Nestled into the southern end of Crawford Notch State Park off Route 302 in Harts Location, Arethusa Falls is regarded by many as the best scenic waterfall in New Hampshire. Once you’ve stood at the base of this massive cascade, it’s hard to argue the point. There is some debate, however, over the height of the plunge, believed to be the tallest in New Hampshire. AMC’s White Mountain Guide lists the falls as “nearly 200 feet,” while New England Waterfalls estimates 160 feet. I didn’t bring my measuring tape, so you’ll have to trust my scientific calculation of “big.”
Distance: 1.5 miles (one way)
Time: 1.5 – 3 hours (round trip)
Difficulty: Family Hike
Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots or Trail Runners; Trekking Poles (optional but not necessary); drinking water
Arethusa Falls Trail
Since we’ve given the Arethusa Falls Trail hike the rating of “Family Hike,” you can draw the appropriate conclusion that it’s feasible for all ages; however, bear in mind that it is a hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. And by this I mean there are rocks, lots of them, along with gnarly tree roots throughout the trail, which climbs 900 feet over 1.5 miles. That might not sound like a lot, and if you’re an avid hiker, it isn’t. But…if you’re a tourist who doesn’t hike or exercise frequently, be prepared to sweat your heinie off. I don’t say this to scare you away; on the contrary, Arethusa Falls is magnificent and worth every ounce of sweat, just prepare appropriately.
The hike begins at the end of Arethusa Falls Road; there is parking both at the beginning and end of this road. There’s a private residence at the end of the road, and the trailhead is accessed by crossing the train tracks and staying to the left of this property.
Bemis Brook Trail
A mere 0.1 miles into the Arethusa Falls Trail, the Bemis Brook Trail cuts to the left, rejoining the main trail after 0.5 miles. For the small price of some steeper climbing, the Bemis Brook Trail adds two more waterfalls to the hike. While the Arethusa Falls Trail stays atop the ridge, Bemis snakes alongside the brook below and thus has to climb the steep bank to rejoin the main trail. Given the ascent, it’s typically best to take this detour on the way in.
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