Sandy River Plantation, Maine

RATING: 4.5 / 5.0 stars (Excellent) The Cascades, Maine (see below for larger image and additional photographs)
STATE: Maine
COUNTY: Franklin
TOWN: Sandy River Plantation
PARK: Cascade Stream Gorge
TYPE: Cascades, plunges, horsetails, and slides
HEIGHT: Lower falls is 20 feet; middle falls are an 18-foot total drop; upper falls is 10 feet
WATER SOURCE: Cascade Stream
TRAIL LENGTH: 0.35 mile one-way to all falls
TRAIL DIFFICULTY: Moderate to all falls
HIKING TIME: 15 minutes one-way to all falls
ALTITUDE GAIN: Up 200 feet, down 50 feet to all falls
WHEN TO VISIT: May to October

Pools below lower falls: Great
Lower falls: Great
Middle falls: Great
Upper falls: Fair

DELORME ATLAS: 2015: Page 28, E-5 (the falls are not marked on the ME atlas)
COST TO VISIT: Free (as of 2017)
LENS TO BRING: Wide-angle (14-35mm) and/or standard (35-70mm)
ALTERNATE NAMES: Cascade Gorge, Cascade Stream Gorge
GPS-TRAILHEAD: 44.924667, -70.610667
GPS-WATERFALL: Lower falls: 44.924333, -70.607167
Middle falls: 44.924833, -70.604333
Upper falls: 44.925000, -70.603833

Lower falls: 200° excluding declination (the falls face northwest)
Middle falls: 245° excluding declination (the falls face west)
Upper falls: 300° excluding declination (the falls face southwest)

INCLUDED IN BOOK?: No, the falls are not currently included within the guidebook
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Smalls Falls isn't the only highly-rated waterfall in the Rangeley Lakes region. The Cascades, also known as Cascade Gorge and Cascade Stream Gorge, are very impressive too. In fact, The Cascades are worthy enough to be called one of the must-see attractions of the area.

There are three falls stretched over a tenth of a mile. A curvy set of slides that end with a plunge into a perpendicular water channel comprises the lower falls. Swimming is great here when water flow is gentle enough. The middle falls drop 18 feet as a horsetail between towering gorge walls. More good swimming is possible at the middle falls. The final and upper falls highlight a 10-foot plunge.

The three falls aren't the only thing to get excited about. A portion of the trail hikes within the innards of an impressive gorge. At various points, you'll almost feel like you are hiking in a natural tunnel. There aren't many falls on the East Coast that have trails as wild as this. The only downside is that because the trail is so rocky, these falls and pools are not generally considered to be family-friendly.


Reaching these falls requires some sure-footing as the trail is quite rocky. If you don't have good balance, this probably isn't the trail for you. If you are an able-bodied, well-balanced hiker, you will thoroughly enjoy this exciting and extremely fun hike.

To start your journey to the falls, follow the obvious red-blazed trail that leads off into the woods from the trailhead. After hiking for 0.1 mile, cross under a set of power lines and begin hiking upstream with the brook on your right. A spur trail only 100 feet from the power lines leads right 30 feet to a series of small (3-4 feet) falls and some fine swimming holes. Return back to the main trail and you'll find an attractive 20-foot series of cascades, slides and plunges a short distance upstream. Views of these lower falls are completely unobstructed, and many ledges provide different perspectives.

To reach the middle and upper falls, continue upstream at first on the red-blazed trail as it climbs moderately on rocky terrain. When you are 0.25 mile from the trailhead, you will reach a fork. The left fork continues along the red-blazed trail, which eventually swings around to access the brook 0.25 mile further on after passing some areas that have been heavily logged. There are no more falls visible from the red-blazed trail, so instead fork right and leave the main trail. From this point forward, you will be hiking within the massive gorge itself. You will see some sporadic white-blazes along this route. The second falls, an 18-foot horsetail between towering gorge walls that dumps into a lovely and accessible pool, are only a few hundred feet beyond this fork. Scramble 30 feet down to the brook for great views of these falls. The third and final substantial falls are only 100 feet upstream from the second falls. These falls drop 10 feet as a plunge into a small water channel. The inner gorge trail dead-ends at the third falls; there are no more falls upstream, although it's usually easy enough to explore the attractive brook a bit further when water conditions allow. The white-blazed trail does not reconnect with the red-blazed trail above the gore and falls, despite what the map at the trailhead seems to indicate.


From the junction of ME 4 and ME 142 just west of the center of the town of Phillips, take ME 4 north. Travel on ME 4 north for 16.7 miles and turn right onto Cascade Rd. Cascade Rd is 8.6 miles north of Small Falls and is also 3.4 miles south of the charming downtown area of Rangeley. Drive 100 feet on Cascade Rd and turn left onto Town Hall Rd. Drive 40 feet on Town Hall Rd and then turn right onto a steep dirt road. A sign for "Cascade Stream Gorge" currently marks this dirt road. Drive 200 feet up this dirt road to the trailhead at its end.

To get to Phillips, take ME 4 north from Farmington.



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 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


None noted.


The Cascades, Maine
The Cascades, Maine

The Cascades, Maine
The Cascades, Maine

The Cascades, Maine
The Cascades, Maine


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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


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


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

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Waterfalls, swimming holes, and hiking can be extremely dangerous. Hundreds of people have been injured or killed in the waterfalls and swimming holes of New England over the years. Never swim in strong water currents. Don't jump into a swimming hole without scouting it first. Do not climb up or along the side of waterfalls. Be weary of slippery rocks. Never swim in pools above waterfalls. Use of this website and all of its information is at your own risk! and the authors of the New England Waterfalls guidebook will not be held liable for your actions. Be safe out there - and always use common sense!