls
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Take a quick hike out to Massachusetts’s highest single-drop waterfall in Bash Bish Falls State Park. You have three options for reaching the fall: Walk alongside Bash Brook, through the forest and past natural stone stairs on the Lower Trail; climb down to the falls from the Upper Falls Trail, or start in the New York parking lot for the chance to say you’ve crossed state lines on foot. All three options clock in under 2.5 miles round trip, and each delivers you to the same impressive twin falls that cascade down into a tranquil pool.
4. Blackledge Falls
Choose your own adventure when you hike to Blackledge Falls. Opt for the 1.5-mile, out-and-back trail for a short and simple hike out to the falls, or hop on the connecting trail system and spend a whole day exploring Gay City State Park and Case Mountain Park. Depending on the volume of the Blackledge River, Blackledge Falls will appear as a series of one, two, or three plunges. It usually dries up in the summertime, so plan to hit this trail during the rainy spring months to see the mightiest version of the falls.
5. Glen Ellis Falls
Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire
One glimpse at the Glen Ellis Falls and it’s easy to see why it was once called “The Pitcher.” This 64-foot waterfall cascades down from the top and sprays into a large pool, making it appear as if it’s being poured out by Mother Nature herself. It’s less than a half-mile round-trip to Glen Ellis Falls, so this hike is a perfect option for a road trip pit stop or quick afternoon excursion. Or if you’re seeking some mileage, make it one viewpoint on a longer hike through Mount Washington State Park.
6. Gulf Hagas Rim Trail
Bowdoin College Grant East, Maine
Deemed the “Grand Canyon of Maine,” Gulf Hagas is known for its numerous waterfalls—named and unnamed—and its awe-inspiring 150-foot cliff walls. See the best of it on the Gulf Hagas Rim Trail, a hike on the Appalachian Trail corridor that clocks in around seven miles. It’s best suited for hikers with a bit of experience, as you’ll have to ford the West Branch of the Pleasant River before you hop on this trail through the famed Hundred-Mile Wilderness. Perhaps the most dazzling sight is the Screw Auger Falls, a 25-foot plunge over granite into a dark pool.
7. Falling Water Trails Loop
Franconia Notch, New Hampshire
With three waterfalls in three miles, the Falling Water Trails definitely delivers bang for your buck. You’ll hike to the summit of Little Haystack Mountain, passing Stairs Falls (a small plunge down granite steps), Swiftwater Falls (60 feet of cascades), and Cloudland Falls (an Instagram-worthy 80-foot horsetail). Make a full day of it and expand your journey to the strenuous 8.4-mile Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop for panoramic Franconia Range views and jaw-dropping stretches right along the edges between famous New Hampshire mountains.
8. Tannery Falls
With mighty whitewater on top and several plunges and horsetails below, 80-foot Tannery Falls is a mesmerizing sight to behold. It’s the showstopper on the five-mile Tannery Falls Trail, a moderate loop through dense forest. Some stretches of this trail can get pretty muddy, so gear up accordingly. Tannery Falls is tucked in a square mile that’s home to nearly a dozen waterfalls, so if you’re looking for a scenic way to fill your day, you’ll have plenty of options nearby (including Parker Brook Falls, another local favorite).
What to Wear
When going for a waterfall hike, expect the unexpected, especially at the higher altitudes. Hot summer days can cool quickly, and rainstorms can pop up at any time. Look for clothing that uses 37.5 Technology, which helps to keep your body at its ideal core temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsius and the microclimate next to your skin at a relative humidity of 37.5 percent. When you’re hot, the active particles that are embedded in the fabrics remove sweat in the vapor stage before sweat forms, cooling you off. When you’re cold, the same particles trap heat inside to warm you up. Consider wearing base layers using 37.5 Technology from companies like Salomon or Rab. Jackets like those from Adidas Outdoors or Dahlie are a good idea any time you’re spending a significant amount of time away from civilization. Dress smart and enjoy the trip!
Written by Amanda McConnon for Matcha in partnership with 37.5.
Featured image provided by Andrew K. Smith