Howe Brook Falls is a spectacular four mile total out-and-back waterfall hike from South Branch Pond Campground in the northern half of Baxter State Park. I tacked this hike on to a South Branch Pond Loop hike, which is covered separately in another post, but the Howe Brook hike itself can be done in about three hours or less. A detailed description and map of this hike is found in the books Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park and Hiking Waterfalls Maine, and a Baxter State Park downloadable map of South Branch Pond is available on BSP’s website.
The hike begins at the Pogy Notch trailhead in the southeast corner of the South Branch Pond Campground. The beginning of this trail contains the iconic “You Are Entering Maine’s Largest Wilderness” sign, which encourages caution and self-sufficiency, and turnaround times are calculated in a table at the kiosk. A straightforward, flat mile-long hike leads along the eastern shore of clear, quiet Lower South Branch Pond to a left turn onto the Howe Brook Trail.
From this trail intersection, it’s only about a quarter mile to the lower falls and pools, so if you have kids who can’t make it the full two miles out and back, these cascades are sufficiently beautiful and entertaining for a day trip, splashing and swimming, and a picnic. After about a mile, the trail becomes a little steeper and veers farther away from the brook as the gorge narrows in the shadow of Traveler Mountain. The path to the upper falls is narrow and sometimes winding, but never overly strenuous, with views of the rushing water and moss-covered boulders of Howe Brook to the right.
At the top of the trail is a truly impressive waterfall, dropping straight into a cold pool. This is the Upper Falls, capping this trip through the cascades. In the sunlit opening below, I disturbed some ruffed grouse, who had been sunning themselves on the rocks, made unaware of me until the last minute by the white noise of the falls. A pleasant downhill hike re-traced my steps, and allowed me to re-visit the mirrored pools and clearings of Howe Brook on the way back to South Branch Campground.
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