25 Maine Waterfalls to Hike to This Summer

From roadside chutes to backcountry cascades, tiny slides to dramatic plunges, Maine’s waterfalls are splashy treasures. Here’s where to find our faves.

Rattlesnake Flume, in Stow
Rattlesnake Flume, in Stow. Photo by Tory Welton.
By Adrienne Perron and Brian Kevin
From our July 2023 issue

Okay, so you might be a fitness nut who heads out on a vigorous hike for the sheer aerobic pleasure of it. Or one of those crunchy granolas who believes that just being out in nature is its own reward. But the rest of us? We went some payoff at the end of the trail, baby. A waterfall at the end of a hike is like a scoop of ice cream at the end of a meal, and our favorite Maine falls come in a wide variety of flavors. We’ve even thrown in a few you can drive right up to.

Step Falls | Newry

kid sliding at Step Falls, in Newry.
Sliding at Step Falls, in Newry. Photo by Dave Waddell.

Height: 250 feet
Trailhead: On Rte. 26, 7 ½ miles —north of the junction with Rte. 2.
Route: A slightly sloped half mile along the Step Falls Trail.

A quick stroll through the woods is rewarded with spectacular views of one of Maine’s most imposing falls, a network of cascades, slides, and horsetails. Don’t just admire Step Falls — get out in it. Hikers love to splash around in the sections that pour into small pools and post up on dry granite slabs to picnic or catch some rays.

The Cataracts | Andover West Surplus

Height: Upper falls 20 feet, middle falls 70 feet, lower falls 12 feet
Trailhead: On E B Hill Rd., about 5 ½ miles west of Andover. Parking lot across the street.
Route: A moderate climb of not quite a half a mile, with some steep and rooted sections, up the Baldpate Mountain Trail.

A short (but challenging) climb leads to three exceptional falls on Frye Brook. The lower falls, known as The Churn, is a plunge waterfall and can be viewed from slightly off the trail, but the showstoppers are the middle and upper falls, or The Cataract and The Flume. The former is a tall, narrow horsetail that tumbles into a gorge, and the latter made up of horsetail and cascades dropping into passages and swimmable pools. The trail follows Frye Brook as it runs through a ravine, with a handful of lookouts offering glimpses in.

Dunn Falls | Andover

Height: 150 feet
Trailhead: The Appalachian Trail trailhead on E B Hill Rd., about 8 miles west of Andover. Parking is across the road and a few hundred feet west.
Route: About a mile to the lower falls along the Cascade Trail, with a quarter-mile spur to the upper falls. Take the Appalachian Trail back to the trailhead to make a 2 ½-mile loop. Creek crossings and steep sections make this a challenging hike.

The lower falls plunges dramatically between steep rock walls, while the lesser-visited upper falls, a bit farther along the Cascade Trail, is a unique fanning falls — almost as tall as its lower sibling, it gets wider nearer the bottom. If the two sections of Dunn Falls weren’t enticing enough, a handful of small, unnamed falls also scatter the rugged Cascade Trail on the way out (or back).

Gulf Hagas | Bowdoin College Grant East Township

Screw Auger Falls, along the Gulf Hagas Rim Trail, is beloved for the punchbowl pool it tumbles into, a swell spot for a mid-hike swim (photo by Peter Frank Edwards); plunging into the pool beneath Buttermilk Falls, at Gulf Hagas (photo by Chris Bennett).

Height: Screw Auger Falls 15 feet, Buttermilk Falls 10 feet, Billings Falls 15 feet, Stair Falls 4 feet
Trailhead: On Katahdin Iron Works Road, in the Ki-Jo Mary Multiple Use Forest, about 6 ½ miles northwest of the gatehouse. Access is from Rte. 11 north of Brownville. Visit North Maine Woods, Inc. for fee info.
Route: A 1.3-mile walk on the Appalachian Trail includes a significant ford across the Pleasant River and passes through the old-growth white-pine forest called the Hermitage. Then, the Rim Trail continues .2 miles to Screw Auger Falls. Many turn back here; others continue past three more falls and loop back on the Pleasant River Tote Road Trail, a moderately challenging 8.2-mile day hike.

Known, a bit hyperbolically, as the “Grand Canyon of Maine,” Gulf Hagas is a ravine through which tumbles three miles of the West Branch of the Pleasant River. The Rim Trail skirts it, along with the more modest Gulf Hagas Brook, which hikers can clamber down into to splash around. Besides views of the gorge and impressive rock formations, several waterfalls are scattered along the full loop version of this hike, including Screw Auger, the most well-known, which tumbles into a punchbowl swimming hole; the lovely horsetail of Buttermilk Falls; Billings Falls, a narrow plunge, viewed from a distance; and Stair Falls, an idyllic little fairyland of pools and cascades.

