Waterfalls and Caves along Route 26, Grafton Notch State Park
Updated: Nov 30, 2022
If you are looking for a fun and easy day of outdoor adventuring, Route 26 in Grafton Notch State Park offers a whole lot. Here you will find Step Falls, Mother Walker Falls, Screw Auger Falls and the Moose Caves. All quick stops along the side of the road (Route 26) leading to the large parking lot for bigger hikes - Old Speck, Baldpate, and Table Rock.
This area is only 20 minutes from Sunday River, so in the winter I sometimes drop my son Finn off at the ski mountain, then head out for a hike (he usually has family or friends on the mountain, so although I drop and run, he's not out there alone).
Last week, I decided to go for my third attempt at the smaller, Table Rock Trail Loop. It's not technically a mountain summit, just an impressive overlook and at 2.1 miles, it's generally pretty quick. Still, it took me three attempts to complete it - for a number of avoidable reasons. Read the whole mother walking story here.
On the drive to the Table Rock trailhead, I stopped at the Moose Caves, then Mother Walker Falls. On the return trip, I visited Screw Auger Falls. Step Falls is a great place to visit as well, although I didn't include it in this trip. Here are some details on each:
This .3 mile loop is just off of the main road. The trail includes stairs, boardwalks, narrow places and steep slopes, leading to a 600-foot long gorge carved from granite by glacial meltwater. The cave was named after the unlucky moose who wasn't watching his step and fell in. I'm sure this is just a story, but kids will eat it up. The picture does this impressive cave no justice, but here's what I got.
MOTHER WALKER FALLS
Drive just beyond the moose caves, and you will arrive at this waterfall. It was frozen when I visited, but still beautiful. I will certainly return in the summer to visit. These falls lead into the Bear River, roaring over rocks, pools and a gorge, dropping a total of 98 feet. The gorge is nearly 43 feet deep and 1,000 feet long.
SCREW AUGER FALLS
This stop is accessible, with wide, flat trails leading to a section of the viewing area. According to the sign at the falls "Some 12,000 years ago, melting glaciers influenced patterns of stream flow, while vastly increasing water runoff and its erosive power." The river released from the ice cut into the granite ledge, producing a deep and contorted gorge. The curves in some of the ledge are spectacular. There are several picnic tables here, so it would be a great stop for lunch after a hike.
To learn about bigger hikes near these falls and caves, here are some great ones:
You may want to save this trip for the summer months, but the beauty of exploring them in the winter is that you'll avoid the crowds. And in my opinion, frozen waterfalls are no less impressive than flowing ones. Choose your adventure and let me know how it goes!