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Screw Auger Falls, Grafton Notch State Park, Maine

The Grafton Notch State Park area extends over 3100 acres. The area is rich in geological wonders throughout the park and the Mahoosuc Public Lands, with many acres dedicated to ecological observation.

The Appalachian Trail passes through this Maine state park, providing hikers 12 miles of some of the trail’s most rigorous terrain. One feature is Old Speck, an imposing mountain over 4100 feet high.

The park is 16 miles from Bethel, a delightful, full-service town that’s close to the New Hampshire border. Despite the park’s somewhat remote setting, it’s a scenic drive only two hours from Portland.

The regular season is mid-May to mid-October, although the park is open throughout the year.

Activities at Grafton Notch State Park

This U-shaped valley offers you hiking, mountain stream wading and swimming, picnicking, and exploration of caves and waterfalls. Along the way, you’ll enjoy magnificent views of mountains and open meadows.

This is a four-season area where you can snowmobile, cross-country ski, and snowshoe during the winter. There are numerous spots to enjoy birding, observe wildlife, or engage in fishing or hunting during their respective seasons.

You can picnic at spots with tables and grills, or pack yours to take into a swimming hole or up a mountain. The park’s overall accessibility is rated as limited, with full access available for parking, restrooms, and picnic tables.

There is access with assistance at the smaller falls, although not at the larger ones.

Boating at Grafton Notch State Park

Boating is not a designated park activity, although there’s opportunity to enjoy the nearby Androscoggin River and lakes and ponds to the north and south. You can use either motorized craft, canoe, kayak, or SUP on the lakes and pond.

Bethel Outdoor Adventure & Campground is located 15 miles away. It offers kayak and canoe rentals and tours, plus tubing adventures and more, including its campground.

Heading north just over ½-hour you’ll arrive at Richardson Lakes with 5100 acres of water surface and stretches of quiet shoreline. There are two hard boat launches, one on Upper Richardson and the other at Richardson Lake.

South Pond in Greenwood is ½-hour south of the park. The pond’s boating is often associated with fishing, and can be accessed via a hard-surfaced public boat launch and following Maine boat registration requirements.

Swimming at Grafton Notch State Park

You can sure go wading here and play in the falls. That’s especially true when the water level’s just right and you’re using caution.

The general area also has swimming holes, a special treat for those more used to long sandy beaches. These are truly adventurous!

Two miles east on Rt. 26 you’ll come to Step Falls Preserve that’s managed by the Mahoosuc Land Trust. There’s a one-mile, round-trip moderate hike to reach these refreshing swimming holes. Pets are not permitted at the preserve.

Frenchman’s Hole is a ½-hour away, near the Sunday River Resort and adjacent to the Bull Branch Road.

Other area swimming holes are mapped out for you by the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hiking at Grafton Notch State Park

There’s so much hiking right here, you won’t need to look any further to fulfill your longing for fresh air and gorgeous scenery. Even better, is that you can take it easy, ambling along, or go all out, testing the limits of you and your gear. Leashed pets are permitted on these trails. Here’s a sampling:

  • Three separate, easy trails are detailed on the Grafton Notch State Park trail page. They’re all open for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.

    • Screw Auger Falls is 0.4 miles along the Bear River with its picnic area that leads to the falls.
    • Mother Walker Falls is a gorge up the road with a trail that’s 0.2 miles round-trip for viewing scenic cascading falls.
    • Moose Cave is a 0.4 mile loop that includes some stairs from which to view the cave and gorge.
  • Moderate to advanced is the description of the park’s Baldpate Mountain and Table Rock Loop that’s close to six miles of trail that traverse forest floor and ledge. This loop is also open for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
  • Grafton Notch Loop Trail is a 38-mile loop designed for rigorous backcountry hiking over several days. The linked page provides detailed information.

Keep in mind that this mountainous area can have spotty cell service. Please be well prepared for your hike and let others know where you’re headed and when you’ll return.

Biking at Grafton Notch State Park

Biking is not a designated activity at the park. Despite that, road biking in this valley offers stunning views and access to the various activities without searching for parking on busy days. There are several mountain and road biking trails in nearby Bethel.

  • Inland Woods + Trails provides you with a Village Trails page that details the many biking options in the area, including winter fat biking.
  • Bethel Community Forest is a biking system featured on the above site. You’ll find easy to difficult single and double track trails. The forest also includes networked hiking trails.

Fishing and Hunting at Grafton Notch State Park

The Androscoggin River Valley area has a number of streams and ponds for fishing. Be sure to visit the Bear River to see if you can land a wild native brook trout.

You can hike into Speck Pond, a high-elevation spot known for brown trout. There are easily accessible points along the Androscoggin River in Newry, Hanover, and Bethel. Hopefully you’ll land a brown or rainbow trout.

The Andro is known for fly-fishing with reports of plentiful catches of smallmouth bass. Or try the Sunday River for wild rainbow trout. Go to the Maine Fishing Laws & Rules to access what you need to know about inland angling.

Large and small game hunting here means following Maine Hunting Laws for Hunting Areas. Read up on the State Parks and Public Lands to learn about licenses and restrictions.

Birding at Grafton Notch State Park

Birding here can be quite rich due to the varied habitats and range in elevation added to seasonal changes. At the higher elevations, be on the lookout for peregrine falcons, spruce grouse, and boreal chickadees.

The mixed wood forest is home to vireos and a wide variety of warblers, including the magnolia, blackburnian, and the black-throated green and blue varieties.

Nature & Wildlife at Grafton Notch State Park

The park and vast public lands create a setting that’s as welcoming to large animals as well as smaller species.

Added to that, there’s an abundance of plant life, including that growing deep in the gorges and at alpine elevations.

Large animals living here include moose, black bear, and white-tailed deer. You may have a chance to see, or hear, coyotes, fox, and fishers.

Smaller species include weasels, woodchucks, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, and chipmunks. The only ones that hibernate are bear and woodchucks.

Pets at Grafton Notch State Park

Pets are welcome here as long as they’re leashed, and you clean up after them.

Camping at Grafton Notch State Park

Although there isn’t camping within the park, aside from multi-day hikers bedding down at higher elevations, you’ll find campgrounds nearby:

  • Grafton Notch Campground is right down the road, only three miles away. There are 15 wooded sites right on the Bear River. You can tent or bring your RV to each spot that has a fire ring and picnic table.

    There are no electric or water hookups. Your leashed dog is welcome.

  • Bethel Outdoor Adventure & Campground is 15 miles away on the Androscoggin River. This setting has tent and RV sites with hookups. One unique activity is The Sluice, giving you a chance to take home souvenir local gems. Your leashed pet is welcome.

Park Location

Grafton Notch State Park
Route 26,
Newry, ME 04261
Phone: 207.824.2912

Website
Reservations

Map

Video

Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Grafton Notch State Park: