Sabbaday Falls in New Hampshire is a great place to visit for the entire family. Located along the Kancamagus Highway (New Hampshire Route 112) in White Mountain National Forest, this stop is one of the most popular along the route. While this one isn’t quite as accessible as some of the scenic overlooks easily seen from the car, it involves a short walk that allows you to stretch your legs and ends with a fantastic reward-a beautiful waterfall through a massive crevasse in the surrounding granite.
This spot is great in all seasons, even in the wintertime! We highly recommend taking the time to explore this beautiful area, if you have 30 to 45 minutes to spare. It’s also a great spot to bring a picnic lunch.
SABBADAY FALLS TRAIL DETAILS
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 0.75 miles (round-trip)
- Trail: Out-and-back
- Elevation gain: 97 feet
- Peak elevation reached: 1,437 feet
- Best time of year to hike: All seasons (though foot traction is recommended in the winter)
- To beat the crowds: Arrive before 9:30 am or after 5:00 pm
- Footwear: Sneakers or hiking shoes
- Watch out for: Mosquitoes during the summer
- Restrooms: Pit toilets located at the trailhead, but not on the trail
- Time needed: 30 to 60 minutes
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE SABBADAY FALLS TRAIL
Sabbaday Falls parking area, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Transportation
The trailhead for the Sabbaday Falls Trail is located midway through the Kancamagus Highway. This road is beautiful, so you can plan on taking your time as you explore it over a few hours or even several days. There are several viewpoints along the way if you are heading from the west (Lincoln, NH area) or the east (Conway, NH area), though the more dramatic views are on the route from the west.
- Directions from Lincoln, NH to the Sabbaday Falls parking area (this will take you about 30 minutes without any stops or traffic and is 20 miles east of Lincoln, NH)
- Directions from Conway, NH to the Sabbaday Falls parking area (this will take about 25 minutes and is located about 16 miles west of Conway, NH)
The parking area for Sabbaday Falls holds about 30 vehicles. The parking area is commonly full in the summertime of fall in particular, but since the trail is short, parking spots do open up regularly (though some hikers do park here for longer treks, and may be here all day or overnight). Still, it is close enough to other popular locations that if it’s too full you can just come back at a later time quite easily.
To park here and visit the falls you do need to have a White Mountain National Forest pass. You can purchase it at the trailhead. If you also have an Interagency, Golden Age or Golden Access pass, you are not required to have White Mountain National Forest pass.
There are vault toilets in the parking area, but no restrooms on the trail.
SABBADAY FALLS: TRAIL SURFACE AND ACCESSIBILITY
- Trail surface. The trail is packed dirt. While most of the hikes in New Hampshire are dotted with rocks and roots, this trail is essentially without any obstacles. If you choose to get closer to the water, you will have to do some walking on rocks, but it is quite easy.
- Accessibility. While the trail is smooth, it is not for wheelchairs as it is uphill the entire way. If you are using a cane or need to walk slowly, this trail is more than doable.
PREPARATION FOR HIKING TO SABBADAY FALLS
This hike is very short and you don’t have to do much preparation for the hike. However, we do recommend you bring with you a few essentials:
- Water. You won’t need much (just a half-liter or so), but if you are hiking on a hot day you will appreciate having it as you get close to the top of the hike. The water in the falls is not safe to drink, so if you do need to drink from it you’ll want to purify it ahead of time.
- Bug Protection. If you are hiking in the summer then you need to be prepared for mosquitos. They aren’t as bad as the Midwest, but they can get to you if you are not wearing bug repellant. Of course, if you are here in May or early June, the black flies can be bad, and bug repellant may not work.
- Shoes. This trail is flat, but you will still want to be wearing sturdy shoes to avoid any injury if you plan on scrambling on the rocks.
HIKING TO SABBADAY FALLS
Sabbaday Falls Trail map, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
After leaving your vehicle in the parking lot, the trail starts on the south side.
At the entrance to the trail there is a trail sign with a map, but there are also a couple of signs describing the area’s geography and history.
The trail starts to head uphill immediately, but it is very gradual and you may not even notice it.
Along the left side of the trail is the Sabbaday Brook, which originates up the trail at an elevation of 2,300 feet or so. The brook is the result of the snow runoff and the flow can be quite impressive, considering it’s coming from only a few miles up the mountain. We love taking in the beauty of the brook-the light shining through the trees is always different and makes for great photos! There are also several good places to sit and relax as you just take in the beauty of the water and enjoy the shade.
At the 0.25-mile point, the trail splits off to the left (or you have the option to go straight). If you head left, the trail descends slightly down to the bottom of the falls. It’s a bit tricky to see the entire falls from any angle, so we do recommend that you check out Sabbaday Falls from both the bottom and the top.
After checking out Sabbaday Falls from the bottom, you can reverse the path you took and head to the left on the trail, or walk up the stairs, gaining the last of the 100 feet in elevation as you arrive at the Sabbaday Falls Observation Area. From here you get a different perspective of the upper falls and main plunge.
The return walk goes quickly, as it’s downhill.
ABOUT SABBADAY FALLS
Sabbaday Falls is essentially two waterfalls in one. The main falls is over 20 feet, and the second drop is about seven feet. It was formed thousands of years ago from a nearby melting glacier. In addition to water erosion, rocks and boulders were also carried to help form the pools.
SABBADAY FALLS TRAIL: TOP LIKES AND DISLIKES
- Incredible Waterfall. The highlight of this hike is of course the falls at the end. You can find a good spot to hang out and just watch the falls and you’ll be mesmerized!
- Hiking in the Shade. If you are here in the summer, it can get quite hot. This trail is nearly 100% shaded, making it a great way of escaping the heat. Plus, you can dip your toes in the water in the Sabbaday Creek if you want!
- Easy. This hike is very easy, and has a great payout at the end.
- Crowds. Since this trail is one of the most popular spots on the Kancamagus Highway, it can get crowded. The small parking lot helps to throttle the number of visitors, though.
- Blocked Views. Unlike many other waterfalls in New Hampshire, you don’t ever really get a clear view of the falls from one spot. Therefore, it’s hard to get amazing photographs. Still, you’ll love the views you do get, and the sound of the rushing water is great.
HIKING TO SABBADAY FALLS IN WINTER
If you are looking to avoid the crowds and see the White Mountains in a different light, then visiting in the winter is a great option. There are a few things to be prepared for:
- Road closures. When visiting the White Mountains in the winter, the Kancamagus Highway does occasionally close when there is heavy snowfall. However, crews do get out and clear the highway within a day.
- Foot traction. Footing can be tricky in the winter, so we highly recommend getting some good trekking poles and micro-spikes to help out and be sure you don’t get hurt.
THINGS TO DO NEAR SABBADAY FALLS
The entire Kancamagus Highway is worth traveling, and in our opinion (and many others) it’s the best way to really see the White Mountain National Forest in a short period of time. Here are some tips:
- There are many viewpoints along the road to stop at. If you see one that looks interesting, then stop!
- Just a couple miles down the road to the east is the Hedgehog Mountain trail. It’s a challenging, 4.9-mile loop hike that heads up to amazing views. We highly recommend it!
- Be sure to drive through Franconia Notch if you have the time!
RELATED INFORMATION ON THE NEARBY AREA FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Be sure to check out our New Hampshire blogs as well as our information on various locations in Maine, including Acadia National Park.
- After your trip, send us a photos and we’ll create a vintage-style travel poster from one or more of your photos. We can make New Hampshire posters, or posters from images anywhere in the world!