Waterfalls

Welcome photographers, hikers, and waterfall enthusiasts. Maine’s western mountains offer 15 waterfalls for your approval. Tumbling nearly 180ft over solid granite, Pennacook Falls (Rumford Falls) is the highest waterfall east of Niagara. Angel Falls is one of Maine’s highest single-drop fall at 90ft, and Poplar Stream Falls and Swift River Falls have captured the hearts of photographers, artists, and waterfall enthusiasts alike.

Many memorable pieces of art have centered on nature’s most daringly elegant feature: the waterfall. West­ern Maine’s terrain is enriched by the dramatic heights, lush surroundings, and thunderous roar that accompany this unique natural attraction.

For the photographer looking to enrich a portfolio of nature scenes, the hiker seeking a challenging trek to the pinnacle of beautiful views, or simply a passerby seeking inspiration from nature’s trea­sures, the mountains of Maine hold magnificent waterfalls for every quest.




Angel Falls

Angle Falls
  • Town: Township D
  • Rating: 5
  • Type: plunge
  • Height: 90 feet
  • Source: Mountain Brook
  • Trail Length: 0.8 mile to the falls
  • Trail Difficulty: easy side of moderate
  • Altitude Gain: down 50 feet, up 150 feet
  • Hiking Time: 30 minutes

With surrounding cliffs of up to 115 feet, Angel Falls is remarkably scenic. The 25-foot gap positioned on the top of the cliff wall can be explained by two theories, the first being erosion. Through the years it appears as if the water sliced its way through the cliff walls, causing the sediments to flow downstream. The other theory suggests that the perfectly sized boulder at the base of the waterfall used to sit in the gap above. Perhaps it was knocked out during the Ice Age or even by a great storm. We cannot say which theory is correct, but the gap on the cliff wall through which the water flows certainly distinguishes Angel Falls from all others in the region.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Bickford Slide

Town: Stow

  • Rating: 3
  • Type: cascades and slides
  • Height: varies
  • Source: Bickford Brook
  • Trail Length: to lower slide, 0.7 mile; to upper slide, 1.1 mile
  • Trail Difficulty: moderate
  • Altitude Gain: to lower slide, +300 feet; to upper slide, +500 feet
  • Hiking Time: 35 minutes to the upper slide

Located on Bickford Brook within the White Mountain National Forest's Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness, Bickford Brook travels downstream towards its confluence with the Cold River. Along the way, hundreds of feet of cascades and slides adorn the brook, most accessible by a few popular hiking trails.

The first slides of the trail, appropriately named Lower Slides, are reached just after your first contract with the brook. These slides are about 50 feet in height and composed of cascades, slides, and delightful water chutes. Forget about exploring the Lower Slides: the flume walls are very dangerous.

A 40-foot-tall, medium-angled slide with a dark, moderately attractive pool encompasses the Upper Bickford Slides. Set in a heavily shaded glen, the Upper Slides have very low water throughout most of the year. Although the area is remote and access can be confusing, the pool, with its depths up to 5 feet, receives moderate use. We saw a troop of about a dozen towel-holding children being led by their guide to the swimming hole when we visited midweek toward the end of June.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




The Cataracts

  • Town: Andover West Surplus
  • Rating: 3
  • Type: horsetails and cascades
  • Height: approximately 60-foot total drop
  • Source: Frye Brook
  • Trail Length: 0.5 mile
  • Trail Difficulty: moderate
  • Altitude Gain: plus 150 feet
  • Hiking Time: 20 minutes

On our summer visits, The Cataracts consisted of many plunges dropping an estimated 60 feet. We have heard accounts, and seen some convincing pictures, that in the wet season this is a behemoth of raging cascades. When we visited, we only saw some lonely cascades and plunges. On a positive note, with the cascades gone we were able to explore the small caves near the waterfall between precipitous gorge walls.

