The Basin & Kinsman Falls
The Basin and Kinsman Falls is a short 1.2 mile out-and-back walk to a lovely waterfall in Franconia Notch State Park. The trail follows Cascade Brook and passes many beautiful (and popular) water features. The falls are also called Tunnel Falls.
We had visited the Basin last year, but it is always worth a quick stop off I-93. It takes only .1 mile to reach it from the parking lot. You will see signs to lead you directly to the Basin. The Basin was formed about 15,000 years ago as an ice sheet eroded the pathway. According to the plaque at the site there, Henry David Thoreau wrote “this pothole is perhaps the most remarkable curiosity of its kind in New England.” Samuel Eastman called this area, “One of the most beautiful haunts of Nature, a luxurious and delicious bath fit for the ablutions of a goddess.”
There are several paths to walk along in this area to explore streams and small waterfalls. If you go back the way you came, you will see a larger junction with a sign for Kinsman Falls being .5 miles away. The path up to Kinsman Falls was filled with roots and rocks, so you do need to continually watch where you are stepping. Shortly up the ascent, you will see several spots to your left along the way of the river. These are good places to soak in the sun or to wade in a small pool. Be careful about footing if you venture into the water, since the water does rush through these areas rapidly. Getting back on the trail, you have more of an ascent, but you will quickly come up to the sign pointing to Kinsman Falls. The falls were very impressive as they plunged into a serene pool at the base.
I definitely recommend checking out these areas if you are taking a trip through the White Mountains. Most people just view the Basin and some of the swimming holes along the way and don’t venture any further, but it is worth the hike up to Kinsman Falls and most families can easily make the trip.
There are several geocaches in the area:
We planned to do lots of family hikes on this visit to New Hampshire, but about a week before the trip an MRI revealed that my dad had torn his meniscus. His doctor told him to be careful and to limit activity that could extend the tear. Sadly, this put most of his hiking plans on hold for the time being. He did decide that he felt up to joining us on the short hike past the Basin and up to Kinsman Falls.
Like Flume Gorge, this little hike packs in a lot of impressive scenery over a very short distance. Also, like the Flume, it is extremely popular and crowded.
The Basin is such a gorgeous spot. I love how the water curls through the rock formation. The rock walls of the Basin are smooth and sculpted – they almost look unnatural. The water is blue-green colored and crystal clear. It’s one of those spots you’ll never forget!
After the Basin, the beautiful water features keep on coming! There are so many small waterfalls and cascades along the trail, that you always hear the pleasant sound of rushing water. A sign marks the way to Kinsman Falls, but honestly, we could say “just follow the water uphill” and you’d find your way there.
The trail followed alongside Cascade Brook for a half mile. There were many little side-trails leading to scenic spots along the brook. Dozens of people reclined on the rocks while kids used the streambed like a natural waterslide. One mother remarked to us that her family had visited the spot two days in a row, and both her boys had worn through the backsides of two sets of swim trunks.
The trail is muddy, with a mix of gnarled roots and slick granite underfoot. It’s all uphill, but it’s never steep. It really is an ideal family hike.
A small sign announces Kinsman Falls. From the trail, you get a view of the falls from above. The twenty-foot waterfall crashes into a large, round pool in a chasm below. There is a rough footpath down to the base of the falls – take care if you climb down – it’s slippery with numerous rocks to scramble over.
There are lots of big rocks to sit on around the edge of the pool. It’s a nice place to relax and enjoy feeling the mist from the falls spray your face. We were really surprised to have the falls all to ourselves. Even though there were many people in the area, no one else was at the waterfall. Odd – but very welcome! On our return trip, we passed quite a few people hiking up, so I suppose we just had fortuitous timing.
- Distance – 1.2 miles out-and-back. Plus a couple additional tenths of a mile to get to and from your car.
- Elevation Change –Around 300 feet
- Difficulty – 2. The hike is all uphill over slick granite and gnarled roots, but it is short and never steep.
- Trail Conditions – 2. The trail is extremely rocky, muddy and covered with gnarled tree roots.
- Views –2. From the Cascade Brook streambed, you get a decent view of the mountains.
- Waterfalls/streams –5. Nothing short of spectacular!
- Wildlife – 0. A few squirrels and chipmunks.
- Ease to Navigate – 4. After walking uphill from the Basin, look for the sign to Kinsman Falls and follow the blue blazes uphill.
- Solitude – 0. This area is extremely popular. We saw dozen of people along the way, but surprisingly had Kinsman Falls all to ourselves.
Directions to trailhead:
From I-93N. Once you enter the Franconia Notch area, take the Basin exit. The area is well-marked and has ample parking.