Dunn Falls

Oxford County / near Andover, Maine, USA

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 3
Lower Dunn Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Dunn Falls seemed to be one of those waterfalls where I really had to work to see. Even though our sampling of waterfalls in the state of Maine was very small, I somehow got the sense that this waterfall typified the wild and off-the-beaten path feel given how seemingly undeveloped much of the state of Maine was. In any case, I felt that the effort I had to put in to both find and reach the waterfall were worth it, and I truly did feel like I was in a place where peace and solitude amidst some raw Nature was achievable at a waterfall that was worthwhile to go out of the way for.

The waterfall experience experience was actually two main waterfalls. There was a Lower and Upper Dunn Falls. The lower waterfall featured a pair of steep drops in a narrow ravine mostly hidden from sight until I was able to get right into the ravine itself (see photo at the top of this page). It was said to have a cumulative drop of 80ft. There was a fallen log that was stuck within the narrow crevice that somehow gave it a bit of character underscoring the drama of how rough weather and flooding could have put it there, but who knows how much longer it will be there.

Meanwhile, the upper waterfall featured a sloping and fanned out shape over a 70ft cumulative drop. It was lighter flowing than the lower waterfall and the viewing was a bit more awkward thanks to the rocks and jumble of foliage beneath its largest tier as well as how close I had to stand in front of it. However, the large plunge pool that was out-of-sight below of this upper drop at the base of its lowest tier looked very inviting. If there was ever a place for a quiet swim in peace and solitude, this would be it (in the Summer, that is; the water was way too cold during my Autumn visit).

Frontal look at the Upper Dunn Falls My pre-trip reading of our copy of the New England Waterfalls book made a real good suggestion of doing a loop hike that went straight to the pair of waterfalls first, then return on the Appalachian Trail. It said that this route was only 2 miles, but I swore that the hike was much longer than that, plus it featured a lot of elevation gain and loss that was steep in many places and fairly rough (making me glad that I didn't bring our daughter and Julie on this hike). Some of the steep climbs and drops were even on the Appalachian Trail itself, which made me wonder just how the trailblazers would expect people with heavy packs to do this hike. In any case, my GPS log said I had hiked at least 2.6 miles, and it took me nearly 2.5 hours to finish at a quick pace tempered by numerous photo stops (what can I say, I like to take my time taking photos).

The trail began from an unassuming pullout besides the road (see directions below). Then, I had to explore a bit and walk along this road for about 200ft east towards a pair of trail openings on both sides of the road. The white hash that was marked on the road itself next to the south opening along with an Appalachian Trail signpost on the opposite side of the road for the north opening assured me that I had found the right place to start the hike. The path that I had to take was going downhill from the south opening (i.e. the one with the white blaze on the road).

After descending some steps, I quickly got close to a junction next to the brook. A sign indicated that the Cascade Trail was on the left while one of the Appalachian Trail junctions was on the right. This would be the beginning and end of the looping part of the hike so per the advice of the New England Waterfalls (NEW) book, I kept left and followed the brook downstream past a series of some small cascades and rapids.

This was one of the more attractive cascades seen at the beginning of the Cascade Trail section of the loop After about 0.5 miles from the Cascade Trail junction, I encountered a fairly long and rocky stream crossing. The NEW book said this stream might deep enough to wade across during times of higher runoff so I had brought hiking sandals just in case I had to do that if the stream was deep enough to get inside my hiking boots. However, it turned out that the stream was low enough that carrying the weight of the hiking sandals wasn't necessary for this crossing.

Immediately following this stream crossing, the trail steeply climbed uphill towards a ridge. The steep climb felt like a little bit of deja vu where the Bemis Brook Trail detour to get back to the Arethusa Falls Trail involved some rough scrambling where paying close attention to the hashes kept us from getting lost. In the Dunn Falls hike, I had to follow blue hashes (or blazes) while being careful not to fall and tumble back down the mountainside.

