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Maine harbors some of the finest waterfalls in New England that still remain far off the tourist path. Grand Falls is so far from a developed area that despite strong efforts to find detailed trail conditions (either online or in print), we always came up short. For this reason, we never attempted to find the falls until the summer of 2009 when we set out rather blindly to try to find the falls. All we came equipped with was several hours of time for exploring. After hiking up and down countless dirt roads, we finally found the falls.
The wildly scenic Grand Falls is a classic example of a horseshoe or block-style falls. The falls are an imposing 40-feet tall and 120-feet across. The width of the falls can vary though, depending on the level of the river. In strong conditions, the entire formation is a sheet of deadly whitewater. In drier conditions, sections of the left side of the falls usually remain turbulent, while the right side features gentler horsetails and cascades of varying size and power. An upstream and out-of-sight dam affects the water level at the falls significantly, but there should always be at least some water flowing here. Grand Falls is beautiful year-round, as the sheer size of the river is likely to keep it from completely icing over. It is one of the most powerful and scenic undammed waterfalls in the Northeast.
The falls are soon to experience a strong boost in popularity, due to the completion of the Grand Falls Hut, the third hut in a 180-mile 12-hut system that is currently in development. The hut, which was originally proposed to be built near the site of the falls, was eventually constructed about 2 miles south of the falls. As the hut system continues to develop, other access trails to the falls may be cleared. A bridge over the Dead River has already been constructed above the falls by the organization building the huts, but we are not sure how this connects with the trails we are describing below. The falls are highly photogenic and should not be missed during peak fall-foliage. An ultra-wide-angled lens is essential to capture the entire falls from the main viewpoint. However, portions of the falls will probably still photograph well with any lens or camera.
The falls are located 0.25 mile upstream of the parking area, but you cannot see or hear them from there. Start your hike by taking the right fork and begin walking slightly downhill on the dirt road from the parking area (taking the left fork would bring you down to the canoeing and rafting put-in for the Dead River). Continue down the dirt road for a few hundred feet and you will reach a bridge over Spencer Stream. This stream merges with the Dead River only 200 feet downstream of the bridge (which is where the put-in site is). This bridge is always open, but there is often a gate you must climb over.
Continue your hike by crossing the bridge over the stream. From here, you will follow a series of unmarked, and as far as we know, unnamed, snowmobile roads. Follow the initial dirt road for 0.25 mile (ignoring a rough spur trail on the left 0.1 mile beyond the bridge) and bear left at a major fork. Start climbing up a short stretch of uphill dirt road. You won't be able to see or hear the falls from here. Finish climbing up the road and continue an additional 0.1 mile beyond the high point and you will reach a T-intersection. Take a left onto another unnamed road and continue for about 250 feet, where you will reach another fork. Take the left fork again and continue for 0.1 mile, where you will reach yet another fork. It doesn't matter which fork you take here as both roads loop around in less than 0.1 mile. Take the left fork to keep things simple. Travel about 150 feet and enter the woods onto a well-defined path on your left. You should be able to hear and see the falls by now. Travel a hundred feet or so through the woods and views of the falls will begin to open up. The views keep improving as you hike, with the end offering an excellent face-on, elevated viewpoint about 75 feet away from the falls and 20 feet above them.
From Bingham, take US-201 north. Continue traveling on US-201 north for 3.0 miles north of the bridge over the Kennebec River in the town of The Forks. This bridge is approximately 23 miles north of the town of Bingham. Take a left onto Lower Enchanted Rd, a long maintained dirt road that tends to be a bit rough. Passenger cars should have no problem navigating this road under normal conditions. Whatever vehicle you are traveling in, we recommend carrying the DeLorme Maine Atlas & Gazetteer in case you do get lost on the extensive network of logging roads in this area. As a side note, GPS units typically do not work on the logging roads of Maine, and Lower Enchanted Road is no exception.