During the summer, The Cataracts were also a scramble's delight, with opportunities for hours of exploration. The many swimming holes are also refreshingly pleasing here. Perhaps your visit will reveal the personality of The Cataracts we have heard about.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Dunn Falls

  • Town: Andover North Surplus
  • Rating: 5
  • Type: horsetails and fans
  • Height: lower falls is 80 feet; upper falls is 50 feet
  • Source: West Branch Ellis River
  • Trail Length: 2.0 mile loop
  • Trail Difficulty: moderate
  • Altitude Gain: up 250 feet, down 250 feet
  • Hiking Time: 90 minutes

The 2-mile loop trail that surrounds Dunn Falls offers more than just one of the highest-rated waterfalls in Maine. As you hike along you will find swimming holes, travel a stretch of the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail, and discover lower and upper Dunn Falls as well as a half a dozen smaller, unnamed cascades. With so many natural features, we would have to say that a trip to Dunn Falls is sure to leave a lasting impression on everyone. For this reason, this 2.0-mile trail makes a great introduction to the world of the outdoors for anyone not too familiar with what the region has to offer.

Discovering the remote lower Dunn Falls is as surprising as finding any waterfall in Maine. Before you reach the side trail to view Dunn Falls, only miniature horsetails and cascades will be spotted. How shocking and mind-boggling the nearly vertical 80-foot drop of lower Dunn Falls is to the virgin eye! With rock walls up to 100 feet in height on opposite sides of the falls, the area is outstandingly scenic. Take your camera for this waterfall.

After visiting the lower falls, you may feel that the trip could not get any better. Wrong! As if the lower falls are not visually appealing and mentally satisfying enough, more gems lie ahead on the trail. Just before the upper falls lay two lovely rocky-bottomed pools, each with small falls cascading into it. The first pool, about 80 feet in circumference, is surrounded by semicircular rock walls, with the waterfall flowing through a gap in the wall. The second pool has a similar structure and almost equal dimensions, but behind the pool lays a 50-foot secret: the elusive upper falls. Although half-hidden by the forest, this fanning horsetail is beautiful and adds a perfect ending to the waterfalls on this trip.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Ellis Falls

  • Town: Andover
  • Rating: 3
  • Type: horsetails
  • Height: 22-foot total drop
  • Source: Ellis Meadow Brook
  • Trail Length: roadside
  • Trail Difficulty: easy
  • Altitude Gain: none
  • Hiking Time: none

Minutes away from the spectacular falls of Grafton Notch State Park, and the cataracts off East B Hill Road, Ellis Falls can be either the appetizer or the dessert for your waterfall day trip. Its location, just over 2 miles east of Andover, is likely to be central to the other natural attractions found in your plans for the day.

At the top of the falls is a 5-foot-tall, 5-foot-wide block falling into an oblong-shaped pool. From here the falls horsetail and cascade the additional 17 feet into a dark-tea colored pool below. The river, which was very flat both up and downstream, surprised us with a drop of this magnitude.

Not nearly as scenic as nearby Dunn Falls, and certainly not world class in beauty like nearby Angel Falls, Ellis Falls is outclassed by the local competition. Waterfall enthusiasts, however, should not shun Ellis Falls for its more impressive neighbors. This waterfall is in a covert location--only noticed if you have specific directions and you are looking for it. The parking area is a simple pull-off--the type every road has a dozen of. For this reason, we suggest checking out the falls.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Kezar Falls

  • Town: Lovell
  • Rating: 2.5
  • Type: cascades
  • Height: 20-foot total drop
  • Source: Kezar River
  • Trail Length: less than 0.1 mile
  • Trail Difficulty: easy
  • Altitude Gain: down 25 feet
  • Hiking Time: none

