Adventure, Destinations, hiking, New England, United States

Hit the Trail in Massachusetts: March Cataract Falls

March Cataract Falls
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Have you explored the northern Berkshires or Mt. Greylock, the tallest mountain in Massachusetts? Little by little, I’ve been discovering the Mt. Greylock State Reservation, which encompasses the mountain, but also a huge number of trails for the casual day hiker (that’s me), vistas, and my favorite — waterfalls. I’ve visited a number of waterfalls in the northern Berkshires, and for some reason I haven’t written about any of them. Until Now.

Mt. Greylock’s Most Beautiful Waterfall: March Cataract Falls

March Cataract Falls

Not much water, but still beautiful

The book, New England Waterfalls: A Guide to More Than 400 Cascades and Waterfalls (Second Edition) (New England Waterfalls: A Guide to More Than 200 Cascades & Waterfalls), describes March Cataract Falls as the premier waterfall of Mt. Greylock, and one of the must-see waterfalls of northwestern Massachusetts. Because I love the Berkshires, autumn, and road trips, I decided to check out the falls last week. Here’s what I discovered and why I’ll be heading back for another visit in the early summer.

The Hike to March Cataract Falls is Easy

March Cataract Falls Hike

Such beauty above and below

Okay, I knew this beforehand, but guidebooks are tricky — one hiker’s idea of easy could be another hiker’s calamity. The hike to March Cataract Falls is truly an easy one. It starts with a .6 mile walk along Sperry Road, which is gated and only open to hikers. The trailhead to the falls is on the right, just past a ranger station and a primitive campground (more about that later). The  falls are .8 miles from the trailhead.

Like all Mt. Greylock hiking trails, this one is well-marked and well-trodden. In October, the colors are definitely the main attraction, not only are the trees on fire, but so is the ground. I also spied lots and lots of mushrooms (wish I had my field guide) and plenty of songbirds.

The Falls are Fickle, but Always Lovely

According to my trusty book, the best time to visit March Cataract Falls is between late May and July, and I’m sure that’s because the ample snow melt provides quite a display at the falls.  Here’s a photo of March Cataract Falls take in summer. Quite lovely yes?

March Cataract Falls

March Cataract Falls in the Summer / photo credit: Cerebros1

In October, the beauty of the falls is more subtle, but still lovely in its own way. Since I’ve been practicing my moving water shots, I spent a good deal of time wandering around the falls with the camera. One of the nicest thing about March Cataract Falls is how accessible it is — not just the trail, but the falls themselves. You can easily get within inches of the cascade for a good deal of intimate contemplation (or photography).

March Cataract Falls

A close-up of one of the small cascades

You can Camp Right Near the Trailhead

Primitive camping is available at the Mt. Greylock Campground (also known as the Sperry Road Primitive Camping Area) which sits right at the trailhead to March Cataract Falls. It’s an all-round great base camp for anyone wanting to take advantage of the 70+ miles of trails in the Mt. Greylock State Reservation.

Sperry Road Campground

The campground was empty, but this sign was posted at the ranger station

The summit is a two-mile hike from the campground, and you should also explore the popular Hopper Trail. Honestly, I never knew this campground existed, and now I can’t wait to get lost on Mt. Greylock for a few days. A few specifics:

  • During the “season” you have to reserve your campsite through Reserve America. The cost is $8 for MA residents and $10 for out-of-staters .
  • The campground isn’t accessible by car. You have to hike about a mile to get there.
  • It’s a primitive campground, but you will find pit toilets and running water.
  • If you want really primitive camping, you can visit in the winter. You’ll have to hike in 6 miles from the visitor center. You won’t find running water on the mountain, but there’s a good chance you’ll be able to melt snow.

Visiting Mount Greylock

Mt. Greylock

View from the top of Mt. Greylock (in the summer)

How to Get There: The quickest way to the March Cataract Falls trailhead and the visitor’s center is via route 7 in Lanesborough, MA. Follow the brown Mt. Greylock signs to the visitor’s center. After you leave the visitor’s center and head up the mountain, Sperry Road is and the parking area for March Cataract Falls will be on your left. The summit is 8 miles from the visitor’s center.

  • Mt. Greylock is part of the Taconic Mountain Range geographically, but locals and visitors more often associate it with the Berkshire Hills. It’s the tallest mountain in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet (1,064 m).
  • There’s a seasonal road to the top, which I highly recommend, unless of course you find yourself in the area on Columbus Day Weekend. In that case, stick to the trails, and hike to the summit. If you do decide to drive to the summit, you’ll have to pay a nominal parking fee, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible vistas, not to mention some sweet hidden nooks for picnicking. Mt. Greylock’s summit also attracts a large number of hang gliders when the weather is nice. Watching people jump into the sky over lunch is way more fun than watching TV!
  • With more than 70 miles of trails crisscrossing the mountain, it’s not hard to find the perfect hike on Mt. Greylock. I highly recommend a jaunt to March Cataract Falls, but you may want a more strenuous excursion. Visit the Mass.gov website for a printable Mt. Greylock trail map.
  • You can stay on the summit at Bascom Lodge – If camping’s not your thing, why not reserve a night or two at Bascom Lodge, right on top of the mountain? Bascom Lodge can accommodate up to 34 guests in a mix of group bunks and private rooms.
The Berrkshires

March Cataract Trail in October

The Berkshires are a fabulous destination for outdoor families, or anyone who wants to explore the wild side of New England. I’m so glad I finally got a chance to visit March Cataract Falls, and I can’t wait to explore more of Mt. Greylock. Have any of you ever been there, and if you have, do you have a favorite trail? I’d love some more suggestions!

