DESCRIPTION: In the first fifteen miles of its “100 Mile Wilderness” section, the Appalachian Trail passes by numerous small waterfalls plus three significant ones: Little Wilson, Vaughn Stream and Slugundy. Unknown to most AT hikers, a short side hike half a mile before the AT’s crossing of Wilson Stream would reveal the most spectacular waterfall of this entire section, on Thompson Brook.
Approaching the falls from downstream, you first encounter two sets of ledge drops with 20+ feet combined total drop. While scenic enough in high water, don’t be fooled. The real prize lies higher upstream. Less than a quarter mile above the lower set of falls, a narrow slot canyon perhaps 40 feet deep begins to present itself upstream. As you gain a vantage point, a 20 foot high, sixty degree slide falls makes you gasp, as it crashes into the canyon from the left, spanning its whole width and surging against the canyon wall to your right.
There’s more. Blocked by the canyon, you must backtrack and climb up to the left hand (south) rim of the gorge. After a difficult, trail-less 100 yard climb amid thick beds of moss and massive white pines, you see it: a 50 foot high, impossibly perfect cascade plummeting into a deep gorge and pool that immediately exits into the 20 foot slide falls described above. And immediately above the 50 footer, like the top level of a three-storey cake, is a perfect ten foot falls plunging into its own deep pool. Finally, to finish off the spectacle, a short distance higher up are two pretty falls each five or six feet high, rendered ordinary only by comparison with the stunning display below.
Scenic Rating: 3/5
Difficulty Rating: 2/5
Hike Duration: 6 hours
Handicap Access: No
GPS Reading: N45.3922 W69.4697
DeLorme Atlas: Map 41 E4
DIRECTIONS: Follow the directions to the lower falls at the Little Wilson Stream campground. From the campground, you will need to cross Little Wilson Stream. There are three options: (1) ford the stream at the campground 0.1 miles below the lower falls; (2) ford Little Wilson via the Appalachian Trail crossing approximately 0.9 miles above the lower falls; (3) cross via the new (2006) timber company bridge 0.3 miles downstream of the lower falls. The bridge is at the former site of a snowmobile suspension bridge, and can be reached by car, by turning right from the Little Wilson access road 0.4 miles after turning off the Elliotsville Road. Note: The Appalachian trail crossing is more difficult than crossing below the lower falls, so if water levels are too high to cross at the campground, you will need to use the bridge.
From the campground crossing, you should immediately encounter a rough gravel woods road that proceeds upstream, angling away from Little Wilson. If you cross at the bridge, follow Little Wilson 0.2 miles upstream to reach the woods road. Follow this road approximately 0.4 miles until you reach a gate and signs marking the boundary of the Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. Seven Ponds nature preserve. Continue past the gate another 0.7 miles, where you will see a small, unnamed pond to your left. The Appalachian trail comes in here, from your left.
If you cross Little Wilson Stream via the Appalachian Trail, follow the AT uphill 0.4 miles until you reach the junction with the woods road. Just before reaching this point, the AT skirts the pond mentioned above on bog bridges.
From the AT junction, follow the woods road/AT for another 100 yards. At this point, the AT exits the woods road to the right, turning sharply uphill. Follow the AT, crossing Big Wilson cliffs, a half-mile ridge of exposed slate with good views. Another 1.3 miles beyond the cliffs, the AT reaches Wilson Stream, joining an old tote road. Thompson Brook comes in from your left 200 yards north of this point. Just before you reach Thompson Brook, a former snowmobile trail comes in from your left. Follow this trail upstream 0.3 miles to an old snowmobile bridge, now hanging precariously from its steel cables. Note: This is above the waterfall location shown on USCGS topo maps. From the snowmobile bridge, follow Thompson Brook another 0.2 miles upstream to the lower falls. Continue upstream to view the upper falls, as described above.
Note: Allow six hours, round trip, for this hike.
Click on map to enlarge.
Photos: ©Erik M. Stumpfel