PINKHAM NOTCH — The short but steep Glen Ellis Falls Trail — one of the most popular paths in the White Mountain National Forest — will be closed to the public, starting Monday.
The trail to the spectacular 64-foot-tall waterfall will be undergoing some 10 weeks of renovations with an eye to visitor safety and increased accessibility, according to WMNF public affairs specialist Colleen Mainville.
An accessible trail to a scenic overlook with a pleasing vista to the south is also included in the scope of work. The trail's route follows what was used as a temporary detour when extensive work was done to increase the highway’s width on a curve on Route 16, south of the falls. Historical interpretation at Glen Ellis will also be updated.
HistoriCorps will arrive at the Day Use Area on Sunday, July 12, and be on site providing training to the crews through July 25.
Northwoods Stewardship Center Pro Crew arrives that same day and will stay on the project through Sept. 18 or until the work is completed, no later than Sept. 30.
The White Mountain Trail Collective, National Forest Foundation and USDA Forest Service trail crews will also be contributing their skills.
The environmental analysis of the site improvement project, undertaken by a 15-member team of specialists, was completed by the Androscoggin Ranger District in February of 2015.
The Glen Ellis Falls on the Ellis River was acquired by the U.S. Forest Service in 1915. The parking area and trail — a simple boardwalk and wooden staircase — were first developed in the 1920s.
During the 1930s, the all-male Civilian Conservation Corps did extensive work on the trail. The distinctive stone and masonry work have remained largely intact for over 90 years, making many hikers feel they’ve stepped back in time.
The Glen Ellis project will incorporate a majority of the trail beginning from the east side of Route 16 at the end of the tunnel that runs under the north-south highway to the trail’s end, near the base of the falls. Several issues will be addressed: numerous drainage issues, a heavily eroded treadway and slumping base materials. If this work is not done, USFS specialists predicted that the trail would continue to deteriorate and the overall recreation experience would be further degraded.
Thework, including repair to the rockwork originally installed by the CCCs during the Great Depression, will use historic materials and styles of construction as approved by White Mountain National Forest heritage staff. Drainage must be added in several areas and a “holistic approach” to completing drainage, support and repair will be used at the switchback located about three-quarters of the way down the trail.
Some 200 feet of trail that meets Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines (FSTAG) from the east end of the tunnel to a point just before the trail first begins to descend more steeply to the falls. A crew will excavate into the bank and add retaining walls, but only as necessary. Any new retaining walls will be of same character as the original stonework, but new construction will be kept to a minimum to avoid the need for ongoing maintenance where possible. A space already exists that allows ample room to create a resting/turning area without significant bank excavation.
Rustic railings were replaced in the past, but additional work may be required.
The modern bathroom amenities installed in the 1960s stopped functioning more than a decade ago, however, and a replacement system will be installed. This infrastructure failure left only two vault toilets on site for visitors to use.
The Glen Ellis Day Use Area is approximately 1 mile south of the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center on the Androscoggin Ranger District of the White Mountain National Forest. It is located about halfway between the towns of Gorham and Jackson.
The area also includes two trailheads: Wildcat Ridge Trail and Glen Boulder Trail. It has two links to trails leading to the AMC’s Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.