Crystal Cascade is an often overlooked waterfall in Pinkham Notch. Too many hikers get caught up tackling Mount Washington to take a short break off the Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail to view Crystal Cascade. As a result, the falls are visited by only a fraction of the trail’s hikers. Enough traffic is generated, however, for the Forest Service to post signs prohibiting off-trail hiking to prevent erosion.
Directly ahead of a rock-wall outlook, Crystal Cascade drops a total of 100 feet in two uneven segments that are split by a platform with a shallow dark pool. The upper segment is a horsetail of approximately 70 feet in height, and the lower section is a 30-foot tall block.
Whether you are visiting, dining, or staying the night at the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center, or driving along NH 16, stop and give Crystal Cascade a few moments of your time. Your goal of hiking Washington should not be to summit as quickly as possible, but rather to enjoy the entire journey up this magnificent mountain.
Head past the front entrance of the Pinkham Notch visitor center and take a right, following signs for the “Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail”. Directly behind the center are bathrooms and another sign for the trail. From here, follow this modest uphill trail 0.3 mile to a rock staircase on your right. The only safe spot to view the falls is at the stop of the staircase.
Directions for this particular waterfall are not posted online. Please see directions in our published guidebook, New England Waterfalls: A Guide to More Than 400 Cascades And Waterfalls, or you can email us and we will happily provide them to you. When requesting directions via email, please remember to specify which particular waterfall(s) you are looking for directions to.
SPECIAL NOTES / UPDATES SINCE THE 2ND EDITION:
If the following three conditions are in your favor—you are in decent physical shape, have at least 8 hours to spare, and, most importantly, the weather forecast is in your favor—consider continuing the additional 3.7 miles beyond Crystal Cascade to the 6288-foot summit of the northeast’s tallest mountain, Mt. Washington. From the waterfall to the summit, you will gain approximately 4000-feet of altitude. This significant climb should not be underestimated.
As a safety precaution, always check with the visitor center for current information regarding the trail and the weather conditions before setting out on this hike.