Thompson Falls

Thompson Falls

Estimated Time: 1-1.5 hrs round-trip

Distance: 1.4 miles round-trip

Level: Easy

Thompson Falls makes for a scenic and easy destination in Pinkham Notch that is perfect for a quick afternoon hike. Plus, the swimming hole at the base of the falls is the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day!

Parking for this hike is found at the base of Wildcat Ski Area. To reach the trailhead, cross over the bridge by the main lodge and turn left. Look for the signs for “The Way of the Wildcat” trail and “Thompson Falls”. The Way of the Wildcat trail is a short little nature loop with some great informative signs about the history of Pinkham Notch, the plants and animals found here, and the White Mountain National Forest so be sure to stop and read them as you go! About 0.1 miles along you will reach a split. If you are reading the signage, it is best to go to the left first. When you reach the far end of the loop continue straight ahead, following signs to Thompson Falls.

You will cross a small stream and then the old Route 16 (currently an access road for the ski area). Shortly after you will reach the base of the falls. From here, the trail continues up to the right a bit more steeply, crosses over the river and then continues up slightly more before ending at some flat rocks with more pools. If it is a clear day, there will be several nice views of Lion’s Head and Tuckerman Ravine on Mt. Washington. To return, simply retrace your steps.

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Glen Ellis Falls

Glen Ellis Falls

Please note: The below description is based on reaching Glen Ellis Falls from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center via the Lost Pond Trail and returning the same way. The falls can also be accessed from the Glen Ellis Falls parking area or via the longer more challenging Direttissima Trail (also starting at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center).

Estimated Time: 2-3 hours round-tripGE Falls2

Distance: 2.4 miles round-trip

Level: Easy

Directions to the Trailhead

Glen Ellis Falls is a wonderful (and popular) destination in Pinkham Notch and makes for a great addition to a hike to Lost Pond. The falls themselves are 64 feet tall and quite impressive all year round. There are multiple viewing locations to take advantage of. Be cautious on the rocks around the base of the falls as these can be slippery and therefore dangerous.

While you can reach the falls from the nearby parking area (a parking fee is charged here) an arguably nicer option is to start at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and hike out past Lost Pond. The far end of the pond features many small beaver dams and large boulders, which can be fun to explore. After 0.9 miles from the trailhead, you will reach the Wildcat Ridge Trail. Turn right at this junction and continue approximately 0.1 miles to the Ellis River. During the summer and fall this river crossing is very manageable. Use extreme caution, however, during the spring melt and after heavy rains as the water levels will make this crossing dangerous.

After crossing the Ellis River, turn left along the bank. You will climb over a stone wall and here will join the well-maintained path down to the base of the falls. To return to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, the easiest option is to retrace your steps. For a longer more strenuous route option, use the tunnel to travel under Route 16 to the Glen Ellis Falls parking lot. From here, follow the Glen Boulder Trail 0.4 miles up a steep uphill. At the top of the climb, turn right on the Direttissima Trail, which in 1 mile will take you back to the Visitor Center. Alternatively, you can reverse this loop, starting on the Direttissima Trail and returning on the Lost Pond Trail, which makes for a less steep climb.

Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge

Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful place in Northern NH that has a fabulous range of habitats including bogs, ponds, and lowland spruce-fir forest. There are fun boardwalks to explore as well as multiple trails, some of which lead you to viewing platforms with excellent views of the Northern Presidentials.

The Refuge is managed by the NH Division of Forest and Lands. Ample information can be found on their website. You can also view the site map and guide here.

Cherry Pond in October  (photo by Dave Govatski for the NH Natural Heritage Bureau)

Photo from NH Division of Forest and Lands

Lila’s Ledge

Estimated Time: 2-3 hours round-trip

Distance: 1.5 mile round-trip (longer with a loop through George’s Gorge

Level: Moderate

Directions to the Trailhead

Lila’s Ledge is a great 1/2 day hike for families that is relatively easy and provides a great view of Pinkham Notch. Begin at the Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center and take the Old Jackson Rd. Trail (OJR) from behind the Visitor’s Center by the bathroom. After approximately 0.3 miles you will cross over a large bridge. Immediately after is a small trail on the right called the Crew Cut Trail. Follow this trail for another 0.3 miles until you reach Liebeskind’s Loop. Turn left on Liebeskind’s Loop and almost immediately after a short spur trail to Lila’s Ledge will branch off on the right.

To return, you can either retrace your steps on the Crew Cut Trail, or try one of these two loop options:

1. OJR Loop – 2.3 Miles Total

After leaving Lila’s Ledge, turn right to continue on Liebeskind’s Loop. After about 0.5 miles you will intersect with the George’s Gorge Trail. Turn right and follow it 0.3 miles until you reach the Old Jackson Rd. Turn left and follow it 0.8 miles back to the Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center.

