Sam Willey Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Saco River

Destination:  Saco River
Trails:  Sam Willey Trail, Saco River Trail
Region:  NH - Central East  
Crawford Notch State Park
Location:  Harts Location, NH
Rating:  Easy  
Features:  River
Distance:  2.4 miles  
Elevation Gain:  Approximately 200 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 2:00   Typical: 1:25  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 2:30  
Season:  Winter
Hike Date:  01/06/2007 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  10/09/2008  
Weather:  Rainy, 50 degrees
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

This is an easy out-and-back hike roughly paralleling the Saco River.

  • Start on Sam Willey Trail, bearing right at the fork after crossing the Saco River on a footbridge.
  • Follow Sam Willey Trail for 0.5 mile where it will end and Saco River Trail begins. Near the end, Sam Willey Trail makes a small loop - either branch of this loop will end up hooking up with Saco River Trail, although the right branch brings you closer to the river.
  • Follow Saco River Trail for 0.7 mile to its junction with Webster Cliff Trail which is also the Appalachian Trail (AT).
  • Turn around and retrace your steps back to the beginning.

Place         Split
Sam Willey Trailhead (1300') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Jct. Sam Willy Trail / Saco River Trail (1300') 0.5 0.5 0:30 0:30
Jct. Saco River Trail / Webster Cliff Trail (1350') 0.7 1.2 0:30 1:00
Jct. Sam Willy Trail / Saco River Trail (1300') 0.7 1.9 0:30 1:30
Sam Willey Trailhead (1300') 0.5 2.4 0:30 2:00
Saco River and Webster Cliffs (photo by Webmaster)


Partridgeberry (photo by Webmaster)

Rock tripe (photo by Webmaster)


Map of hike route along Saco River (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

Saco River (photo by Webmaster) This is an easy, yet scenic and interesting ramble. The trail starts across the street from the various buildings at the Willey House Historical Site. Cross the footbridge over the Saco River and then bear right at the fork in the trail (going left is a 0.2-mile loop along Willey Pond). This is Sam Willey Trail and is almost entirely flat and is wide and smooth enough to be suitable for a wheelchair.

The bare hardwood trees allowed me to see the Webster Cliffs towering steeply above the trail. On the ground, interesting boulders were scattered about. There was very little snow. After a while, you will come to a fork in the trail. Either direction is fine to take as this makes a little loop. I took the right fork.

Shortly after that fork was a small spur trail leading to the shore of the Saco River. The river was running fast at this point and there was a 6-inch tall cascade running across the whole width of the river. This was just a tiny opening but farther down the trail are better views of the river. So continuing on, I shortly came to a big clearing at the river, which pretty much marks the furthermost point of Sam Willey Trail.

Here there is a field suitable for picnicking or playing games, as well as a small area of shoreline and river views to be explored. The river is wider and calmer at this point. On the opposite banks, lush bright green moss was growing in abundance. The water was clear with a mixture of golden sand and rocks at the bottom.

Saco River Trail (photo by Webmaster) I continued along the trail for just a bit more, and then took a right-hand turn to join Saco River Trail. This trail goes alongside the river a ways and then past a wetlands area. The footing on this trail is rockier than Sam Willey Trail, but nothing difficult. The trail then curves away from the river and climbs a little and goes through several small ups and downs. The woods are mostly hardwoods with an open understory and scattered boulders. There was partridgeberry growing alongside the path as well as ferns.

After a while I reached the junction with Webster Cliff Trail which is 0.2 mile from Route 302. If desired, one could make a loop by turning right to take Webster Cliff Trail to the road, and then turning right again to rejoin the Willey site. I choose to backtrack through the woods. Although, when I reached Sam Willey Trail, instead of taking a left to totally retrace my steps, I went straight (to the right a bit) so that I was going back using the other part of the loop section.

On the return route, it was raining in earnest and the wind had picked up to a deafening howl. While walking in the woods I didn't feel the wind too much but when I had to cross the footbridge, wow, I held on tight to the railings! And my pack straps were whipping about. It was a good day to be hiking in the woods and avoiding wide-open summits.
Wetlands (photo by Webmaster)


NH - Central East

  Driving Directions   

This trailhead is located in Harts Location, New Hampshire, across the street from the Willey House Historical Site on Rt. 302 within Crawford Notch State Park.

Coming from the west:
  • The Sam Willey Trailhead is about 11.1 miles east of the junction of Rt. 3 and Rt. 302. It's also about 6 miles east of the Mount Washington Hotel.
  • There are parking areas on both sides of the road and the trailhead on the left.

Coming from the east:
  • Traveling from the east, the Sam Willey Trailhead is about 12 miles west of Bear Notch Road which is on the left-hand side of Route 302 in Bartlett.
  • There are parking areas on both sides of the road and the trailhead is on the right.


In season: Crawford Notch State Park Visitor Center, gift shop, bathrooms.

Picnic tables.

Website by Logo

© 1998-2024
Page copy-protected against website content infringement by Copyscape
The information on this site may freely be used for personal purposes but may not be replicated on other websites or publications. If you want to reference some content on this site, please link to us.