Altogether, you will drive 13.7 miles along Lower Enchanted Rd. Begin the drive by staying straight at mile 0.9, bearing right at mile 4.2, bearing left at mile 4.7, bearing right at mile 6.4, staying straight at mile 7.0, bearing left at mile 8.9, bearing right at mile 9.6, bearing left at mile 11.9, bearing left at mile 12.2, bearing left at mile 13.2, staying straight at mile 13.6, and you will come to a final fork at mile 13.7. At this final fork you will find a small grassy clearing (and usually a few portable toilets) on the left hand side of the road. The best place to park is on the left in front of the toilets, but there also some parking areas straight ahead, where the road eventually loops back to your current position. The right fork is the start of the walk to the falls. You can continue driving down this road, but there is very limited parking.
Although the length of the dirt road and the number of forks and intersections may seem daunting, the road is actually rather easy to follow. Keep in mind that at most of the junctions and forks along the way, you will be taking the road that is the best condition. Follow this rule, along with our detailed directions, and you should encounter no problems finding the trailhead for these falls.
UPDATES SINCE THE 2ND EDITION
If you know of any updates to this waterfall, or notice any errors either on this website and/or within the New England Waterfalls guidebook, please send me an email at email@example.com or leave a Facebook comment at the bottom of this page. Updates to all of the waterfalls in the latest edition of the guidebook can always be found here: book updates
Grand Falls, Maine
Grand Falls, Maine
INTERESTED IN VISITING MORE WATERFALLS IN NEW ENGLAND?
TIPS FOR VISITING WATERFALLS & SWIMMING HOLES
Here are some tips to help ensure that your trip to New England's waterfalls and swimming holes will be a safe and enjoyable one:
- DON'T FORGET THE ESSENTIALS - When you visit waterfalls, you should consider bringing all of the following: (a) bug spray; (b) food/snacks; (c) water/sports drinks; (d) camera/smart-phone; (e) guidebook/trail map; (f) daypack/backpack; and (g) hiking shoes, hiking boots or watershoes. A full day hiking packing list can be found here.
- CONSIDER BUYING WATER SHOES - You won't see too many people using them, but watershoes are fantastic pieces of equipment that can make your trip to waterfalls and swimming holes safer and more enjoyable. Merrill and Keen make some fantastic watershoes (here are some great ones from Merrill: womens / mens).
- LEAVE NO TRACE - When you visit waterfalls and swimming holes, you'll often see some trash and sometimes you'll even find clothing left behind by others. It's really, really sad, and it irks the heck out of us. Won't you consider carrying out some of trash and clothing left by others when you leave? That would leave the spot more beautiful for the next person. Bring a trash bag and be a hero!
- PRIVATE PROPERTY - Many waterfalls and swimming holes are located on private property and so we are truly fortunate that many landowners allow us to enjoy them. If you want to ensure that they stay open to the public, please do your best to leave no trace. If you see a sign that says 'Private Property', turn around and find another waterfall to visit or a different place to swim.
- BRING A DSLR CAMERA AND TRIPOD WITH YOU - If you want to take high-quality photographs of waterfalls, your smart-phone just won't cut it. Get a DSLR camera, a tripod, and learn to master the art of waterfall photography.
- SCOUT FIRST, SWIM SECOND - Never enter a swimming hole without first scouting it, even if you see somebody else swimming in it. Stop and access the risks based upon the depth of water, the power of the current, evidence of slippery rocks, and other safety factors.
- CLIFF JUMPING - Cliff jumping is dangerous. Like, seriously dangerous. Understand the risks before you partake in this activity. Many have died from doing this in New England. Here is a list of all known deaths at waterfalls and swimming holes in New England.
- PLEASE DON'T BUILD ROCK CAIRNS - Please do not build new rock cairns at waterfalls or swimming holes. Cairns are a strong reminder of human presence, and don't we all want to see waterfalls in their natural state and glory? Photographers get particularly annoyed at seeing cairns, so please resist the urge to build them.