Fish River Falls | Fort Kent

Height: Unrecorded, but fewer than 3 feet
Trailhead: At the end of Airport Rd., off Rte. 161, about 5 miles south of Fort Kent.
Route: A flat .6 miles along the Fish River Falls Trail.

Rather than a true falls, this is a Class IV stretch of whitewater with a nice little drop in the middle, but the spot is pretty and wild and easy to access. The short hike weaves in and out of the woods and leads to a few boat launches and safe places for swimming. The ledges overlooking the falls are a great place to picnic while listening to the river roar, and whitewater paddlers love to run it, but only experienced ones — river drivers lost their lives here in the days of the log drives.

Orris Falls | South Berwick

Height: 12 feet
Trailhead: On Thurrell Rd., which is off Boyds Corner Rd., about 2 ½ miles south of North Berwick.
Route: A third-of-a-mile walk on a private road to the Orris Falls Trail, then another easy half mile to the falls.

An easy jaunt through the Orris Falls Conservation Area takes you past Balancing Rock, a glacial erratic that seems to teeter precariously on its edge. The waterfall can be viewed from above, plunging into a ravine alongside the trail that’s tempting but too steep to descend into safely.

Rattlesnake Flume | Stow

Rattlesnake Flume, in Stow
Rattlesnake Flume, in Stow. Photo by Tory Welton.

Height: 10 feet
Trailhead: The Stone House gate at the end of Shell Pond Rd., off Rte. 113, 18 miles north of Fryeburg.
Route: About a half-mile road walk to the Stone House Trail, then a mile of gentle incline to a short spur trail to the falls. (The spur to Rattlesnake Pool is just a bit farther up the Stone House Trail.)

This plunging waterfall on Rattlesnake Brook, tumbling through a slim gorge, is cool enough to be a destination in itself, but the real gem of this easy hike is Rattlesnake Pool, a pothole full of crystal-clear (and usually freezing-cold) water, fed by a small, unnamed horsetail waterfall.

Moxie Falls | West Forks

Height: 90 feet
Trailhead: Lake Moxie Rd. (aka Moxie Pond Rd.), in The Forks, 2 miles east of Rte. 201.
Route: A wide, flat trail of just under a mile reaches a pair of lookouts above the main falls, with several unofficial “social trails” following Moxie Stream above and below the falls.

One of New England’s most dramatic chutes, with an impressive volume of water plunging over a ledge of slate and sandstone, then rushing through a canyon. It couldn’t be easier to access either, and since Moxie Stream is regulated by a dam, the flow tends to be consistent all year. Plunge pools below the falls invite dippers, but use caution descending the cliffs. The upper falls are well worth a glimpse too, the stream churning down a series of ledges. Swimmers sometimes take to a pool above the falls, but yikes, no thanks.

Big and Little Niagara Falls | Baxter State Park

Height: Roughly 20 feet each
Trailhead: At Daicey Pond Campground.
Route: 1.2 mostly easy miles along the Appalachian Trail (with a bit more challenging scrambling along the short spur trails to the falls).

They might pale in comparison to their namesake, but these neighboring falls along Nesowadnehunk Stream feel as “forever wild” as the rest of the wilderness park surrounding them. Little Niagara is a series of pretty slides over smooth granite; Big Niagara is a stout little block falls that churns up some serious spray when water levels are high. When they’re low, though, there’s good swimming at the base. A motivated hiker could make a full day from a trip to the Niagaras and to Katahdin Stream Falls, a nice short hike from Katahdin Stream Campground, just a few miles down the Baxter State Park Tote Road.

Hadlock Falls | Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park’s Hadlock Falls
Acadia National Park’s Hadlock Falls. Photo by John K. Putnam.

Height: 40 feet
Trailhead: Parkman Mountain Carriage Road Trailhead on Rte. 198, about a half mile north of Upper Hadlock Pond.
Route: Just under a mile along the gently graded Hadlock Loop Carriage Road to the Waterfall Bridge.

When the water level is low on Upper Hadlock Brook, the tallest falls in Acadia National Park can look a bit spindly, like gauzy ribbons dripping down the cliffs. Earlier in the season — or after a good rain — the water fans out elegantly in all directions. Either way, it’s picturesque when you admire it through the tunnel of the 1925 stone-arch bridge right in front of it, one of the 16 bridges that park benefactor John D. Rockefeller Jr. had constructed in Acadia. The walk from the trailhead to the falls is short, but it’s a shame not to extend your hike along the mess of intersecting carriage roads and trails in the neighborhood.

Jewel Falls | Portland

Height: 30 feet
Trailhead: The end of Rowe Ave., in the Nason’s Corner neighborhood (plus several other entrances to the Fore River Sanctuary).
Route: Less than a half mile of flat, easy trail — a literal walk in the park.

