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.
Estimated Time: 30 minutes round-trip
Distance: 0.6 miles round-trip
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!
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
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.
Estimated Time: 1-2 hours
Distance: 1.5 miles roundtrip
The Waterfall Loop is an excellent hike for beginners or anyone looking for a scenic stroll in the woods all year long! In the summertime there are numerous pools that make for wonderful swimming. In the spring the falls will rush with the snow melt from the mountain summits. In the winter the frozen water and snow creates a magical environment, where you can see animal tracks crossing the brook and holes where the flowing water is still visible. And in the fall leaves in the water will add color to the brook bed!
Start from the Appalachia trailhead on Rt. 2 in Randolph. There are many trails leaving from this trailhead, but they are all clearly marked. Look for signs for the Fallsway Trail. After you leave the parking lot, there is a short patch of forest followed by the Rail Trail and power lines. After the power lines you will reenter the hardwood forest following the yellow blazed Fallsway Trail and will soon meet up with Snyder Brook. From here the trail stays on the west side of the brook and continues uphill passing by 3 set of waterfalls – Gordon Falls, Salroc Falls, and lastly Tama Falls. As you hike up hill you will pass by many excellent pools and flat rocks perfect for swimming and picnicking! Relax, cool off, and enjoy the mossy banks of Snyder Brook.
Just before Tama Falls, the Valley Way Trail briefly joins the Fallsway Trail. Continue to follow signs for the Fallsway Trail/Fallsway Loop and you will soon reach Tama Falls, 0.7 miles from the parking lot. Just above Tama Falls you can cross over Snyder Brook on some flat rocks and head down the other side of the brook via the Brookbank Trail. Enjoy the falls from a different perspective and be sure to check out the very large flat rock about halfway down! At the bottom you will reach the power lines. Here you can either cross back over Snyder Brook to rejoin the Fallsway Trail or look for a small path just to your right that continues downhill to the Rail Trail. If you choose the 2nd option, you will meet the Rail Trail just to the right of a large bridge. Turn left, cross the bridge, and follow the trail back to the parking lot.
Estimated Time: 1 hour round-trip
Distance: 1 mile round-trip
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.