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Bash Bish Falls: READ THIS Before Hiking MA or NY (2021 Update)

Is the Massachusetts or New York Hike Better?

Note: This article has been updated on August 15, 2021 to reflect new changes and my recent visit this month to both the New York (Taconic State Park) and Massachusetts (Bash Bish Falls State Park) sides. The result is a resoundingly clear answer to the question of which state’s trail provides a better hiking experience…

Bash Bish Falls
What does it take to get to Bash Bish Falls in MA?

We made a mistake while hiking Bash Bish Falls State Park in Western Massachusetts with kids… a sweaty, soggy mistake. This here article aims to keep you from our error! But first, let’s get some background information.

Bash Bish Falls is the highest waterfall in MA!

In its entirely, the Bash Bish water chute stretches nearly 180 feet tall. The final dramatic “V” plunge, with two side-by-side sprays on either side of a triangle-shaped boulder, plummets down a full 80 feet — making it the highest single-drop waterfall in the fine state of Massachusetts.

Bash Bish Falls is a great day hike in New England. Advice on hiking the Berkshires, MA side vs. Taconic State Park, NY. Highest waterfall in Massachusetts!
Isn’t Bash Bish Falls beautiful?

Where is Bash Bish Falls, exactly?

Ahh… this geographical background is integral to you avoiding the mistake we made. You see, the waterfall of Bash Bish Falls State Park sits right at the edge of southwestern Massachusetts in the Berkshires. (Well, it’s between several mountain ranges, including the Taconic Mountains and Mount Everett State Reservation, but the Berkshires are the easiest framework for we Western MA lovers.)

Less than a mile away lies the border with New York State. This means that the falls sits on the edge of Taconic State Park of NY, which in turn means…

This is the start of the Bash Bish Falls hike from the MA side.
This is the start of the Bash Bish Falls hike from the MA side.

There are TWO ways to hike Bash Bish Falls.

Choose wisely! (Cue dramatic music.) You can either hike to Bash Bish Falls from the Massachusetts side, or from the New York side.

Both have parking areas off the same road, which excitingly has two different names depending on the state: Falls Road in MA, and in NY, New York State Route 344. Both hikes are less than a mile long to reach your watery reward… but oooh my, are they different!

We were so proud when we finally made it to the falls!
We were so proud when we finally made it to the falls!

The MA side of the Bash Bish Falls hike…

Because we were hiking with my small children (2 and 4 years old), we saw that the Massachusetts side Bash Bish Falls State Park hike was only 1/3 of a mile, and that sounded like an easier alternative to the 2/3-mile NY option.

Stairs to Bash Bish Falls.
A quick rest on the stairs down to Bash Bish Falls.

“Sure,” we reasoned, “it says on the official website that it’s a steep descent of 300 feet, but at only a third of a mile, how hard can that be? Ahem. The answer is, “about 15 different kinds of hard.”

Bash Bish Falls is a great day hike in New England. Advice on hiking the Berkshires, MA side vs. Taconic State Park, NY. Highest waterfall in Massachusetts!
Careful on the rocks by Bash Bish Falls.

Is the MA side hike at Bash Bish OK for young kids?

Let me preface this by saying I am a strong and hearty lass with workout plans so robust, my biceps pop out of my shirts. I was doing this Bash Bish hike with my equally muscular mother, and extremely energetic kids.

Unforrrrrtunately, a descent of 300 feet over 1/3 a mile of slippery rocks looks like this:

Bash Bish Falls hike from the MA side is STEEP
The Bash Bish Falls hike from the MA side is STEEP.

In short, to safely do the Bash Bish Falls State Park hike from the MA side, my son and mother spent half of their time scooting down slowly and steadily on their bottoms (as pictured above), and I did the whole thing while CARRYING my two year old daughter, because she got so scared of the loose rocks making her slip. My forearm muscle ached for the whole subsequent month!

It took us about an hour to do the whole third of a mile, as crazy as that sounds. But we did it! And got back up to the top again, too. Please note that I am choosing not to include the photo of my arms raised in triumph at the end because… sweat.

Bash Bish Falls guard rails.
Guard rails protect you from Bash Bish Falls falling.

Hiking Bash Bish from the Taconic State Park, NY side:

I originally published this article several years ago, and back then I’d only glanced at the NY trail (wistfully) from the falls where the two paths meet up. Therefore I vowed this year (2021) to finally go and do the New York side from Taconic State Park with my kids to fully compare. This new section is the result of doing the NY side hike this August. Ready to see what the easy side looks like???

Bash Bish falls hike from Taconic State Park side, NY
The hike from the NY side (Taconic State Park) is SO MUCH better!

The NY Side Hike is WAY Easier!

The NY trail from Taconic State Park to Bash Bish Falls is 1.5 miles round trip (3/4 a mile each way), which is slightly longer than the MA side — but it was suuuuuuch a better hiking experience than the MA trail! Why? The New York trail to Bash Bish from Taconic State Park is flat, wide, and smooth, except for a few rocks and roots.

You could probably even roll a stroller down the NY path to Bash Bish if you had one of those big-wheeled off-road baby carriers. We did the whole hike in a relaxed and happy hour, and emerged with smiles on our faces! Between the NY and MA sides, I’d take the NY side any day.

Map of Taconic State Park
The best trail is in Taconic State Park, NY!

Finding the Trailhead to Bash Bish Falls in NY:

It can be a little tricky to put in the correct coordinates for the mouth of the Taconic State Park trailhead in New York to Bash Bish Falls. The map above might help, along with the address “396 NY-344, Copake, NY 12517.” You want to look for signs for Copake Falls, then Bash Bish, and then there’s a nice big parking area (replete with Port-a-potties).

You'll walk across the NY-MA border on the Taconic State Park trail.
You’ll walk across the NY-MA border on the Taconic State Park trail.

To prepare if YOU hike Bash Bish Falls from MA:

Let me be clear: I am not saying the MA side of the Bash Bish Falls hike is bad. It’s a beautiful, very doable hike for most people, with proper preparation. We just didn’t put all the parts in place, ourselves! If YOU go, make sure to do the following:

• Fully think through whether the NY or MA side hike is a better match for your situation. If anyone in your party has issues with steep and slippery rocks, the NY side is a much better idea, and is actually not that much longer!

• Wear proper footwear. Sneakers or hiking boots are important for the uneven surface of the MA side hike.

• Bring water and snacks. We figured a 1/3-mile hike would be easy to do with no hydration, but didn’t realize it would take so long! If you’re worried about over-hydration, be relieved (literally) to learn that there are port-a-potties at the mouth of the hike and at the falls, themselves.

• Understand that cell phone service is very spotty, so don’t rely on it to meet up with people for your journey.

Barriers now block access to touch Bash Bish Falls.
In 2021, barriers now block access to touch Bash Bish Falls.

Is Swimming Allowed at Bash Bish Falls?

Something we DID do well during our hike was not fall into the waterfall. That was a win. Sadly, Bash Bish Falls is known for being dangerous in that respect, so do mind the railings and edges if you venture down to the mouth of the falls, and remember that swimming is NOT allowed for a reason.

2021 Changes at Bash Bish: Barriers

Be advised that as of August of 2021, there are orange and white barriers blocking off access to the stairs down to the falls. You can still get a great view of the waterfall, but you can’t come as close to the water itself as you could before. Adjust expectations accordingly.

Bash Bish Falls is a great day hike in New England. Advice on hiking the Berkshires, MA side vs. Taconic State Park, NY. Highest waterfall in Massachusetts!
The kids were entranced by the waterfall.

Linguistic Question: Why isn’t it BISH BASH Falls?

It was only in researching for this article that I realized I’ve been saying the name of the waterfall wrong for over 30 years. No, it is NOT Bish Bash Falls, it’s Bash Bish — named after a Native-American woman of legend. (A certain family member insists the name actually comes because one side of the V waterfall goes “Bashhhh” while the other sighs, “Bishhhh.”)

