Archive for September 9th, 2014

Frankenstein Cliffs and Arethusa Falls

20140907_155042_resizedIn the past 6 years in the White Mountains, I have seen many beautiful days.  But Sunday, September 7, was the most beautiful day I can ever remember.  The day before, it was hot, humid, rainy and gloomy.   On Saturday night, the temperature dropped to 41 degrees, a hint that autumn is on the way.  But on Sunday, the morning was cool, the sun shone brightly, and the sky was utterly clear.  I honestly don’t ever recall such clarity.  Visibility was well over 100 miles.   Mt. Washington was pristine, with the weather station towers clearly visible from miles away.  Not even a trace of haze.

It was perfect hiking weather, with a high of 72.  Unfortunately we’ve been rather lazy lately so we aren’t in the best of shape.  I didn’t want to try something overly ambitious, but still sought a bit of a challenge.  It had been more than 10 years, but we had hiked a 5.5 loop hike up to Frankenstein Cliffs and over to Arethusa Falls on several occasions, and we decided it was worth doing again.

Arethusa Falls, about 200′ high, is located in Crawford Notch. It is a relatively easy and extraordinarily popular 3 mile round-trip hike from the parking lot off of Rte. 302.  (An alternative side trail along Bemis Brook adds .5 miles to this number, but although the Bemis Brook Trail has a steep section, it is a much prettier route than the Arethusa Falls Trail and I recommend it.)


If you magnify the picture you may be able to see people at the base of the falls.  This will give you an idea of scale - the falls are much larger than they appear in the photo.

If you magnify the picture you may be able to see people at the base of the falls. This will give you an idea of scale – the falls are much larger than they appear in the photo.

The Frankenstein Cliffs trail, which ascends to the top of the cliffs from the other side of the same parking lot, is a bit more challenging and therefore not as popular, but the steep ascent is well worth the effort when you get to the top and take in the view.  Even so, both trails have experienced extreme overuse and now the trail is VERY badly eroded.  What this means is that the magnificent views from Frankenstein Cliffs and the gorgeous waterfall at Arethusa Falls are still just as wonderful as ever, but the trail is an absolute misery of exposed tree roots and boulder hopping for almost the entire 5.5 mile loop.  By the end of the day, my knees were really feeling their age.


The gorgeous view on a clear day from Frankenstein Cliffs in Crawford Notch, NH. This thumbnail image is definitely worth clicking to enlarge

Although previously I would have rated Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliffs hikes “not to be missed,” the truth is, there are literally hundreds of wonderful alternative hikes in the White Mountains and the heavy erosion made the hike less enjoyable than I remembered from the past.  Also, while the falls are beautiful and it’s possible to go for a dip at the base of the falls, the rocks are slippery and not really suitable or safe for young children.  It pains me to say that there are probably better choices than Arethusa Falls for kids, especially since this hike was a favorite of ours; but trust me, children will enjoy Step Falls in Grafton Notch, or even the tourist-heavy Diana’s Baths outside of Conway, much more.  That said, we felt a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and felt blessed that we were able to enjoy our beautiful surroundings in a meaningful way.