Article by Sam Dostaler
One of the more underrated times to explore northern New Hampshire is during the early spring season. It is after the ski season and before the rush of summer vacationers. The traffic is less, the weather is warm(ish), and the hiking trails are melted enough to enjoy.
With the winter melt in full effect, it is also a great time to explore the region’s waterfalls. One of the best that we have discovered is Ripley Falls, located in Carroll, a part of Crawford Notch State Park. Beginning our trip from the riverside town of Littleton we traveled up the scenic Rt. 302 through the White Mountains National Forest while gazing at the snowcapped Mount Washington nearly the entire way.
Finally, after 40 minutes of driving, we arrive at our destination, a hidden parking lot about a quarter-mile off of Rt. 302.
The trail to Ripley Falls is short, just about a half-mile, but it isn’t without its challenges especially in early May. The hike begins out easy enough but soon it winds along a narrow muddy trail that requires some ducking of tree branches. After about 30 minutes we reached a quickly rushing stream that required some rock jumping to cross.
A short time later you reach the most challenging part of the hike for early May, but Ripley Falls can be heard in the distance so the last hurdle, a descent over icy snow is well worth it. Just be sure to tread carefully as you descend and for a little extra help hold onto the rocks and trees along the side of the trail.
Once off the icy snow, you are on firm ground and standing at the base of a 100-foot cascading waterfall. Ripley Falls, aided by winter melt is in its full glory, and with the trail all but empty the impressive sight is all yours.
Tip: While heading back south pull over at the lookout across from the Omni Mount Washington Resort to view the snowcapped Mount Washington.