Arethusa Falls Trail Hike in Crawford Notch, NH

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.”

Arethusa Falls Trail SignAs for the hike:

Distance: 1.5 miles (one way)
Time: 1.5 – 3 hours (round trip)
Difficulty: Family Hike
Recommended GearHiking Boots or Trail RunnersTrekking 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. 

Arethusa Falls Trail Head
The Arethusa Falls Trail begins on the left of the residence and follows blue blazes throughout. This image is indicative of what you’ll find throughout: a wide path with gradual to moderate climbing.

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. 

Bemis Brook
A look at Bemis Brook just above Fawn Pool, which is accessed via a short spur from the Bemis Brook Trail.
Bemis Falls
Bemis Brook Falls serves as the opening act. It also helps keep kids interested in the hike. Or it distracts them from continuing. A risk you just have to take.
Bemis Brook Trail
Overall, the Bemis trail is narrower with more roots to compromise footing. That said, my three (almost four)-year-old managed fine with some assistance.
Coliseum Falls
Coliseum Falls, the second cascade on the Bemis Brook Trail, is a multi-tiered showcase.
Coliseum Falls Top View
Looking down at the top tier of Coliseum Falls.
Bemis Brook Trail Climb
After Coliseum Falls, the Bemis Brook Trail climbs the steep bank to Arethusa Falls Trail. Bemis has 400 feet of elevation gain, and most of it is in this ascent. My three year old was able to tackle this section with some spotting and a few quick lifts.
Arethusa Falls Trail
Back on the Arethusa Falls Trail, which gets its girth by following old woods roads.
Arethusa Falls Trail Bridge
The Arethusa Falls Trail has two bridges that help add entertainment for younger children. Just make sure they watch out for the troll.
Arethusa Falls Trail Steps
Toward the end of the trail, there are also a couple of areas with log steps. Shown here is the last climb before the trail dips back down to Bemis Brook and Arethusa Falls.
Arethusa Falls First View
The first glimpse of Arethusa Falls from a distance. With a little care, hikers can get to the base of the falls.
Arethusa Falls
From the base of Arethusa Falls, the cascade appears to be pouring out of the sky.
We visited Arethusa Falls in late June, and the flowage was impressive. I’ve seen pictures from people who visited at the end of summer when the water was barely trickling over the cliff, so plan your trip appropriately.
Arethusa Falls Bottom
The spray coming off the falls also made the surrounding rocks slippery, so watch your step if you’re going for the up-close experience.

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Arethusa Falls Monochrome
Another shot playing around with the camera.
Posted in
Family Hikes, New Hampshire, New Hampshire Trail Reviews
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Wow! You made it all the way to the bottom. If you enjoyed this article, please check out my book, Open Season: True Stories of the Maine Warden Service on Amazon or at You can also follow Northeast Hikes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as contribute to our sponsored Google+ Community.
4 responses to Arethusa Falls Trail Hike in Crawford Notch, NH
  1. I hiked Arethusa all the way to the falls and back it took a lot out of me but it was fun can’t wait to hike again

  2. bc says:

    We snowshoed to the falls in Winter. Quite a hike for rookies but was well worth it.

  3. i have family in new Hampshire i love to visit and see the autumn leaves

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