Nancy Cascades

Saturday, August 12, 1995

The weather report threatened rain and thunderstorms today. However, it didn't actually look all that bad so I decided to try my luck anyway. As it turned out I only ran into a few sprinkles on the trail. Nevertheless, the humidity was very high and that made hiking a sweaty affair.

Nancy's Cascades are located 2.2 miles along the Nancy Pond Trail from Rt. 302. The trail head is located a few miles south of Crawford Notch and was not especially well marked. However, the number of cars there today made it easy to spot.

The trail climbs a total of 1500 feet up to the falls. Most of the time it follows Nancy Brook. Sometimes the brook is easy to see and other times you can really only just hear it. The trail crosses the brook once and then again just below the falls.

The falls themselves were quite impressive. Your initial view is of Nancy Brook spilling over a steep rock face maybe 70 feet high. The stream pours down into a small pool and then ambles away from the rock face as an ordinary looking mountain stream. I climbed out onto the rocks that were along the pool just opposite from the falls. There was a cool breeze blowing down from the falls; no doubt the moving water had set up a steady draft. It was a very nice resting spot.

The trail then continues climbing up the steep face by way of switchbacks. After the first switchback, the trail returns to the stream at a point above the top of the lower falls. There you get an impressive view of the stream flowing down a steep, rocky shute and into a little pool just above the lip of the lower falls. You also get a nice view out into the valley below.

It's clear that Nancy Cascades is really a large complex of falls and cascades. However, the trail does not return to the stream again until it reaches the very top of the steep slope some several hundred feet above the foot of the falls. From the upper location there is another nice view of the valley below (farther below now!). To really see all of Nancy Cascades, you would have to bushwack up the side of the mountain right alongside of Nancy Brook. The extremely steep grade and the thick spruce forest would combine to make this a very difficult climb. In any case, hiking off the trails in the White Mountain National Forest is discouraged because of the high use the area gets from hikers.

I went on another 1.0 miles from the falls (and 500 more feet of climbing) to see what Nancy Pond was like. I wasn't terribly impressed. Nancy Pond is a secluded mountain pond, but it didn't seem very special to me. There were no nice views (and no good places to sit). If you're into mountain ponds you should check it out, otherwise don't bother. I will admit, however, that it looked like a good place to find moose. I didn't see any today.

The guide books do say that the spruce forest above Nancy Cascades is a virgin forest. I'm not enough of a forest person (yet) to have noticed anything special about it. The trees were not particularly large, although I did notice that they came in all sizes. I know that land that has been logged recently often has trees that are all the same age.

The water in Nancy Brook was brownish. At first I thought this might have been because of the rain we had last night. However, the color was more noticible the higher I got. I wonder if the spruce forest at the top of the stream's watershed had anything to do with it.

All in all, I liked Nancy Cascades and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone who wasn't afraid of a little hiking.

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© Copyright 1996 by Peter Chapin.
Last Revised: March 12, 1996