Lying a few miles southeast of the White Mountain National Forest border, Kezar Falls is an unmarked local picnic spot with a modest-sized gorge and a few small waterfalls. The site used to be a swimming hole, but many fallen trees have long since made jumping off the gorge walls a dangerous activity. Kezar Falls is not really anything out of the ordinary, but it makes a fine place to read, picnic, or simply relax. Locals told us that this is a favorite party spot for young adults during the late hours of the day.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Mad River Falls

  • Town: Batchelders Grant
  • Rating: 2.5
  • Type: horsetails
  • Height: 100-foot total drop
  • Source: Mad River
  • Trail Length: 1.6 miles to the falls
  • Trail Difficulty: moderate
  • Altitude Gain: plus 300 feet
  • Hiking Time: 45 minutes

From the overlook opposite the falls, you notice that Mad River Falls consists of several horsetails falling into a yellow-tinted pool. Aside from admiring the 100-foot total drop of the falls, there is not much to do here. Exploring is extremely limited, as it would be dangerous to get closer to the falls, and photography is not an option because the falls lie under a heavy tree cover.

To justify a trip to Mad River Falls, add Bickford Slides, another waterfall accessed via a trail from Brickett Place, and Rattlesnake Flume and Pool, a waterfall and swimming hole off the Stone House Trail.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Poplar Stream Falls

  • Town: Carrabassett Valley
  • Rating: 2.5
  • Type: horsetails
  • Height: upper falls is 24 feet; lower falls is 51 feet
  • Source: Poplar Stream and South Brook
  • Trail Length: 2.0 miles
  • Trail Difficulty: to upper falls, easy side of moderate; to lower falls, moderate side of difficult
  • Altitude Gain: plus 250 feet
  • Hiking Time: 60 minutes

Poplar Stream Falls is located in Carrabassett Valley, a town famous for its ski resort, Sugarloaf USA. The falls lie a few miles east of the resort, accessible by a rough dirt road and a hike through a logging area. They can be accessed by high-clearance vehicles, mountain bicycles, cross-country skis, or hiking.

So remote that nearby residents may not be aware of its existence, Poplar Stream Falls consists of two drops, on two different streams, that are combined under one name. The upper formation, a 24-foot horsetail with a swimming pool below, is on Poplar Stream and just off the trail. The lower drop, a 51-foot horsetail on South Brook, is accessible only by a fairly strenuous amount of bushwhacking.

The swimming hole below the falls lacks the attractiveness of other swimming holes nearby. Although you are likely to enjoy the chilly mountain waters privately, two other swimming holes offer warmer water, more sun exposure, and a general better experience. One is nearby Smalls Falls, which is described elsewhere in this guide, and another hole is located just below the bridge over the Carrabassett River on Carriage Road--the road that you traveled on to reach the falls.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Rumford Falls

  • Town: Rumford
  • Rating: 2.5
  • Type: cascades
  • Height: 176-foot total drop
  • Source: Androscoggin River
  • Trail Length: roadside
  • Trail Difficulty: easy
  • Altitude Gain: none
  • Hiking Time: none
  • Alt. Names: Pennacook Falls, New Pennacook Falls

Originally referred to as Pennacook Falls or New Pennacook Falls, Rumford Falls is chain of massive drops of the Androscoggin River. Although the waterfall drops a total of 176 feet, dams have split the once continuous cascading waters into several distinct sections. Noting this, we questioned whether or not to include this waterfall.

The beauty of the scenic upper falls ensured it a spot in this guide. Worthy of drawing the attention of any form of artist, Rumford Falls is quite spectacular in strength and setting. The adjacent dam is slowly being concealed by the continuous growth of the trees in front of the structure. The artificial lake below offers popular fishing for three species of trout and landlocked salmon. The best view of this area is after snowmelt as the water flow often slowly reduces during the summer months.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Screw Auger Falls

  • Town: Grafton Township
  • Rating: 4.5
  • Type: plunges and cascades
  • Height: plunge is 20 feet
  • Source: Bear River
  • Trail Length: less than 0.1 mile
  • Trail Difficulty: easy
  • Altitude Gain: none
  • Hiking Time: none

One of two Grafton Notch waterfalls described in this guide, Screw Auger Falls--not to be confused with the Screw Auger Falls of Gulf Hagas Brook, also located in Maine--is a 20-foot plunge over the lip of a broad granite ledge into a gorge. Created by the plunge is a transparent curtain of whitewater. Below the main plunge, the Bear River travels through a curvaceous gorge, dropping an additional 30 feet in a series of cascades past giant potholes, shallow pools, and grottoes.

