SHELBURNE — A recently Boston Globe article listing five “overlooked White Mountain trails” included Giant Falls, a 90-foot-tall waterfall located just off the Peabody Brook Trail.
Compiled by Globe correspondent Miles Howard, article offered Giant Falls, along with Cherry Pond in Jefferson, Zealand Valley in Twin Mountain, The Basin and Hermit Falls in North Chatham and Bridal Falls in Franconia, as alternative hikes to very popular trails that are either closed or seeing more traffic than usual this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Giant Falls is located on a three-tenths-of-a-mile-long spur at 1.2 miles on the blue-blazed Peabody Brook Trail.
The main trail, which until 1976 was part of the Appalachian Trail and is still maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club, starts as a gentle walk that traverses the 82-acre Peabody Forest, acquired in 1960 by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests from the Ralph I. Peabody Estate.
The trail becomes steeper as it goes through a hardwood forest, passing by some large macro-lichen-covered boulders and rugged crags.
The well-marked but narrow spur trail (on the left) to Giant Falls has eroded over time, leaving rocks and roots that are difficult for those no longer limber to maneuver.
Shelburne Trails Club members went out with their loppers on July 2 to help clear the winter debris after the Globe article was published, but hikers must still swing their legs over a couple of good-sized birch blowdowns.
Many New York ferns grow alongside the trail as it nears the brook, and the sound of splashing water fills the air.
There is a natural platform on which hikers can sit at the base of the falls.
A description published in the Third Edition of “Waterfalls of the White Mountains” by Bruce and Daniel Bolnick and Kyle van der Laan (2019) attributes the lack of a large pool at the falls’ base to “a wide swath of tough mica schist (that) cuts across the path of Peabody Brook…. Despite thousands of years of post-glacial flow, the brook has hardly dented the tough ledge… and no gorge has been carved into the mountainside to frame the scene.”
The Shelburne Trails Club map and trail descriptions show how hikers can incorporate the Peabody Brook Trail into some loop hikes. The trailhead sign lists the Dryad Falls Trail as being 3.0 miles and the Mahoosuc Trail 3.1 miles.
The Peabody Brook Trail starts on the north side of North Road. There is only room for two vehicles to park off the pavement on its south side, 1.3 miles from the North Road’s junction with U.S. Route 2.
This is a quiet neighborhood, and no overnight parking is allowed. All pets must be kept leashed. All trail users are asked to use Leave No Trace practices and to be respectful of private landowners’ property.