Crawford Notch State Park is located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, about 14 miles northwest of Bartlett. This park quickly became one of our favorite state parks! Whether you’re summiting one of the many majestic mountain peaks or scrambling to the massive cascading waterfalls, this park is one you will not want to miss. Below is a one-day itinerary to get you started on your Crawford Notch State Park adventure! Also, you could and should spend more than one day here, BUT, if you don’t live on the east coast, I know there is so much to see while visiting, and one day may be all you have😊
Entrance Fee: FREE. There is a $5 parking fee at some of the trailhead lots.
Lodging: There is one campground inside the park. The Dry River Campground is open May thru October and reservations can be made here- Dry River Campground. If you would prefer not to camp, North Conway or Bartlett, NH are great nearby towns to stay in. Bartlett is approximately 14 miles from the park and North Conway is approximately 20 miles from the park.
Dining: Plan on bringing in your food for the day. The only food option within the park is a small ice cream shop near the visitor center that is open seasonally. The towns of Bartlett or North Conway both have plenty of wonderful dining options.
Must Know Before You Go:
1. Many of the trails have crossings over working railroad tracks. You can hear the train a few minutes before you see it, so listen out for the horns. We saw trains on both the Ripley Falls and the Arethusa Falls Trails.
2. The weather can change quickly in the mountains, and it often has cooler temps. I highly recommend bringing a change of clothes and rain gear with you. It was not supposed to rain the day we went, but we ended up getting caught in a downpour on the Arethusa Falls Trail. Also, the trails are often very wet and muddy and always rocky, so I recommend sturdy footwear!
3. There are restrooms behind the Visitor Center, however, they are often locked early (by 3pm). The lower lot at Arethusa Falls, near the Frankenstein Cliff Trailhead has one vault restroom as well.
4. Bring in any food or water needed. You will not find either for purchase, inside the park.
5. The trails are all marked with a specific color on either the trees or rocks. They are very helpful in keeping you on the right path, especially after the leaves fall😊
Cell Service: Limited to no service throughout most of the park.
One Day Itinerary
Coliseum/Bemis/Arethusa Falls via Bemis Brooks and Arethusa Falls Trails- If you only have time for one hike in Crawford Notch State Park, this is the one you will not want to miss! We hiked this trail in the fall and everything was completely covered in a blanket of bright yellow leaves. It was absolutely stunning, but the leaves made it a little bit tricky to follow the right path! Luckily, the park has trail markers. The Bemis Brooks Trail has yellow markers, and the Arethusa Falls Trail has blue markers, making it a little easier to find your way.
The Arethusa Falls trail starts just on the other side of the railroad tracks, almost immediately next to the upper parking lot. Approximately 0.1 miles in, the trail splits. Bear left to jump on the Bemis Brooks Trail and head towards Fawn Pool, Coliseum Falls and Bemis Falls. It is around 0.4 miles, from the split to Bemis Falls. After Bemis Falls, you will need to “climb” 0.1 miles, straight up, to jump back on the Arethusa Falls Trail. This 0.1 miles is the most difficult part of this entire day. It is steep, with a significant number of large rocks and an impressive network of tree roots that will have you doing a bit of scrambling.
Once you have reached the top and caught your breath, there will be a trail junction and a sign pointing you in the direction of Arethusa Falls (bear left). Continue the path for approximately 1.2 miles, before reaching the falls. This 200 ft waterfall is truly spectacular! After taking it all in, head back the way you came. When you reach the Bemis Brooks/Arethusa Falls Trail Junction, continue on the Arethusa Falls Trail for a slightly shorter and easier route back to your car. In total, this entire trail is 3.2 miles round trip, with almost 800 feet of elevation gain.
*Looking for an extra adventure after Arethusa Falls? Continue on the Frankenstein Cliff Trail. This trail will add another 2 miles and 800ft of elevation gain to your trip. The Frankenstein Cliff Trail will drop you off at the lower parking lot.
Ripley Falls Trail- The Ripley Falls Trail begins at the Ethan Pond Trailhead about 3 miles north of the Arethusa Falls lot. This out-and-back trail is approximately 1.2 miles in length and moderate in difficulty. There is roughly 300 feet of elevation gain, with quite a bit of rocky terrain that can get slick in the rain. Shortly into the trail, there is a railroad track crossing, so you may not want little ones to run ahead. We saw trains on these tracks many times through out the day so definitely keep an ear out for them! Also, about 0.2 miles in, there will be a well labeled trail split. Bear left at the split to continue to Ripley Falls. This impressive 100ft waterfall, cascading over the massive granite wall, is a sight you will not want to miss!
Willey Pond Loop/Sam Willey Trails- Just north of the Ripley Falls Trailhead, right across from the Visitor Center on Rt 302, is the Pond Loop and Sam Willey Trails. Once across the bridge, head left to start the Pond Loop Trail. As the trail loops around, and you head back south, follow signs for the Sam Willey Trail to complete this 1.4-mile loop. Both trails are well marked, easy hikes, that are perfect for all ages! Plus, you get a little of everything- pond and river views, mountains views and forest views😊 We hiked these trails in the fall, and the colors were spectacular!
Silver Cascades/Flume Cascades- Lastly, about 2 miles north of the Willey Historic House on Rt 302, will be your final stop of the day. It is also where you can see the 5th and 6th waterfalls of the day. The parking lot, heading north, will be on your left-hand side. Silver Cascades is immediately across 302 from the lot. Once you’ve explored Silver Cascades, Flume Cascades is just a few steps north, on the same side of the road. Leave your car where it is, that is the lot for both waterfalls. And these two remarkable cascades are a great way to end your day at Crawford Notch State Park.
Hope you had a wonderful adventure!