2. George’s Gorge Loop – 2 Miles Total

After leaving Lila’s Ledge, turn right to continue on Liebeskind’s Loop. After about 0.5 miles you will intersect with the George’s Gorge Trail. Turn left and follow it for 0.5 miles down through George’s Gorge, and back to the Crew Cut Trail. Turn right on the Crew Cut Trail, which will lead you to the OJR where you initially turned off.

Note: George’s Gorge can be slightly more difficult hiking particularly when trails are wet and slippery.

Crystal Cascade

Crystal Cascade

Estimated Time: 30 minutes round-trip

Distance: 0.6 miles round-trip

Level: Easy

The walk to Crystal Cascade makes for an excellent choice when you want to get out, stretch your legs and reach a great destination without committing to a longer hike. The walk doesn’t involve much elevation gain, with the exception of one short and moderately steep section just before reaching the falls. The trail also follows the Cutler River most of the way up to the waterfall and there are ample options to get near the water.

To reach Crystal Cascade, park at the AMC’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and take the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, just behind the Visitor Center. The trail is very wide and well maintained. Almost immediately after beginning, the Old Jackson Road branches off to the right. Continue on the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. There are a couple of other smaller junctions along the way with ski trails. If you’re looking to extend the hike on the way down, you can go left on the Blanchard Loop Ski Trail and connect with the Old Jackson Road to form a loop back to the Visitor Center.

About 2/3 of the way to the falls, you will cross a bridge which offers nice views of Wildcat Mountain across the Notch. Just after, there is a brief uphill climb. At the top, take the set of stone stairs to the viewing area of Crystal Cascade. During the spring thaw or after heavy rains, the falls flow at such a rate that you can feel the mist from the viewing area. When the water levels are lower you can see the dark rock of a volcanic vent, making this waterfall quite unique! The falls themselves are almost 100 feet tall and well worth the short walk!

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Mt. Crag

Mt. Crag

Estimated Time: 2-3 hrs roundtrip

Distance: 2.2 – 2.8 miles roundtrip

Level: Moderate

Directions to the Trailhead

Mt. Crag in Shelburne has one of the greatest rewards for effort ratios in the area. This relatively short loop not only follows a lovely trail through picturesque forest, it also leads to a fantastic rocky summit with great views of the Androscoggin Valley and the Northern Presidentials! The mountain can be hiked either in a loop (requiring a bit of road walking) or for a shorter option simply go out and back. For either option, begin on the eastern side by parking at the Austin Brook Trailhead.

The Austin Brook Trailhead is located on North Rd. in Shelburne (parking is across the st.) and is easily recognizable by the white fence and turnstile gate (yes, it has a turnstile!). The trail begins by following an old logging road that runs along the Austin Mill Brook. After 0.4 miles you will reach a 4-way junction. Turn left and take the Yellow Trail towards Mt. Crag. Shortly after the junction you will reach a group of giant boulders on the left that provide an excellent opportunity for poking around in small caves!

After the boulders the Yellow Trail begins to climb uphill through a deciduous forest. It switchbacks a couple of times before leveling off and emerging on the open summit of Mt. Crag. From the summit you can either reverse directions and head back the way you came, or continue on the Yellow Trail west towards the Gates Brook Trail. This side of the mountain is a bit steeper but is a nice contrast as it is largely a coniferous forest for most of the descent. It can be a bit more challenging, however, especially in wet weather.

After a short but steep downhill, you will reach the junction with the Gates Brook Trail, which continues to the right up towards Middle Mountain. To finish the Mt. Crag loop, turn left and follow the wide trail down to the road. After 0.5 miles, you will return to North Rd. and can walk along the pavement back towards the parking.

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Note: For added excitement, take a short detour to the Cable Car found on the Yellow Trail. It can be reached by turning right instead of left at the junction of the Yellow Trail and the Austin Brook Trail.

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Rattle River

The following write-up is for the Rattle River Trail in to the Rattle River Shelter. It does not cover the trail beyond the shelter.

Estimated Time: 2-3 hrs roundtrip

Distance: 3.4 miles roundtrip

Level: Easy

Directions to the Trailhead

The hike into the Rattle River Shelter makes for a lovely stroll in the woods. With only 500 ft of elevation gain between the trailhead and the shelter, the trail is very gradual. The trail also almost always stays near enough to hear and sometimes see the river, which makes it quite peaceful. It is a relatively easy trail to follow (when hiking into the shelter you are hiking south along the Appalachian Trail) with white blazes predominately marking the trees.

The shelter makes a great destination for a lunch, or on hot summer days, a swim in the nearby hole appropriately dubbed “Bigfoot’s Bathtub”. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can pack a tent and proper overnight equipment and spend the night at the shelter. There is an outhouse there as well.