Thursday, October 4, 2012


On a rare dry day during an extended rainy spell, Cath Goodwin and I headed out to Crawford Notch to hike the interesting and very scenic loop over Frankenstein Cliff and down past Arethusa Falls. We thought the foliage would be good in the Bretton Woods-Crawford Notch area, and we were not disappointed. The drive along Routes 3 and 302 was spectacular, with a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, yellows and greens on display. Between Bretton Woods  and Crawford Notch we stopped at a pulloff to get a few pictures.

This view looks at Mts. Willey, Avalon and Field.

Near-peak color on the hardwood-cloaked Rosebrook Range.

Down on the floor of Crawford Notch, across from the Pleasant Valley wayside, a view of the Saco River and the south spur of Mt. Webster.

We set off on Frankenstein Cliff Trail late morning under sunny skies. After a roly-poly traverse, the trail swung up under the imposing Frankenstein Trestle, an engineering marvel when built in the 1870s, and still impressive today at 80 ft. tall and 500 ft. long. (Trespassing on the trestle is both forbidden and dangerous.) There is some construction underway here; hikers pass under some protective scaffolding.

Above the trestle the trail climbs steeply through rugged cliffy terrain, ascending 900 ft. in 0.7 mi. We made a short side trip to gaze up at this cliff.

Some of the rock faces were framed with fall colors.

This is a rugged stretch of trail with some slippery, gravelly footing, better for ascent than descent.

Above the lower cliffs we climbed through hardwoods, and then spruces...

 ... and emerged on the main Frankenstein Cliff outlook, 1.3 mi. from the trailhead. This is a great spot with a long view down the Saco River valley to Bear Mountain, Mt. Chocorua, Bartlett Haystack and Mt. Tremont. By the time we arrived, high clouds had moved in, but it was comfortably warm. We took a leisurely lunch break here.

Looking east across the valley at (L to R) Giant Stairs, Mt. Resolution, Crawford Dome and Mt. Crawford.

A colorful look up the Bemis Brook valley to Arethusa Falls, a feathery white slash on the headwall.

Continuing up the Frankenstein Cliff Trail, we soon made the side trip (0.2 mi. each way) to Falcon Cliff, a partly restricted viewpoint atop a higher crag.

Looking across to Mt. Bemis.

View down the Saco valley from a higher perspective.

Mt. Passaconaway peeks out between Mt. Tremont and a shoulder of Mt. Bemis.

Back on the main trail, we continued up to the "summit" of Frankenstein Cliff. In years past, there was an interesting view of Mt. Washington rising above the Dry River valley from a trailside ledge.

Now the view is completely grown up.

Beyond here, the trail meanders across a high-elevation hardwood plateau. Neat, remote area.

We turned L on the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail and descended a mile towards Arethusa Falls.

We descended the well-constructed side trail to the viewpoint just downstream from the falls. It's always an impressive sight. There were several photographers trying to capture the scene.

Heading down the Arethusa Falls Trail, which was rebuilt higher on the slope ten years ago - a much better route than the old, eroded trail along the streambank. Though it was late afternoon, people were still heading up to the falls. The majority of people we met on the trail today were from either Europe or Great Britain. People come a long way to see our foliage.

For the lower part of the descent, we turned onto the Bemis Brook Trail, which drops very steeply over a rooty footway to Bemis Brook Falls.

A bit downstream we stopped for a break at Coliseum Falls, where there are dry and inviting ledge slabs. (The signs in place along the trail have the names reversed for Bemis Brook Falls and Coliseum Falls.) Just below these slabs is the small semicircular carving in the ledge - like a miniature coliseum - that gives this falls its name.

The brook slides over more ledge slabs down to Fawn Pool.

Back at the trailhead, a view up to Frankenstein Cliff.

Neat state park sign at the trailhead.

On the way home, we walked part of the new Maggie's Run Trail, recently opened by Crawford Notch State Park staff. We checked out the very enjoyable 0.6 mi. section that runs along the Saco River from near the Pleasant Valley wayside to a point opposite the picnic area at Dry River Campground. Along the way the blue-blazed path, with little footway worn in yet, passes a nice pool and ledge slab in the river. Another 0.4 mi. section of the trail leads from Rt. 302 near Pleasant Valley to the Saco River Trail; we'll check that out next time we're in the Notch. Combined with the Sam Willey Trail, Saco River Trail and Dry River Connector, the new Maggie's Run Trail opens up possibilities for some long, easy rambles around the floor of Crawford Notch.


  1. Reading of your wanderings this day leads me to believe it's not a good idea for me to start, after probably 10-12 years since I went hiking in the mountains, with the upcoming event there with the Over 50 Hikers Meetup Group.

    1. Hi Arlene,

      This is a moderate hike with the notable exception of the section below the main Frankenstein Cliff viewpoint. That stretch of trail is pretty steep and slippery, with gravelly footing. It might not be the best hike to do if you haven't been out hiking in the past 10 years. You might consider starting out with a somewhat easier climb such as Mt. Willard in Crawford Notch or the Boulder Loop Trail off the Kancamagus Highway. Wishing you much good hiking in the future!


  2. Hi There Steve Smith,
    Just a quick note to say how much I ENJOY your blog "Mountain Wandering"! In my youth, I enjoyed the occasion hike and traveling the trails in my local area in Central California. The memories I have are traversed often aided by the many photos in my scrapbooks.

    The many hikes you nave narrated so well and posted on your blog, really come to life with the vivid descriptions and great photos.

    It has been a real pleasure to read about your latest adventure, and then look up the area on GOOGLE maps and other sources. Now in my Winter Years (age 66+ and mobility-challenged), this kind of e-traveling and e-hiking are appreciated from my internet browser.

    Looking forward to your next outing and blog posting!
    Dorothy Hazel Tarr (Dee)

    1. Hi Dorothy,

      Thank you for your kind comments! I'm glad you have been enjoying the blog. I'll try to keep the hike reports coming.