If you found this post helpful, please share it on Pinterest. I’d really appreciate it!

Heading the Berkshires in Massachusetts? A visit to Mt. Greylock is a must for outdoor lovers. This is one of my favorite hikes - March Cataract Falls, Mt. Greylock's loveliest waterfall.

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30 Comments

  1. Love those fall colours! And the waterfalls are gorgeous. Fall never seems to last very long here and it’s getting more like winter already, so I really enjoyed your photographs.
    Ruth Daly recently posted…EarlyMy Profile

  2. This looks like such a beautiful place to hike. I am loving those Fall colors!

  3. Great shots of the beautiful forest and falls. A wonderful place to hike. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Fall is just the perfect time to hit the trails and enjoy the autumn colors! beautiful! thanks

  5. That is such a beautiful place. I can only imagine the sounds of the trickling water with all the birds and animals. Lovely colors.

  6. Too bad you weren’t there when the falls were in full flow. I find waterfalls extremely relaxing. I could meditate with the sound of falling water pounding on water surface all day. Thanks for sharing this one with us Tara. I’m getting really excited about a potential trip to the NE next year. Cheers!
    Hung Thai recently posted…I could… but I’d rather travelMy Profile

    • I do hope you’ll come east next year! Summer and fall are both pretty darn awesome. Let me know when you’re ready to start planning…

  7. We have not had the chance to visit Massachusetts but with those stunning fall colors I now want to go! We are hoping to get a motorhome next year and explore parts of the U.S. we have not been to before. Will definitely add March Cataract Trail to our list looks like a nice hike!
    Nancy recently posted…Why ParisMy Profile

  8. I pinned your lovely post because I hope to make it back to Massachusetts again someday. The year we went, we tried to time it to see fall colors, but unfortunately, the weather was a little off, and we were too early that year. Greylock must be absolutely gorgeous in the fall, and March Cataract Falls are quite pretty, too!

    • Thank you, Tami! Those fall colors are fickle! You never know exactly when they’re going to show up. I do hope you give it another shot!

  9. I love a good 10 mile difficult hike, but sometimes a nice easy half-mile ish wander through the woods is exactly my mood! Looks incredible.

  10. Oh, wow – this looks amazing! Adding Massachusetts to my list!

  11. Love your first view! Guess I am spoiled, because I live in the mountains. There are disadvantages too though:)

  12. Such a unique looking falls. I love taking hikes out to waterfalls. Looks like the fall was the perfect time to go as well. Absolutely beautiful colors. Will have to look into making the hike when I head to the East Coast next spring.
    Megan recently posted…Hot Chicken, Biscuits & BBQ – Where to Eat in NashvilleMy Profile

  13. Mountains and waterfalls definitely aren’t what I think of when I think of Mass, so thanks for sharing about this park! Sounds lovely (and I might be able to swing through on my next trip up to Vermont–which hopefully will become a yearly thing). Love that shot looking up at the trees with all their different colors–gorgeous!

    • Hi Naomi,
      The Berkshires in Massachusetts are another little mecca for sustainable living and outdoor adventures. I think you would really enjoy it!

  14. I love the changing colors of the leaves. This place is nice too.

  15. I love a good hike to see a place more deeply. Massachusetts, where I’ve been a million times, had not even crossed my mind as a good hiking destination. I’m always so busy driving on the highway 🙂 Thanks for the reminder to hit the trail no matter where we find ourselves!

    • Hi Drew,
      There are a lot of great hiking trails on Mt. Greylock. If you’re a hiker, it’s worth a weekend at least! Thanks for stopping in.

  16. The autumn colours are so beautiful

    Mollyxxx

  17. Awesome photos! The colours are great and loving how you have captured the movement of the water on some of them too! I would definitely want to camp there!

  18. I’ve never been to Massachusetts but I love hiking so I will have to check it out. Your tips are so detailed and the photos are so beautiful. A thoroughly enjoyable read!

  19. This looks like such a beautiful hike. I really miss fall colors living in Florida.
    Mags recently posted…5 Things You Must Do In BerlinMy Profile

  20. Ah it looks os autumny. What a good time of year to go and explore the falls. It looks really beautiful.

  21. Even smaller waterfalls can be quite lovely! You took some very nice photos during your hike. And it’s always nice to hear from someone who’s actually done the hike, more so than just reading about it in a guide book. Thanks for the info!
    Vicky and Buddy recently posted…A Foodie Guide To Frederick MarylandMy Profile

  22. Oh cool! I always find waterfalls to be beautiful! I especially the small ones in your photos particularly charming!
    Kate O’Malley recently posted…Dubrovnik, Croatia – A Guide to the Best Photography LocationsMy Profile

  23. I love your pictures, seeing those leaves with different colors makes me smile.I want to travel there also and explore the whole place.

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