The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts are an open-air New England playground, with all kinds of outdoor adventures and cultural activities happening in the area throughout the year. Bordering Connecticut and New York, they are technically part of the Taconic Mountains, and in the heart of the Berkshires sits Bash Bish Falls, a spectacular waterfall that runs through a rocky gorge to fall 60 feet into a crystal clear pool. Planning an adventure to Bash Bish Falls can add an exciting stop on your Berkshires vacation.
The state park adjoins Mount Washington State Park in Massachusetts and Taconic State Park in New York state. Visitors can hike to access points at the top and bottom of the falls. There are many choices for accommodation nearby. You can camp at one of the many sites in the adjacent state parks, or find a motel or B&B in the nearby town of Egremont. The town of Great Barrington is a thirty-minute drive and makes a good base to explore the region.
What Is Bash Bish Falls?
The Bash Bish Brook has its source on Mount Washington and runs through the 240-acre Bash Bish State Park to reach the spectacular falls. There are several waterfalls along the course of the stream, but the best known are the Bash Bish Falls. Here a massive rock divides the stream into two halves that fall 60 feet to a rocky pool. Hiking trails lead to access points at the top and bottom of the falls.
The waterfall's top is also known as the Summit, and offers a view west into New York State, across the Taconic range, and towards the Hudson Valley. Bash Bish Falls lies right on the state line between New York and Massachusetts, and from the pool at the bottom, the brook runs westwards into the Hudson River. When planning an adventure to Bash Bish Falls, safety is an important concern because there have been accidents at the site, and swimming isn't allowed in the pool because of the underwater rocks.
The Importance Of Bash Bish Falls
The spectacular waterfall has attracted visitors and artists for a long time. It has been a popular subject of paintings since the 19th century, is one of the most-photographed waterfalls in Massachusetts. Bish Bash State Park has some last remaining pockets of old growth forest in Massachusetts.
Old-Growth Forests in Massachusetts
Nearly 70% of the forests in the Berkshires were cut down by early European settlers, and what we see today throughout Massachusetts and the Berkshires is newer growth. In some isolated pockets, however, the old-growth forests survive. Some other old-growth forests in the state are found at Mount Wachusett, Greylock, Mohawk Trail State Forest, and Monroe State Forest.
Significance of the Berkshires
Geologically, the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts are part of the Appalachian mountains. The combination of natural beauty, mountain landscapes, and cultural activity make them a vibrant New England playground. In the early twentieth century, summer homes in the region provided an escape for wealthy families from New York and Connecticut.
Located less than a three-hour drive from Boston, New York, Albany and most locations in Rhode Island and Connecticut, they still attract millions of visitors each year. Your visit to the waterfall gives you a chance to take in some year-round activities of the region. These include music, the arts, outdoor activities, landmark restaurants and more.
Planning An Adventure To Bash Bish Falls
If you’re planning an adventure to Bash Bish Falls, it helps to familiarize yourself with the routes you’ll take to get there, as well as the hiking trails that wind through the area. When planning a hike, it’s important to keep not just your own fitness level in mind, but also that of all the others in your party. Hiking trails can be easy or challenging, and you can find trail maps and directions at the official park site and at the trailheads.
Hiking trails leading from Falls Road on Mount Washington take you to the Summit and the pool. The trail to the pool begins from the New York side and is a short 20-minute hike. There is a map and information center at the start of the trail. It runs slightly uphill, but the trail is wide and well-maintained. It follows the Bash Bish Brook through dense woods.
As you get closer to the waterfall, you can hear the thunder of the water crashing down on the rocks below falls. The cool crystal waters of the pool and spray mist from the falls are the reward for your effort and will help cool you down after the walk. Children and grandparents can walk this trail, and in fact is the better route for families.
The other trailhead has routes that lead to both the Summit and the pool. It starts a little further down the road, but it's still in Massachusetts. The walk to the Summit is short and protected by a railing. A steep descent from this trailhead leads to the pool, and the climb back up is challenging.
When to Go
Summer is the best season to enjoy the cooling effect of the falls and the crystal pool. Weekends can get busy but people are respectful of the place and of each other. In the fall, things are quieter and your hike takes you through woods brilliant with the fall colors for which the Berkshires are famous. The park is open in the winter but keep in mind that the trails and rocks will be icy and slippery.
How to Get There
Both trailheads lead off from Route 41 in Egremont. To reach Route 41, follow these directions:
- From I-90/ Massachusetts Turnpike, take Exit 2 to Route 2 West.
- Follow Route 2 West to Route 7 South, which joins Route 23 West.
- Continue on Route 23 West until you see signs for Mount Washington State Forest and Bash Bish State Park on the right-hand side of the road.
- If you’re coming from Connecticut, take Route 44 West to Salisbury. Take Route 41 North to the park entrance, which will be on the left.
- From New York State, take Route 23 East to Route 41 South. Route 44 East will bring you to Salisbury.
What to Bring
You will need good hiking shoes, bug spray, sunscreen, and drinking water. There are no concession stands in Bash Bish State Park. If you will need food, bring it with you - beside the pool is actually a great place for a picnic! The park has a lug-in, lug-out rule, so leave no trace of your visit by picking up your trash.
The adjacent Mount Washington State Park and Taconic State Park have many camping facilities.
Are Pets Allowed?
The park allows dogs, they must be leashed.
Admission and Hours
Admission is free. The park is open from dawn to one hour after sunset.
Safety is an important concern at the waterfall because of the slippery rocks around the falls and the pool. Keep in mind that several accidents have occurred at the pool and on the slippery rocks at the top of the falls. In fact, this waterfall gets its name from a Native American princess whose canoe went over the falls in the seventeenth century.
A steel and cable fence was erected at the summit in 1974 following several accidents, and everyone is prohibited from swimming in the waterfall's pool. The trail leading to the Summit also has a cable fence, but mishaps occur from time to time, so be careful!
Other Nearby Attractions
When you’re planning a visit to Bash Bish Falls, keep in mind that there’s plenty to see and do nearby. A chain of state parks from Bash Bish State Park, Mount Washington, October Mountain, and Mount Greylock showcase the natural beauty of the Berkshires, and the small town of Great Barrington is about thirty minutes away, making it a good base from which to explore the Berkshires. From the Tanglewood Music Festival to yoga retreats to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful area of New England.
The Berkshires are a favorite destination in the fall with spectacular colors, winding mountain roads, and cozy bed and breakfasts. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art or MASS MoCA in North Adams is worth a pilgrimage in its own right. Art galleries and studios, landmark restaurants and crafts all round out the experience. For outdoors enthusiasts, there’s hiking, biking routes, fishing, kayaking, and skiing.
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A visit to the spectacular Bash Bish Falls will be one of the most memorable points of your vacation to this area of New England, and we hope this article has helped you get an idea of how to plan your trip there. Bash Bish Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in all of Massachusetts, and you can access it via a short hike. The pool is a great place for a picnic lunch or just a quiet place to breathe and give yourself up to the awesome beauty of the mountain hideout. We hope you enjoy your visit!