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.

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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Pine Mountain

Pine Mountain

Estimated Time: 2 – 3 hrs

Distance: 3.5 miles for entire loop

Level: Moderate

Directions to the Trailhead

The summit of Pine Mountain and the ledges on the south side are home to some of the best views of the Northern Presidentials. There are two ways to reach the peak. The longer route uses the Pine Mountain Trail and leaves from near the center of Gorham. This route is shorter and requires less elevation gain and leaves from Pinkham B Road, just across from the Pine Link Trailhead. There is parking available for free at the trailhead.

The hike begins just opposite the parking area and for the first 0.9 miles follows the Pine Mountain Road – a private dirt road that gives access to the Horton Center. After 0.9 miles the Ledge Trail branches to the right. It passes under a big cliff and then climbs fairly steeply for a short ways to the top of the cliff. It is from this point that there are excellent views across Pinkham Notch and to the mountains in the south.

From the ledge the trail continues more gradually to the summit of Pine Mountain where you will find the Horton Center. On the summit you can reconnect with the Pine Mountain Road and follow this back down to the parking area.

Taking in the fall foliage from the ledges on Pine Mtn.

Taking in the fall foliage from the ledges on Pine Mtn.

Square Ledge

Square Ledge

Estimated Time: 1-2 hours round-trip

Distance: 1 mile round-trip

Level: Moderate

Directions to the Trailhead

Square Ledge is a short hike to a fantastic view. You can see the ledge quite clearly across the street from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center where you will park. The trail begins the same as the route to Lost Pond. You will pass through a boggy area and then cross a bridge from where you can see signs of beaver activity. After crossing the bridge turn right and almost immediately you will reach a junction. Here the trail to Square Ledge turns left. Be sure to stop at Ladies Lookout which is accessed by a short side trail. As you continue up the trail, be on the lookout for Hangover Rock – a massive rock that overhangs the trail and provides a nice shelter during rainy days.

Shortly after Hangover Rock you will emerge from the forest at the base of Square Ledge. Sometimes there will be rock climbers gathered here and you can watch as they scale the face of the cliff. Continue following the trail to the right up a short but steep section. The view from square ledge is quite stunning and on a calm day it can be a wonderful place to eat lunch or enjoy a snack. Be mindful of children and where you are sitting – Square Ledge is a large cliff with a very significant drop-off.

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Lost Pond

Lost Pond

Estimated Time: 1 hour round-trip

Distance: 1 mile round-trip

Level: Easy

Directions to the Trailhead

Lost Pond makes for a great afternoon hike and is wonderful for kids. There are many great “attractions” along the way to keep the entire family entertained. The hike begins across the street from the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center so park in the main lot. The trail to Lost Pond is part of the Appalachian Trail (AT) and as you head to the pond you will be following the AT north towards Katahdin.

You will first pass through a boggy area. When you are standing on the bridge, be sure to look around for evidence of some of the Notch’s permanent residents. On your left you will notice a beaver dam, and if you look to your right you might be able to spot the beaver lodge (their house).

Almost immediately after you cross the bridge the trail to Square Ledge will turn left. Continue straight following the white blazes. You will soon join up with the Ellis River. There are a couple good spots along the trail to get down by the water and dip your feet in. The trail will then leave the river and cross over a 2nd bridge. From here it will climb slightly through a rocky area before reaching the north end of the lake.

Follow the trail around the east side of the lake. There are multiple large rocks to sit on for a snack, lunch, or to simply take in the view. On a clear day you will be able to see across the notch to NH’s tallest peak, Mt. Washington. To the right of Washington you will see Mt. Adam’s and Mt. Madison. You should also be able to see Huntington Ravine, a glacial cirque that was carved out during the Ice Age.

From the south end of the lake you can turn around and retrace your steps back to Pinkham. If you want a more adventurous return you can continue until the trail meets the Wildcat Ridge Trail. Here, turn right. You will soon reach the Ellis River again. There is no bridge at this point, so you will need to wade or rock-hop across. Do not attempt this route after heavy rains as the river will be high and potentially quite rapid. From this point, either return to the parking lot along the road or head left to Glen Ellis Falls and then cross Rt. 16 to embark on a bigger loop – the Glen Boulder Trail to The Direttissima.

Beaver dam on the way to Lost Pond

Beaver dam on the way to Lost Pond