Outdoors in spring in the Berkshire Region

Early spring in the mountains means the last of the snowshoeing in the high places and mud season in the valleys — sap-making and the earliest and hardiest of the wildflowers in the hills. Many of our trails are open year round, and some historic sites welcome visitors to walk through the grounds.


Southern Vermont


Appalachian Trail — 150 miles of trail in Vermont runs south to north through Bennington County. Parking area and trail head on Vermont Route 9 east of Bennington, on the Molly Stark Scenic Byway. West of Prospect Mountain and Woodford, Vt. appalachiantrail.org

Hildene — Mansion of Robert Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily: Goat dairy at Hildene Farm and about 12 miles of walking trails. 1005 Hildene Road off Route 7A, Manchester, Vt. 802-362-1788, hildene.org 

Lake Paran — 35-acre lake in North Bennington, Bennington and Shaftsbury. Swimming hole on Northwest shore. State fishing and boating access on south shore. Robert Frost Trail — 146 acres along the shore and Paran Creek were once a farm owned by Robert Frost. North Bennington, Vt. northbennington.org/paran

Merck Forest and Farmland Center — 3,100-acre property open to the public daily, free. Working farm, draft horses, sugar shack, 30 miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding. Visitors center open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Sleigh rides by appointment. Cabins and camping year-round. Family farm chores 2 to 4 p.m. Thursdays: Join Merck Forest’s staff for afternoon on the farm, peek in the nest boxes to look for eggs, feed pigs or water sheep, move horses to pasture. 3270 Route 215, Rupert, Vt. 802-394-7836. merckforest.org

Mount Equinox — Fourteen trails ranging from an easy Pond Loop to a 1.8-mile Mountain Bluff Trail maintained by the Equinox Preservation Trust. Route 7A, Manchester, Vt. 802-362-4374, equinoxpreservationtrust.org

One World Conservation Center— Trails, periodic walks and workshops, programs for children and adults. 413 Route 7, Bennington, Vt. oneworldconservationcenter.org

Park McCullough House — Historic mansion with exhibit on 640-acre Hall Farm with artifacts, photographs, books, maps, tools and stories open to Oct. 10. Grounds and gardens open year-round, free, with access to trails in the adjoining woods. 1 Park St., North Bennington, Vt. 802-442-5441, parkmccullough.org.

Strobridge Recreation Complex — 735 acres of forest land, including 2,000 feet of frontage on the Hoosic River, for hiking, fishing and paddling. Off Route 346 in North Pownal, Vt., 802-823-7757, hoorwa.org.

Woodford State Park — Hiking trails including 2.7-mile trail around the lake. Follow Route 9 east from Bennington to Woodford, Vt. 802-447-7169, vtstateparks.com


Berkshire region


Appalachian Trail — Appalachian Trail runs north and south throughout the Berkshire region in Western Massachusetts, through Department of Conservation and Recreation properties— Clarksburg State Forest, October Mountain State Forest, Mount Greylock State Reservation, Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, Beartown State Forest, Jug End State Reservation, Mount Washington State Forest and Mount Everett State Reservation. Also Dalton, Cheshire. appalachiantrail.org

Berkshire Knapsackers — Weekly expeditions to all corners of the county, with new hikes and leaders each week. berkshireknapsackers.org

Berkshire Natural Resources Council — Trails and properties maintained by nonprofit land conservation organization to protect farms, forests, streams and ridgelines. Weekly guided hikes. bnrc.net

Hoffmann Bird Club — Birding expeditions across Berkshire County and the region. hoffmannbirdclub.org


Northern Berkshires


Cascades — Short, flat trail along the river to the waterfall. Small amount of parking at trail head on Marion Ave., off Route 2, just west of downtown North Adams (and just past Notch Road entrance to Mount Greylock).

Clark Art Institute — Trails up Stone Hill and through the woods on the museum property. Guided walks in connection with exhibit at the Stone Hill Center. 225 South St., Williamstown. clarkart.edu

Greylock Glen — Mount Greylock trails on 1,060 acres accessible from Adams. Information from Mount Greylock visitors center, 30 Rockwell Road, Lanesborough. 413-499-4262, mount.greylock@state.ma.us

Field Farm — A 1967 post-modern guest house designed by Ulrich Franzen for art collector Lawrence Bloedel. Tours compare architectural philosophies. Trails and grounds open daily, free, year-round, sunrise to sunset. 554 Sloan Road, Williamstown, 413-458-3135, thetrustees.org

HooRWA — Hoosic River Watershed Association leads walks, bike rides and paddles along the river in Williamstown and Southern Vermont. 413-458-2742, hoorwa.org

Hopkins Forest — Trails maintained by Williams College in Williamstown and along the Taconic crest. Trail heads on Northwest Hill Road in Williamstown and on Route 2 in Petersburgh, N.Y. 413-597-4353 or williams.edu/CES/hopkins.htm

Linear Park — Upper Linear Park trailhead at tennis court behind Greylock Insurance Agency on Route 2. Lower Linear Park along the Green River on Route 43 just south of the Route 2 intersection. Williamstown.

