Where there are steep mountains there usually will be waterfalls. Waterfalls are beautiful pieces of nature: scenic, musical, restful, and magical. There are many reasons to hike, but to come upon a waterfall is a highlight, a bonus. You can hear the water cascading over the rocks long before you see the falls, and that adds to the beauty. If the sun is shining, sometimes you can see a rainbow. That is magical.
Because Maine has many mountains there are lots of waterfalls; some are worth a trip to hike. Gulf Hagas is called the Grand Canyon of the East. For most people, it is quite a drive to remote Piscataquis County, close to Greenville. Gulf Hagas is a 500 foot deep gorge, and the trail from the road is an 8.6 mile loop. It is also part of the Appalachian Trail. I have enjoyed hiking here in the fall of the year with the magnificent fall foliage. To me the only challenge is preparing yourself for the crossing of the West Branch of the Pleasant River. The crossing is a 150’ wide, usually knee-deep, with a swift current and always freezing cold water. I have met people who have driven a great distance to hike here, saw the river crossing, refused to hike, got in their car and left! Except for the cold water and sharp rocks on bare feet, the crossing is not dangerous in most cases, and it is sad to see someone give up, because the hike is scenically beautiful, with a gradual climb up along the waterfall and down the opposite side.
Moxie Falls is one of the longest single drops in Maine with a plunge of over 90 feet with a great swimming hole below the falls. It is only 0.6 miles from the road, so I tend to find another hiking trail nearby, do a longer hike, and then visit Moxie Falls on the way. Another favorite is Screw Auger Falls located in Grafton Notch. It has a 30’ waterfall that cascades down over ledges. There is a picnic site by the road, which is popular with tourists. This is another great area for hiking, and I often stop here after a day of hiking for a short break before heading home.
Step Falls is nearby for me and was a favorite place to visit for my children’s grandparents. Off Route 26 in Newry we would stop at the falls and enjoy a picnic lunch in summer or fall. We would listen to our children’s grandmother tell stories of when she came though that area as a child in a horse and buggy with her family. In the winter the falls freeze over and it looks like a fairies’ wonderland.
Rumford Falls is on the Androscoggin River in Rumford. The falls, located in the middle of the town, were a great power source for this mill town. The falls have a drop of 176’, the largest vertical drop east of Niagara Falls. When I cross the bridge below the falls, I try to allow time to hike Mt. Zircon near this area. It is an easy, half-day hike with 360 degree views of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the Mahoosuc Range, Black, Bald and Speckled Mountains, and in the distance Bemis Range, Tumbledown, and the Jacksons. Mt. Zircon trail goes along a well-used dirt road and only the last half mile is a trail in fir forest. I always take along my dog, as the hiking is easy and safe.
There are many waterfalls along the Appalachian Trail in Maine that are not as accessible by car. Dunn Falls is one of these beautiful sites. It is near Andover, Maine. It has a 70’ drop forming a horse tail and fans. The lower falls is a direct plunge dropping 80’ additional feet. When I was hiking the AT I would get so excited when I could hear moving water in the distance from a mountain stream. I would hasten my steps to see what I could only hear. When I got there I would fill my water bottle, get a drink, and often splash water on my face. I would spend the time to take a mental picture of the waterfalls, and sometimes I would take a photo before walking on. There were times a waterfall posed a great obstacle in crossing the trail, and I would have to go a ways above the falls for a safe crossing. It depended on how deep the stream was and how swiftly the water was flowing.
I have enjoyed hiking in many places, and truly Maine is one of them. Waterfalls are a joyful part of a hike—often the highlight—and a pleasure to remember.
(posted November 3, 2015)