(Use this page to print out the hike. Click the back button to go back to the webpage - www.berkshirehiking.com)
Race Brook Falls is just over the Connecticut border off of Route 41 in Sheffield, Massachusetts. It's a beautiful waterfall that actually has three tiers to it although most people only see one since they can't hike up the steeper trails or don't realize the falls goes up farther. It's not a stretch to say that "Hawaiian waterfall" comes to mind when you visit Race Brook during the summer months. With lush greenery created by waterfall mist, cascading water over rocks, wading pools, and peaceful surroundings, you can easily imagine yourself in a remote Hawaiian rain forest. There couldn't be a nicer waterfall anywhere. It's not a raging torrent of water nor is it so small that it doesn't impress (although during drought like conditions it's just a trickle of water). Race Brook is a really neat spot in the middle of a quiet forest. There's something mystical about all waterfalls and Race Brook is no exception. In the wintertime, this world turns into an ice fantasy land with all types of magical shapes and designs being carved out and formed by Mother Nature.
The hike up to Race Brook Falls starts from the paved strip of road that's right off of Route 41...almost has the feel of a tiny rest area and not a trailhead. But the information sign with it's large map of the surrounding areas tips you off that this is a good place to start some exploration. After getting out of your car walk over to the information sign and bear to the left. You'll notice the worn path amongst the bush and trees that leads to Race Brook. Follow the trail as you hop and skip over some small streams and out into some open space. Soon you'll head straight into the forest with it's thick canopy of pine trees. The forest is quiet here and sometimes quite dark due to the large concentration of trees. Before heading off too far into the hike just stop for a moment...notice how quiet it is. Look around and try to notice the wind blowing or a bird doing its thing. Stuff like that helps to recharge the batteries of life. Some people are so busy talking a-mile-a-minute or physically pushing themselves, they never experience certain aspects of nature...and how those aspects can actually help you in your personal life, job related stuff, whatever. Getting a good workout or talking with someone while hiking are great reasons to hike. But don't forget to experience the quiet moments where you are just an observer and noticing a very different world from your day-to-day routine.
After your zen-like moment is interrupted by an airplane or noisy bird!... proceed up the trail, noticing the majestic trees and how they have situated themselves throughout this region. (It's always interesting to notice how the smaller trees maneuver themselves to get light.) A short distance into the forest part of the hike you'll come to a "fork in the road". If you go left you'll take a slightly longer hike to the falls but it will take you higher up the falls and allow you to see more of it. If you go straight, you'll eventually come to the base of the falls and its picturesque setting. Either way you can't miss. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. Winding up higher in the falls affords you some nice overviews of the valley below and interesting shots looking down at the falls. Heading straight for the base and foregoing the more challenging route will present a more beautiful view of the waterfall...that classic scene of standing at the base of a waterfall as the water cascades down. A good way to decide which route to take is to ask yourself the following questions. Do I want a good workout with some nice views? Or do I want to relax at the base of a waterfall and take in the peaceful surroundings?
Once you have arrived at the falls you'll be glad you made the hike in. If there's been a recent rain, the water really crashes down and creates quite a scene. There are running streams leading up to and away from the falls. You can explore small pools that allow you to wade in and cool off, or stand and let the waterfall splash down on you. There's just something nice about this spot. You could explore it all day really. If you do climb along or around the actual waterfall, please be extremely careful as the rocks are slippery and the power of the water can be deceiving. Don't get to close to sections where the water really rushes through or over. Just chill out somewhere and take it all in. And bring a camera as you will likely want to take some snapshots!
You can also incorporate Mt. Everett into this hike. You can do this two ways. 1) Hike back to your car and drive up to the top of Mt. Everett. 2) If you're feeling ambitious and really want a high octane workout, then consider following the trail beyond the top of Race Brook Falls and all the way up to Mt. Everett peak (following the trais signs to Everett). Or hang a left onto the Appalachian Trail and head south to Race Mountain or Sages Ravine area. Either options are serious hikes and you must be in good shape to do it. Don't attempt them if you're already tired at the top of Race Brook Falls. It could take as long as 5-7 hours round trip if you do this...although someone in really good shape could do it in 3 hours or less. If you can do it, the hike up to Everett is a great one. Besides the obvious highlights of the waterfall, you'll walk along the river that feeds Race Brook Falls and into some deep forest cover. (campsites are available to backpackers at various points along the trail if you want to camp out overnight) The trail then rises sharply as it meets the mountainside of Mt. Everett...the terrain is challenging as it becomes more rocky and takes on an almost alpine appearance. As you approach the top of Everett, the trees and bushes grow smaller (as if stunted) due to the harsh elements created on Mt. Everett. It's always surprising how it can sometimes get chilly on top of Everett even in the middle of a summer day. So "bring a jacket!" just in case. The views from Mt. Everett are unbelievable on a clear day. New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are clearly in view as well as certain peaks in New Hampshire and Vermont. The only disappointing thing about Everett is the old fire tower that would make for an awesome observation deck. For some reason, it's broken down and not in use (although some people shimmy up the frame work and sneak a peak...but that's potentially dangerous as falling is quite possible). It's too bad really as this would be a fantastic 360 degree viewing point and would allow folks to see the Catskill Mountains in New York, the Berkshire Mountains of Connecticut/Massachusetts, Green Mountains of Vermont, and Monadnock region of New Hampshire, all in one fell swoop. Instead you have to hike all over the mountaintop of Everett to take in these views separately.
Directions: The entrance to Race Brook Falls is a few miles over the border of Connecticut in Sheffield, MA. From the center of Salisbury take Route 41 north. Go over the border and a few miles later on the left side will be a paved cutoff from Route 41. It almost looks like a tiny rest area. Park in here and walk towards the woods and information sign to access the trailhead. (If the parking area is full, you can park along Route 41 but just make sure your car is really off the road and on the grass. Reference point: Salisbury Road; When you see this road just look over and up a bit and you'll see the small parking area for Race Brook Falls)
© Berkshire Hiking 2004