Mount Greylock State Reservation — Trails and entrances in Williamstown, North Adams, Adams and Lanesborough, open through mid-October. Hiking access to the Appalachian Trail, Scenic Byway, Veterans War Memorial, Bascom Lodge and views. Auto road to summit. Visitors centers at 30 Rockwell Road in Lanesborough and 115 State St. in North Adams (Gateway Heritage State Park). Williamstown trail head to the Hopper and more through Mount Hope Park on Route 43. 413-499-4262, mass.gov/dcr/parks/western/mgry.htm.

Mountain Meadow — Wild meadows at the homesite of Grace Greylock Niles, the woman who wrote “Bog-Trotting for Orchids” a century ago. Entrances on Benedict Road in Pownal, Vt., and Mason Street in Willliamstown. Free. Trustees of Reservations. 413-458-3135, thetrustees.org

Natural Bridge — Geological phenomenon, arch carved by water into 550-million-year-old bedrock marble in 48-acre park. Follow Route 8 north from North Adams to entrance. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Columbus Day. 413-663-6392, Massachusetts DCR.

Pine Cobble Trail — 2.1 miles of moderate to strenuous hiking through oak forest interspersed with white pines, expanse of 600-million-year-old gray Cheshire quartzite cliffs overlooking most of Northern Berkshire County from an elevation of 2,100 feet. Trail begins 0.1 miles north of North Hoosac Road on Pine Cobble Road in Williamstown. wrlf.org

Williamstown Rural Lands — Celebrating its 30th year — Nature Center open weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., children’s programs and trails on Sheep Hill at a former dairy farm. 671 Cold Spring Road, Route 7, Williamstown. 413-458-2494, wrlf.org

Windsor Lake — Kayaking, canoeing, swimming and fishing allowed. Bradley Street and Kemp Ave., North Adams. explorenorthadams.com

Williams College Planetarium — Students host explorations of the motions of the planets, phases of the moon, the varying temperatures/colors of stars, neighboring galaxies, mythological figures and constellations, the Southern Hemisphere, comets and more, Fridays at 8 p.m. Sept. 23 to Nov. 18 on the high-precision Zeiss Skymaster ZKP3/B opto-mechanical planetarium projector. Milham Planetarium in the Old Hopkins Observatory. Main St., Williamstown. 413-597-2188, mcr4@williams.edu


Central Berkshires


Arrowhead — Historic house where Herman Melville wrote “Moby-Dick” open into Oct. Grounds open free with walking trails, art exhibits, Michael Melle straw sculptures and nature trail. Heritage breed chickens. 780 Holmes Road, Pittsfield. 413-442-1793. mobydick.org

Ashuwillticook Rail Trail— Flat, paved trail from Cheshire to Adams, following the old railway line along Cheshire Lake and Route 8. Converted railroad corridor now a paved path running 11.2 miles from Adams to Lanesborough. Access at Visitors Center in downtown Adams, Cheshire Lake on Route 8, near the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough or along the route. 413-442-8928 or mass.gov/dcr/parks/western/asrt.htm

Bryant Homestead — Boyhood home and later summer retreat of American poet, abolitionist, conservationist and editor William Cullen Bryant. House open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for tours. 2-mile Rivulet Trail to old-growth trees, hemlock and cherry, fields and sugarbush and stream in Bryant’s 1823 poem. Grounds open free year-round. 207 Bryant Road, Cummington. National Historic Landmark. Trustees of Reservations, 413-532-1631 ext. 3110, thetrustees.org.

Canoe Meadows — Mass Audubon property with trails, boardwalks, ponds and wetlands on Holmes Road, Pittsfield. 413-637-0320, massaudubon.org

Cheshire Cobble — Section of the Appalachian Trail in Cheshire follows a switchback to views of the valley. Parking at the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail or on Main Street. Trail head without parking on Furnace Hill Road. appalachiantrail.org

Chesterfield Gorge — A dramatic rock canyon first carved by centuries of glacial melt water and the Westfield River, the gorge is the gateway to the East Branch Trail. Open during the warm season, daily, from sunrise to sundown, for hiking, picnicking, mountain biking, anglers. River Road, Chesterfield. 413-532-1631.

