About Bash Bish Falls
Bash Bish Falls (sometimes written out as a single word like Bashbish Falls) was one of the more memorably-named waterfalls that we could remember. For some reason, I was always tempted to incorrectly call it Bish Bash Falls (like it would rhyme with “splish splash”). All kidding aside, the name was said to be of Mohican origin about a woman by the name of Bash Bish who was accused by her tribe of committing adultery, which was punishable by death over the falls while tied up in a canoe. It had also been said that the shape of the falls would resemble a woman falling to her death. Meanwhile, others contended that the segmented characteristic of the falls resembled the reuniting of Bash Bish and her daughter White Swan who had also disappeared over the falls according to the Mohican legend.
Speaking of tragedies, we had read in the literature that Bash Bish Falls was claimed to be one of the most dangerous tourist attractions in the United States. We’re not sure why they would single out this waterfall when we could easily envision any other waterfall to be just as dangerous. But I guess the combination of the temptation to rock climb here as well as the inviting plunge pool concealing strong undercurrents might be the deadly combination that would give this place its notoriety. So the moral of the story here would be to respect the dangers and just be content to bask in its beauty without pushing your luck.
As for Bash Bish Falls itself, it was said to have a modest 80ft height in an attractive rocky cove where a large rock split the gushing falls into two segments while the deep emerald plunge pool at its base contrasted (maybe complemented) the plethora of Autumn colors that accented the scene. We were instantly attracted by the surprising beauty and character of this waterfall, and we could understand why it was as popular and well-publicized as it was. In fact, it has been said that this was also the tallest permanent waterfall in the state of Massachusetts so this claim itself might have been enough of a reason for its publicity. Further enhancing its popularity was the waterfall’s close proximity to the state of New York evidenced by the numerous New Yorkers we encountered on the trail.
We learned during our visit that there were actually two ways to hike to Bash Bish Falls – the Massachusetts way and the New York way. We ended up hiking on the Massachusetts trail (see directions below), which we believed to be the harder trail even though it was shorter from a distance standpoint at about a mile round trip. It was harder because there was a 300ft elevation loss which was fairly steep, muddy in spots, and full of roots and rocks.
Each of these obstacles was especially tricky considering we also brought our two-year-old in a child carrier, and I knew that the climb back up to the car park wouldn’t be easy as a result. Of course the added advantage of going the MA route was that there was a nice valley view after a short and steep scramble from the car park. By the way, that short steep scramble to the valley view was not suitable for youngsters (so I did it solo just to check it out) and I would hesitate to do it if the rocks were wet from rain or mist given the steepness of that climb.
That said, the trail was pretty straightforward as we followed blue triangles strategically placed on trees and rocks so we wouldn’t lose the trail. We just had to watch our footing given its rough nature. We even saw a fairly large family with three kids start on the hike only to turn back upon realizing that it wasn’t the best trail for kids and that there was an alternate trail that was flatter and much easter.
Towards the bottom of the descent, there were steps that ultimately joined up with a much wider trail that turned out to be the alternate New York trail. Upon seeing this, that was when we figured out that perhaps we should’ve taken that trail instead since we were bringing our daughter along. Of course, if we had done that, the hike would’ve been a little longer at 1.5 miles round trip, but I’d imagine that it would still be easier despite the increased distance. Plus, the trail followed along Bash Bish Brook so it would’ve been a more pleasant riverside stroll as it would’ve crossed from New York into Massachusetts.
From the trail junction, we followed the trail to the left (upstream) where we then encountered a wide area with a nice overlook of the Bash Bish Falls and the rocky cove it was situated in. The people who were already here enjoying the falls provided a nice sense of perspective of how big this waterfall really was. This clearing area also had an interpretive sign discussing the vicinity as well as the Mohican legend concerning this falls in more detail.
A few paces from the interpretive sign, there was another set of steps leading right down to the rocky area fringing the waterfall’s misty plunge pool. We were content to enjoy the views from here and did not tempt fate by getting any closer to the falls nor the rushing Brook. We kept a real close watch on our daughter since the large rocks created many mini-drop offs that were significant to her given her diminutive size.
We happened to show up around the late morning just when the sun was starting to show itself. That was when we realized that the lighting was somewhat against us that time of the day so we had to be patient in waiting for some clouds to block the sun to let it be a little more photographable. Thus, I’d imagine on a sunny day, perhaps it would be more of an afternoon waterfall. Anyways, we spent about 90 minutes on the whole excursion, including the hiking, the resting, and all the photo taking – all at a pretty relaxed pace.
I’m sure there are many ways of reaching Bash Bish Falls, but we’ll describe the routes from the town of North Canaan, CT since that was the nearest town of any significance to where we had spent the night and started the drive out here the following morning.
The most direct way would be to drive north on Hwy 7 from North Canaan for about 6 miles to the town of Sheffield. Then turn left onto School Street and follow this street for about 2.7 miles to the three-way intersection with Hwy 41. Turn right at this intersection and take Hwy 41 for 3.6 miles north to its junction with Route 23. Turn left at this junction and head west on Route 23 for about 6 miles to Route 22 (crossing into the state of New York).
Turning left to go south on Route 22, follow it for about 4 miles to the Route 344 junction by the town of Copake. Turning left onto Route 344, then follow this road for a little over a mile to the large car park for Bash Bish Falls on the right. This car park is the trailhead for the easier New York Trail.
To continue onto the Massachusetts Trail, continue on Route 344 for another mile to the car park on the right.
It turned out that there were signs (perhaps misleading in hindsight) on the Route 23 so we didn’t follow the route described above to get to the Massachusetts Trail. The deviation started about 2 miles west of the Route 41/23 junction. We turned left onto Jug End Road at this point because there was a brown sign indicating that Bash Bish Falls was on this road.
At a little over a mile on Jug End Road, there was a four-way intersection. It wasn’t terribly obvious which way to continue at this point, but we eventually figured out that we had to turn right to go west on Mt Washington Road. There was also a sign indicating something about Mt Washington so perhaps that was the hint to go this way.
Anyways, we followed Mt Washington Road (which eventually became East St) for just under 6 miles to its junction with Cross Rd. Turning right onto Cross Rd, we then followed it to West St where we turned right, then followed West St for about a mile to Falls Rd on the left (I recalled there was finally a sign indicating Bash Bish Falls was in this direction). Finally, we took Falls Rd for about 1.4 miles to the Massachusetts Trailhead parking on the left. The New York Trailhead parking was another mile further on the left.
Finally, to give you some context, Copake, New York was 17 miles west of Sheffield, 28 miles (about 45 minutes drive) west of New Marlborough, 35 miles (about 60 minutes drive) southwest of Pittsfield, 115 miles (2.5 hours drive) north of New York City, and 159 miles (over 3 hours drive) west of Boston, Massachusetts.
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