Once I was on the ridge, the hiking was much easier once again as the trail undulated then eventually descended back down towards the brook once again. At the bottom of the descent, the trail turned to the right and continued amongst a flat leafy section of forest before getting to the next stream crossing - this time of the Ellis River - about 0.2 miles from the first stream crossing. This particular crossing was also long and required me to do some rock hopping, but I could imagine how crossing it with the boots off might be required if the water level of the river was any higher than when I saw it.

The wooded area approaching the second stream crossing Beyond this second stream crossing, the trail then took me to a fork on the trail. There was a cluster of blue hashes, which further hinted to me of the decision to make. Once again using the NEW book as the guide, I knew that going left at this fork would've continued towards the Appalachian Trail while the right fork would lead me towards the Lower Dunn Falls. So I went right and followed this somewhat narrower and rockier trail (eroded in some spots) for another 0.2 miles until I could hear the sounds of rushing water get louder.

When I realized that the falls was hidden out of sight in a ravine, I scrambled on the boulders that were in the way to get closer (being very careful not to slip and fall given how slippery they would be when wet), and eventually situated myself right in front of the impressive Lower Falls right beneath the fallen log spanning its narrow ravine. Since I didn't bring a tripod with me, I had to get creative and use the boulders to steady the camera for that pleasing shot you see at the top of this web page.

Lower Dunn Falls was hidden out-of-sight in that ravine spanned by the fallen log This waterfall could've made me content to just see this one and go back to the trailhead, but I knew there was another waterfall to see so I backtracked on the rough spur trail to get back to the Cascades Trail, then I followed the other fork uphill which eventually brought me up towards the top of Lower Dunn Falls. There was yet another trail junction (this time I saw white blazes indicating the Appalachian Trail) so I turned right at this junction to cross the West Branch of the Ellis River above the Lower Falls making sure I was sure-footed so I wouldn't fall over the waterfall below me, and then I encountered another trail junction on the other side of the river. This trail junction had a sign telling me that the trail to the Upper Falls was on the left while the trail back to connect with the Appalachian Trail was on the right.

There was a gorgeous view of the forest and the Autumn colors beyond the ravine containing the Lower Dunn Falls, and I used this as a little bit of a break to assess where I was at while also snapping more photos (being careful not to get too close to the edge of the cliff). Then, I took the trail on the left to pursue the Upper Dunn Falls.

The trail was much flatter and fairly easy to follow, and I once again had to follow blue-colored hashes to ensure that I wouldn't lose the trail. The path pretty much followed the West Branch of the Ellis River in the upstream direction the whole way so I never lost my sense of direction here. After about 0.3 miles (with a minor rock climb along the way), I eventually get to the large and pleasing plunge pool fronting a small waterfall. At first I thought this was the Upper Dunn Falls, but then I saw that there were more somewhat concealed tiers further upstream from this sun-drenched tier of the waterfall.

Following white blazes on the Appalachian Trail So I continued to get closer to those hidden upper tiers, which involved scrambling up a steep embankment that went up and around the smaller waterfall. Then, I found myself next to the sloping upper tiers of the Upper Dunn Falls. I had to scramble a bit more on some fallen logs in order to get right into the middle of the stream so I could finally get a frontal look at the cascade before me, but the close proximity of the viewing spot with the 70ft slooping falls made the viewing a bit awkward. There was no way I could capture this falls in a single still without stitching.

Anyways, compared with the Lower Dunn Falls, the Upper Dunn Falls was a bit of an anticlimax. However, it was still a pleasant reward for the trouble to get here, and I'm sure at a warmer time of the year, I probably could've gone for a dip back at that large plunge pool below.

When I had my fill of this waterfall, I backtracked the 0.3 miles to the signposted trail junction at the top of the Lower Dunn Falls. Then, I went steeply uphill to the left (making sure I didn't re-cross the river above the Lower Falls) where I was once again following white blazes to keep me from getting lost. I kept telling myself that this seemingly long and steep climb to regain the Appalachian Trail would be the end of the hardest part of the hike, but little did I know that the remainder of the hike after this climb would still undulate up and down along a ridge for the next 0.7 miles (from the top of the Lower Dunn Falls) before finally descending back towards the brook crossing next to the original trail junction at the very start of the hike.

