The Falling Waters Trail is a popular 3.25 mile trail to the summit of Little Haystack Mountain. Along the way are several waterfalls, each with their own personality. Stairs Falls, where Dry Brook plunges down small granite steps into a shallow pool, is the first waterfall seen on this trip. Of the three waterfalls on the Falling Waters Trail, this waterfall is the least crowded, mainly because hikers must venture off the main trail to get a good grasp this waterfall, whereas the others can be seen directly from the trail.
Just a few hundred feet above Stairs Falls is Swiftwater Falls; a 60-foot tall mix of cascades and small plunges. The trail crosses in front of this waterfall, so if the crowds are thick on the day of your visit, it can be tough to spend quality time here.
The last waterfall, and by far the main attraction of this trail, is 80-foot Cloudland Falls, a picturesque fan-type horsetail. Like the other two waterfalls, this waterfall can be seen from the trail, but the best views are afforded by sidestepping off the main trail and getting closer to the falls. The fanning structure of this waterfall is the most impressive aspect of the falls, with the width at the top of the falls at about 2 feet, while the width at the bottom is about 25 feet during periods of high water.
The Falling Waters Trail begins at the center of the northbound parking area for the Lafayette Campground. Follow paved road slightly uphill and east for 0.1 mile and then enter the woods. Only 0.2 miles from the parking area, you will reach a fork. The left fork is for the Old Bridle Path Trail, which leads to the summit of Mount Lafayette via the Greenleaf Trail. The right fork is for the Falling Waters Trail. Follow this blue-marked trail to the three waterfalls.
The first waterfall, Stairs Falls, is approached after 0.8 mile and slightly less than 400 feet of elevation gain. The second falls, Swiftwater Falls, lies about 75 feet upstream from Stairs Falls. Until now, the trail has been an uphill battle with very few trail dangers present. Accessing Cloudland Falls, which is an additional 0.6 mile from Swiftwater Falls, requires more demanding effort. In just over a half-mile, you will climb nearly 600 feet vertical, cross the Dry Brook, and negotiate many steep, often muddy sections of terrain.
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 you are in good shape, the weather forecast is promising, and you have a full-day available, follow the rest of crowd on the Falling Waters Trail to the Franconia Ridge Trail and ultimately to the 5260-foot summit of Mt. Lafayette, for a total round clockwise loop trip of 8.8 miles. It is possible to do this loop counter-clockwise, but we have always enjoyed this method better. Make sure to assess your stamina before considering this optional hike.
This loop has sections of steep and often slippery trail, often for long stretches at a time, and can be snowy and icy until late spring. The winds along the ridge can be deadly and the weather forecast needs to absolutely be in your favor for you to partake on this rigorous hiking loop. With a hefty elevation gain of nearly 4000 feet, it will take the average hiker about six to eight hours to complete this exhausting endeavor.
Before tackling any hike of this caliber, make sure that you are properly prepared and have done additional research as to what lies ahead of you.