Weekend Backpacker: Boston
Mt. Washington State Forest
Mt. Washington, MA 01258
(413) 528-0330Also contact the Appalachian Mountain Club for more info. Savvy Boston hikers can have a spectacular trip on this long range and some days have it all to themselves. The AT links Salisbury, Connecticut, to South Egremont, Massachusetts, passing through an area that is both wilder and more remote than you might expect in such a settled area, with miles of extraordinary views, two nearly barren peaks, and a ravine unusually rich in flora and fauna.Our route requires two cars, or one car and a hitchhike back to the first. Shorter hikes with one car and a bicycle to retrieve the car are feasible.
In Massachusetts, Mt. Washington State Park (3500 acres) abuts Mt. Everett Reservation (1100 acres); the AT corridor in Connecticut is also a protected area. Once you leave Salisbury, you won't see a town or cross a road for about 17.5 miles.
If you have one car, park in Salisbury, Connecticut, at the AT trailhead on Rte. 41. If you have two cars, park the target car at the AT trailhead on Jug End Road in South Egremont, Massachusetts. Park the drop off car in Salisbury, Connecticut, at the AT trailhead on Rte. 41.
From the AT Trailhead on Rte. 41, walk north on the AT. Hikers with one car parked back at Rte. 41 can set up camp at Riga Shelter/campsite (3.4 miles, superb views), Ball Brook campsite (4.0 miles), or Brassie Brook Shelter/campsite (4.6 miles). Hikers doing the full traverse need to be more ambitious: continue on the AT over Bear Mountain and down (crossing the unmarked Connecticut/Massachusetts state line) into Sages Ravine, where botanists and birders want to stay forever. The campsite high in the ravine is often full, but you can ascend from the ravine to Bear Rock Stream campsite, with superb easterly views and waterfall; a good target for day one.
Hikers with one car parked back at route 41 should cache their packs and continue on the AT to the summit of Bear Mountain. (2,317 feet) for wonderful views. Continue north 0.7 miles down a steep slope to Paradise Lane Trail. If you have time, explore farther north on the AT, dropping down into Sages Ravine. When you return to the Paradise Lane Trail junction, follow the Paradise Lane Trail down and southwards to the Undermountain Trail, which climbs to rejoin the AT. Turn south on the AT, retrieve your pack, and return to your car. The whole hike adds up to about 10 miles.
Hikers with a second car parked at Jug End should continue north on the AT, enjoying a long, exposed cliff (raptors ride thermals here). Descend from Race Mountain, then climb to the summit of Mt. Everett (2602 ft.) for more fine views south and northwest to Albany skyscrapers. About 1.2 miles down from the top, still on the AT, Glen Brook Shelter/campsite appears. A mile before the end, the Jug End promontory seems like a seat in the heavens. Drop sharply to Jug End Rd. The whole hike adds up to 17.5 miles, with elevations undulating between 750 and 2602 feet.
From Boston take I-90 (Mass. Pike) west. Get off at exit 2 (Lee), head south on Rte. 102 to Stockbridge, then take Rte. 7 south to Great Barrington. From here, follow Rte. 23 west to South Egremont (speed trap), then Rte. 41 south to Salisbury, Connecticut.
Parallel to the AT, on western slope of Taconic Range (MA/NY border), is the Taconic Trail System. Ambitious hikers wanting an extended stay in the Mt. Everett region can combine the hike above (Salisbury to South Egremont) with a return route southwards on the Taconic Trail. Contact NY-NJ Trail Conference, 156 Ramapo Valley Road (Route 202), Mahwah, NJ 07430; (201) 512-9348 M-F 11am-5:30pm, or leave a message any time at (201) 512-9012.
Backcountry permits not required, but this is wilderness: Let friends, Mt. Washington State Park, or AMC Berkshire headquarters know your plans. Camping reservations on AT or on side trails in Mt. Washington State Park not available.
USGS topo 1:25,000 Ashley Falls quad. Also see the Appalachian Trail Conference's AT map"Mass. & Conn. #1," available in Boston stores or by mail from ATC, Box 807, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425; 304-535-6331.
Exploring the Appalachian TrailHikes in Southern New England (by this author) (Stackpole Books) covers the AT and side trails in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, offering natural and social history as well as trail data and topos.
Several rugged sections on mountainsides, and plenty of wet rocks in Sages Ravine. Sturdy hiking boots required.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication