The Falls on Basin–Cascades Trail
GOOD FOR: Ages 5-8, Ages 9-12

Source:Outdoors with Kids Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (AMC Books)
Address:The Basin, Lincoln NH
Hours:No hours posted
Fee: $3 White Mountain National Forest parking pass, payable at trailhead

White Mountain National Forest, 603-536-6100,

Bathrooms: At the trailhead
Water/Snacks: Water available at the trailhead
USGS Lincoln and Franconia quads; AMC White Mountain National Forest Map & Guide, H4 (AMC)

The excitement of discovering multiple swimming holes and backcountry cascades will be the highlight of this trip—bring your swimsuit!

This has to be one of the Hipple family’s favorite day trips in all of New Hampshire. The highlights include multiple backcountry swimming holes and waterfalls, fishing for brook trout, and the chance to visit the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Lonesome Lake Hut (see Plan B). This type of trip is best experienced on a hot summer day, when the humidity and heat force us out of our homes and up into the mountains. Depending on your family’s ambition and energy level, you can turn around at any one of the many falls to make your trip either shorter or longer.

The Basin brings hundreds of visitors a day to view its water-carved granite potholes. Don’t let the size of the crowds scare you away though: very few of them venture beyond the first 0.2 mile of asphalt trail. After admiring this busy and beautiful spot, make a left on Basin-Cascades Trail. Soon the fumes of the tour buses and the voices of the crowds will fade into the distance as the songs of the birds and the babbling Cascade Brook take over. The contrast is immediate and almost startling.

The trail climbs up the north bank of the Cascade Brook with some interesting unnamed slab slides and drops spread out along the first 0.25 mile. Kinsman Falls (0.4 mile) is the first named falls on the trail, and this 15-foot plunge into a deep, swimmable pool begs to be explored.

Moving up the trail you will cross the brook and pass multiple unnamed cascades and swimming spots. We counted ten swimmable holes in between Kinsman Falls and Rocky Glen Falls, but there are probably more. See how many you can find! Many of these have small gravel beaches and shallow sections perfect for toddlers to while away the hours, and some open slabs make excellent sunning and picnic spots. On one particularly hot day, we simply traveled up this trail in our swimsuits and sturdy sandals, hopping from one swimming hole to the next.

Finally, you will reach Rocky Glen Falls (0.9 mile), an idyllic and semihidden gem that is our favorite of the hike. The water drops 35 feet through a narrow gorge into a small pool at the bottom. But the best part of Rocky Glen is hidden at the top. Continue on up the trail until you come to the point where the trail crosses the brook. Walk down the brook carefully to reach the top section of Rocky Glen Falls and you will find an excellent swimming hole that is so deep we couldn’t find the bottom! Making your way down to the pool is tricky, but the best way we found was to cross over to the north side of the brook (opposite the trail) and descend a small path to some jumping spots as well as a spot where you can ease in from shore. If Rocky Glen Falls is your final destination, turn around here for a 2.0-mile round-trip.

Plan B:

To continue on to Lonesome Lake Hut, continue on Basin-Cascades Trail where it intersects with Cascade Brook Trail. Turn left and continue up gradually for 1.6 miles. If you’ve come this far, continue another 0.2 mile to AMC’s Lonesome Lake Hut. You can make arrangements to spend the night here, complete with dinner and breakfast; for more information, visit

Where to Eat Nearby:

The sister towns of Lincoln and North Woodstock have dozens of restaurants and will be able to please just about anyone.


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