This waterfall is arguably Maine's most heavily visited. On a hot day in early July, we shared the falls and gorge with approximately 100 others. Although the waterfall is far from remote, the countless sunny ledges and sunbathing spots, together with the ability to explore above and below the gorge, will allow you to enjoy this site immensely.

There are several picnic tables, bathrooms, and a large parking area at the site that is known to fill up on hot sunny days in midsummer. As of 2002 the area is open daily 9 AM-sunset, allowing plenty of time to visit.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Small Falls

  • Town: Township E
  • Rating: 5
  • Type: horsetails and cascades
  • Height: 54-foot total drop
  • Source: Sandy River
  • Trail Length: 0.1 mile to the top of the falls
  • Trail Difficulty: easy
  • Altitude Gain: plus 50 feet
  • Hiking Time: 5 minutes

Just south of the town of Rangeley, the “Smalls Falls Rest Area” attracts more than just travelers looking for a driving break. Smalls Falls, with its scenic waterfall, colorful gorge, and fine swimming holes, accommodates all.

It does not take much water flow to make this waterfall impressive enough to please all its visitors. Just a tiny stream can create a false sense of whitewater power. This is attributable to the fact that the river upstream is considerably wider than the width of water that flows over the four sets of falls at Smalls Falls.

The bottom of Small Falls consists of a 3 foot cascade falling into a 20 foot wide circular pool. The next waterfall up is a 14 foot fanning horsetail with a deep oblong-shaped pool people tend to jump into from above, a stunt that is highly dangerous. Even further up the trail, you will find a 25 foot segmented waterfall, with a plunge on the left and segmented horsetail on the right. The top waterfall is a 12 foot horsetail and slide. Beyond the final falls of Small Falls lies tiny plunges and cascades with equally clear and beautiful water.

All four sets of falls are found within a one of most colorful and beautiful gorges in the region. Its colors consist of beiges, oranges, greens, blacks, browns, gold, and ivory. There are plenty of places to sit along the gorge walls and bask in the beauty of the wide open area.

Other features that make this waterfall so popular are the pools to swim in and the numerous places to picnic. At the base of each plunge, cascade, and horsetail is a pool to either wade or swim in. At the base of the lowest fall is a rocky beach leading to the pool. There are also bathrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits—a place as accommodating as any picnic spot you can find.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Snow Falls

  • Town: West Paris
  • Rating: 3.5
  • Type: small plunge and cascades
  • Height: 25-foot total drop
  • Source: Little Androscoggin River
  • Trail Length: roadside
  • Trail Difficulty: easy
  • Altitude Gain: none
  • Hiking Time: none

The Little Androscoggin River cuts its way through a narrow gorge at Snow Falls in West Paris. At this special rest stop, the state of Maine has constructed a fine picnic area complete with trails on both sides of the gorge, picnic tables, rest rooms, and plenty of parking.

There are four distinctive cascade sets at Snow Falls, with the last being our favorite. It is a thin plunge flowing into a dark pool just below the footbridge over the river. The gorge, with walls up to 30 feet in height, is surrounded by a fence, making this place family friendly and safe for the little ones. The water may be dark and slightly foamy, but the gorge is interesting, and the falls are right off the road, so include Snow Falls if you are close by.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Steep Falls

  • Town: Limington & Baldwin
  • Rating: 4
  • Type: block
  • Height: 6 feet
  • Source: Saco River
  • Trail Length: 0.2 mile
  • Trail Difficulty: easy
  • Altitude Gain: none
  • Hiking Time: 5 minutes

Steep Falls answers an age-old question: Size really doesn't matter. Only 6 feet in total drop, this still manages to be one of the top-volume waterfalls in Maine. Water flow is strong year-round, powerful even after a two-month dry spell when we visited in the summer.

