Recent snows and rains and frosts have transformed the Cascade falls in Melrose into a dazzling ice palace. The 40-foot-tall formation is one of the closest waterfalls to Boston—and an easy 10- to 15-minute walk north from the end of the MBTA’s Orange Line at Oak Grove in Malden.

“Between the slopes of the ‘Twin Sentinels’ is the beautiful Cascade, or series of cascades, in which Shilly Shally Brook falls from the precipitous ledges above, over masses of picturesque rocks fringed with pine trees, and clusters of flowers and ferns, and from the hillside as we ascend vistas open through the woods, often of extreme beauty,” Edwin M. Bacon wrote in his 1898 guide book “Walks and Rides in the Country Round About Boston.” “The cascades are seen to the best advantage in the springtime or late autumn, when the hill streams are full, and the waters dash and bound down the rocky way; but they are not without many if gentler charms in the drier midsummer season.”

And in deep winter.

The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)

How To Get There:
Exit on the west side of Oak Grove MBTA station and walk north along Washington Street. Somewhere in there you cross into Melrose. As you pass some old brick factory buildings on the right, the road splits, becoming Pleasant Street if you continue straight. Head leftish, staying on Washington Street. Take your first left, onto Goodyear Avenue and hike up the hill.

At the end of the block, the road dead ends into the woods of the Middlesex Fells. Continue straight ahead, crossing over a little wooden footbridge. Follow the Cascade Trail that winds along a gentle hillside of oaks, hemlocks, beeches and birches.

In warm weather, five minutes in you can often hear the rushing water. (Though, in recent drought summers, the waterfall has often run down to a trickle and gone dry.) Then it reveals itself—a four-story tall cascade. Shilly Shally Brook bounds off the cliff, turning into a series of horsetails (so named for the look of the thin splashy falling streams) that step down the rocks.

It’s an amazing place to hike after a snow. And this winter, the horsetails have frozen into glittering pillars and sparkling curtains of ice. (See the photos below of the frozen falls right now compared with less icy conditions in recent years.) Water continues to rush underneath a snowy crust (be careful where you step). The brook goes on to join the Malden River, which joins the Mystic River and flows into the sea.

You can also climb to the top of the waterfall via the stone steps on the left side. Follow north along the ridgeline for dramatic views of the Boston skyline.


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At the end of Goodyear Avenue, a little wooden footbridge marks the beginning of the Cascade Trail into the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
At the end of Goodyear Avenue, a little wooden footbridge marks the beginning of the Cascade Trail into the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
Cascade Trail sign in Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
Cascade Trail sign in Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
The path to the Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, after a heavy snow in February 2016. (Greg Cook)
The path to the Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, after a heavy snow in February 2016. (Greg Cook)
The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
Water still runs under the frozen Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
Water still runs under the frozen Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, December 2015. (Greg Cook)
The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, December 2015. (Greg Cook)
Heavy snow blankets the Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, February 2016. (Greg Cook)
Heavy snow blankets the Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, February 2016. (Greg Cook)
The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
The Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
Water still runs under the frozen Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
Water still runs under the frozen Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
Atop the Cascade falls, looking over the edge as the brook runs toward Washington Street, in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, December 2015. (Greg Cook)
Atop the Cascade falls, looking over the edge as the brook runs toward Washington Street, in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, December 2015. (Greg Cook)
Atop the Cascade falls, looking over the edge as the brook runs toward Washington Street, in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
Atop the Cascade falls, looking over the edge as the brook runs toward Washington Street, in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, Jan. 21, 2018. (Greg Cook)
Shilly Shally Brook meanders toward the Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, December 2017. (Greg Cook)
Shilly Shally Brook meanders toward the Cascade in the Middlesex Fells, Melrose, December 2017. (Greg Cook)
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