Located in the Crawford Notch region of the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF), Frankenstein Cliff is named after a German-born painter who was known for his landscape art. It is fitting that his namesake stands approximately 1000ft above the valley floor and offers incredible views of the Saco River Valley, Dry River and Bemis Brook as well as the trailhead to Arethusa Falls which are named after a goddess in mythology. The waterfall is the tallest in New Hampshire boasting a 200 ft drop.
If it’s solitude you want, try parking in the lower lot and hiking up the Frankenstein Cliff Trail. There is a moderate grade on this trail as it crosses the stream. Once you reach the railroad trussle above you, the grade becomes steeper and the soil a little loose in areas. There are a few small switchbacks leading up the trail. The elevation gain is nearly 1200 ft. in just shy of a mile. The climb is worth it. Once you reach the top, you can see for miles and miles. It is a nice place to rest and have a snack or look over the edge to your car if you are adventurous and not afraid of heights. Take caution when at the edge of open cliff faces.
To continue on, follow the Frankenstein Cliff Trail to the right opposite of where you came up to the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail.
Turn right and follow the Arethusa Falls to the waterfall. Once you reach this point, expect to see many more people as the trail is more maintained and more popular on this side. It is a short hike from this point, perhaps 2/10th of a mile. To return via a loop, return from the falls to the junction with the Arethusa-Ripley Falls trail and continue right down the mountain on the Arethusa Falls trail. Near the trailhead, there is a slight divergence for the Bemis Brook Trail if you are so inclined for a little more adventure.
When you reach the upper parking lot at the Arethusa Falls Trailhead, be advised the home and property located there are off limits and private. However, this is a great spot to snap some photos of the cliffs you just climbed. Continue down the hill on the paved road to the lower parking lot and return to your car. This loop will total approximately 4.8 miles.
Notes: The day we went on this loop (August 2008) we did not see any other people until we had almost reached the Arethusa Falls Trail junction. I was glad we had the toughest part of the hike out of the way early and we enjoyed the time alone with our dog on the trail. Once we reached the Arethusa Falls Trail it was almost non-stop people coming and going. We saw some people dressing in hopes to swim at the top. This is not that kind of hike. While you could perhaps get in the water, if it is a swim you are looking for, the Saco River is right along this route and easily acessible just up the road from this hike. There is one amenity you will find here, an outhouse located in the lower parking lot.