Abbey Pond Cascades
Overview: Beautiful waterfall. Location: Middlebury, VT Stream : Outflow from Abbey Pond. Height : Total of maybe 80 feet in three sections. Finding : Watch for the turnoff; otherwise easy. Access : Short walk. Swimming: No. Maybe some wading. Basking : Heavily wooded. Privacy : Trailside. Legal : Public land; Green Mountain National Forest.
The trail head is here.
From East Middlebury
Take Rt. 116 north from its intersection with Rt. 125 in the center of East Middlebury. Travel a little over four miles to a dirt road on the right (East). There is a small sign for Abbey Pond Cascades along the road but it would be easy to miss if you are not watching for it.
Immediately after turning off the main road, the dirt road forks. Follow the right hand fork; there is no parking at the main road. After a short distance (perhaps half a mile) there is a turn off on the left into a moderately large parking area. The turn off is marked with a sign for the falls.
A trail leaves the back of the parking area. It skirts around a gravel pit and shortly crosses into the Green Mountain National forest. From there it is only a few yards to the falls. The trail crosses the stream on a wooden bridge between the lower and upper falls. To view the entire falls you will want to explore both downstream and upstream from the bridge.
The trail continues on to Abbey Pond. It's a moderate hike of about two miles to the pond.
Abbey Pond Cascades is a complex of waterfalls in a heavily wooded grotto. From the bridge one can look upstream into a narrow gorge and see a significant drop at the end of the gorge. By scrambling up alongside the stream you can see even more cascades above the gorge. The rocky crags make approaching the stream somewhat difficult, but it is easy to find places above the water to sit.
If you don't mind getting your feet wet, you can wade in the stream from the bridge to a rock shelf that goes into the gorge just below the falls there. If you attempt this, proceed with caution and use as many stepping stones as possible!
To see the lower falls you will want to scramble downstream a bit. The main part of the lower cascades are right below the bridge so you don't have to go far. There are some excellent vantage points on some rocks opposite the bridge from which the entire lower section can be easily seen (see photograph to the left).
I have visited these falls a couple of times over the years since 2006. Today was a brisk, cloudy day, but with no snow or ice. The falls were in good form with sufficient water to create an interesting view, but not overwhelming.
I hiked to the pond as well. At one point the trail, which had been following the stream on the left turned right (south) away from the stream. Just before this point there was a stream junction below and to the left of the trail. The right hand fork of the stream appeared to come down a steep grade, and there were hints of another waterfall visible through the trees. Accessing the area would require bushwhacking about 100 yards down the embankment on the left side of the trail, across the stream, and then up the opposite grade. I did not try that today, but it might be worth exploring the area more in the future.
Today my daughter Hillary and I visited these falls for the first time. It was a beautifully clear day but not at all hot. It was also too early in the season for bugs. We were surprised at how close to the parking lot and how easily accessible the falls were. We had expected more of a hike to get to them.
Because of significant amounts of recent rain, the water in the stream seemed reasonably high and the falls were in very good form. It might be interesting to return to these falls at a later time in the season to see what they are like.
After spending some time at the falls, we decided to continue on to the pond. That hike involved a lot more climbing but it was interesting because it followed along the stream for some distance. The pond itself had a nice, remote feeling.
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