After crossing the brook, I just had to go back up the steps and follow the road back to the parked car (as well as the awaiting Julie and Tahia) to resume our trip. Indeed, this wasn't an easy hike, but it was rewarding. And I didn't encounter another person the whole time I was on this trail. So I'd imagine if you want nice waterfalls without a crowd, going through the effort to see the waterfall ensemble that this loop trail had to offer would be just what the doctor ordered.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

This was what Lower Dunn Falls looked like without the log cutting across itThis was what Lower Dunn Falls looked like without the log cutting across it
Lookout out beyond the top of the Lower Dunn Falls towards the beautiful Fall colors of the forest belowLookout out beyond the top of the Lower Dunn Falls towards the beautiful Fall colors of the forest below
This was the inviting wide plunge pool and small waterfall beneath the concealed main part of the Upper Dunn FallsThis was the inviting wide plunge pool and small waterfall beneath the concealed main part of the Upper Dunn Falls
This was the main part of the elusive Upper Dunn Falls, though this photo only shows just part of its total dropThis was the main part of the elusive Upper Dunn Falls, though this photo only shows just part of its total drop
This was the unsigned car park for the Appalachian Trail and the start of the Dunn Falls experienceThis was the unsigned car park for the Appalachian Trail and the start of the Dunn Falls experience

At the very beginning, I had to walk alongside the E B Hill Road due east for about 200 ft to find the trailAt the very beginning, I had to walk alongside the E B Hill Road due east for about 200 ft to find the trail

This was the north end of the Appalachian Trail by the E B Hill RoadThis was the north end of the Appalachian Trail by the E B Hill Road

This was the white hash on the E B Hill Rd pointing towards the south end of the Appalachian Trail.  This was the correct path to takeThis was the white hash on the E B Hill Rd pointing towards the south end Appalachian Trail. This was the correct path to take

The trail started to descend from the road following white blazes on trees like this oneThe trail started to descend from the road following white blazes on trees like this one

The signposted trail junction marking the start and end of the loop part of the hike.  I went left to go on the Cascade TrailThe signposted trail junction marking the start and end of the loop part of the hike. I went left to go on the Cascade Trail

The Cascade Trail was now marked by blue hashesThe Cascade Trail was now marked by blue hashes

This little cascade was one of several that I saw before the first stream crossingThis little cascade was one of several that I saw before the first stream crossing

The first stream crossingThe first stream crossing

Blue hashes on the other side of the stream crossing telling me where to go nextBlue hashes on the other side of the stream crossing telling me where to go next

The climb immediately following the first stream crossing was quite steepThe climb immediately following the first stream crossing was quite steep

In some spots of the climb, the trail wasn't obvious so the blue blazes definitely helped me out in those head-scratching momentsIn some spots of the climb, the trail wasn't obvious so the blue blazes definitely helped me out in those head-scratching moments

At the top of the climb, I was on a ridge that eventually brought me back down to the creek belowAt the top of the climb, I was on a ridge that eventually brought me back down to the creek below

Approaching the second stream crossingApproaching the second stream crossing

This was the trail junction where the spur on the right would ultimately lead to the Lower Dunn FallsThis was the trail junction where the spur on the right would ultimately lead to the Lower Dunn Falls

The spur trail to Lower Dunn Falls was definitely rockier, narrower, and more slippery than what I had seen up to this point on this hikeThe spur trail to Lower Dunn Falls was definitely rockier, narrower, and more slippery than what I had seen up to this point on this hike

This was one of the more eroded and rougher sections of the spur trail to Lower Dunn FallsThis was one of the more eroded and rougher sections of the spur trail to the Lower Dunn Falls

