Race Brook Falls
Overview: Nice series of falls on the side of Mt. Everett. Location: Sheffield, MA Stream : Race Brook Height : Five falls span over 200'. Highest individual maybe 50' (estimate). Finding : Moderate. Unmarked, but not obscure. Access : Moderate. Requires hiking. Terrain steep, but trail fairly short. Swimming: No. Not enough water. Basking : Some open rocks, but mostly in the woods.
Race Brook flows down the steep east side of Mt. Everett, located in the southwest corner of Massachusetts. Route 41, aptly named Under Mountain Road, follows the base of the Mt. Everett ridge for several miles. At a point just a few yards north of where Salisbury Road comes in on the east there is a turn-off on the west side of the road. It is obviously managed by the state of Massachusetts since there is a large sign there showing the various parks and forests around the state.
The Race Brook Falls Trail leaves that turn-off on an unmarked path. It parallels a small stream for a short distance and then comes to a sign confirming its destination. The trail edges along some (probably private) fields before entering the woods.
After a short distance the trail forks. The right hand fork comes to a dead end at the lower falls on the northern side of the stream The left hand fork is the main trail that climbs to the Appalachian Trail "via the falls." The left hand fork is the one to take if you are interested in visiting all the falls and not just the lower one. Take the left fork.
The trail quickly comes to the stream. It isn't a very large stream and in low water conditions the falls are almost non-existent. However, it doesn't take a great deal of water to make a spectacular waterfall! The stream is clear, but the water has a distinct greyish tinge. Perhaps the color is due to silt in the runoff, or perhaps it is just due to the color of the rocks beneath the water. In any case, the water looks fresh and cold.
The trail crosses the stream and starts climbing in earnest. It isn't a long hike to the falls, but it is more than a short walk. All in all, it must be about a mile to the top of the falls, and some of the climbing is quite steep and moderately difficult.
Shortly the trail forks again. The left hand fork goes up to Race Brook Campground, and the right hand fork goes to the falls. It is a "loop trail" that connects with the main trail again just below the upper falls. However, the right fork climbs next to the stream and visits several other falls along the way. Take the right fork.
After a short distance, a side trail diverges to the right to the "lower falls." Scramble down the steep embankment to the stream and step out onto the rocks before a beautiful waterfall! (See the picture at the top of this page). Race Brook spills over a steep rock face and plunges down maybe forty feet into a nice pool. From there the stream babbles through a wide, steep rock field. There are few trees that can grow in the rock field so the space feels very open and airy. The steep slope of Mt. Everett walls in one side and makes the place feel like a huge amphitheater. The falls are like some great orator, loudly pronouncing the mysteries of Water for all with ears to hear.
As soon as the main trail mounts to the top of the lower falls (from which there is a rather nice view to the east), you can see another falls higher up through the trees. This one is as not as high, but it is wide and seems to have a lower and an upper section. Above that falls there is yet another one, and above that still another!
Finally the trail comes to the upper falls. Higher than any of the others, the upper falls must be at least 75 feet. The stream cascades down a steep chute in a frenzy of spray, changing directions a couple of times on its way down. Below the falls the stream is open and fairly level. This is the spot where the side trail "to the falls" joins back with the main trail. The main trail then crosses the stream and takes a long switchback to climb to the top of the upper falls. The trail diverges so far from the falls, that the sound of water is lost. But have faith! The trail does return to the stream eventually.
Shortly before reaching the Appalachian Trail, and well above the falls, the trail comes to Race Brook Campground. It is a primitive camping area, but it looks nice.
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