It may be a local party spot at night, but during the day it is a wide-open area to swim and sunbathe. Being at this waterfall makes you feel like you are at the ocean. There are white sandy beaches, and the sound of the crashing water can lull you to sleep. The water itself has small amounts of foam but is still clean enough to wade or take a dip. Please be careful of the currents if you choose to swim.

As for beauty, this waterfall packs a powerful punch. It is quite scenic and photogenic. Side rocks make nice scenery and frame the waterfall well. The full 75-foot width of this waterfall can only be seen by scrambling up these rocks for a closer look. The currents in the pool near the falls are dangerous, so even though it may look tempting, we ask that you swim downstream by the beaches. While several towns are nearby, this spot still provides the remote and rugged feeling of being encompassed by a waterfall.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Step Falls

  • Town: Newry
  • Rating: 4.5
  • Type: horsetails, cascades, and pools
  • Height: approximately 250-foot total drop
  • Source: Wight Brook
  • Trail Length: 0.6 mile
  • Trail Difficulty: easy
  • Altitude Gain: plus 300 feet
  • Hiking Time: 20 minutes

Step Falls is spectacular long chain of descending horsetails and cascades--one of the tallest waterfalls in Maine--that lies a few miles outside of the eastern border of Grafton Notch State Park. Situated on a 24-acre property managed by The Nature Conservancy, a million-member organization (2001) dedicated to preserving "the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive," Step Falls was acquired in 1962 and has been a popular attraction for waterfall fanatics and swimming-hole lovers for decades.

At Step Falls, Wight Brook, a wide mountain stream, meanders its way down several hundred feet of sunny granite slabs. During spring runoff, the water volume can supposedly reach up to 500 cubic feet per second. In summer months, however, horsetails and plunges transform into skinny, nearly powerless slides, and dozens of water-sculpted paths that existed in spring often dry up.

As if being one of the tallest falls in Maine is not enough, Step Falls also has numerous shallow pools, many of which offer fine places to wade and, in the slightly deeper pools, swim. The yellow-tinted water appears to be very clean. The largest pool at the site, approximately 40 feet long by 12 feet wide, is surrounded by several moss-covered horsetails that empty into it. Along the edges of the pools are broad, mostly flat, sunny granite slabs that meet every requirement for a relaxing picnic.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.




Swift River Falls

  • Town: Roxbury
  • Rating: 3.5
  • Type: cascades
  • Height: 6 feet
  • Source: Swift River
  • Trail Length: roadside
  • Trail Difficulty: easy
  • Altitude Gain: none
  • Hiking Time: none

Two sites along the Swift River merit your attention. The first, Coos Canyon, a state-funded picnic area lying in the village of Bryon, is a geologically fascinating granite gorge with precipitous walls, but surprisingly no waterfalls or even small cascades can be found here. The second, just south of the canyon, is a segmented cascade known simply as Swift River Falls.

The powerful, rushing waters of the Swift River cascade over small to large potholes that look as if a giant's fingerprints have created impressions in the rocks. Beyond the falls, the sides of the river are lined with hundreds more potholes and oddly carved granite structures. There is also a natural bridge formation, quite small but worthy of note.

To our dismay, the area has fallen victim to partygoers and other visitors who have disrespected the land. Spray paint, junk food wrappers, and cigarette butts lie among the potholes. Hopefully the site will one day become a small park or rest area and be cleaned up a bit.

Waterfall details provided courtesy of www.NewEnglandWaterfalls.com.

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