From the overlook in front of the falls, you notice that Mad River Falls consists of several horsetails falling into a yellow-tinted pool. Aside from admiring the 70-foot total drop of the falls, there is not much to do here. Exploring is extremely limited, as it is too dangerous to scramble closer to the falls. Photography is limited too, since the falls are partially hidden behind trees and leaves. The selling points of visiting these falls are that they are quite tall and that the hike to the falls is pleasant and never crowded.
The trailhead for these falls also accesses the Bickford Slides, a series of three beautiful slides and several fine swimming holes within a designated wilderness area.
The trailhead for this waterfall is located across the street from Brickett Place. To reach the falls, you are going to follow the yellow-blazed Royce Trail generally north for 1.6 miles. After hiking this trail for 0.3 mile, you will reach a field clearing and the trail will suddenly fork right. The trail markers can be difficult to spot here, so pay close attention to the trail. From here, the rest of the 1.4 mile hike is normally fairly simple, but there are four water crossings of the Mad River that can be difficult in high water. During the warmer summer months, the Mad River is usually only ankle-deep and far from being mad in terms of rushing water. Trekking poles can be helpful in getting you across the river crossing. In early spring or during other times of abnormally high water, the river may be mid-leg deep or even higher. If you find the river to be higher than mid-leg, you may want to turn around and visit the falls another day.
Soon after you cross the Mad River for the fourth time, the trail begins to climb steeply. After a moderately steep climb of 150 feet, you will reach a spur trail on the left about 1.6 miles into the hike. This spur is currently marked by a sign and an arrow for “Mad River Falls.” Take a left and hike 50 feet each to reach an elevated and partially-obscured view of falls. Scrambling to the base of the falls does provide superior views but it is extremely steep and not recommended.
From the junction of ME 113 and US-302 in Fryeburg, Maine, take ME 113 north (which is also initially called River St) for 19.7 miles and take a right into Brickett Place, where a hiker’s parking lot can be found. If you are traveling on ME 113 south from US-2 in Gilead, Brickett Place will be on your left after driving 10.5 miles. Bricket Place is also 0.3 mile north of Basin Rd, a spur road that leads west to the trailhead for Hermit Falls, and 5.6 miles south of the short spur road that leads east to the trailhead for the Caribou Trail and Kees Falls.
Take note that ME 113 is a gated seasonal road, with a typical opening date in mid-May and a closing date that ranges from early October to early November, depending upon the year. Access to this trailhead in the offseason is only possible from the south as ME 113 is gated for a 9.1 mile section of road from 0.2 mile south of Brickett Place up to 1.6 miles south of where ME 113 connects with US-2. To access the falls during the winter or shoulder seasons, park near the gate (but do not block it) and walk 0.2 mile north to Brickett Place. The official website of the White Mountain National Forest contains a page that indicates the current status (open / closed) of ME 113 and other national forest roads.
To get to Fryeburg, take NH 113 east from NH 16 in Conway, New Hampshire into Maine.
To get to Gilead, take US-2 west from Bethel or US-2 east from Gorham, New Hampshire.
Please be aware that this trailhead is part the White Mountain National Forest parking fee program. The fee was $5 per day in 2017. To pay the fee, bring cash and fill out a form at the self-service kiosk at the trailhead. There is no fee if you own and display one of the annual passes issued by the federal government as part of the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass program. You can also purchase an annual parking pass to only the White Mountains by visiting one of the district offices of the national forest.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
the upper portion of Mad River Falls, Maine
Mad River Falls, Maine
the upper portion of Mad River Falls, Maine
a small portion of Mad River Falls, Maine
INTERESTED IN VISITING MORE WATERFALLS IN NEW ENGLAND?
The 3rd edition of the New England Waterfalls guidebook contains 552-pages of detailed information on hundreds of waterfalls throughout all corners of New England. This 3rd edition has been completely updated and it is the first to be printed in FULL COLOR! Click on the image below to explore some sample pages of the guidebook on Amazon.com.
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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