Maine is full of small waterfalls that take you by surprise

By Aislinn Sarnacki

Waterfalls are magical, especially when you aren’t expecting them.

I stumbled across a waterfall that I’d never heard of while hiking along the famous Appalachian Trail in Monson this week. Goodell Brook Falls is an enchanting landmark that’s easy to visit. Just a quarter mile from the nearest parking lot, it’s located on a little-known side trail.

It’s a small waterfall, just about 10 feet tall, yet it’s dramatic, with a singular flow plunging between slate ledges. On the way down, the water catches on natural rock steps, forming small arcs within the torrent. 

Do you know what makes a surprise waterfall even more majestic? Ice.

Photo courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki
GOODELL BROOK FALLS — Ice and snow surround Goodell Brook Falls on Jan. 8 in Monson.

When I visited the waterfall in early January, lumpy walls of ice bordered the flowing water on both sides. Frosted with snow, the ice hung off the rock in sheets and columns, each irregular shape adding to the beauty of the scene. 

All around, a fine, powdery snow covered the forest floor and coated tree boughs. Judging by the lack of boot prints on the trail, I was the first person to visit the waterfall since it had snowed the day before. 

The air was biting cold, freezing my fingers every time I removed a mitten to adjust settings on my camera. Careful not to slip on ice, I hopped from rock to rock at the base of the falls, trying to get a good angle for a photograph. 

I was emboldened by knowing that if I did slip into the rushing water, I was close enough to my car to return to it before my boots turned into ice blocks.

Photo courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki
BALANCED — Aislinn Sarnacki balances on snow-covered rocks near Goodell Brook Falls in Monson.

I had discovered the waterfall by chance. I had arrived in Monson early that morning for a meeting, and I had a few hours to kill. I knew that an access point to the AT was nearby, so I figured I’d go for an hour-long jaunt through the woods while following the trail’s telltale white blazes.

The AT is a footpath that stretches approximately 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine. Each year, hundreds of hikers set out to walk the entire thing over the course of months. But it’s also a great trail for short, day hikes, with many access points throughout. 

It can be a lot of fun to take kids on a short hike on the AT while explaining how long it is and a bit of its history. I did this with my niece, Willa, and she declared that she wants to hike the whole thing with me someday.

To reach Goodell Falls, I started at a trailhead parking lot off Route 15 just north of downtown Monson and hiked north. This part of the trail is special because it’s the beginning of what’s known as the 100-Mile Wilderness — the most remote section of the AT. 

Less than 0.1 mile down the trail, Goodell Brook Falls Trail branched off to the right. The intersection included a sign, and the trail was marked with bright blue blazes, making it easy to follow. From there, it was just 0.2 mile to the falls.

The forest was a mix of trees. I noted balsam fir, spruce, towering white pine, paper birch, beech and quite a few large yellow birch trees. I also spied an evergreen understory plant called creeping snowberry. 

Pro tip: Prior to the hike, I stopped at Monson General Store to order a Trailblazer sandwich from the lunch menu. The food there is top notch, and the sandwiches are huge.

After hiking to and from the falls, you could add some miles onto your adventure by walking a bit more of the Appalachian Trail. Heading north, it continues all the way to Katahdin.

Maine, a state criss-crossed by impressive waterways, features many stunning waterfalls. In fact, I own several guidebooks for Maine waterfall hikes. Yet none of them mention Goodell Brook Falls. I think it’s just too small to make the cut.

Nevertheless, I think small waterfalls are worth visiting. They’re great places to relax and take in the soothing sound of rushing water. Plus, smaller, little-known waterfalls don’t attract big crowds. You often get them all to yourself.

During the many hikes I’ve completed through the state, I’ve run into a number of small waterfalls that I didn’t expect. Peters Brook Falls in Blue Hill is among my favorites. And nearby, Patten Stream Preserve in Surry has some lovely step falls and rapids. 

Recently, I discovered a few waterfalls at Amherst Mountains Community Forest — including a waterfall right beside the road. You don’t even need to hike to enjoy it.

If you have a favorite mini waterfall, one that doesn’t make the guidebooks, I’d love to hear about it. Or maybe you’d rather keep it to yourself. If so, I understand.

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