Published on TravelAwaits.com, September, 2020
Written by Sharon Odegaard
A Not to Miss in the Berkshires
Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts. From the summit at 3,491 feet, you can see as far as 60 to 90 miles on a clear day, including parts of four states and five mountain ranges. Venturing up Mount Greylock is worth it for the sweeping vistas alone.
The park itself includes 12,500 acres of wilderness. Fifty miles of trails crisscross the mountain. The famous Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine goes right up the middle of Mount Greylock for 12 miles. So if you’ve ever wanted to tackle part of the Appalachian Trail, this is your chance.
During your visit, you’ll be immersed in a natural habitat that’s home to 40 species of rare plants. The stands of red spruce trees here are protected as a National Natural Landmark. In the 1800s, the trees on Mount Greylock were considered prime logging fodder, but locals came together to protest. In 1898, Massachusetts officially set aside Mount Greylock for the people to enjoy. Industry was shut out, and nature lovers were invited in.
Mount Greylock experiences rough winters, so if you are planning on visiting during the snowy months, check first to see if the roads are open. From late May through November, the roads should be open, and you are welcome to visit at any time from dawn to dusk.
Here are some things to know to help you plan your visit.
1. Decide In Advance Where You’ll Enter The Park
Mount Greylock is located in the beautiful Berkshires region of western Massachusetts, near the states of Vermont and New York. The area is about a 3-hour drive west of Boston and makes a fabulous weekend getaway. Once you are in the Berkshires, you can drive into the park from North Adams, Adams, Lanesborough, Cheshire, Williamstown, or New Ashford, which are all in Massachusetts. Figure out the direction you will be coming from and mark the closest park entrance.
2. Don’t Miss The Visitor Center
While you can access Mount Greylock from any direction, you will want to enter from the south if it’s your first visit. Drive to Rockwell Road, just north of Lanesborough. Here, at the entrance to Mount Greylock, you will find the visitor center. It’s open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Inside are environmental displays and information about the park.
Grab a trail map to get the lay of the land, whether you are hiking or driving. Even if you plan to drive and see the sights from your car, you may be inspired to get out and hike for a short distance somewhere on the mountain. Remember to stay only on the designated trails and roads during your time in the park.
3. Take Time For Some Hearty Hiking
There’s a trail at Mount Greylock for everyone. You can choose the length of your hike by parking and taking a trail for as long as you’d like. Once you are armed with a good trail map, you can tailor your time outdoors to the time you have available and how much of a workout you want.
One of the easiest trails is flat and begins at the summit near Bascom Lodge. The clifftop trail winds through low bushes and a blueberry patch.
A more strenuous hike is the Cheshire Harbor Trail. Beginning in the foothills off Route 8 on West Mountain Road in Adams, it winds up the mountain for about 3 miles. Then it connects with the Appalachian Trail for a mile before reaching the summit. The climb is all uphill, but the trail is rated as moderate rather than difficult. Backpackers can find lean-tos for shelter at various places along the trails. Two are located at Deer Hill and Wilbur’s Clearing. Check the trail map for others.
During my stay in the Berkshires, I drove to Mount Greylock every morning and parked at the pull-outs along the road. I hiked for a short distance or a longer time, depending on how much time I had before meeting my family for the day’s activities. You don’t have to plan an all-day hike or wear yourself out to be refreshed by time in the woods here.
4. Make The Scenic Drive
If you’d prefer not to hike, you can still marvel at the scenery of this beautiful state park from the comfort of your car. Check out this scenic drive that will take you for a half-day tour of Mount Greylock.
The tour begins a mile north of Lanesborough on Route 7 and follows Rockwell Road. You’ll learn about the New Ash Fort, built in 1762 and intended to defend against area Native Americans. The tour leads to Stony Ledge, a lookout over a wooded canyon called The Hopper.
After a few sharp turns, you can glimpse the Veterans War Memorial Tower on top of the mountain.
You can either retrace your route back down the mountain or take Notch Road to Route 2 into North Adams to exit the park.
5. Spend Some Time At The Bascom Lodge
At the summit of Mount Greylock, you’ll find the notable Bascom Lodge. Built in the 1930s by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the arts and crafts building welcomes visitors with its beautiful stone architecture.
This rustic lodge offers a place to stay overnight or relax for a meal. Many day visitors plan for a lunch in the large dining room, with its high, oak-beamed ceiling and stone fireplace. The enclosed porch features wraparound windows to show off the view.
While it was originally intended only to be a place where hikers could take shelter from the elements, the lodge eventually became much more. In the summer, it hosts concerts and theater productions. Cyclists, campers, day hikers, and travelers from Boston or New York arriving by car can enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the lodge. Whether you hike or drive up Mount Greylock, you’ll want to stop at this lodge and relax in the historic atmosphere.
6. Take A Moment To Marvel At The Veterans War Memorial Tower
The Veterans War Memorial Tower rises 90 feet into the air. Built in 1932, it is located on the summit near Bascom Lodge. Wander over from the lodge to look up at this tall tower.
7. If You Want To Camp, You’ll Have To Hike
The one campground at Mount Greylock is a hike-in campground. The overnight parking area is 5 miles north of the visitor center on Rockwell Road. Hike 1.3 miles in to reach the private, wooded sites. The hike is labeled moderately strenuous. Be sure to make reservations before heading to the campground. Mid-May through mid-October are prime camping months.
8. There’s Plenty To Do In The Winter
If you’re a winter sports enthusiast, you will find plenty to do at Mount Greylock. The hiking trails make ideal snowshoe paths during the winter. If you are not quite ready to snowshoe to the summit, opt for the Haley Farm Trail that leads to the Stony Ledge lookout. This trail begins in Williamstown on the north end of the park and runs for 2.5 miles. If you want to continue the climb, you can go on to the summit.
Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are also popular here during the winter. Check out the official Berkshires site for more information on winter fun.
9. It’s A Great Base for Exploring The Berkshires
If you are traveling to the Berkshires during the hot summer months, consider making the Bascom Lodge your base for sightseeing. The mountain tends to be cooler on top than the towns below. And from the Bascom Lodge, you can easily drive to many memorable places close by.
Go south to Stockbridge to see Norman Rockwell’s hometown and studio. Or head to Pittsfield, where you’ll find novelist Herman Melville’s home, Arrowhead. To the west is the Hancock Shaker Village, where you can tour the round barn, meetinghouses, and gardens. When you’re ready for a culture fix, drive a few miles north to Williamstown to visit The Clark and the Williams College Museum of Art.
The different seasons offer various views and activities at Mount Greylock. The fall — when the trees show off their reds, oranges, and yellows — is breathtaking. Temperatures are cooler than in the summer and warmer than in the winter. I found October to be the perfect time to visit!
What I love about Mount Greylock is that you can spend a half hour driving to the summit for spectacular views, or you can hike for a day through the woods along tree-shaded dirt paths. Whether you have just a bit of time when you are in the Berkshires or you want to decompress with a day or more in nature, Mount Greylock is a great option. Massachusetts made a good decision decades ago by setting aside this park to refresh all who journey here.