The name Frankenstein Cliff probably conjures up some grand cliffside, perhaps hanging over the ocean, threatening to collapse at any second. Perhaps there's a stormy landscape on the horizon with a cold, winter-like chill at the back of anyone who stands overlooking it. Or, maybe, the image one has in their head is one that's surrounding by dark trees and a misty sky. Whatever it is that comes to mind, it's certainly not what Frankenstein Cliff actually is: a beautiful hiking trail in Hart's Location, New Hampshire.

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This is a state that many people don't associate with anything regarding horror fiction but, interestingly enough, this cliff wasn't named after the Frankenstein - nor does it have anything to do with Mary Shelley's famed novel.

Related: Every Out-Of-The-Box Thing You Can Do In Maine (That Isn't Just Hiking)

Frankenstein Cliff And Its History

A common misconception is that this cliff has something to do with the character from Frankenstein, however, it's often forgotten that the name was popular before it was given to this fictional character. Shelley may have popularized the name for centuries to come but originally, the name had no other significance than its German roots. The cliff found in New Hampshire was named after a landscape painter who often found inspiration in the stunning beauty of the White Mountains. His name was Godfrey Frankenstein, originally Godfrey Tracht until his father re-named him after they immigrated to the United States. For the record, this was 15 years after the publication of Frankenstein in 1831.

According to Atlas Obscura, Godfrey's father gave him the name of Frankenstein as a reminder of the castle their family had lived near. This reminder of their home came from a tale about a mad alchemist named Johann Dipple who lived in that same castle - sound familiar? While speculation tells us that the connection is obvious, there are no known ties between Shelley's novel and the castle that Godfrey and his family lived near in Germany. It is interesting to ponder, however, if Dipple may have been the inspiration for such an iconic work of horror fiction.

Related: Literary Hikes: Walk The Footsteps Of New England's Most Famed Authors

Frankenstein Cliff And Its Beautiful Hiking Trails

The trail itself, Frankenstein Cliff Trail, is located near Jackson, New Hampshire. The views alone are worth it for this nearly four-mile hike, and, along the way, hikers will pass by many interesting trail features, including Frankenstein Trestle. The trail itself offers gorgeous views over the White Mountains and is rated as difficult due to its terrain. While the trail starts off relatively flat from the western side of the upper lot, after about a half-mile or so, the terrain becomes steep and rough. When the train trestle comes into view, that will signal to hikers that the going is about to get a little bit tougher.

The trail is pretty straightforward and runs parallel to Crawford Notch Road and the railroad tracks but the actual trail takes some tactical navigation. The elevation gain on the trail is about 900 feet to the first lookout point, which is also the first overlook. On the way up to this overlook, hikers will have the reassurance of switchbacks in the trail which help to ease the overall steepness.

With that being said, good hiking footwear and trekking poles are recommended to help with the navigation of this trail. After passing the first overlook at a mile and a quarter, and having seen 180-degree views of the valley, hikers will have a pretty good idea of where they're at along the trail itself. The second overlook is at 1.45 miles, which is known as Falcon Cliff. The last overlook is at 1.75 miles before hikers tread downward toward Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail and the waterfall.

Once hikers reach this fork in the trail, they can choose to double back on the in and out Frankenstein Cliff Trail. Following the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail to the southwest will bring hikers to a full loop (but will add many more miles to the hike itself - 2.5 miles, to be exact).

Frankenstein Cliff Trail

  • Total Length: 3.8 miles, out and back
  • Time to Hike: Up to four hours, usually less
  • Unique Trail Features: The Frankenstein Trestle and elevated railway, several overlooks with expansive views of the Crawford Notch Valley and the White Mountains, rock scrambles, large rock outcropping at the summit, various water features
  • Parking Fee: $5 at the upper parking lot
  • Additional Details: Hikers looking to extend their hikes can follow the Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail as a loop back to the Frankenstein Cliff Trail parking area, making a total distance of just over six miles.

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