- DON'T RELY ON YOUR GPS TO GET YOU TO THE TRAILHEAD - Waterfalls don't have addresses, so relying on your GPS to get you to a trailhead is great way to get yourself lost. You need a guidebook, a road atlas, and/or a hiking map to visit the vast majority of waterfalls in New England. Also keep in mind that waterfalls are often located in wild areas, where smart-phone map apps and car GPS units may not work at all.
- WATERFALLS IN SPRING - The best time to visit waterfalls is generally in the spring during the annual snowmelt (which is April to June). However, most waterfalls will often look great for several days after a significant rain storm.
- HELP KEEP THE ULTRA-SECRET SWIMMING HOLES A SECRET (FOREVER) - If you find some ultra-secret swimming holes, please do your best to keep them a secret. Do not post their locations online or wildly share directions or photos with others. All of the swimming holes that are included in the guidebook and online through this website are the well-known swimming spots. There are many more holes that are much further off the beaten path, but they deserve a chance to stay wild and pristine.
- DON'T SCRAMBLE UP WATERFALLS - So many people been seriously injured and killed in the waterfalls of New England. Many of these folks got too close to a waterfall and slipped and fell. Don't become a statistic: stay far back from the edge.
- WEAR TRACTION IF YOU VISIT WATERFALLS IN WINTER - Visiting waterfalls in winter can be rewarding, but there is often a higher element of danger. You may need crampons, snowshoes, and/or some other form of traction (like Microspikes) in order to safely hike to waterfalls in winter.
- SUPPORT NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS THAT CONSERVE WATERFALLS & SWIMMING HOLES - There are some organizations in New England that work diligently to conserve and maintain waterfalls and swimming holes. Please consider supporting these organizations, either with their trail maintenance projects or with monetary donations. Here are three excellent organizations engaged in this extremely important mission: the Trustees of Reservations, the Vermont River Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy.
Here are some helpful links to help you explore and enjoy more waterfalls and hikes throughout New England:
- Waterfalls of Connecticut = link
- Waterfalls of Maine = link
- Waterfalls of Massachusetts = link
- Waterfalls of New Hampshire = link
- Waterfalls of Rhode Island = link
- Waterfalls of Vermont = link
- Best Waterfalls in New England = link
- Best Swimming Holes in New England = link
- Top 25 Day Hikes in New England = link
- Top 25 Family-Friendly Day Hikes in New England = link
- Waterfalls Near Boston, Massachusetts = link
- Waterfalls Near Lincoln, New Hampshire = link
- Waterfalls Near North Conway, New Hampshire = link
- Waterfalls Near Stowe, Vermont = link
- Waterfall Photography Tips = link
OTHER WATERFALL GUIDEBOOKS
In addition to the New England Waterfalls guidebook, there are several other guidebooks that can help you find waterfalls and swimming holes:
- Vermont Waterfalls (1st Edition: 2015) = link
- Hiking Waterfalls in New England: A Guide to the Region's Best Waterfall Hikes (1st Edition: 2015) = link
- Waterfalls of the White Mountains: 30 Hikes to 100 Waterfalls (2nd Edition: 1999) = link
- Connecticut Waterfalls (1st Edition: 2014) = link
- Rodrick's Guide to Vermont Waterfalls, Cascades & Gorges (1st Edition: 2014) = link
WATERFALLS ON FACEBOOK
Join the growing communities of waterfall aficionados on Facebook! You can share your photographs, follow the adventures of other waterfall hunters, and find new places to explore:
- Request to join the "New England Waterfalls" community > link
- Request to join the "New Hampshire Waterfalls" community > link
- Request to join the "Northeastern Waterfalls" community > link
- Request to join the "Vermont Waterfalls" community > link
- Request to join the "Waterfalls of the United States" community > link
And if you'd like to follow the New England Waterfalls page on Facebook, click here.
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