Bike the Savoy State Forest
If a road or trail is in the Berkshires, chances are it's good for a scenic, and probably hilly, bike ride. An especially beloved destination of rough-riding, hill-craving mountain bikers is the Savoy State Forest, whose 11,000 acres sport a tantalizing web of unpaved roads, hiking trails, and horse trails for your biking pleasure. A steep series of switchbacks here take you up to famous Balanced Rock, a massive glacial erratic that was plopped down at the edge of a precipice eons ago. Some high-altitude double track follows; your journey can also take you past ponds, cemeteries, and a fire tower before you decide to go barreling downhill back to civilization.
All eighty-six miles of the Appalachian Trail's Massachusetts section run through the Berkshires. The path starts near the village of Mount Washington in the southwest corner of the state, and the going is anything but easy. After traversing peaks and valleys, ponds and streams, the path clambers over Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts at 3,487 feet, before entering Vermont just past Williamstown. For many south-to-north thruhikers, the Berkshires section of the AT is when summiting Mount Katahdin, now about 500 miles distant, starts to seem a little less like a dream and more like a real possibility. Dayhikers will find many exciting possibilities on the trail, too, from climbing Mount Prospect near Williamstown to mellowing out by Upper Goose Pond just off (but a world away from) the Massachusetts Turnpike.
State Parks Camping
After a long day of Berkshires trekking, it's easy (and cheap) to rest your head at one of nine campgrounds in Berkshires state parks and forests. The Tolland State Forest on the Otis Reservoir has the largest campground, with ninety sites and access to flush-toilet and shower facilities. Not all campgrounds are so blessed, however: Clarksburg State Park, for instance, hides forty-seven campsites among its 3,250 forested acres and offers primitive outhouses as its only amenity.
Any hardship you put up with, though, is worth the privilege of waking up with so much to do right outside your tent flap. Aside from great hiking in all the parks and forests, canoeing and boating are moments away at the Beartown State Forest, Mount Washington State Forest, Savoy State Forest, October State Forest, and Pittsfield State Forest, as well as at Clarksburg. You can go for a swim in Windsor State Forest or walk in Thoreau's footsteps at the Mount Greylock State Reservation. Fishing, biking, picknicking, and cross-country skiing are some, but definitely not all, of the other fun things you can do near these campgrounds.
Drive the Mohawk Trail
Though it extends beyond Berkshire county proper, the Mohawk Trail is the quintessential Berkshires drive. The route, otherwise known as Massachusetts 2, starts (or ends, depending on your plans) in Greenfield, Massachusetts, just off I-91 in Franklin County. Following the twists and turns of what started as a Native American footpath, the road climbs into the forested hills as it skirts the Deerfield River and passes into the Mohawk Trail State Forest. If trout fishing is your bag, now might be a good time to stop and wade into some of the forest's streams to cast a fly or two.
After navigating a hairpin bend, the town of North Adams will come into view in the valley below. Both Natural Bridge State Park and Mount Greylock lie nearby. The sixty-plus-mile route comes to an end in Williamstown, home of stately Williams College, which has called the Berkshires home for over two hundred years. Williamstown is where Berkshires outdoor and indoor culture meet; stick around and take in a concert, or enjoy one of the largest Impressionist collections in the United States at the Clark Art Institute.
Monument Mountain lives on in the annals of American literary history as the site where the famous friendship between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne was born. In the culture-rich Berkshires, it's not unlikely that on your way to the mountain's narrow summit ridge you too will meet a personage of literary note climbing through the forest of hemlock, pine, maple, and ash. Near the peak, where steep cliffs plunge to rocky slopes below, you can see the Catskills in the distance. Monument Mountain Reservation, a 503-acre private land trust that protects the mountain and its environs, offers fishing as well as hiking. It's located just outside Great Barrington on US Rte. 7.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication