Lauren R. Stevens | Hikes and Walks: Seeking Berkshire County waterfalls in time of social distancing
If you want to find waterfalls at their most spectacular, this is the time of year, when they are powered by a combination of snow melt and spring rain. Furthermore, looking for waterfalls alone or with appropriate social distancing is a relatively safe mission in the time of the novel coronavirus.
Berkshire County has its share of falls and cascades. Technically, waterfalls have one drop, cascades several, but the terms tend to be used interchangeably. Some Berkshire drops require hiking in; some are near the road, although not all the roads are plowed.
Campbell Falls are just over the line in Connecticut, but you can get to them with a short hike from Falls Road in Southfield; or a somewhat longer hike starting in the Nutmeg State. They are a 50-foot cascade with a heavy flow typically — and certainly now. The area is a two-state park along the Whiting River, which shows that political boundaries fade when it comes to watersheds.
Sages Ravine Falls fall just barely in the commonwealth. The Lower Falls are the highest; the Upper Falls even more spectacular. The parking area is on the right side of Route 41, about six miles south of Berkshire School Road. It is possible to make a loop including the Lower Falls while saving the Upper and the Appalachian Trail for another day. In any case, the combination of five drops, boulders and dark woods invites.
Bash Bish Falls, at 60-feet the highest single drop in the state, is about two-thirds of a mile in from the Copake Falls, New York, trail head or about one-third of a mile down a steep path from Falls Road in Mount Washington. The heavy fencing and cabling are an effort to keep the many visitors safe but, as with any outing, care is required. No swimming or rock climbing.
Stevens Glen cascade, in Richmond, is also at the down end of a carefully engineered trail and viewing platform. From Tanglewood, turn up the hill to pass Olivia's Overlook, then drop down. The Glen parking is on the right. The brook, with continuous small drops, passes through a crease on the rock. Mossy rocks; mossy trees.
Wahconah Falls, yes, really a cascade with generally heavy flow, is located in a small state park just off Wahconah Falls Road, just off Route 9 up the hill from Dalton. Large hemlocks, deep gulf and a smattering of picnic grills
Windsor Jambs is a cascade squeezed through stone cliffs. You can either hike there from Windsor State Forest swimming area or drive there via Lower Road, off River Road. The standard-issue, chocolate-colored state signs will direct you from Route 9 or Route 116.
North Adams' hidden treasure isn't as hidden, as a trail to The Cascades. It involves some sidewalk, beginning in front of the Brayton School/YMCA on Route 2. After the trail crosses its second bridge, in high water it is tricky getting close to the falls, which are suitably impressive most of the year.
You can drive to Tannery Falls, if you don't mind gravel roads, from either Tannery Falls Road off Black Rock Road off Route 2 at the bottom of the eastern slope of the Hoosacs, or via Tannery Road in from New State Road in Florida. There are actually two or even three strings of falls; the best view being at the bottom of the trail.
One of the early signs of spring from Route 7 across from Mount Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown is two cataracts in The Hopper bursting out of their ice. The northern one is a tributary to Money Brook, descending more or less from Mount Fitch. The southern one is March Cataract, originating in the pond the CCCs dig to provide water for Bascom Lodge. Where the trail meets it, it forms a 30-foot fan of water; the entire cascade descends nearly 1,000 feet before joining Money Brook to form Hopper Brook.
I, of course, chose that falls to visit a few weeks ago. From the fields of the old Haley Farm I could see the mighty flow pouring down the far hillside. I climbed to the campground, mud transitioning to modest snow as I gained elevation. The March Cataract Trail departs across from the contact station.
I donned my Microspikes and headed out, following a pair of recent boot tracks. The trail climbs slightly then descends semi-treacherously in snow and ice conditions. I gradually began to hear the roar of the cascades from deep in the valley.
About a mile in, I joined a couple from Holland creeping cautiously closer by the large tree that provides a sense of security, given the steep drop off. Imagine, came from Holland to see water fall on Greylock. There was March Cataract, spectacular but, at this elevation, still securely sheathed in ice.
There are also falls on Roaring Brook and Peck's Brook in the Greylock Reservation; and Peck's Brook in Greylock Glen. If you decide to add March Cataract to your list, the ice may be gone by now, I'm sure, but be careful.
Happy trails to you. Stay healthy.
Lauren R, Stevens is author of "50 Hikes inf the Berkshire Hills," Countryman Press/W.W. Norton, 2016.
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