This short hike takes you up the western side of Crawford Notch along Avalanche Brook to the 100 foot tall Ripley Falls. The hike is only about a half mile in length (one way), but does climb steadily to the waterfall and offers a great view of the falls during periods of high water. I thought it was well worth the hour or so it took to get in, enjoy the view and then get back out to the car. It makes for a great quick trip if you're traveling through Crawford Notch and want to take in a walk without having to go too far.
The trail begins at the trailhead at the Wiley House Station, which is located on a road that climbs up from Route 302 just across from the Webster Cliff Trail. There is a sign for Ripley Falls along Route 302 at the side road and the Appalachian Trail crosses Route 302 here and climbs the road to the Wiley House Station.
From the trailhead, the trail climbs up to the Railroad tracks that make their way through the notch. The trail crosses the tracks and begins following Avalanche Brook upwards. There are a few small views through the trees towards the cliffs on the eastern side of Crawford Notch but no very open vistas. The trail climbs steadily in the 0.2 miles from the parking area to its junction with the Ethan Pond Trail.
At the time we were on this trail, this trail intersection was not clearly marked with any sort of directional signs. The white blazes of the Appalachian Trail and the Ethan Pond Trail continue up and to the right, while the blue blazes of the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail take off towards the left. You want to stay to the left and take the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail, which heads towards Ripley Falls, which is another 0.3 miles ahead along Avalanche Brook.
The trail begins to level off after leaving the Ethan Pond Trail, but does continue to climb towards Ripley Falls. There are a few wet sections along this portion of the trail, but nothing too bad.
As you approach Ripley Falls, the trail climbs and then descends down to Avalanche Brook at the base of Ripley Falls. This 100 foot waterfall is quite scenic. We were there during a wet fall so it had a good amount of water coming over, but I would imagine that the flow dries up quite dramatically during drier weather.
This was the end of our trip, but if you wanted to also visit Arethusa Falls, the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail crosses Avalanche Brook and travels 2.5 miles to Arethusa Falls. There's no loop trail though, so you'd either have to have another car at the trailhead for the Arethusa Falls Trail. If not, you'd have to walk Route 302 northward back to the Wiley Station Trailhead.
If you are considering hiking up to Ripley Falls from the Wiley Station parking area, you should wear good walking shoes and be prepared for a steady hike. The trail can be done by children, as there are no really steep or difficult sections. Bring a bottle of water as you can work up a sweat from the climb up to the waterfall.
MAP - AMC Franconia Map
0.2 miles from Wiley Station Trailhead to Junction with Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail
0.3 miles from Ethan Pond/Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail intersection to Ripley Falls
0.5 miles one way / 1 mile round trip (an hour)
New Hampshire Guides and Maps
The Appalachian Mountain Club publishes maps and guidebooks for the White Mountains of New Hampshire.