This Columbus Day weekend, we jetted up to New Hampshire with the other leaf peepers to enjoy the nice weather and the fall foliage. We had some great hikes over the weekend, with the Great Hill Fire Tower in Tamworth and Arethusa Falls in Bartlett being two of them.
Great Hill Fire Tower
We were looking for an easy morning hike on our first full day in New Hampshire. We were hopping on the Conway Scenic Railroad later that afternoon and that didn’t leave us very much time after factoring in the crazy North Conway route 16 traffic plus the time needed to find a parking space in that congested area. The trail to Great Hill Fire Tower in Hemenway State Forest was the perfect choice.
The drive from Chocorua (where we were staying) to Tamworth is a short one – a mile on route 16, a few miles on 113 West, and onto Great Hill Road. Once at the parking area between Great Hill Road and Hemenway Road, it’s an easy stroll into the woods along the wide paths to the fire tower. There is a longer trail from the north along Betty Steele Trail that originates from another parking area, but we approached from the south. It was shorter and faster from this direction.
The fire tower itself is pretty cool. It’s not a locked tower so anyone not scared of climbing the 35 feet to the top of the tower can get in and enjoy the view. (By the way, that 35-foot figure is the official height but I swear that it feels much taller once you’re up there!) The photo below shows what it looks like to look down from the tower to the ground.
You can get a great view of the surrounding foliage. On a clear day, you can also see the nearby mountains. We went up on a fairly cloudy morning, so I was content to get some photos of the foliage and the nearby towns.
On our second day in New Hampshire, we tackled a much bigger hike to Arethusa Falls in Bartlett, NH. We had budgeted about 3 hours for the round trip, but it took a bit longer since we did the hike with our dog. He’s a short-legged basset mix so there were a few spots where we hand to carry him over some high places and, generally, we try to pull over to the side when oncoming hikers look like they aren’t thrilled to see a dog on the trail.
That being said, the hike to Arethusa Falls is a moderate trek. You encounter lots of different terrain – from stone steps, wooden pilings, exposed roots, sections of mud, sections of shade and moss, etc. We took the Bemis Brook Trail that veers off the Arethusa Falls Trail for a bit and then joins up again. The very end of Bemis Brook Trail is a pretty steep 0.1 mile climb upward, something we weren’t exactly prepared to do with our dog.
But we made it, and the payoff is this gorgeous 140-foot drop:
We stopped for a rest and a snack before heading back. There is plenty of space to find a flat rock and look at the falls.
We didn’t opt for the full loop hike back via Frankenstein Cliffs. In retrospect, I’m glad that we didn’t since a couple staying at our same inn said they did the loop hike and ended up carrying their Corgi (another short-legged breed of dog) down many of the steep sections.
All in all, I would recommend this hike for anyone in decent shape and who would enjoy seeing a waterfall. The path is good for dogs who are on voice command or who walk well for long periods on a leash. There are no facilities for man or beast on the trail, so plan accordingly.