But why does saying “Bash Bish” instead of “Bish Bash” feel so wrong on the tongue? My intellectual husband came to the rescue to answer this query. He explained that he’d recently been listening to a linguistics podcast by Columbia professor, John McWhorter, called Lexicon Valley. One episode was dedicated to the pattern in the English language to always put the “i” or “e” sound word before the “a” or “o” sound word.

Examples of this abound. Splish, Splash! Knick knacks. Ding dong! Mish mash. Click clack! Wishy-washy. Cling, clang! Ping pong… and even Cheech and Chong. Now do you see why Bash Bish’s name feels like a triangle-shaped rock in your mouth???

If the waterfall really is named for a Native-American woman from the area, it looks like Algonquin was spoken in the Berkshires region, so perhaps those linguistic patterns of “a” before “i” sounds come from that language. If Professor McWhorter can weigh in on this, my husband will squeal with fan awe!

Bash Bish Falls State Park hike
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Vacations in Western Massachusetts:

Final tip: I HIGHLY recommend the entire area of Western Massachusetts for vacation, be it for two days or two weeks. (See my big list of what to do in the Berkshires!) The region is lovely, and has so much to offer, including Mount Greylock (the highest mountain in MA), a fabulous alpaca farm, this teeny tiny airport with baby planes, the historic and quirky Red Lion Inn, and the famed MASS MoCA museum.

If you’re staying for more than a few days, renting a house is often the most affordable and enjoyable option. Feel free to use this easy affiliate link to Vrbo (formerly called VRBO) Western MA rentals to support this site at no extra cost to you. We’ve tried both services and had excellent experiences.

So what about YOU? Have you been to Bish Bash — er, I mean Bash Bish Falls State Park? What was your experience? If not, does it seem like a place you’d like to visit? Do share!

 

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Amanda Emmerling

Monday 16th of August 2021

I haven't heard of Bish Bash Falls before but this looks like an amazing waterfall hike in MA!

Lillie Marshall

Monday 16th of August 2021

It's a New England gem!

Gwen

Monday 16th of August 2021

Our family loves to hike and this spot looks amazing! I like that there are two options to reach the falls, depending on how adventurous you're feeling and if traveling with little kids.

Lillie Marshall

Monday 16th of August 2021

Right?! So great to have options!

Jennifer L Brommer

Sunday 15th of August 2021

Wow! These hikes look amazing! ...And those steps down to Bash Bish Falls are super cool. We'd love to explore this area sometime!

Lillie Marshall

Monday 16th of August 2021

The NY side is such a satisfying hike!

kat

Friday 13th of November 2020

Great pictures of the falls!!! I must say your picture is the only one that convinced me the grand-scale of Bash Bish Falls - Great eye! All the other pictures I've seen online makes it look like a measely tiny waterfall despite it being the tallest one in MA. I'll def be checking this out as I head out West. And it's funny that you mentioned the linguistic error of us wanting to say "Bish Bash" bcs I've been doing it non-stop until I realized what I'm wrong??

Lillie Marshall

Friday 13th of November 2020

Haha! Yes, our "biggest" things in Massachusetts are sometimes a little puny! I did use a wide angle lens (16mm), too, so that contributes.

kat

Friday 13th of November 2020

did you use a wide angle lense??

Jennifer Brommer

Friday 22nd of May 2020

This hike looks amazing! ...And you included every detail that anyone would ever need for a great day here! Thanks for taking the time to share these details :)

Globetrotting Girl

Wednesday 21st of October 2020

Wow, I can imagine the wet soggy hike was so disappointing. Here's another option, a guided tour. We had several choices on the trails. It was great to be outdoors and be safe AND unplugged. The company is Berkshire Camino and it was inspired by the Camino in Spain. We walked through the woods for house and were completely surrounded by natur, but the path was nice and easy. I like just being able to relax and having someone in the lead so we could just enjoy. Most of the time we were just in the woods but at the end we walked through the Gardens of Edith Wharton's estate on the trail we chose. Really, I think anybody could enjoy Berkshire Camino. I booked my tour online. I'll leave the website below in case anybody's interested.

Lillie Marshall

Friday 22nd of May 2020

Don't want anyone to make the sweaty mistake we did unless they want to!

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