Strap on your hiking boots and prepare to get muddy because spring is the perfect time to visit Hays Falls! The frequent rains and ice melt make for a beautiful and torrent waterfall.
It’s a sunny, but cool, Friday afternoon when I decide to make the trip. I follow Trans Canada Highway 2 to the trailhead in Hays Settlement. It takes about an hour to get to there from Fredericton.
When I reach Meductic, a fox skirts across the road. Its red, white, and black fur are unmistakable. I slow the car to a crawl and marvel at it before it finds cover in the forest. I can’t believe my luck!
I pull into the parking lot, stuff my lunch in my knapsack, and begin the hike. Immediately, I notice raspberry plants flank the start of the trail. Their berries will ripen in the warm summer months attracting birds, foxes, skunks, and hungry hikers. In the meantime, there’s some evidence that white-tailed deer have been dining on the tender shoots.
The Maliseet Trail is a short 1.5 kilometre walk through a mixed woods Acadian Forest. I spot white ash, cedar, ironwood, eastern hemlock, sugar maple, and spruce trees. Many of them are decorated by lichens and mosses including lungwort, shingle moss, and old man’s beard. Fungi also adorn the trees and forest floor. Waxcaps, ink caps, sulfur tufts, and turkey tail are commonly seen in the area.
In early spring, breaks in the forest canopy are filled by scores of trout lilies and the occasional trillium. The trout lilies are just starting to flower and their drooping yellow faces are a welcome sight after a long and barren winter. Later in the season, you can find milkweed, fleabane, aster, hawkweed, and woodsorrel.
According to Tourism New Brunswick, the Maliseet Trail is part of a historic portage site for Wolastoqiyik First Nation. The portage route linked the St. John River with the Penobscot River in Maine. It’s incredible to think that this trail has been used for millennia and I feel grateful to be able to cross its path.
Mud, Root, and Rock
The nuthatches are chattering noisily. Their familiar nasal honking follows me down the trail. I’m trying to locate them by listening to their calls when I trip over an exposed tree root. The trail is full of these roots, upturned rocks, and the occasional downed tree. When the weather warms, I bet you could find garter snakes and salamanders hiding away in their nooks and crannies.
The further down the trail I get, the muddier it becomes. The exposed roots and rocks change from tripping hazards to welcomed stepping stones. I enjoy hopping from one to the other and continue this way until the trail hits a junction. From the junction, I take a right down towards the waterfall. The other direction leads to the highway.
The decline down to the waterfall is steep. It’s no trouble today, but in the wintertime it becomes icy and cleats can help you descend safely.
Hays Falls (46.026146, -67.555325)
Hays Falls is stunning! The waterfall stands 80 feet high. It’s one of the highest in New Brunswick and today it is flowing powerfully.
Popular Destination for Families
At the base of the falls, young kids are splashing in the brook. If the weather were warmer, they might spot crayfish basking in the pools. Older children are climbing rocks, intent on getting as high as possible before being called away by their parents.
Hays Falls is a popular destination for families with young kids. At lunch time, you can find families setting up picnics near the waterfall. It’s a rocky area to set up for lunch, but the scenery couldn’t be better. If you’re looking for something more comfortable, there’s a couple benches and one picnic table on the way to the falls that would make nice stopping spots.
Location and Best Times to Visit
I snap a few photos and then find a spot high on the rocks to sit and watch the cascading waters. I lay my head against the cool rock and soak in the scenery. The sound of the bubbling water puts me at ease.
It’s hard to imagine a better time to visit: the weather is mild, there are no mosquitoes or blackflies, and there’s a torrent of water. If you’re reading this and spring has passed, don’t worry! Autumn and winter are great times to visit. The fall foliage is beautiful and seasonal rains feed the waterfall. In the winter, Hays Falls turns into a wall of ice and it is quite stunning. In the summer, you run the risk of the waterfall being dried up.
Continuing Down the Trail
The families have packed up and I’m the only one here. I take in the solitude and then gather my belongings. Before heading back, I decide to take the trail to the top of the waterfall. It’s a quick detour.
The top of Hays Falls is fenced and has a big danger sign attached to it. It’s quite the eyesore, but has probably saved many people from getting dangerously close to the edge.
On the way back to the car, I trigger the call of an American red squirrel who is alarmed by my presence. I watch him briefly before he darts away.
That’s the end of my hike! I encourage you to visit this beautiful waterfall. If you have any questions or want to share your thoughts about Hay Falls, leave me a comment below.
Other posts you might be interested in
If you want to see videos from this location, check out my Instagram highlight reel ‘Hays Falls’.
“Maliseet Trail.” Tourism New Brunswick.
“Maliseet Trail, Hays Falls.” Hiking NB.