The only natural waterfall in Portland, Jewell Falls is far from thunderous, but it’s a pretty little series of horsetails and slides in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood, part of the protected Fore River Sanctuary, where birds and people gather in the woods and wetlands alongside the namesake stream. A wooden footbridge crosses the top of the falls, and six miles of connected paths, maintained by the nonprofit Portland Trails, are open to hikers and bikers.

Howe Brook Falls | Baxter State Park

Height: Upper falls drop 20 feet
Trailhead: At South Branch Pond Campground.
Route: 2.7 miles, one way, gradually ascending a river canyon.

It’s a longer day hike to this fairly remote set of falls in the northern reaches of Baxter State Park, but the trek along Howe Brook rewards waterfall fanatics long before they reach the head of the canyon. The stream, which tumbles off Baxter’s commanding Traveler Mountain, churns through a series of slides, chutes, and flumes in its lower reaches, punctuated with little pools for swimming (chilly, though). At the end of the trail, the upper falls is a fan-shaped, 20-foot cascade in a cool, shady gully.

Angel Falls | Township D

Angel Falls, south of Rangeley
Angel Falls, south of Rangeley. Photo by Benjamin Williamson.

Height: 90 feet
Trailhead: Bemis Rd., 3½ miles west of Rte. 17, south of Rangeley.
Route: A moderately challenging half-mile hike, with multiple stream crossings (tricky during high water) and some rocky terrain.

One of Maine’s most visited waterfalls — and for good reason. Angel Falls has one of the longest single plunges in Maine, it’s tucked away in a gnarly little notch well off the pavement, and the mist rising off the rocks does indeed give the place a heavenly vibe. The hike in from the gravel-pit parking area follows an old logging road, then narrows and crosses a couple of rocky stretches of Mountain Brook (it can be a bit slippery and/or you may get your feet wet). The best time to come is late spring and early summer — the falls run pretty dry by August.

Convenient Cascades

There’s no hiking required to see some of Maine’s prettiest falls — just drive up and enjoy.

Snow Falls | West Paris

Height: 25 feet
Directions: Snow Falls Gorge Rest Area, on Rte. 26, 2 miles south of Rte. 219.

The waterfall is right there at the pullout, and walking trails encircling it offer varied viewpoints of the gorge’s 30-foot walls and a picturesque stone bridge. Local lore has the site haunted by the ghosts of a Native chief killed by a settler there in the 18th century and the settler himself, killed in reprisal.

Ellis Falls | Andover

Height: 23 feet
Directions: On Rte. 120, 2.7 miles east of Rte. 5.

At this sylvan little twin falls, Ellis Meadow Brook crashes five feet down a block falls flowing into a pool, churning up a nice mist in high water, then keeps on rolling down the rocks in a tangle of horsetails and cascades. No sign marks the spot — if you know, you know.

Webhannet Falls | Wells

Height: 15 feet
Directions: Webhannet Falls Park, at the end of Falls Park Rd., off Rte. 1, 1.8 miles south of Rte. 109.

The first mill on the Webhannet River was built here in 1640, powered by the dainty horsetail falls just a 100-foot walk along a paved path from the parking area. The local garden club maintains some colorful beds alongside a bridge overlooking the falls.

Coos Canyon | Byron

Height: 15 feet
Directions: Coos Canyon Rest Area, on Rte. 17, at the intersections with Byron Village Rd.

It’s not the most epic falls, but the little gorge on the Swift River — only about 500 yards long — is beautiful, cutting through craggy slabs of quartzite and schist. It’s a popular spot for a dip (also panning for gold, with flakes supposedly found from an upriver deposit).

Megunticook River Falls | Camden

Height: 24 feet
Directions: Camden Harbor, off Main St.

Tucked just behind the shops and restaurants of downtown, this big, noisy falls at the mouth of the river is regulated by the 200-year-old Montgomery Dam — and it comes with a view of the yachts and tall ships and a Camden Hills backdrop.

Camden’s Megunticook Falls. Photo by Tara Rice.

Houston Brook Falls | Bingham

Height: 32 feet
Trailhead: Next to the Pleasant Ridge Transfer Station, on Pleasant Ridge Rd., 3 ½ miles northwest of —the bridge over the Kennebec.
Route: Less than a half-mile walk along a flat, wide, wooded path.

Early in the season, this easy-to-reach horsetail falls is as wide as it is tall and loud enough that you can hear it from the trailhead. The pool at the base is better for wading than for swimming, but there’s a nice view downstream towards Wyman Lake — just use plenty of caution on the slippery rocks. The falls are bulbous and beautiful when frozen too, and since the short access trail makes for such easy snowshoeing, the sweat-to-scenery ratio here in the winter is pretty hard to beat.

