Wahconah Falls State Park is a state-owned, public recreation area located in the town of Hadley, Massachusetts. The park’s 1,100 acres (450ha) include forested hills and valleys, waterfalls, glacial erratics, and bedrock outcroppings known as “hoodoos.” It is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation which protects forests throughout eastern Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. The park was created when the city of Hadley acquired land from lumber companies in the late 19th century. In 1891, Ezra Gano purchased 120 acres at what is now the park with his brother William Sherman Gano. They sold half their interest to Robert P. Richardson two years later, but retained control until 1897 when they transferred it all to the Commonwealth for one dollar an acre.
From this point on, the park remained undeveloped, save for logging roads built during World War II. Development began in earnest in 1960 under the auspices of the Boy Scouts camp Seaview, which had been operating since 1949 on about 20 acres at the southern end of the park. A camping facility was added in 1964, followed by bathhouses, picnic areas, and parking lots over the next several years. An additional 2,400 acres were added between 1967 and 1971 through the purchase of three adjacent parcels. Additional purchases have brought the park to its present size of 736 acres.
The park offers hiking trails, cross-country skiing, swimming, fishing, picnicking facilities, and access to horseback riding stables. The park has five separate trail heads including Northfield, Bradley, Mountain Road, Campground/Seaview, and Pinkham Notch. The longest trail, Mountain Road Trail, is 3 miles (4.8km).
Other shorter trails include:
- Bear Hill Spur (.6 mile)
- Camp Loop (.3 mile)
- Cedar Glen Trail (.2 mile)
- Greenleaf Trail (.1 mile)
- Lakeview Trail (.5 mile)
- Red Pine Trail (.7 mile)
- White Tail Ridge Trail (.3 mile)
There are also 12 miles (19km) of equestrian trails open to riders who must have current Negative Coggins papers for each horse that enters the park.
Ridership is currently very light so horses are not often seen except at certain times of year. Horses allowed off-trail .25 miles only. No more than six horses per person permitted. No horseshoes required; shoes can be rented if needed. Ridden or walked past the Northfield entrance daily, 10am – 4pm. $10 fee for up to four people in the group, then $5 each additional person. Reservations recommended. Horse rental fees apply even if no one is actually riding them. The park closes at dusk, so non-riding passengers are not permitted beyond the property line. The main gate remains closed after 4pm November-February, 8pm March-September-October, 11pm other months.
The park accepts Discover Pass holders when accompanied by a valid license issued by any state. The park does not allow dogs. No guns or hunting are permitted. Amenities include campsites, cabins, boat ramps, playgrounds, playing fields, and extensive network of logging roads allowing access to much of the surrounding countryside. The park hosts many events, including annual festivals, holiday events, weddings, and corporate occasions. The park’s master plan calls for the construction of a multi-purpose building housing various activities such as fitness classes, nature walks, children’s programs, and meetings. Dedicated in May 2021, the new multi-purpose building opened in September 2022.
Construction started in 2016 on a new visitor center to replace the aging and obsolete structure dating back to the 1950s. Designed by Boston architecture firm Hargreaves & Associates, the $9 million project encompassed approximately 40,000 square feet of space. Upon completion, the new visitors’ center became the largest single-story building constructed in the state of Massachusetts in modern history. On December 14, 2019, Wahconah Falls State Park was among eleven parks and historic sites that received designation from the National Park Service as part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
This historical designation recognizes significant contributions made by African Americans in securing freedom in America, especially those who assisted fugitive slaves making their way north to Canada at the time. The park is used as a base for exploring Mount Holyoke Range, Mt. Blue Hills, and the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail. The park’s master plan calls for the construction of a multi-purpose building housing various activities such as fitness classes, nature walks, children’s programs, and meetings. Plans call for a 400-space underground garage, 100 spaces of surface parking, and a link to existing bike paths outside the park. Design work on the building began in 2017, and groundbreaking occurred in 2020.
- mountain biking
- cross-country skiing