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There are several waterfalls on the shoulders of Mt. Greylock that are well-known and cherished by day-visitors and campers. Then there are a few others that even we missed on our first half-dozen visits to the state reservation. The Falls on Pecks Brook and the Falls on the Bellows Pipe Trail (which we still have not personally visited) are the underdogs of waterfalls here, and they are equally worthwhile.
There are three sets of falls that make up the Falls on Pecks Brook, but most visitors will likely only get to enjoy the middle falls and the backpackers shelter that exists here. The upper and lower falls are actually more impressive, but you will have to take some risk to earn your views of each of them. The upper falls are challenging to approach, and the lower falls are downright dangerous to see in their entirety.
The middle falls, which can be clearly seen and heard from the shelter, is a skinny, 10-foot, two-tiered horsetail. The falls are not spectacular, but where else can you legally sleep in such close proximity to a waterfall?
The upper falls consist of a long horsetail approximately 40 feet tall. It must be a spectacular site in high-water. It was indeed photo-worthy even in the moderate water conditions that we encountered during our mid-May visit. There's some fallen tree debris here, but it is not overwhelming.
The lower falls is a 22-foot horsetail that winds its way down a steep face into an ankle-deep pool. The falls are semi-open to the sky and can be quite sunny. From the base of the falls, you can see the shelter above, so privacy is surprisingly limited considering how difficult it is to get down there (keep those bathing suits on!). For optimal water flow of all three falls, which typically only occurs when the deep winter snow finally melts in April, you will have to hike into the park when the main park road is gated off. This will significantly increase the mileage and difficulty of the hike, but you will be rewarded with a fantastic waterfall and a likely-to-be-empty shelter to enjoy for yourself or your small group (max size is 8 people). There are also a few well-developed places to set up a small 2 or 3-person tent when the shelter is full (which is probably rare).
From the parking area, begin slowly descending on the blue-blazed Gould Trail. The trail meanders on nearly level terrain for the first 0.1 mile and then a steady decline ensues. From here, the hike is consistently downhill, but it is never steep. After hiking about 0.9 mile, you will reach a junction marked with a sign pointing right for Pecks Brook Shelter. Take a right and follow this easy spur trail 0.1 mile to the shelter. The 10-foot middle falls are directly viewable to the right and front of the shelter.
To reach the base of the lower falls, you must have well-developed scrambling skills and a strong sense of adventure. Be aware that descending to the base of these falls will cause a fair amount of eroding to the ravine, too. For these reasons, we would like to discourage you from trying to do so. If you decide to ignore our warnings, the best route down (we believe) is by hiking away from the shelter, heading east of the shelter and downstream of Pecks Brook. Walk towards the side stream that dumps into Becks Brook just below the lower falls. You should be able to see this side stream within 50 feet of the shelter. Once you arrive at the side stream, contemplate the safest and least damaging route down to where the two brooks merge. Once you arrive at the point of merging, hike upstream along Peck's Brook about 50 feet to the base of the lower falls.
To reach the upper falls, you will have to bushwhack your way upstream from the middle Falls and shelter for 0.1 mile. There is no simple way to accomplish this and the vegetation is moderately thick. We tried both rock-hopping along the brook and charging our way through the woods about 50 feet away and parallel to the stream, and found the latter to be the easiest. Either way, finding the upper falls is certainly challenging. The reward is a falls not often seen.
From the junction of MA 2 and MA 8a in North Adams, take MA 2 west for 1.3 miles. Take a left onto Notch Rd. Follow Notch Rd. for 8.2 miles (make sure to take a left after 1.2 miles and bear right at mile 2.3 to stay on this road) and you will reach a stop sign and a junction. This junction is 3.1 miles south of the trailhead for the Money Brook Trail. Continue straight through the intersection into a gravel parking area marked by a sign for Gould Trail. This parking area can fit about 5 or 6 cars comfortably. If you were to take a left at the stop sign, it would take you to the summit of Mt. Greylock. A right turn will eventually take you south to the town of Lanesborough.
Be aware that Notch Rd is typically closed by the reservation from late fall until the middle of May.
UPDATES SINCE THE 2ND EDITION
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Falls on Pecks Brook, Massachusetts
overnight shelter adjacent to Falls on Pecks Brook, Massachusetts
shelter adjacent to Falls on Pecks Brook, Massachusetts
Falls on Pecks Brook, Massachusetts
INTERESTED IN VISITING MORE WATERFALLS IN NEW ENGLAND?
TIPS FOR VISITING WATERFALLS & SWIMMING HOLES
Here are some tips to help ensure that your trip to New England's waterfalls and swimming holes will be a safe and enjoyable one:
- DON'T FORGET THE ESSENTIALS - When you visit waterfalls, you should consider bringing all of the following: (a) bug spray; (b) food/snacks; (c) water/sports drinks; (d) camera/smart-phone; (e) guidebook/trail map; (f) daypack/backpack; and (g) hiking shoes, hiking boots or watershoes. A full day hiking packing list can be found here.
- CONSIDER BUYING WATER SHOES - You won't see too many people using them, but watershoes are fantastic pieces of equipment that can make your trip to waterfalls and swimming holes safer and more enjoyable. Merrill and Keen make some fantastic watershoes (here are some great ones from Merrill: womens / mens).
