I’ll Cut Off Your Falls!
Falls Cut-off Trail Cascades, Barkhamsted
I hiked all the trails at Peoples State Forest in 2007, but have revisited bits and pieces of them over the years since. It’s just a great trail system in a beautiful part of the state and certainly an area I’d send anyone curious about what the area has to offer. Like, say you know someone who thinks Connecticut is generally flat and there are no steep, boulder-strewn hikes like there are in New Hampshire… send them to go see these falls.
Or if someone is curious to see a bear in the wild and not in their garbage can. People disbelieve me when I tell them that one of the highest probability “wild” places in Connecticut to see a bear is here. I don’t know why they disbelieve, but they do. Granted, yeah, the bears here have more tags on them than a thrice-marked down dress at Marshalls, but they are bears roaming the wild nonetheless.
Peoples is a beautiful spot. The drive to it alone is worth the effort alone. Do it in October and you’ll thank me later. There is a large 11 mile network of trails at Peoples, so you have a few options to get to these cascades. The simplest and most straightforward is to park along East River Road at the Jessie Gerard/Falls Cut-Off Trail trailhead and take a deep breath.
Since I first hiked here, a side trail to the Barkhamsted Lighthouse has been added, along with a bunch of signage about the history of the place. It allows for a nice, short side trip to learn some interesting history.
This is a very steep climb, I’m telling you now. It is very short, but I honestly can’t think of another stretch of blazed trail in Connecticut that approximates the White Mountains more than this third of a mile in Barkhamsted. It’s no joke; straight up with lots of boulder hops and even some (very light) scrambles.
I love it.
I imagine many people are caught off guard here; having been prodded to check out the Lighthouse village at Squire’s Tavern down the road, they decide to keep going up the hill without knowledge of what it entails. Good luck to those hypothetical people.
Another approach is via the Jessie Gerard Trail. If you spend some time on that trail, above the cascades (and you certainly should), you’ll be rewarded with some phenomenal views of the reservoir valley below. The Jessie Gerard Trail is named for Mrs. Franklin W. Gerard who, along with Alain White, pretty much got the state forest program off the ground in the early 20th century. “Her” trail is a lovely relatively flat hike through hemlock and pine and with the viewpoints I just mentioned.
Of course, if you come that way, you hike down the Falls Cut-Off Trail to the falls which means you then have to go back up… but your “up” is less than the first option I mentioned.
Here’s the funny thing: My two visits to these falls yielded… dry falls. Which is why I’ve had to use a picture from elsewhere. Hopefully your reward will be a bit more… rewarding.