Champney Falls Trail at Mt Chocorua along The Kancamangus Highway- White Mountains, New Hampshire
The biggest and more popular fall activity in the White Mountains is driving on the Kancamangus Highway / Kancamangus Scenic Byway / “The Kanc”. This highway is the spot for fall foliage viewing and often named one of the best in the country. It is 34.5 miles of beautiful views including overlooks, trails, and stops of all sorts that benefits from the almost 3,000 ft elevation. There are several longer trails and the first one we stopped at was Champney Falls.
There are two options visitors can explore here. Champney Falls is easy to moderate 3.1 mile there and back trail to Champney Falls. I say moderate cause the best part of this trail is going to the top of the falls which requires a short uphill over 600 ft and rocky section. Mt Chocorua is beyond Champney Falls and this trail is a moderate 7.4 mile out and back with over 2200 ft elevation gain. Since we did not have time for a 7 plus mile hike, our plan was to go to Champney Falls and continue our journey along The Kanc. Though I will say, I wish we did have time to complete the journey to summit Mt Chocorua as this was a great trail.
The parking lot here was different that all the others we had seen up to this point – it was full! Luckily there is parking along the road that we were able to use. Many people had intense hiking gear on so I assumed they were all going up to Mt Chocorua. If we had more time or another day on this trip, I would have loved to have gone to the top, especially after how much we enjoyed this hike.
After parking, we walked up to the trail head and was greeted by a ranger. When there is a ranger available, always take a few minutes to talk to them as you never know what information will save you a headache later or discover something new. We discussed our plans for the trail and he indicated a few additional tips and lookouts that are not indicated on the trail map.
The trail immediately starts the a water crossing and I think there are four water crossings total. There are adequate rocks to traverse the water but know that is it something that will need to be completed in order to continue.
The rest of the trail to the waterfall is well marked and a gradual incline up. The fall eaves really made this a beautiful hike up, especially getting to see all the different leaves.
We made it to the base of the waterfall and there are few things to note. The space is not that big so it is only a group or two at a time that can actually get close to the rocks. The other thing is that the area around the waterfall is a bit tricky to navigate as there is water everywhere. Again, there are rocks to navigate but I felt that the risk of falling into the water here was a bit higher. The waterfall itself was not gushing at the highest intensity so my guess is accessing this area in the spring and summer months is not easy when the water level is much higher. We walked along the rocks and made it to Piper Falls and the Box Canyon which was very cool to see. After climbing on the big rock in front of Champney Falls, it was time to continue the climb.
We continued up the path which started as rock steps and turned into rocks and slabs. This is a more challenging portion of the hike but it is wide enough that it is easy to stay safe. The path goes up along side the waterfall until you reach the top. There are two giant boulders at the top of the water, a stream to the left, and the path back down the the right. The ranger told us to climb the boulders and cross the stream before heading back down the path for great views and my goodness, he was right. Make sure when you do this hike to climb the boulders, and cross the stream following a path to a clearing.
The spot was spectacular and we had it all to ourselves – just look at these colors, we were completely blown away. Since the journey to the falls was all uphill, the way back down was easy and quick.
Thought I have to saw, the views at the top of the falls really made me wish we had more time to finish the trail to summit Mt Chocorua. The entire journey took us two hours to complete which made it an ideal stop on the drive while accomplishing all the other stops. Whenever we return in the future, going to Mt Chocorua will be on the list.