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.
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.