Conway — May 22, 2009 — It’s the time of year for spring waterfall hikes. Alongside the trail, forest plants like trillium, trout lily and hobblebush will be blooming, or preparing to. Sunlight will illuminate the falling water. My first suggestion is the Brook Path in Wonalancet. This is an easy hike, but has an element of exploration to it, if it is your first time there.
Brook Path, Wonalancet
To get there from Conway, head south on Route 16. In Chocorua turn right to Tamworth. At the four corners, take a right on the Chinook Trail (Route 113A) and continue all the way to Wonolancet, and park in the turn-off for the Cabin Trail, 0.4 miles before the little white church.
The Wonalancet River flows under a bridge there, and continues down through dark woods, tumbling over rocks and flowing silently through glades. The Brook Path starts across the road from the Cabin Trail, and follows it. The trail crosses over a bridge in 0.9 miles. At that point, bear left, walk uphill and bear left again, following the river downstream past an old dam to the spectacular Locke Falls in 1.1 miles. Care must be taken on the steep trail just before the falls. The trail continues, connects with the dirt Old Locke Road, and in a mile from the falls reaches Route 113A, but a more attractive and convenient hike is to retrace your steps.
Continuing on a leisurely southern White Mountain waterfall trip, go to Beebe Falls. From Wonalancet, continue west on Route 113 all the way to Center Sandwich. Turn right in town, go past the lights, and bear right on Grove Street. At a fork take a left on Diamond Ledge Road, which will eventually turn to dirt. At the next fork, bear right and drive across a meadow to Mead Wilderness Base. Park below the historical white house, and walk to the left beneath it to a trail.
This is a short 0.6 mile section of the Bearcamp River Trail. It ascends gently through a primeval looking conifer forest to Beebe Falls. This is a unique wide waterfall, and is especially dramatic in high water. An example of early White Mountain conservation, the waterfall and environs was purchased by a Squam Lake summer resident and given to the town of Sandwich. Linger, and return the way you came, noticing Cow Cave on your left, a long cave where legend has it that a settler’s cow spent the winter trapped by the ice in it. Back in Center Sandwich, check out Mocha Rising, a colorful café with both art and caffeine.
To the North
In the other direction from Conway, head east to Evans Notch for some great waterfall walks. Here are two suggestions that are not as spectacular as some waterfalls, but well worth going to this time of year when it is quiet. The first is Emerald Pool. To get there, from Conway take Route 302 to Fryeburg, bear left on Route 113, and continue on that road all the way to the notch. Just after the entrance to AMC Cold River Camp on the right, pull into a large trail parking lot on the right for the Baldface Circle Trail. Cross the main road and start up the gentle trail. In 0.7 miles, you reach a trail junction. Bear right at the sign for Emerald Pool, and walk for 0.1 miles down to the top of the pool.
In the summer, this is a classic swimming pool where people take turns jumping off the ledges into the 15 foot deep emerald waters, where small trout swim. This time of year, you will have solitude. Carefully descend downstream from the pool, and look back at the rushing cascade and pool from a good angle.
Further up into Evans Notch, I recommend a short walk that would combine well with going to Emerald Pool — a stroll into Rattlesnake Pool. The waterfall there is a small chute, the pool below is a luminous emerald green. The attraction is the entire experience, starting from where you park. To get there, drive on Route 113 just over a mile north of the Baldface Circle Trail parking lot. Take a right on the dirt Stone House Road and drive 1.1 mile to the locked gate.
Continue walking down the road for a half mile, and take the Stone House Trail on the left just after a shed. In 0.2 miles, the trail merges with a grass road, and in another 0.3 miles, after passing over a small brook, there is an unmarked turnoff on the right, which reaches Rattlesnake Pool shortly. The AMC Guide has one word describing the falls and pool — exquisite.
Hale’s Location Walking
For a fascinating nearby waterfall walk in the Mount Washington valley, go to Thompson Falls near Hale’s Location. To get there, from the stop lights in Conway, take West Side Road north and turn left onto Passaconaway Road. In a few miles, bear right on High Street. Continue after it turns to dirt, and bear left at a gate to the parking lot for the Moat Mountain Mineral Site.
Walk into the site, which is obvious from digging, and continue down past it on the trail, being careful of mountain bikers, for which this trail is designated. Reaching a well made dirt forest service access road, take a left on it. Climb a way to the top of the rise, and look for an unmarked trail to the right, possibly with a small cairn, and take that a short way down to Thompson Falls. The falls is best seen in high water. It was named by Benjamin Champney, the area’s most famous artist, and founder of the White Mountain School of Art in the 1850’s.
Of course there are the classics, such as Arethusa Falls in Crawford Notch. It is the highest falls in the state, and this weekend would be the perfect time to see it, after all the rain. Also, Champney Falls off the Kancamagus Highway is the perfect three mile round trip hike to a spring waterfall. Or, go up to AMC Pinkham Notch Camp for dinner, arrive early and hike 0.3 miles up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Crystal Cascades.