Ice climber on Arethusa Falls (photo by Mark Malnati)

Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliffs

Destinations:  Arethusa Falls (2000'), Frankenstein Cliffs (2150')
Trails:  Arethusa Falls Trail, Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail, Frankenstein Cliff Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
Crawford Notch State Park
Location:  Harts Location, NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Waterfall, cliffs, brook, loop hike
Distance:  5.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  1400 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 3:10  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 5:00  
Season:  Winter
Hike Date:  02/21/2009 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  02/07/2011  
Author:  Mark Malnati
Companions:  SDHers: Dennis, Kristen, Deb, Mark, Diane, Brian, Sally, Jack, 2 dogs

SDH on the trail (photo by Mark Malnati)

Route Summary   

This is a loop hike to visit Arethusa Falls which drop nearly 200 feet and are the highest falls in New Hampshire. The return portion is made via Frankenstein Cliffs which are visible from the upper parking area at the start of this hike. There is a clifftop outlook along the way with views of Crawford Notch.

To Arethusa Falls:
  • Pick up Arethusa Falls Trail from the top left-hand corner of the upper parking lot on the far side of the tracks.
  • Walk for 0.1 which will bring you to a junction with Bemis Brook Trail on the left.
  • Keep straight/right to stay on Arethusa Falls Trail.
  • Hike for another 0.4 mile which will bring you to the upper junction with Bemis Brook Trail on the left.
  • Keep going straight ahead for another 0.8 mile until Arethusa Falls Trail ends at a junction with Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail.
  • At the junction of Arethusa Falls Trail and Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail, there is also a spur path that leads left down to the base of the falls. Follow this spur for 0.2 mile as it drops 100 feet in elevation. To get the best views of the falls requires crossing Bemis Brook which can be difficult in high-water conditions.

Return via Frankenstein Cliffs:
  • After enjoying Arethusa Falls, climb for 0.2 mile back up the spur path.
  • Next, turn left and follow Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail for 1.1 miles until it meets Frankenstein Cliff Trail.
  • Go straight on Frankenstein Cliff Trail leaving Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail which turns to the left.
  • After 0.6 mile you will arrive a junction with Falcon Cliff Trail on the left. This 0.2-mile spur leads to a partial southerly outlook from atop Falcon Cliff.
  • Go straight at this junction, still following Frankenstein Cliff Trail.
  • Walk for 0.2 mile which will bring you to an outlook of Crawford Notch from atop Frankenstein Cliffs.
  • Head downhill on Frankenstein Cliff Trail for another 0.7 mile to reach a junction after passing under a railroad trestle.
  • At this junction, turn right where an old trail proceeds straight down to Route 302.
  • Walk for 0.5 mile which will bring you to another junction on the left.
  • To return to the upper lot, proceed straight ahead for 0.1 mile; to reach the lower lot, turn left and walk for 0.1 mile.
Jack (photo by Diane King)

Deb (photo by Mark Malnati)

View (photo by Mark Malnati) View from Frankenstein Cliffs (photo by Mark Malnati)

Place         Split
Upper parking area (1240') 0.0 0.0
Arethusa Falls (2000') 1.6 1.6
Jct. Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail / Frankenstein Cliff Trail (2420') 1.3 2.9
Jct. Frankenstein Cliff Trail / Falcon Cliff Trail (2300') 0.6 3.5
Outlook from atop Frankenstein Cliff (2150') 0.2 3.7
Upper parking area (1240') 1.3 5.0

Kristin (photo by Mark Malnati)


Trail map of hike route to Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliffs (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

Beneath the Frankenstein Cliffs, eight hikers and two dogs gathered, then prepared for our loop hike. We put our snowshoes on and headed for Arethusa Falls first. The trail was broken in so we followed the footpath to the waterfall.

At the falls we took a break and watched ice climbers making their way up and down. Once we continued, we found that the rest of the loop had not been hiked recently; with fresh snow it made for tougher walking. We took turns breaking trail. Jack took the most and the worst of it, plowing most of the elevation gain. We had lunch at a trail junction. There were no logs or rocks to sit on so we just tramped down an area and most of us ate while standing.

SDH at the base of Arethusa Falls and ice climbers ON the falls (photo by Mark Malnati) Ice climber on the frozen Arethusa Falls (photo by Mark Malnati)

  Pushing on, we made our way to the rim of Frankenstein Cliffs. While we were enjoying the views, Quincy (a dog) decided to have a few looks over the edge–it's better not to watch! Next we hiked down the winding trail and just as we were saying the worst is over, we hit "the icy spot". We all had our turn at the slow approach followed by an uncontrolled slip and slide, all the while Jack saying, "Try not to hit the tree".

The next stop of our hike was a cliff with beautiful crystal-blue ice formations. They were probably 100 feet tall, and there were several ice climbers preparing to pick their way up. We watched them for a while and then headed on. The next quarter mile we made very good time since we slid most of it. Some were skiing on their snowshoes, some were sliding on their butts; I saw a couple of other interesting techniques.

All in all a good hike and a good time. Special thanks to Jack for his usual extra efforts that are greatly appreciated!

Frankenstein Cliffs (photo by Mark Malnati) Icy cliffs (photo by Mark Malnati)


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

The Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliff trailheads are within Crawford Notch State Park. They are located in Harts Location, New Hampshire, on a spur road, signed for Arethusa Falls, off of Rt. 302.

Overnight parking is not allowed.

Coming from the west:
  • The side road is about 14.4 miles east of the junction of Rt. 3 and Rt. 302. It's also about 9.3 miles east of the Mount Washington Hotel.
  • Turn right onto the side road.
  • The lower parking lot will be on your right; or continue to the top of the short road to the upper parking lot.

Coming from the east:
  • The side road is about 14.5 miles west of the junction of Rt. 16 and Rt. 302. It's also about 8.5 miles west of Bear Notch Road which is on the left-hand side of Rt. 302 in Bartlett.
  • Turn left onto the side road.
  • The lower parking lot will be on your right; or continue to the top of the short road to the upper parking lot.


Toilet at the parking area.

More Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliff Trail Reports   


Trail (photo by Mark Malnati) Jack at "the icy spot" (photo by Mark Malnati)


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