The Frankenstein Cliff Trail in Crawford Notch is a must-do hike in NH that offers a unique view of the famous Frankenstein Trestles, which the Conway Scenic Rail train passes over. This trail also leads to the famous Arethusa Falls, the tallest waterfall in NH.

The Frankenstein Cliff trailhead is located in Crawford Notch State Park directly off of Route 302. If you're traveling from the south (Bartlett/North Conway) the parking lot for the trailhead is on your left hand side about 12 miles from Bartlett. There are signs for Arethusa Falls/Frankenstein Cliffs right before the turnout for the parking lot. If you are traveling from the north from US-3, the parking lot will be on your right hand side just after the Dry River Campground.

The Arethusa Falls/Frankenstein Cliffs trail is a 5 mile loop that is a moderate hike with some steep inclines. I started this trail with the hard part first, which is the path to Frankenstein Cliffs, but most people recommend going the opposite direction and starting with the falls first. This will allow you to hike down the steeper inclines instead of up. Personally, hiking down steeper inclines is less desirable to me than hiking up, but you can go whichever way you prefer. I would not recommend doing this hike in the winter or spring unless you have crampons because of the ice that forms on the steep path areas. 

From the trailhead parking lot, walk towards the picnic area/restroom and follow the sign on the left that points towards the trail. Less than 1/4 mile on the trail, you'll come to a junction where you can choose to go towards the falls, or towards Frankenstein Cliffs. 

After about 1.5 miles on the direction towards Frankenstein Cliffs, you'll reach the Frankenstein Cliffs Trestle. You can climb up the rocky grade to the top of the railroad tracks to get a view of the trestle and mountains in the distance. Do remember that this is an active railroad with trains from Conway Scenic Rail frequently passing through. I would not recommend walking out onto the rusty steel trestle, though people do cross it. Climbing the hill alongside the rails is about as brave as I got, and even if you do this, please do remember to be alert for quick-moving trains. 

After reaching the trestle, the trail gains elevation quickly heading in the direction of the falls. You'll eventually come to the base of the cliffs themselves, where there are often rock climbers scaling the face of the cliffs. After reaching the base of the cliffs, you can either continue heading up the trail (recommended so you can see Arethusa Falls) or turn back and head down the trail the way you came.

Once you're at Arethusa falls, you can relax and take in the towering 200-foot granite waterfall. From there, you'll follow the trail downhill back towards the parking area, passing through Beamis Brook and crossing over the rail road tracks once you've reached the end.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Crampons (outside summer/early fall)
  • Camera
  • Bug spray
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RT Distance 5 Miles
Elevation Gain 1400 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking, Rock Climbing
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Loop
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Picnic Area
Scenic
Waterfall

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Fun Hike with great views

Did this hike with a group of friends and we had a blast

Steep first, always!!

Very moody and beautiful hike. I recommend to take the steep trail first. It is very steep and hard on the knees, but it's a very short hike to the top before coming back on the other side to Arethusa Falls! All and all it's not a very hard hike. I went in Fall, so the Arethusa Fall was pretty dry. probably best to go in Spring!

The steep part is STEEP, but worth it!

I hiked this a while back. The waterfall was amazing. I took the same direction as you did getting through the steep climb gaining elevation quickly first. That was one of the steepest climbs I had done in a while. Take your time and your get there. The rest of the hike the gradients reasonable. You'll be rewarded when you get to the falls.


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