Fletcher's Cascade via Fletcher's Cascade Trail

Destination:  Fletcher's Cascade (2200')
Trails:  Drakes Brook Trail, Fletcher's Cascade Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Waterville Valley
Location:  Waterville Valley, NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Cascades, brooks
Distance:  3.2 miles  
Elevation Gain:  800 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 2:29   Typical: 2:00  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 3:00  
Season:  Winter
Hike Date:  12/25/1999 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  01/20/2008  
Weather:  Sunny, clear, no wind, cold, 5-10 degrees
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

  • Start on Drakes Brook Trail and follow that for 0.4 mile.
  • Upon reaching a fork, bear left to follow Fletcher's Cascade Trail.
  • After 100 yards, bear right at a fork and take Fletcher's Cascade Trail all the way up to the top of the cascades (1.2 miles on this trail).
  • Return via the same route.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
     Split
Time
     Total
Time
    
Drakes Brook Trailhead (1400') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Jct. Drakes Brook Trail/Fletcher's Cascade Trail (1540') 0.4 0.4 0:10 0:10
Fletcher's Cascade (bottom) 1.1 1.5 0:50 1:00
Fletcher's Cascade (top) (2200') 0.1 1.6 0:24 1:24
Fletcher's Cascade (bottom) 0.1 1.7 0:20 1:44
Jct. Drakes Brook Trail/Fletcher's Cascade Trail (1540') 1.1 2.8 0:45 2:29
Drakes Brook Trailhead (1400') 0.4 3.2 0:10 2:39
 




 

Map of hike route to Fletcher's Cascades (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

This trail leads to some quite impressive (frozen) falls on the lower slope of Flat Mountain. I hiked this route under winter conditions with a thin covering of hardened snow on the trail with quite a bit of very slick ice underneath.

The first 0.4 mile follows Drakes Brook Trail and is an easy walk up a logging road. At this point a sign indicates that for Fletcher's Cascade, you need to bear left. And shortly after this is another sign indicating to bear right in order to get to Fletcher's Cascade. (I think going straight at this point is a bike trail although it still looks like a logging road.)

After this junction, the path narrows from a logging road to about three feet wide. It is pretty and easy to follow. Drakes Brook is about 25 yards to your right much of the way. There are many small brooks to cross - requiring just one step across. There are mostly conifers with a few birch mixed in. The path has small boulders interspersed with leaf-covered ground.

I saw lots of low-growing plants that at a glance looked like mini pine seedlings but are actually a type of clubmoss (which despite the misleading name, these are not a type of moss either). The kind I saw is called "shining clubmoss" (Lycopodium lucidulum). They were about 3-6 inches tall and upon closer inspection I could see that what I initially thought were needles are actually tiny leaves. Many of these just grow straight up as one "branch" (actually like a tree trunk but they look similar to a spruce branch); and some fork into two or more branches. Some that I saw up at the cascades had golden "rings" around them about 1/4 inch below the top, running down for about 1/4 - 1/2 inch. They weren't truly rings but rather tiny arcs closely spaced so that your imagination could easily form a circle out of them. The arcs followed the shape of the growth of the main stem covering (analogous to bark). These golden rings are the spore cases.

I also saw some plants on rocks and on the forest floor along the trail. These plants had heart-shaped leaves: two opposite each other; with two more opposite (but in the opposite direction - alternate) below them and continuing as such down the stem. The plants were only a couple inches high and were bravely poking their way through the frozen snow.

At one spot I treated to a good view of Noon Peak from a small opening next to the trail.

Frozen brook (photo by Webmaster)


After a while Drakes Brook, a larger waterway, must be crossed. This was easy even with all the ice because there were still ample rocks exposed that were ice-free on their tips. On the opposite side was a short and steep scramble up the bank.

A little while after this I came to the cascades. I was surprised that I didn't hear them as I approached but I soon saw why: the falls were almost totally frozen. They were ferocious looking yet their roar had been reduced to a weak gurgle. Looking upstream, I saw a cascade that dropped down about 10-20 feet; and downstream was another drop off. I thought these were "the" cascades but I soon found out that these were just the bottom of a chain of even more impressive falls.

The trail continues to head up alongside the brook. As I gained elevation, I got a view of frozen falls dropping approximately 40-50 feet. And as I continued to climb I saw more large-sized cascades such as these. All of them were frozen in place with yellowish and white ice capturing the varying patterns that the flowing water made during warmer temperatures.

The trail alongside the brook was steep and much more slippery and treacherous than the main trail. It would probably only be classified as "moderate" if it were without its snow and ice.

It all looked really neat frozen but I will have to re-visit it in the summer to see it in action - I'm sure it will be fascinating.

Frozen cascades (photo by Webmaster)

 



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NH - Central East



  Driving Directions   

  • From I-93 take the exit for Rt. 49.
  • Head east on Rt. 49 for approximately 8 miles (a little more I think).
  • The parking area is on the right, marked by a brown hiker sign by the side of the road (just after crossing Drakes Brook).
  • Once in the parking lot, there will be signs for Sandwich Mountain Trail, Drakes Brook Trail, and Fletcher's Cascade Trail.

From the parking lot, there are two signs for Drakes Brook Trail. One is a horizontally long sign that is for cross-country skiers; you can ignore this one (I think it hooks back up with the hiking trail after going up the hill and that section is re-routed so skiers won't have to go around the gate). As you pull into the parking lot, Drakes Brook Trail starts in approximately the left-hand lower corner (the north side).

Other Notes   

A parking permit is required to park at White Mountain National Forest trailheads and parking areas. You can purchase a WMNF permit from the forest service and other vendors and can also pay-by-the-day using self-service kiosks located in many parking areas.

For more information on parking passes please refer to the White Mountain National Forest website.

Rates:
  • $3 per day
  • $5 for a week-long pass
  • $20 for a year-long pass
  • $25 for two year-long passes (one household/two cars)

More Fletcher's Cascade Trail Reports   

 
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