Big Falls | New Gloucester

New Gloucester’s Big Falls Preserve
New Gloucester’s Big Falls Preserve. Photo by Benjamin Williamson

Height: Unrecorded, but between 5 and 10 feet
Trailhead: Near the intersection of Woodman and Ayer Rds., 2 miles north of Rte. 231.
Route: An easy, 1.7-mile loop through the Big Falls Preserve on the Big Falls Loop Trail.

Even aside from Big Falls (which, though isn’t that tall, is made up of several picture-perfect horsetails and cascades), there’s plenty to love about the 40-acre Big Falls Preserve. For starters, the pool below the falls, on Meadow Brook, is great for swimming and wading. Then there’s the circa 1947 Plymouth that rests alongside the trail. Abandoned many years ago without explanation, the antique ride is now a highlight of the hike (and a cool photo op).

Peter’s Brook Trail | Blue Hill

Height: Unrecorded, but between 10 and 15 feet
Trailhead: On East Blue Hill Rd., half a mile east of Rte. 172.
Route: A wide and flat (though root-heavy) half-mile trail along Peter’s Brook.

The waterfall at this little-visited preserve on the Blue Hill peninsula is unnamed, but don’t write this one off for its anonymity. It’s worth the trek, a series of cascades over steep, rocky steps that tumble into a calm, swimmable pool on Peter’s Brook, named after one of Blue Hill’s earliest settlers. All along this short hike, side trails lead to spots along the water overlooking a handful of smaller falls, riffles, and pools.

Mariaville Falls | Mariaville

Height: 10 feet
Trailhead: At the Mariaville Falls Preserve, on the west side of Rte. 181, 3 miles south of the intersection of Rtes. 181 and 9, in Amherst.
Route: An easy 1.4-mile lollipop loop, mostly alongside the West Branch of the Union River, with a short road walk.

It’s neither high, nor steep, but Mariaville Falls has plenty of grandeur. Spanning the width of the West Branch of the Union River and descending in tiers, the falls can be powerful in high water, which is why it was once dammed, powering a tannery and timber mills in the 1800s. The wildness of the river and the surrounding Mariaville Falls Preserve is part of the appeal — the preserve is one of the river’s very few public access points, popular with anglers and a launching place for paddlers who come for class II and III rapids.

Grand Falls | West Forks

Grand Falls, on the Dead River
Grand Falls, on the Dead River, is a classic block falls. Photo by Chris Bennett.

Height: 40 feet
Trailhead: A parking lot at the Dead River whitewater-rafting launch, at the end of Lower Enchanted Rd., a 14-mile road off Rte. 201.
Route: A walk of a third of a mile along Grand Falls Rd., crossing a bridge over the river, then just 500ish feet along an easy trail to the falls — less than a mile roundtrip.

A hundred feet across, this block waterfall is one of Maine’s largest by volume. Aside from the falls’ magnitude, the quietude of this woodsy, secluded area is what draws visitors (it’s far from Maine Huts & Trails’s most remote backcountry lodge, Grand Falls Hut) — not to mention the spots below the falls to swim, paddle, or fish for trout in the brisk Dead River.

Reed Brook Falls | Kingfield

Height: Unrecorded, but around 30 feet
Trailhead: On the west side of Rte. 27, 4 miles north of downtown Kingfield and junction with Rte. 16. The parking lot is next to Carrabassett Veterinary Services.
Route: A little over a half mile along an easy footpath, with some stairs and boardwalks, alongside Reed Brook.

Some clever and colorful hand-painted signs keep things interesting along the privately (and lovingly) maintained trail to this dazzling waterfall. Also known as the Jericho Steps, it’s a steep wall of cascades and horsetails, gushing over stones at almost a 90-degree angle. The spectacle of these falls is somewhat astonishing since the brook seems pitched only slightly downhill for most of this hike, with a couple of smaller cascades along the way. An underrated gem.

Poplar Stream Falls | Carrabassett Valley

Height: 24 feet and 51 feet
Trailhead: At a gravel pit along a Maine Huts & Trails service road, off Carriage Rd., 2.1 miles from where it leaves Rte. 27, in Carrabassett Valley.
Route: Less than a half mile along a trail from the parking area, but with some steeper sections and rock stairs.

Poplar Stream Falls, found on land owned by the Penobscot Nation, is really two waterfalls, a pair of horsetails a few hundred feet from one another and fed by two different streams. The first and smaller of the two is on Poplar Stream, while the more dramatic 51-footer is on South Brook (the two merge just a little ways downstream). The latter descends into a calm pool great for swimming. To make a day of it, you could instead park at the Sugarloaf Regional Airport, off Route 27, and reach the falls via a loop hike of more than 6 miles.

April 2024, Down East Magazine

Get all of our latest stories delivered straight to your mailbox every month. Subscribe to Down East magazine.