New England Waterfalls

ROARING FALLS


Sunderland, Massachusetts



RATING: 2.0 / 5.0 stars (Good) Roaring Falls, Massachusetts (see below for larger image and additional photographs)
STATE: Massachusetts
COUNTY: Franklin County
TOWN: Sunderland
PARK: Mt. Toby State Forest
PRIVATE PROPERTY: No
TYPE: Punchbowl and a plunge
HEIGHT: 18-foot total drop
WATER SOURCE: Roaring Brook
WATERSHED SIZE: Very small
TRAIL LENGTH: 1.2 miles one-way
TRAIL DIFFICULTY: Moderate side of difficult
HIKING TIME: 35 minutes one-way
ALTITUDE GAIN: Up 300 feet, down 60 feet
WHEN TO VISIT: April to June
SWIMMING: Poor (wading only)
DELORME ATLAS: 2004: Page 35, A-24 (the falls are not marked on the MA atlas)
HANDICAP ACCESS: No
DOGS ALLOWED: Yes
COST TO VISIT: Free (as of 2016)
LENS TO BRING: Wide-angle (14-35mm) and/or standard (35-70mm)
ALTERNATE NAMES: None noted
GPS-TRAILHEAD: 42.503833, -72.531000
GPS-WATERFALL: 42.489667, -72.522833
COMPASS: 110° excluding declination (the falls face northeast)
INCLUDED IN BOOK?: Yes, the falls are included within the appendix of the guidebook
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THE FALLS

This lightly-visited waterfall is split into two sections by a flat base that contains an oddly positioned boulder, perhaps the result of a tumble down one of the sides of the gorge walls years ago. The water here is exceptionally clear and the rock formations and vertical potholes are of great interest. A small pool at the base of the falls is good for wading.

The trouble with these falls are that they are merely a trickle for most months of the year. Visit during or just after the spring snow-melt to witness the falls at their best. When the falls are flowing well, they provide good aesthetics.

A final tip: look for delicious wild blackberries in early August about halfway into the hike!

TRAIL INFORMATION

The trail starts on gated dirt road that exists a few feet west of the official parking area. Immediately after passing around the gate, continue straight on a well-used and white-blazed dirt road (called the Tower Rd). You will be following this road for 1.1 miles of relatively easy walking as the trail slowly begins to climb Mount Toby, making sure to bear left at a fork after 0.7 mile.

After 1.1 miles, the hike will become significantly more challenging. You will reach a sign for the “Roaring Falls Trail” on your left just after ascending a short hill. The name of this trail is a bit of a misnomer because it does not directly pass by the falls. Turn left onto this blue-blazed trail. Follow this steep and rough trail for about 300 feet as it mostly descends, very steeply, in elevation. Just before the trail swings left and descends an even steeper section of trail, take a right and leave the official trail. Follow rough herd paths across a flat plateau towards a ravine. Once you reach the ravine and stream, scramble your way upstream for about 150 feet to the falls. Please pay very close attention to how you got here as you will need to ensure that you can safely get back.

DIRECTIONS

From Springfield, take I-91 north to exit 24. Follow US-5 and MA 10 north and take a quick right turn onto MA 116 south (although the road travels more east than south here). Follow MA 116 south to the junction of MA 116 and MA 47 in Sunderland. Turn left onto MA 47 north and travel on MA 47 for 3.8 miles. Turn right onto Reservation Rd 100 feet past the “Montague Town Line” sign. The trailhead will be on your right after 0.5 mile on Reservation Rd. The parking lot is on the right, marked by a large sign for “Mount Toby Forest”.

There are rumors of an alternate parking area off MA 63 that would significantly reduce the distance required to reach the falls, but its exact location is unknown. The hike as described above is the standard approach and is gong to be far less steep than anything stemming from MA 63 would be.

UPDATES SINCE THE 2ND EDITION

NONE NOTED.

If you know of any updates to this waterfall, or notice any errors either on this website and/or within the New England Waterfalls guidebook, please send me an email at gparsons66@hotmail.com or leave a Facebook comment at the bottom of this page. Updates to all of the waterfalls in the latest edition of the guidebook can always be found here: book updates

OPTIONAL HIKES

Tower Rd leads all the way to the summit of Mount Toby, which contains a fire tower with good views of the surrounding area. The top of the fire-tower is not open to the public, but you can score views from several platforms on the way up.

At the point where you turned onto the Roaring Falls Trail, you are just shy of being half-way to the summit. The rest of the trail to the summit is similar to the trail traveled to the falls, although it climbs more moderately. This trip to the summit and back via Tower Rd is approximately 5-6 miles round-trip. There are more trails in the state forest if you would like to make a loop over the mountain using the Robert Frost Trail (see trail map here).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Roaring Falls, Massachusetts
Roaring Falls under its typical low water conditions

Roaring Falls, Massachusetts
Roaring Falls under its typical low water conditions

Roaring Falls, Massachusetts
Roaring Falls nearly completely dry on a recent Fall season visit

INTERESTED IN VISITING MORE WATERFALLS IN NEW ENGLAND?

The 3rd edition of the New England Waterfalls guidebook contains 552-pages of detailed information on hundreds of waterfalls throughout all corners of New England. This 3rd edition has been completely updated and it is the first to be printed in FULL COLOR! Click on the image below to explore some sample pages of the guidebook on Amazon.com.



New England Waterfalls guidebook

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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.

HELPFUL LINKS

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
       

WATERFALLS ON FACEBOOK

Join the growing communities of waterfall aficionados on Facebook! You can share your photographs, follow the adventures of other waterfall hunters, and find new places to explore:

  • 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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ASK A QUESTION / LEAVE A COMMENT / PROVIDE AN UPDATE:

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Waterfalls, swimming holes, and hiking can be extremely dangerous. Hundreds of people have been injured or killed in the waterfalls and swimming holes of New England over the years. Never swim in strong water currents. Don't jump into a swimming hole without scouting it first. Do not climb up or along the side of waterfalls. Be weary of slippery rocks. Never swim in pools above waterfalls. Use of this website and all of its information is at your own risk! Newenglandwaterfalls.com and the authors of the New England Waterfalls guidebook will not be held liable for your actions. Be safe out there - and always use common sense!