Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hike – Little Wilson Falls

Little Wilson Falls
The “Little” in “Little Wilson Falls” refers to the fact that it is on Little Wilson Stream, not that the size of the waterfall is little.  At 60 feet this is among the higher waterfalls in Maine.  I caught it on a day where there had been rain, so the volume of water was quite impressive, too.  This is an easy hike so if you like waterfalls, this is definitely one you will want to check out.

Directions – Little Wilson Falls is in Elliotsville Township, a little south of Moosehead Lake.  Take Route 6/15 into Monson.  This is the main road to Greenville from the south.  Driving north about a half mile from the center of Monson, you will see a sign on the right for the Borestone Mountain Sanctuary.  Take this road (Elliotsville Road.)  Drive 7.3 miles until you reach a small bridge that crosses Big Wilson Stream.  Just before this bridge turn left onto a dirt road.  (Just the other side of the bridge is the paved left for Borestone Mountain.  The next hiking post will describe going up Borestone.)  The dirt road is not maintained and has a lot of potholes in it.  You will need to drive slowly.  A couple of camp roads will branch off of it.  Keep to the left at all of these branches.  When you come to the end of the road, you will see a couple of picnic tables and Little Wilson Stream.  There is room for several vehicles to park.

There is actually a smaller set of falls visible right here at the parking spot.  If you do not want to do any hiking you can still drive to here, have a fire pit and table for a picnic, and enjoy the smaller falls.  People also come here to dive into the water and swim around.

Little Wilson Stream

The AMC hiking guide for Maine says that to reach Little Wilson Falls you should ford the stream “where the bridge used to be”, then walk up a logging road until it intersects with the Appalachian Trail, then follow the Appalachian trail back to Little Wilson Stream, ford back over it, then follow the Appalachian Trail to the falls.  Fording the same stream twice didn’t make a lot of sense to me.  I decided to see if I could just bushwhack up the same side of the stream I was already on.  It turned out a lot of other people must have had the same idea because I found a moderately worn footpath to follow.

From the parking area you should head upstream towards the trees.  You will find a worn path heading up into the trees.  Take it.  It will parallel the stream for much of the way to the falls.  The path is worn well enough to see, although ferns and other plants had grown over it in some places.  There is a lot of walking over roots, so watch your footing.  There is a lot of old moss in the forest. 

On the footpath to Little Wilson Falls

The path rises very gradually, eventually moving up and a little away from the stream.  At about eight tenths of a mile this footpath intersects with the Appalachian Trail.  There was a ribbon tied around a tree at this junction.  Someone had written some informal signage at this point.  It actually seemed to point the wrong way for the falls.  I just stayed on the Appalachian Trail heading upstream and in another two tenths of a mile I came to the falls.  (If you are looking for a more challenging hike you can simply take the Appalachian Trail from where it crosses Route 6/15 and go to the falls that way.  I believe it is around 7-8 miles to reach them.)

Over the years Little Wilson Falls has gouged a canyon right out of the slate that makes up so much of the underlying strata of this part of the state.  You cannot see the falls head on, but you come to them part way down their cascade and you can easily get to the top of them.  Looking down the falls into the canyon was quite impressive.  I had the falls all to myself.  I just sat there for a while enjoying the view and the sound of the water.

Little Wilson Falls as seen from the top

There is a little cupboard on the Appalachian Trail near the falls that holds a notebook.  You can write in it and read what others have left.  Most people had written their names and where they were from.  I knew it was more for the people who had come to the falls via the Appalachian Trail, but I wrote in it anyway.

When you decide to head back the way you came, you need to be careful identifying the path you came in on.  I watched for the ribbon I had seen.  When I came to it I could see two paths, so I took the one that stayed closer to the stream figuring that logically it would be the one I came in on.  This turned out to be wrong.  This was a spur of the Appalachian Trail that led down over some stone steps to the banks of Little Wilson Stream.  It looked like this would be an informal campsite for someone hiking the trail.

I retraced my steps back to the ribbon and took the path to the right.  I quickly started recognizing other landmarks so I knew I was on the right trail.  When I go back there someday I am going to explore a little to understand how the heck the Appalachian Trail comes in and goes out.  It was almost as if it looped back on itself.

When I got back to the parking area there were six kids jumping off rocks into the water.  Before I left, a mom pulled up in a van to get the kids.  These were the only people I saw the entire time.

Other than a little bit of a rough road to drive over for a mile or so, and a little bit of confusion on the trail back, I had a very pleasant time on this hike.  If you like waterfalls at all then this hike is highly recommended.

Cumulative distance:             2 miles
Cumulative elevation gain:   350 feet
Cumulative duration:            1-2 hours (including time for photos)

Maine Hiking Guide


  1. This sounds like a great hike to take on a hot summer day! You can hike and cool off in the water.

  2. @Jesse Morrow - Yes it is. I see from your posts that you followed the official route to it. Whichever way you get there, it is a great waterfall. Thanks for commenting.

  3. I have been going to this spot for Years. The hike can be a bit dangerous at times but Always Beautiful and Unless we Keep Telling the world, it's always been very Private (a well kept secret of sorts). We used to be able to camp and have a fire but Someone bought that land where you parked at the small little fall and you can no longer have a fire. If you make the trip again...You know where those stone steps lead to the stone furniture.....if you rock hop and walk the water back up stream around a bend or two there's another impressive falls that i enjoy even more than the top. Flat slate walls that flow with the power of the water it's just amazing. Wonderful pictue site too!! Happy Hicking!

    1. Thank you very much for the information. I do intend to go back there someday, so these are good things to know.

      For what it's worth, the latest edition of the Maine Mountain Guide, which came out a couple months ago, now lists this hike as the one I described above, so they have been trying to keep the information current.