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Discounting the seasonal/ephemeral waterfalls, our research indicates that Arethusa Falls is the single longest drop in New England. However, its height is of great controversy. We have come across sources stating that Arethusa is anywhere from 125 feet tall to "well over 200 feet in height". Several other sources believe the falls to be about 160 feet, with which we tend to agree.
This multi-tiered plunge appears to fall from the sky. From the trail and the bottom viewpoints, you cannot see anything above the falls, aside from a few trees on the side of the river. What you do see is a peaceful and heavenly expression of Bemis Brook. The streams of water range from extremely powerful during high water run off times to hundreds of trickles during prolonged draughts. The gracefulness of the falls for the most the summer is what makes this waterfall a must-visit.
Over the years, we have seen many inexperienced hikers struggle on the trail just to have the chance to see Arethusa Falls. They may be exhausted along the trail, but we have never seen anything short of a relieved smile at the waterfall. Everyone appears deeply content when they finally reach the falls. Arethusa Falls becomes, in a nutshell, a job well done for all who witness its elegant beauty. This is also one waterfall you will not want to miss during peak fall foliage.
UPDATES SINCE THE 2ND EDITION
I do not recommend hiking from Arethusa Falls to Ripley Falls as part of a traverse (with a vehicle parked at both trailheads). The reason is because the river crossing below Ripley Falls can be very challenging. If you want to combine both Ripley Falls and Arethusa Falls as part of a loop or traverse, I suggest doing Ripley Falls first so that you can get a sense of the level of difficulty of crossing Avalanche Brook.
There are no good views on the trail between Arethusa
Falls and Ripley Falls, but a 0.8 mile one-way spur trail leads to views from Frankenstein Cliff. The trail is not frequently used between the turnoff to Frankenstein Cliff and Ripley Falls, but it was easy enough to follow on my last visit in 2016.
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
Updates to all of the waterfalls in the latest edition of the New England Waterfalls guidebook can always be found here: book updates
the bottom half of Arethusa Falls, photographed with Fuji Velvia 50 slide film
Arethusa Falls in winter, where it is popular with ice climbers
Arethusa Falls, photographed with Fuji Velvia 50 slide film
trail sign between Arethusa Falls and Ripley Falls
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.
- 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 we include in our guidebook and online through this website are the well-known swimming spots. We know 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.
- 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
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