Why You Need a Hike to Garwin Falls, NH

Garwin Falls
Garwin Falls

Sometimes when I want to get away from it all, I’ll look for somewhere secluded and quiet to sneak away so I can collect my thoughts and get re-energized and refocused. During one of my weekend trips to New Hampshire, I had a chance to escape the bright lights of the city and reconnect with nature. I dove headfirst into the serenity of the New Hampshire countryside throughout my trip, like on my hike to Garwin Falls, NH. Never heard of Garwin Falls? Read on!

To reach Garwin Falls (sometimes called Barnes Falls), you’ll first need to make your way to the eastern border of the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire and the town of Wilton about 2 hours north of Boston. This small New England town, which was first called “Salem-Canada” until it became incorporated in 1762, has a population of fewer than 4,000 people (3,677 at the 2010 census) and today is best known for its orchards, farms, and woodlands.

Once you arrive in Wilton, you’ll then need to set off in search of Garwin Falls on Putnam Hill Road to where you can park your car and began your short hike. When it comes to packing for any sort of trip, you always hope you haven’t forgotten any essentials. So if you think you’ve found the Best Hiking Gear for your trip or have a brand new tent you want to take, remembering to pack everything is going to be the difference between having a positive or negative hiking experience. If you could drive right up to the falls so would everyone else and who wants to visit a touristy site? Our directions to Garwin Falls were from our Airbnb accommodations, which included phrases like “to the edge of the field” and “past the old dam,” but if you plan on driving you’ll need to decipher the various directions available.

Garwin Falls
Map from Wilton, NH to Garwin Falls

Directions using GoogleMaps: Travel along Route 101 to Wilton Center until you can reach Isaac Frye Highway where you can then turn onto Putnam Hill Road.

Waterfalls of the Northeastern United States offers these directions: Take Route 101 to Wilton Center (you’ll have to leave Route 101 turning onto Wilton Center Road) and take the Isaac Frye Highway, passing New Wilton Reservoir on the right. Park at the next stream crossing. The falls are downstream. Since this is likely private property, be mindful of the owner’s rights and concerns. If the area isn’t posted, please be responsible for visitors. If it is posted, please honor the landowner’s wishes.

Wild Mountain Wanderers offers these directions: From the western junction of NH 101 and NH 30, travel west on NH 101 for 0.3 mile and turn right onto Isaac Frye Highway. Continue on Isaac Frye Highway for 1.2 miles and bear right at a fork. In 0.1 mile bear left as Sand Hill Avenue comes in on the right, immediately beyond this intersection, stay right, on Isaac Frye Highway as Davisville Road branches left. Continue on Isaac Frye Highway for 0.2 to the parking pull-off on the right just past the Vale End Cemetery. Total Distance: 0.5 mile round trip to the base of the falls.

Garwin Falls
On the way to Garwin Falls I spotted a beaver dam!

This was the first time I’ve ever seen a beaver dam, too, but no beavers. Maybe they were on vacation? Wilton is approximately 26 square miles of captivating scenery, and like it’s neighbor, Peterborough, is great for hiking and exploring like my climb up Pack Monadnock. After that uphill hike I was ready for something a little tamer and Garwin Falls was the perfect destination.

Once you set off on foot on your hike to Garwin Falls, all that’s required is an easy and short (really short) twenty minutes or so along a marked trail. During my hike, we were the only people around as we spotted no one else the entire time but for the hoards of insects annoying us and that were eating us alive. But to be honest, it’s much better to get bit by mosquitos than a herd of walkers from The Walking Dead and yes, I kept thinking this was exactly where I’d find a walker. Daryl? Rick? Anyone?

TSG Tip: Always dress appropriately for hikes in the woods to avoid bites of any kind, be it mosquitos, ticks, or walkers.

When you hear the sounds of rushing water ahead, you’ll know you’ve reached Garwin Falls. While not a huge waterfall, the falls drop over forty feet in three plunges down. Surrounded by lush greenery, the free-flowing falls was once a popular swimming, fishing, and picnic destination before the advent of the automobile. Today, it sits quietly amongst its New Hampshire surroundings beckoning people to stay for a little while. While you wouldn’t plan an entire day here, you can easily plan on a morning or afternoon of peace and quiet with hiking, exploring, and sitting by the falls.

TSG Tip: If you dare visit during the winter months, nothing beats a frozen waterfall for stunning photographs. As for me, when winter comes I’m already hibernating, thank you very much.

The waterfall swiftly cascades down resulting in rocks worn from the water’s force. Look closely and you’ll see that underneath the crystal clear waters are polished and shiny rocks lying flat beneath the surface. This spell binding waterfall and its surrounds are another example of nature’s beauty and was without a doubt worth the extra time needed for us to decipher directions to locate it.

While trips to this old watering hole may have fallen to the wayside in favor of more exotic destinations, if you’re in this part of New Hampshire for a day trip or a vacation, your plans should definitely include a hike to Garwin Falls. Don’t you just want to get away from it all and experience all that nature has to offer?

Garwin Falls
84 Putnam Hill Rd. Wilton, NH 03086

Have you ever visited Garwin Falls? Have you ever visited a small and maybe not so famous waterfall like this one?

UPDATE 8/21/2017: From the Wilton, NH Police Department:

ATTENTION: Garwin Falls has seen a significant increase in visitors. Unfortunately, this has resulted in traffic, parking, and pedestrian safety issues in that area. Neighbors have reported problems with trash and discarded illegal drug paraphernalia at the site as well. Based on all of these concerns, the Wilton Board of Selectmen voted to post Isaac Frye Highway and Putnam Hill Rd. in this area as NO PARKING and further designated as a TOW AWAY ZONE at their meeting on August 14, 2017. Please be advised that vehicles found parked in these restricted areas are subject to being towed at the owner’s expense. Visitors may park in front of the cable gate but there is only enough space for a few vehicles to park there.

10 thoughts on “Why You Need a Hike to Garwin Falls, NH

  1. Parking is now limited to a few cars and the surrounding roads are now signed no parking, tow away zone. This is due to all of the abuse these falls are getting from out of state people. Litter, drugs, speeding, unsafe parking, you name it.

    1. How do you know it’s fro m “out of state” people? Why can’t it be residents doing this as well? Or are you just one of those people?

  2. ATTENTION: Garwin Falls has seen a significant increase in visitors. Unfortunately, this has resulted in traffic, parking, and pedestrian safety issues in that area. Neighbors have reported problems with trash and discarded illegal drug paraphernalia at the site as well. Based on all of these concerns, the Wilton Board of Selectmen voted to post Isaac Frye Highway and Putnam Hill Rd. in this area as NO PARKING and further designated as a TOW AWAY ZONE at their meeting on August 14, 2017. Please be advised that vehicles found parked in these restricted areas are subject to being towed at the owner’s expense. Visitors may park in front of the cable gate but there is only enough space for a few vehicles to park there.

    1. Thank you so much for letting me know. I am going to update the post with this information right now and hopefully, people will show your town more respect in the future.

      1. Well, if there is no where to park for the big tourist attraction, I guess people just won’t come to Wilton and spend their tourist dollars there. Surely there is a better way to police that. Hidden cams?

  3. As a photographer, I visit Garwin falls several times a year. The falls (as well as Horseshoe falls a little further up) can be spectacular when the water is running well. Unfortunately, I’ve now had the experience of driving some distance, arriving at the falls, and not being able to park the car. I understand the problem, having hauled a box of trash out myself, but I can also testify to the frustration of driving a half hour, only to turn around and drive home. Wish there were a better solution.

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