Via the: Austin Brook Trail, Dryad Falls Trail, and Peabody Brook Trail
Dryad Fall is one of the largest waterfalls in New Hampshire at over 300 feet in hight. It is located in the town of Shelburne and on a trail that crosses through private land. It has a small drainage basin, so unless there is a lot of snowmelt, or after heavy rains you may want to travel elsewhere for waterfall enjoyment. The falls drop 25 feet over the upper tier, pooling for a moment in about a 2 foot deep shelf, then slide the remaining 300 feet to the ground. The rock here is gradual to start but when it is wet, it is very slippery. A fall from here would certainly be fatal, so please enjoy the sights of the waterfalls but use extreme caution when looking at them. Dream lake is worth the trip beyond the falls for a longer day hike. This lake sits at around 2,000 feet and has an active population of beavers. Views to the Presidential Range, particularly of Mt. Adams are spectacular on clear days across the lake.
To reach the trailhead located on North Road, head east toward the Maine border on Route 2 and take a left across Meadow Road. There are three different bridges across the Androscoggin River but this is the one that is closest to the trailhead. Once across Meadow Road, turn left onto North Road and keep your eyes open for a gated trailhead, next to a dam. There are signs for the Austin Brook Trail and a turnstile that is in need of repair. This gate is owned privately so please do not park at the trailhead. There is a small lot or turnout on the opposite side of the road that can accommodate a few cars. No fees are charged for parking here, and there are no facilities. The Austin Brook Trail runs through private land, so adhere to any posted notifications.
The Austin Brook trail follows a series of logging roads and crosses the brook several times. None of these were difficult, and I was there after days of very heavy rain. It gains elevation moderately, and is easy to follow; marked by blue blazes. The landscape weaves through an open meadow of former clear cuts, then a young beech and birch forest before going up higher into a mixture of spruce and other softwoods. From one of the meadows the view of Dryad Falls is fantastic, it is far away, so to capture it a good wide angled camera lens is required. At mile 2.5 the junction is reached with the Dryad Falls Trail. From here to the top of the fall, the gain becomes steeper, it is also slippery, especially in wet weather. There is a sign for the viewpoint for the Falls and up close they are intense. As, I stated already, please use caution. Heading back to the Dryad Falls Trail, you can continue to go up towards Dream Lake. Beyond, the falls the trail is steep at first but does moderate out a bit. At mile 4, the lake comes into view. There is a soft area under some pines that is a nice spot to sit and enjoy the views of the lake and beyond to the Presidential Range. We chose to continue on to the Peabody Brook Trail and headed towards the Mahoosuc Trail (A.T.). The initial goal was a larger loop toward Gentian Pond and then back down the Austin Brook Trail. However, about .5 miles in the snow became very deep, and after post holing to my knees a few times, I decided that I would return in a few more weeks, to see how the conditions had changed. So I turned around and descended the same way I went up. Going down the trail was slippery through the steep section near the falls but otherwise it was pretty easy going.
It is a great hike after some rain, when the falls are really raging. Moderately challenging, but aside from the danger of falling down the waterfall there were no obstacles. Water was plentiful along the entire hike, but there were a lot of Moose droppings around. I have never seen more Moose poop on a hike as I did beyond the Dryad Falls. Sadly, or luckily no Moose were sighted along the way. Having the dog with me might scare them off a bit as I am sure they can hear and smell us much sooner that I can.
Distances from trailhead:
Junction with Mt. Crag Trail .4 miles
Junction with Dryad Falls Trail 2.5 miles
Junction with Peabody Brook Trail 4 miles
Total 8 miles in and back