- LEAVE NO TRACE - When you visit waterfalls and swimming holes, you'll often see some trash and sometimes you'll even find clothing left behind by others. It's really, really sad, and it irks the heck out of us. Won't you consider carrying out some of trash and clothing left by others when you leave? That would leave the spot more beautiful for the next person. Bring a trash bag and be a hero!
- PRIVATE PROPERTY - Many waterfalls and swimming holes are located on private property and so we are truly fortunate that many landowners allow us to enjoy them. If you want to ensure that they stay open to the public, please do your best to leave no trace. If you see a sign that says 'Private Property', turn around and find another waterfall to visit or a different place to swim.
- BRING A DSLR CAMERA AND TRIPOD WITH YOU - If you want to take high-quality photographs of waterfalls, your smart-phone just won't cut it. Get a DSLR camera, a tripod, and learn to master the art of waterfall photography.
- SCOUT FIRST, SWIM SECOND - Never enter a swimming hole without first scouting it, even if you see somebody else swimming in it. Stop and access the risks based upon the depth of water, the power of the current, evidence of slippery rocks, and other safety factors.
- CLIFF JUMPING - Cliff jumping is dangerous. Like, seriously dangerous. Understand the risks before you partake in this activity. Many have died from doing this in New England. Here is a list of all known deaths at waterfalls and swimming holes in New England.
- PLEASE DON'T BUILD ROCK CAIRNS - Please do not build new rock cairns at waterfalls or swimming holes. Cairns are a strong reminder of human presence, and don't we all want to see waterfalls in their natural state and glory? Photographers get particularly annoyed at seeing cairns, so please resist the urge to build them.
- DON'T RELY ON YOUR GPS TO GET YOU TO THE TRAILHEAD - Waterfalls don't have addresses, so relying on your GPS to get you to a trailhead is great way to get yourself lost. You need a guidebook, a road atlas, and/or a hiking map to visit the vast majority of waterfalls in New England. Also keep in mind that waterfalls are often located in wild areas, where smart-phone map apps and car GPS units may not work at all.
- WATERFALLS IN SPRING - The best time to visit waterfalls is generally in the spring during the annual snowmelt (which is April to June). However, most waterfalls will often look great for several days after a significant rain storm.
- HELP KEEP THE ULTRA-SECRET SWIMMING HOLES A SECRET (FOREVER) - If you find some ultra-secret swimming holes, please do your best to keep them a secret. Do not post their locations online or wildly share directions or photos with others. All of the swimming holes that are included in the guidebook and online through this website are the well-known swimming spots. There are many more holes that are much further off the beaten path, but they deserve a chance to stay wild and pristine.
- DON'T SCRAMBLE UP WATERFALLS - So many people been seriously injured and killed in the waterfalls of New England. Many of these folks got too close to a waterfall and slipped and fell. Don't become a statistic: stay far back from the edge.
- WEAR TRACTION IF YOU VISIT WATERFALLS IN WINTER - Visiting waterfalls in winter can be rewarding, but there is often a higher element of danger. You may need crampons, snowshoes, and/or some other form of traction (like Microspikes) in order to safely hike to waterfalls in winter.
- SUPPORT NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS THAT CONSERVE WATERFALLS & SWIMMING HOLES - There are some organizations in New England that work diligently to conserve and maintain waterfalls and swimming holes. Please consider supporting these organizations, either with their trail maintenance projects or with monetary donations. Here are three excellent organizations engaged in this extremely important mission: the Trustees of Reservations, the Vermont River Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy.
Here are some helpful links to help you explore and enjoy more waterfalls and hikes throughout New England:
- Waterfalls of Connecticut = link
- Waterfalls of Maine = link
- Waterfalls of Massachusetts = link
- Waterfalls of New Hampshire = link
- Waterfalls of Rhode Island = link
- Waterfalls of Vermont = link
- Best Waterfalls in New England = link
- Best Swimming Holes in New England = link
- Top 25 Day Hikes in New England = link
- Top 25 Family-Friendly Day Hikes in New England = link
- Waterfalls Near Boston, Massachusetts = link
- Waterfalls Near Lincoln, New Hampshire = link
- Waterfalls Near North Conway, New Hampshire = link
- Waterfalls Near Stowe, Vermont = link
- Waterfall Photography Tips = link
OTHER WATERFALL GUIDEBOOKS
In addition to the New England Waterfalls guidebook, there are several other guidebooks that can help you find waterfalls and swimming holes:
- Vermont Waterfalls (1st Edition: 2015) = link
- Hiking Waterfalls in New England: A Guide to the Region's Best Waterfall Hikes (1st Edition: 2015) = link
- Waterfalls of the White Mountains: 30 Hikes to 100 Waterfalls (2nd Edition: 1999) = link
- Connecticut Waterfalls (1st Edition: 2014) = link
- Rodrick's Guide to Vermont Waterfalls, Cascades & Gorges (1st Edition: 2014) = link
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- Request to join the "New England Waterfalls" community > link
- Request to join the "New Hampshire Waterfalls" community > link
- Request to join the "Northeastern Waterfalls" community > link
- Request to join the "Vermont Waterfalls" community > link
- Request to join the "Waterfalls of the United States" community > link
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