It was Earth Day, and I was spending the night at the Mount Washington Hotel. I could think of no better way to celebrate Mother Nature than by taking a hike organized by the hotel to the Upper Ammonoosuc Falls, popularly known as the “Upper Falls.”
Upper Falls is one of the most popular natural swimming holes in the state of New Hampshire. It’s beautiful, without a doubt, but also can be dangerous.
The afternoon was particularly warm for a day in April. New Hampshire, especially the White Mountain Region, is especially finicky this time of year. A small group of adults and children made the easy walk on the path to the falls which follows the river through the evergreen forest. It’s a short jaunt, about 45 minutes each way at a moderate to slow pace, perfect for most people in reasonable shape and health.
The falls consist of Lower Falls, Middle Falls, and Upper Falls. As you walk the path past the lower two falls, you can hear the gentle sounds of the water as it passes over boulders and smaller rocks. Calmer areas to swim and lounge exist here, but the real rush exists at the top at Upper Falls.
The trail leads to a footbridge over the falls. The worn and smooth granite boulders shaped by millions of years of shifting ice and rushing water intimidatingly protrude from the earth and the swirling water. Pools of turbulent water circulate unpredictably. This is where the dangerous part comes into play.
There are many daredevils who choose to jump and even dive off of the approximately 25’ rocks into that rough water below. When the water is high, the force of the water circulating in the pools can cause a jumper to be pulled and held underneath the water for unexpected periods of time. There have been quite a few people over the years who have actually drowned as a result. It certainly looks enticing to all those thrill seekers, but extreme caution should be exercised.
The area itself is visually spectacular, as is most of the Mount Washington Region. Evergreen trees line the sides of the gorge and river. What begins as a spectacular rush of varying depths of water into cold, clear pools soon turns into a narrow river only ankle deep. The contrast is spectacular and it’s easy to lose yourself in the natural beauty.
For those of you interested in driving to Upper Falls, take Route 302 to Fabyan and turn north onto Base Road. This road also leads to the Cog Railway. Approximately 2.3 miles from turning onto Base Road, there will be a wide dirt pull off on the right hand side of the road. Walk the short trail and you’ll come to the footbridge which is over the falls.