On our summer visits, The Cataracts consisted of many plunges dropping a total of 100 feet. The falls in the early spring are a behemoth of raging cascades as the snow melt increases the water volume considerably during this wet season. On a positive note, with the cascades nearly disappeared in the summer months you can explore the small caves near the waterfall and between the precipitous gorge walls.
During the summer, The Cataracts are also a scrambler’s delight, with opportunities for hours of exploration. The many swimming holes are refreshingly pleasing. We have seen pictures of people enjoying a natural waterslide in low water conditions. Perhaps your multiple visits will reveal several of the many different personalities this waterfall has to offer throughout the seasons.
Anticipate big changes to the trail network to and around the falls as the state of Maine appears to be updating the park into a recreation area. There are currently picnic tables and there is evidence that additional facilities will be constructed. There is a dirt road that is under construction which may ultimately allow for closer access to the upper falls in the near future.
The Frye Brook Trail begins across the street from the parking area and to the right of Cataracts Rd. There is a small sign referencing the recreation area as you enter into the woods. Continue along the blue-blazed trail, and about 0.5 mile from the parking lot, you will begin climbing at a more intense rate and the gorge will appear on your right behind wooden fencing. The views are limited from the top, so backtrack a little and scout the easiest path down to the brook and hike upstream to the falls. Be careful as you hike upstream, as many rocks are covered in moss and others are weathered and very slippery.
To reach the tallest drop, you must pass through a narrow cave and hike upstream. Continue along the brook for as long as you feel safe, as the trail gets increasingly challenging as you begin to explore the cascades. If instead you continue up the trail to the middle and upper falls, you will notice that the trail strays back into the woods away from the river for a few tenths of a mile. When you come to a picnic area with the upper falls heard to your right, we recommend you scramble down the small embankment for a better view and access to a great swimming hole below.
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:
Photo generously provided by Keith Paul