Glendale Falls — A quarter-mile trail to the falls and a wood road to land owned by the Massachusetts Division of Fish & Wildlife. From intersection of Routes 143 and 112 in Worthington, take Route 143 West to River Road. Turn right onto Clark Wright Road to entrance. 413-532-1631

Hancock Shaker Village — Living history, farm animals, gardens, CSA Farm and trails. Farm and Forest Trail on village grounds and trailhead for “Mount Sinai” hiking trails across from the main village. Routes 20 and 41, Pittsfield. 413-443-0188. hancockshakervillage.org

The Mount — Grounds open daily, free, dawn to dusk. Historic Gilded-Age home of Pulitzer prizewinning novelist Edith Wharton opens May 14 for the summer season with tours of the house, exhibits, sculpture and gardens. 2 Plunkett St., Lenox. 413-511-5111, edithwharton.org

Notchview Reservation — Twenty-five miles of trails, historic hayfields and pastures, stone walls and cellar holes. Open from sunup to sundown, daily, year round. Visitor Center with picnic area and rest rooms. 83 Old Route 9, Windsor. 413-684-0148.

Pittsfield State Forest — Berry Pond, one of the highest natural bodies of water in the state. 30 miles of trails. 1041 Cascade St., Pittsfield. 413-442-8992, mass.gov

Pleasant Valley Sanctuary — Mass Audubon property with trails, ponds and boardwalks, canoe trips and nature programs year-round. Family programs and birding. 472 West Mountain Road, Lenox. Berkshire Sanctuaries, 413-637-0320, massaudubon.org

Springside Park — Trails across 237 acres of woods and meadows. Master Gardeners workshops select Saturday mornings. Springside Park, upper North Street, Pittsfield. Gardeners— 413-743-5193. Park— 413- 347-3812.

Taconic Crest Trail — 35 miles of trail along the ridge from Pittsfield north into New York and Vermont with access in Pittsfield along Route 20 and in Williamstown at the trail head on Petersburgh Pass (Route 2) in Hopkins Forest.

Tamarack Hollow — Highland valley nature and cultural center in boreal forest. Hikes on the property and in neighboring conservation lands in Windsor and Savoy with naturalist Aimee Gelinas. 1515 Savoy Hollow Road, Windsor. 413-584-3009, tamarackhollow.com.

Windsor Jambs — Windsor State Forest with granite gorge, waterfall, sandy beach along Westfield River. Entrance off Route 9 or Toute 116 in Windsor. 413-339-5504, mass.gov


Southern Berkshires


Ashintully Gardens — Grounds of Berkshire Cottage estate, trails and gardens open 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, through Oct. 8. Hike to the ruins of the former mansion or explore the landscaped paths and water ways created over the course of decades by John McLennan, a composer of modern music. Free. Soden Road, Tyringham, Trustees of Reservations. 413-298-3239

Bartholomew’s Cobble — River and unique wood and meadow habitat with bald eagles, turtles and abundant wildlife: 800 species of plants and one of North America’s greatest diversities of ferns. Hikes and nature programs. Open year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset; museum and visitors center open year-round, daily, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed Sundays and Mondays, December to March) Eco Volunteers meet 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays. and trail to nearby Ashley House Museum. Trustees of Reservations, 105 Weatogue Road, Sheffield. 413-229-8600, thetrustees.org

Beartown State Forest — 1.5 mile Benedict Pond Loop Trail open year-round. From Route 23 in Monterey, turn left on Blue Hill Road, follow signs. 413-528-0904, mass.gov/dcr

Bear Swamp — Three miles of trails with moderate hiking, strenuous in places. From the intersection of Route 112, Route 116, and Hawley Road in Ashfield, follow Hawley Road to entrance on left. mass.gov/dcr

Becket Land Trust — Becket historic quarry and trails. Quarry Museum and self-guided tour of nature preserve and 100 years of history. Becket Historic Quarry permanent exhibit now open at Mullen House Education Center. Trails open in daylight hours year round. Quarry off Route 20, 456 Quarry Road, Becket. Mullen House off-site exhibits and office at 12 Brooker Hill Road (corner Route 8), North Becket Village. 413-623-2100, becketlandtrust.org.

Berkshire Botanical Garden — Workshops, garden talks, courses and demonstrations year round. Three greenhouses, an arboretum and a woodland preserve. Route 183 and Route 102, Stockbridge. 413-298-3926, berkshirebotanical.org.

