Bear’s Den Falls

New Salem, Massachusettts
Bear’s Den Falls in New Salem, Massachusetts is a captivating 15-foot waterfall nestled along the Middle Branch of the Swift River.
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About This Location

Bear’s Den Falls, situated in New Salem, Massachusetts, is a captivating waterfall nestled along the Middle Branch of the Swift River. With a total height of approximately 15 feet, this natural wonder offers a serene escape into the beauty of the outdoors. The falls create a small pool at their base, although swimming is not advisable due to the shallow depth. However, it’s a delightful spot for young kids and dogs to explore, provided they navigate the potentially slippery terrain with care.

The Middle Branch of the Swift River experiences its most robust flow during the spring, fueled by snowmelt and heavy rainstorms. While spring showcases the waterfall with the highest waterflow, Bear’s Den Falls is a year-round attraction, each season bringing its own unique charm. Whether it’s the lush vibrancy of spring, the ideal hangout spot in summer, the vibrant foliage in fall, or the tranquil solitude of winter, this waterfall holds allure throughout the year.

The falls themselves cascade in a distinctive formation, with the added beauty of a substantial rock face to the west. Further downstream, you’ll encounter smaller cascades that complement the main attraction. Access to Bear’s Den Falls is convenient, as it is located within the Bear’s Den Reservation, managed and owned by The Trustees of Reservations. Visitors can park along Neilson Road and embark on a 0.20-mile one-way hike to reach the falls. The trail is family-friendly and welcomes dogs, allowing you to explore the entire Bear’s Den Reservation.

Parking is available right at the trailhead, with approximately half a dozen spots along Neilson Road, and it’s free of charge. It’s important to note that parking is not permitted along the road itself, so be sure to use the designated spots. Additional parking options can be found nearby.

Bear’s Den Reservation is steeped in history and legend. Its name is derived from a settler who once shot a black bear in the area. Additionally, local legend has it that in 1675, King Philip and neighboring chieftains convened here to strategize Native American attacks on nearby white settler villages such as Hadley, Deerfield, and Northampton. The waterfall within the gorge served as a place of celebration during victories and concealment during defeats. As you explore the trail to the waterfall, you may also come across stone foundations that offer glimpses into the region’s rich history.

Location

Address: Neilson Road, New Salem, Massachusettts
Place GPS Coordinates: 42.541917, -72.326611
Parking GPS Coordinates: 42.541917, -72.326611
Parking Notes: There are about a half dozen parking spots right at the trailhead on the side of Neilson Road. Parking is free. Please note that no parking is permitted along the side of the road. Additional parking can be found down the road.

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