Middle Sister, Champney Falls, Pitcher Falls

Destinations:  Middle Sister (3340'), Champney Falls, Pitcher Falls
Trails:  Champney Falls Trail, Champney Falls Loop, Champney Falls Cutoff, Middle Sister Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
White Mountain National Forest, Chocorua Region
Location:  Albany, NH
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summit, views, brooks, waterfalls, ledges
Distance:  7.0 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2100 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 4:35  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 6:00   Typical: 6:45  
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  12/09/2007 (Sunday)  
Last Updated:  12/25/2013  
Weather:  Temperatures in the teens; overcast
Author:  Diane King
Companions:  SDHers: Mark, Mary, Jack, Dave, Faye

Dave and Mary with Mt. Chocorua in the background (photo by Mark Malnati)

Route Summary   

This hike brings you to the summit of Middle Sister where there are great views. On the way up, visit the pretty Pitcher Falls and Champney Falls. Champney Brook runs near the trail for over a mile.

  • From the parking lot, follow Champney Falls Trail which ascends the northern flank of Mount Chocorua.
  • You will almost immediately pass over Twin Brook on a footbridge. Note: As of 3/14/2013, this footbridge has been washed out so this brook crossing is without the aid of a bridge. Check this White Mountain trail status page to see if the bridge has been replaced.
  • At 0.1 mile you will meet a trail junction with Bolles Trail. Go straight to stay on Champney Falls Trail while Bolles Trail veers off to the right.
  • Jack at Champney Falls (photo by Mark Malnati)
  • You will reach another trail junction after 1.3 miles. The path forks and then rejoins 0.3 mile later (following the right fork which is Champney Falls Trail) or 0.4 mile later (following the left fork which is Champney Falls Loop).
  • Follow the left fork which will take you past Pitcher Falls and Champney Falls. Pitcher Falls is a narrow stream of water spilling over the side of a narrow gorge. Champney Falls is a series of cascades tumbling down 200 feet. This section of trail tends to be slippery in all seasons – please use extra caution.
  • The paths will rejoin and 0.7 mile beyond the upper junction there is a good outlook to the north, just before the switchbacks and steeper climbing begin.
  • Continue for another 0.6 mile and then turn left to follow Champney Falls Cutoff while Champney Falls Trail continues straight.
  • After 0.3 mile on Champney Falls Cutoff, that trail ends as it meets up with Middle Sister Trail.
  • Turn left and follow Middle Sister Trail to the summit of Middle Sister in 0.1 mile.
  • Return via the same route.

Place         Split
Champney Falls Trailhead on Rt. 112 (1260') 0.0 0.0
Lower end of Champney Falls Loop (1780') 1.4 1.4
Upper end of Champney Falls Loop (2000') 0.4 1.8
Jct. Champney Falls Trail/Champney Falls Cutoff (3000') 1.3 3.1
Jct. Champney Falls Cutoff/Middle Sister Trail (3250') 0.3 3.4
Middle Sister Summit (3340') 0.1 3.5
Jct. Champney Falls Cutoff/Middle Sister Trail (3250') 0.1 3.6
Jct. Champney Falls Trail/Champney Falls Cutoff (3000') 0.3 3.9
Upper end of Champney Falls Loop (2000') 1.3 5.2
Lower end of Champney Falls Loop (1780') 0.4 5.6
Champney Falls Trailhead on Rt. 112 (1260') 1.4 7.0



Map of hike route to Middle Sister, Champney Falls, and Pitcher Falls (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

On Sunday, December 9, six Seacoast Day Hikers and one dog met at Champney Falls Trailhead off of Route 112 where temperatures were in the teens. Most donned stabilicers and began an easy trek over about eight inches of packed/dry snow to view Pitcher Falls and Champney Falls. The falls were beautiful but not very encased in ice so we didn't get to watch any ice climbers.

Conditions were iciest climbing up from the falls area where dry snow over hard-packed ice caused minor slippage. A couple people barebooted the entire hike without any ice or snow difficulties. We continued on Champney Falls Trail through progressively steeper terrain with excellent footing. There were a series of switchbacks and one of our hikers tried to shortcut up through one to the upper tier. Where people come up with ideas to plow through snow is beyond me... but they popped out ahead of the group so that qualifies it as a shortcut.

Group on ledges (photo by Mark Malnati)

We arrived at the Champney Falls Cutoff and had a snack before donning snowshoes to break trail 0.3 mile over to the Middle Sister Trail which was trodden since the recent snow. We landed in another few tenths at our destination where there were the remains of a stone fire tower. Everyone loved the view over the cutoff and the gray sky became a little clearer. We got a great view of Mount Washington which had lots of snow as well as Chocorua and Paugus. It was tough to leave the great view but daylight hours are short now and the football fans had a game to watch.

Mt. Washington in the distance (photo by Mark Malnati)

Our hiking time was six hours and we covered approximately 7.0 miles.

NH - Central East

  Trail signs (photo by Mark Malnati) Driving Directions   

The Champney Falls Trailhead parking area is located in Albany, New Hampshire, on the south side of Rt. 112 (Kancamagus Highway).

Traveling from the west, the parking area is about 1.5 miles beyond the junction of Rt. 112 and Bear Notch Road. Bear Notch Road will be on the left but the trailhead parking lot is on the right.

Traveling from the east, the parking area is about 11 miles west of the junction of Rt. 112 and Rt. 16 in Conway. Parking and the trailhead will be on the left side of the roadway.

Other Notes   

Dave and Faye on the trail (photo by Mark Malnati) WMNF Recreational Pass

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.

  • $5 per day
  • $30 for a year-long pass
  • $40 for a year for a household

More Middle Sister, Pitcher Falls, and Champney Falls Trail Reports   


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