Great Barrington Land Conservancy — Outdoor walks and talks across town through the summer and fall. 413-528-4160, greatbarringtonlandconservancy.org

Great Barrington River Walk — Native landscaped path along the Housatonic River in downtown Great Barrington and National Recreation Trail; entrances at 195 Main St., River Street, Bridge Street and Dresser Ave. W.E.B. Du Bois River Garden Park. William Stanley Overlook. Laboratory for natural resource progection and stewardship. Volunteer days Thursdays. Open in daylight hours, free. 413-528-3391, gbriverwalk.com.

Housatonic Heritage Area — Trails and historic sites along the river from Connecticut to Berkshire County. heritage-hikes.org.

Housatonic Valley Association — Paddle trips on the Housatonic River. hvatoday.org

Jug End State Reservation — Two-mile Jug End Loop Trail through open fields, northern hardwood and Eastern Hemlock woodlands. From Route 41 in South Egremont, take a right onto Mount Washington Road and to Jug End Road, to entrance.  413-528-0330, mass.gov/dcr

Lime Kiln — Mass Audubon property with 2 miles of walking trails, 568 Silver St., Sheffield. 413-637-0320, massaudubon.org

McLennan Reservation — 1.5 moderate miles. From Tyringham center, take Tyringham Main Road south. Turn left onto Fenn Road (dirt road). Park at the roadside and walk to entrance, 413-298-3239,  thetrustees.org

Monument Mountain — Moderate loop trails and beautiful views at the top. Admission is free. Route 7, Great Barrington. Trustees of Reservations, 413-298-3239, ext. 3020.

Mount Washington State Forest — Thirty miles of trails over rugged terrain, wilderness camping. Hike the South Taconic Trail to the 2,250-foot summit of Alander Mountain for amazing views. From Route 41 in South Egremont, take a quick right onto Mount Washington Road and follow to park entrance. mass.gov/dcr or 413-528-0330.

Naumkeag — Historic home of the Choate family designed in the 1880s by McKim, Mead & White, with world-famous gardens by Fletcher Steele: Chinese Gardens, Blue Steps. Open through Columbus Day. Southern Berkshire volunteer gardening team 8 a.m. to noon and Art of Cut Flowers, 10 a.m. in the cutting garden, Wednesdays through Sept. 28. 5 Prospect Hill Road, Stockbridge. 413-298-3239 (weekdays), 413-298-8138 (weekends). Trustees of Reservations, thetrustees.org.

October Mountain State Forest — Scenic trails leads including Schermerhorn Gorge, which has intrigued generations of geologists. mass.gov/dcr or 413-243-1778, 413-499-9370.

Pleasant Valley Sanctuary — Mass Audubon property with trails, ponds and boardwalks, canoe trips and nature programs year-round. 472 West Mountain Road, Lenox. Berkshire Sanctuaries, 413-637-0320, massaudubon.org

Tyringham Cobble — Walk through mountain meadows and up hillside trails to watch for bobolinks. Jerusalem Road, Tyringham. Trustees of Reservations.


New York State


Flying Deer Nature Center — Immersion program for adults, first monthly program Sept. 17 with naturalists, hands-on activities and wilderness skills from hide tanning, friction fire and basket weaving to permaculture, for people with any level of experience. Children’s education and outdoor events. 5 Abode Road, New Lebanon, N.Y. 518-794-6687, flyingdeernaturecenter.org


Cross country skiing


Notchview — Nordic skiing, snowshoing, cross-country skiing on groomed trails, lessons and equipment rentals available as soon as the snow flies. 3,000 acres of meadows and trails. Visitors Center with masonry heater and cafe for chilis and soups, hot drinks and baked goods. 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Trustees of Reservations property at 83 Old Route 9, Windsor. 413-684-0148, xcskimass.com, thetrustees.org

OMI International Arts Center — 120 acres and more of groomed trails on the grounds for cross-country skiing, snoeshoing and dog-walking, free and open to all. N.Y. County Route 22, Ghent, N.Y. artomi.org

Prospect Mountain — More than 18 miles of groomed trails, beginner to expert, lodge and restaurant. 204 Prospect Access Road, Woodford, 802-442-2575, prospectmountain.com

Canterbury Farm — Skiing, skating, snowshoeing and rentals. Bay State Games held here Feb. 28. 1986 Fred Snow Road, Becket, 413-623-0100, canterbury-farms.com


In the photo at the top, a bubble of ice coats a stem in Williamstown. Photo by Kate Abbott.