(click for larger image)
||Up 40 feet, down 40 feet
|BEST TIME TO VISIT:
||Late May to October
||Not Possible and/or Prohibited
||Page 29, A-5 (marked)
|INCLUDED IN BOOK:
||Yes (Included in appendix with limited information)
|COST TO VISIT:
Maine harbors some of the finest waterfalls in New England that still remain far off the tourist path. Grand Falls is so far from a developed area that despite strong efforts to find detailed trail conditions (either online or in print), we always came up short. For this reason, we never attempted to find the falls?until the summer of 2009 when we set out rather blindly to try to find the falls. All we came equipped with was several hours of time for exploring. After hiking up and down countless dirt roads, we finally found the falls.
The wildly scenic Grand Falls is a classic example of a horseshoe or block-style falls. The falls are an imposing 40-feet tall and 120-feet across. The width of the falls can vary though, depending on the level of the river. In strong conditions, the entire formation is a sheet of deadly whitewater. In drier conditions, sections of the left side of the falls usually remain turbulent, while the right side features gentler horsetails and cascades of varying size and power. An upstream and out-of-sight dam affects the water level at the falls significantly, but there should always be at least some water flowing here. Grand Falls is beautiful year-round, as the sheer size of the river is likely to keep it from completely icing over. It is one of the most powerful and scenic undammed waterfalls in the Northeast.
The falls are soon to experience a strong boost in popularity, due to the completion of the Grand Falls Hut, the third hut in a 180-mile 12-hut system that is currently in development. The hut, which was originally proposed to be built near the site of the falls, was eventually constructed about 2 miles south of the falls. As the hut system continues to develop, other access trails to the falls may be cleared. A bridge over the Dead River has already been constructed above the falls by the organization building the huts, but we are not sure how this connects with the trails we are describing below.
The falls are highly photogenic and should not be missed during peak fall-foliage. An ultra-wide-angled lens is essential to capture the entire falls from the main viewpoint. However, portions of the falls will probably still photograph well with any lens or camera.
The falls are located 0.25 mile upstream of the parking area, but you cannot see or hear them from there. Start your hike by taking the right fork and begin walking slightly downhill on the dirt road from the parking area (taking the left fork would bring you down to the canoeing and rafting put-in for the Dead River). Continue down the dirt road for a few hundred feet and you will reach a bridge over Spencer Stream. This stream merges with the Dead River only 200 feet downstream of the bridge (which is where the put-in site is). This bridge is always open, but there is often a gate you must climb over.
Continue your hike by crossing the bridge over the stream. From here, you will follow a series of unmarked?and as far as we know, unnamed?snowmobile roads. Follow the initial dirt road for 0.25 mile (ignoring a rough spur trail on the left 0.1 mile beyond the bridge) and bear left at a major fork. Start climbing up a short stretch of uphill dirt road. You won?t be able to see or hear the falls from here. Finish climbing up the road and continue an additional 0.1 mile beyond the high point and you will reach a T-intersection. Take a left onto another unnamed road and continue for about 250 feet, where you will reach another fork. Take the left fork again and continue for 0.1 mile, where you will reach yet another fork. It doesn?t matter which fork you take here as both roads loop around in less than 0.1 mile. Take the left fork to keep things simple. Travel about 150 feet and enter the woods onto a well-defined path on your left. You should be able to hear and see the falls by now. Travel a hundred feet or so through the woods and views of the falls will begin to open up. The views keep improving as you hike, with the end offering an excellent face-on, elevated viewpoint about 75 feet away from the falls and 20 feet above them.
From Bingham, take US-201 north. Continue traveling on US-201 north for 3.0 miles north of the bridge over the Kennebec River in the town of The Forks. This bridge is approximately 23 miles north of the town of Bingham. Take a left onto Lower Enchanted Rd, a long maintained dirt road that tends to be a bit rough. Passenger cars should have no problem navigating this road under normal conditions. Whatever vehicle you are traveling in, we recommend carrying the DeLorme Maine Atlas & Gazetteer in case you do get lost on the extensive network of logging roads in this area. As a side note, GPS units typically do not work on the logging roads of Maine, and Lower Enchanted Road is no exception.
Altogether, you will drive 13.7 miles along Lower Enchanted Rd. Begin the drive by staying straight at mile 0.9, bearing right at mile 4.2, bearing left at mile 4.7, bearing right at mile 6.4, staying straight at mile 7.0, bearing left at mile 8.9, bearing right at mile 9.6, bearing left at mile 11.9, bearing left at mile 12.2, bearing left at mile 13.2, staying straight at mile 13.6, and you will come to a final fork at mile 13.7. At this final fork you will find a small grassy clearing (and usually a few portable toilets) on the left hand side of the road. The best place to park is on the left in front of the toilets, but there also some parking areas straight ahead, where the road eventually loops back to your current position. The right fork is the start of the walk to the falls. You can continue driving down this road, but there is very limited parking.
Although the length of the dirt road and the number of forks and intersections may seem daunting, the road is actually rather easy to follow. Keep in mind that at most of the junctions and forks along the way, you will be taking the road that is the best condition. Follow this rule, along with our detailed directions, and you should encounter no problems finding the trailhead for these falls.
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