Glen Ellis Falls was an attractive waterfall that I tried to squeeze in late in the day while the sun hadn’t quite set yet. Even with my late start on the hike just before 5pm in October, I was still surprised at how many cars were at the trailhead and how many people were also sharing the trail with me. If it was this busy so late in the day, I could only imagine how much busier it would be during the height of the day. So the lesson learned here was that this must be one of the more popular spots near the Mt Washington / North Conway area.
I really didn’t have many expectations of this waterfall going into the hike as I didn’t know what it would look like prior to my visit. But the popularity of the falls was one indicator that I must’ve been in for a treat. And when I finally got to see the falls in person, I realized that I was in front of a 64ft gusher (i.e. it was definitely a year-round waterfall) with attractive upper tiers and vistas of beautiful Autumn colors that literally engulfed the Pinkham Notch vicinity on the slopes of Mt Washington. I could only imagine just how much more vibrant the colors would be if I had come here earlier in the day when the sun was out!
From the trailhead (see directions below), signs pointed me to a path that took me beneath the Highway 16. With the rather noisy start to the hike, I wondered if the waterfall experience would compete with the loud swooshing of cars and trucks zooming by above me. But once I got to the other side of the highway, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the trail then followed along the Ellis River before veering further away from the highway. Indeed, the further along the trail I went, the more the sounds of rushing water drowned out the highway sounds.
Soon, the trail was beside the point where the Ellis River spilled over a small cascade with three consecutive drops. And a few minutes more further downstream, I found myself at a lookout right above the brink of the Glen Ellis Falls. While the view of the falls wasn’t optimal at this point, it was the vista looking out downstream towards the mountainsides that really made this lookout worth stopping for. The explosion of Fall colors seen here was beautiful even though they didn’t benefit from the sun as it had already hidden behind the mountains.
Next, the trail descended down steps towards an intermediate overlook where I was able to get a little bit more of a glimpse of the Glen Ellis Falls. However, it left me wanting more so I kept going down the stairs until the trail curved back around to the overlook right in front of its misty base. It got a little bit crowded at this misty spot despite how late in the day it was, but I noticed it was possible to scramble onto the riverbed just beneath the lookout deck where I was able to get better and more direct views from the base of the falls. The only catch here was that the rocks were indeed slippery so I exercised extreme caution in making sure that I was as far away from the running water as possible.
Given the low light of the waning day, I was glad that I brought my tripod to take photos from here. There also appeared to be additional lower tiers further downstream from this viewing area, but that tier didn’t look like it was safely photographable from its front. So when I had my fill of the main drop of Glen Ellis Falls, I headed back up to the car park. Overall, I did the entire 0.6-mile round trip hike solo and it only took me about 35 minutes total, including all the stops.
From where the Hwy 16 and Hwy 302 meet at the southern end of North Conway, follow the White Mountain Hwy (Hwy 302) north for about 8 miles. At the traffic light where Hwy 302 and Hwy 16 split up once again, turn right to stay continue on Hwy 16. Then, follow Hwy 16 north for about 11 miles (passing through Jackson) until there’s a signposted turnoff on the left for Glen Ellis Falls.
Be aware that this turnoff is easy to miss given the speed you have to move on this highway. So if you happened to see the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center on your left another 0.6 miles further, you have missed the correct turnoff and would have to use this turnoff to turn around or do the Crystal Cascade hike before doing the Glen Ellis Falls hike.
Anyways, once you’re on the correct road, it will loop towards the trailhead and car park.
For geographical context, North Conway was 11 miles west of Fryeburg, Maine, 42 miles (over an hour drive) east of Lincoln, 63 miles (90 minutes drive) northwest of Portland, Maine, 136 miles (over 2.5 hours drive) north of Boston, Massachusetts, and 214 miles (over 3.5 hours drive) southeast of Montreal, QC, Canada.
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