Finally, the Lower Dunn FallsFinally, the Lower Dunn Falls

I scrambled up into the ravine to get a closer look at Lower Dunn Falls where I could also see some floating leaves collecting in its narrow plunge poolI scrambled up into the ravine to get a closer look at the falls where I could also see some floating leaves collecting in its narrow plunge pool

Back on the Cascades Trail following the blue hashes towards the top of Lower Dunn FallsBack on the Cascades Trail following the blue hashes towards the top of the lower falls

A small cascade above the top of the Lower Dunn falls.  There was a stream crossing around here that I had to take to continue onto the Upper Dunn FallsA small cascade above the top of the lower falls. There was a stream crossing here that I had to take to continue onto the upper falls

I started to see white blazes again, meaning I was either on or getting close to the Appalachian TrailI started to see white blazes again, meaning I was either on or getting close to the Appalachian Trail

This was the stream crossing above the Lower Dunn FallsThis was the stream crossing above the Lower Dunn Falls

This was the signposted junction on the other side of the stream crossing.  Going straight would take me onto the Appalachian Trail.  Going left would lead to the Upper Dunn FallsThis was the signposted junction on the other side of the stream crossing. Going straight would take me onto the Appalachian Trail. Going left would lead me to the Upper Dunn Falls

Once again, I was following blue blazes as I was in pursuit of the Upper Dunn FallsOnce again, I was following blue blazes as I was in pursuit of the upper falls

This was one of the small waterfalls and plunge pools en route to the Upper Dunn FallsThis was one of the small waterfalls and plunge pools en route to the Upper Dunn Falls

In order to reach the larger tiers of the Upper Dunn Falls, I had to keep scrambling up and around the small waterfall and poolIn order to reach the larger tiers of Upper Dunn Falls, I had to keep scrambling up and around the small waterfall and pool

I had to be careful on this scramble because there were some eroded narrow sections with some nasty dropoffs belowI had to be careful on this scramble because there were some eroded narrow sections with some nastry dropoffs

An awkward first look up at the Upper Dunn FallsAn awkward first look up at the Upper Dunn Falls

After retracing my steps from the Upper Dunn Falls, I now had to continue on the Appalachian Trail to get back to the start, which began with this steep climbAfter retracing my steps from the upper falls, I now had to continue on the Appalachian Trail to get back to the start, which began with this steep climb

When the climb finally flattened out, I was now on the narrow Appalachian TrailWhen the climb finally flattened out, I was now on the narrow Appalachian Trail

The climbing wasn't over on the Appalachian TrailThe climbing wasn't over on the Appalachian Trail

Finally, I made it back to the trailhead and car park where I noticed there was a different car parked next to usFinally, I made it back to the trailhead and car park where I noticed there was a different car parked next to us


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Looking up and down the falls before panning further downstream


Focusing on the pool and the lower tier of the upper falls


Top down sweep of the main part of the falls before ending at top of lower tier


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

The nearest town of any significant size that we encountered while trying to find Dunn Falls was Bethel, Maine where the US 2, Hwy 26, and Hwy 5 meet. We'll pick up the driving directions from here.

Heading east on the US 2 towards Bethel, Maine, we turned left to stay on the US 2 (while the Hwy 26 also coincided with it) and followed it for the next 12 miles towards Rumford Town where we turned left to leave the US 2 and continue on Hwy 5. We followed Hwy 5 for about 10.4 miles to its junction with Route 120 in the town of Andover, then we turned left at the junction onto Newton Street.

We followed Newton Street west out of Andover where it then became Upton Rd and eventually E B Hill Rd for about the next 8 miles passing through Andover West Surplus Town. Look for an unsigned pullout with room for about 3 cars or so on the right side of the road. This was where I was able to park the car.

Had we found ourselves at the Andover North Surplus Town, then we would have gone too far by about 0.8 miles.

To give you some context, the town of Bethel, Maine was 74 miles (over 90 minutes drive) northwest from Portland, Maine and 47 miles (over an hour drive) northeast from North Conway, New Hampshire.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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