Distance: 3-miles out and back
Recommended Gear: Microspikes and/or snowshoes
Arethusa Falls – NH
As lifelong New Englanders, we like to think that there aren’t many major destinations in the region that we haven’t already visited…or at least heard of. That’s why we were so surprised when we learned of Arethusa Falls in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We wanted to take a day trip and break in some new winter gear over MLK weekend before flying out to Colorado, so we took to the internet to get some ideas. Arethusa Falls jumped out at us right away after we came across photos of ice climbers scaling the frozen cascade. Arethusa, is often thought to be New Hampshire’s tallest waterfall but it actually plays second fiddle to Dryad Falls in terms of height; however, Arethusa is by far the more impressive of the two. The AMC estimates the height of the falls at 140′, but it was originally measured at 176′ back in 1875. Either their 19th century tape measures weren’t up to the task, or waterfalls shrink over time just like elderly humans.
The drive to the falls takes a little over two hours from Boston and the drive gets really scenic once you get north of Plymouth, NH on I-93. What is especially nice is that these days, this type of road trip only costs $10 in gas (keep on pumping that oil OPEC…just kidding…).
Arethusa Falls Trail (Trail Map)
The trailhead for the Arethusa Falls Trail, located just off route 302 in Crawford Notch State Park, is very well marked and we had no issue finding a spot in the empty parking lot. The hike from the parking lot to the falls was only about 1.5 miles with a modest elevation gain of about 800 feet. Although the trail was covered in snow, it was well-packed and we managed to complete the hike with just our bare boots with relatively little difficulty. To be honest, that was mostly stupidity on our part and it would generally be advisable to pack microspikes or snowshoes. At a moderate pace, and including stops, we were in and out in about two hours. While there weren’t any views along the short hike, the winter scenery made for a very pretty hike.
I don’t know what exactly we were expecting to see, but we were pretty stunned when we arrived at the falls. It was massive. The waterfall was almost completely frozen but there was still some visibly flowing water behind the icy stalactites. Despite the 25 degree weather, since the falls weren’t completely frozen, any attempt at ice climbing would have been suicidal. We did climb up the hill to the left of the falls to get a view from higher up, but the snow got too deep so we didn’t go all the way to the top.
This was the ideal winter day hike for us. It didn’t require much of a time commitment so we weren’t out in the cold all day and the reward at the end of the trail was more than commensurate with the effort exerted. Arethusa is a real hidden gem in the granite state.
Since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped by the Omni Mt. Washington Resort (formerly the Mt. Washington Hotel), located a few miles up the road from the trail. This is easily one of the most impressive pieces of architecture in New England, and honestly looks like it belongs in the Swiss Alps rather than New Hampshire. Not to mention, for all you econ buffs out there, it was the Bretton Woods Monetary Conference in 1944 during which the World Bank and IMF were founded.
Where to Eat: Stickney’s Restaurant – Stickney’s is located on the bottom floor of the hotel and the views of the presidential range from the dining area are more or less the same as the one pictured above. With views like that, they could serve dog food and we would still recommend it; however, the food is of the human variety and it’s not too shabby. Great sandwiches…and the cheddar and ale dip was transcendent.