Franconia Falls is located at the end of one of the flattest long-distance strolls in the White Mountains. In just over three miles, you will gain a mere 300 feet of altitude, with no real noticeable “ups” or “downs” to speak of. For comparison, consider nearby Beaver Brook Cascades, which gains 1200 feet of altitude in only 1.1 miles, or the waterfalls along the Falling Waters Trail, which gains 1000 feet in 1.3 miles. The lack of elevation gain is the big reason why Franconia Falls is a favorite hike for families. Another reason is that the falls can be easily accessed year-round by foot, mountain bike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski.
Franconia Falls lacks any single waterfalls of striking natural elegance or style. It makes up for this deficiency with sunny slabs of rock, swimming pools that widely vary in size, depth and current, and the possibilities of roving around the falls for hours of refreshing pleasure.
There are several good waterslides here when the water is running low enough. The best slide in the house is near the base of the most significant falls. Roughly 20 feet long, but not continuous, this slide will propel you into a 5-foot deep pool. Before we began writing in our waterfall journals, we felt the urge to chute down the slide first ourselves!
The trail to the falls begins near the ranger station cabin. Proceed down a wooden staircase, cross a wooden bridge, and follow signs to the trailhead for the “Lincoln Woods Trail.” A few hundred feet beyond the visitor center, you will cross a suspension footbridge over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River.
After crossing the bridge, you will reach a junction with a large sign. Take a right and continue hiking along the wide and nearly completely flat Lincoln Woods Trail, which is an old railroad bed. After hiking for 1.5 miles, a junction with the Osseo Trail will appear. The Osseo Trail is a gateway to the Franconia Ridge Trail, a trail considered by many to be one of the finest hikes in the northeast. Continue straight at this junction to stay on the Lincoln Woods Trail for an additional 1.2 miles and you will reach a stone wall where you will find sign for “Franconia Falls.” Take this left and hike the final 0.4 mile to the falls on a narrower, slightly rougher trail. Before or after visiting the falls, we also recommend passing 20 feet beyond the stone wall to enjoy a scenic bridge over Franconia Brook. The blue and green colored cascading waters of the river are stunning and worth the little extra hiking effort.
Depending on recent snowfall, this hike can make for an excellent cross-country ski or snowshoe in the winter, but expect heavy traffic. As a final note, be aware that the permit system that used to restrict the area to only 60 visitors per day is no longer in effect.
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: