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The Berkshires in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut are known for a their small New England towns, world-class art and cultural offerings, and heart-pumping outdoor activities. Hiking in the Berkshires is a great way to spend a day or a weekend, and there are hundreds of miles of trails for every skill set. Waterfalls are plentiful in these hills, as are small ponds, lush meadows, and bald mountain summits. Here are some of the best trails for day hiking in the Berkshires — perfect for novice hikers, families, and casual adventurers.
Hiking in the Berkshires: Northern Region
The following hikes are located in the Northern Berkshires, just south of the Vermont border.
Pine Cobble Trail, Williamstown, MA
The Pine Cobble Trail takes you to the Pine Cobble summit at 1,894 feet, before hooking up with the Appalachian Trail that heads south to Georgia or north to Maine. From the summit, you’ll have a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains, as well as Williamstown and North Adams. The trail is a steady climb, with one small section that is relatively flat. It ascends through a lovely oak forest, which is particularly beautiful in the fall foliage season. Wildflowers and mountain laurels are abundant in the spring. The summit is characterized by “cobbles,” or rounded outcroppings that are perfect for picnicking and relaxing.
Difficulty level: Moderately strenuous. A workout for casual hikers, but easy for preteen boys…
Length of trail: 3.2 mile (round trip)
Notes: The trailhead is located in a residential neighborhood in Williamstown, and can be reached from downtown. Here is a link to the Google map.
The Clark Art Museum Trails, Williamstown, MA
If you happen to be visiting The Clark Art Institute to check out world-class, classical art exhibitions, be sure to take time to head up the hill and explore the trails. Actually, even if you don’t care a bit about art, you should come walk these trails. Meander through meadows and manicured woods, and take in the incredible views of the Berkshire Mountains. There are several trails here, crisscrossing 140 acres, which can be combined to create the perfect walk. All of the trails are easy on the legs and well manicured.
If you want to check out some of the Berkshire’s awesome art museums, including The Clark, check out this post.
Difficulty level: Easy
Length of trail: Depends
Dogs: On leash
Fee: Free to walk the trails. There is a fee to visit the museum
Notes: Visit The Clark Art Institute website for information about visiting. Here’s a link to the Google map.
The Cascade Trail, North Adams, MA
The Cascade Trail begins at the end of a small, residential street and follows the Notch Brook to a lovely cascading waterfall. It is just minutes from downtown North Adams, and the whole trail can be completed in under an hour. The walk is an easy one, with just one tricky spot where you have to scramble along the riverbank for about 30 feet. The trail ends just before you come to the falls. For the best view of the cascades, you must hike into the gorge, possibly scrambling a bit on the rocks to get closer.
The Notch Brook Cascade is highly seasonal, but when the river is full, you will be rewarded with a lovely horsetail waterfall that drops about 45 feet. In the summer months, there is a shallow pool that is great for cooling off in.
Difficulty level: Easy, except for one small section where you have to scramble along the bank. Perfect for small children, as they will enjoy playing in the stream if the weather is nice.
Length of trail: 1.2 miles (round trip)
Notes: The parking area for the Cascades Trail is in a residential area and there is only room for 1-2 cars. For detailed directions, here’s a link to the Google map.
Sunset Rock, North Adams, MA
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The hike to sunset rock totals 1.6 miles and features some stunning views of North Adams and the surrounding valleys. As the name suggests, this is a great spot to watch the sunset — just be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp for the hike back down. The hike is part of the longer Hoosac Range trail, which leads to Spruce Peak and totals 6 miles. The Hoosac Range trail ascends up a series of switchbacks to sunset rock. It is not particularly steep, but it is all uphill. This is suitable for families with elementary-age kids and is gorgeous during the fall foliage season.
Difficulty level: Moderate. It’s all uphill but isn’t very steep.
Length of trail: 1.6 mile (round trip)
Notes: The trail map can be found here. The trailhead is located on route 2, about four miles east of North Adams. Here is a link to the Google map.
March Cataract Falls, Williamstown, MA
You can reach Mt. Greylock’s loveliest waterfall by hiking 1.5 miles on an easy trail through a mixed hardwood forest. I won’t go into too much detail here because I’ve covered March Cataract Falls in a separate post. The falls are fullest in the spring, and dry to almost a trickle in the fall, but the colorful leaves more than make up for it.
Difficulty level: Easy
Length of trail: 3 miles (round trip)
Notes: The trailhead is located next to Sperry Road Campground on Sperry Road, which is closed from November to June. Here is a link to the Google map.
Hiking in the Berkshires: Southern Region
These hikes are located south of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and one south of the border in Connecticut.
Stevens Glen, West Stockbridge, MA
This 1.25-mile loop takes you through a deep, dark hemlock forest, across two foot bridges, and eventually, through a birch forest to Stevens Glen, where you’ll find a very narrow gorge with a 40-foot, ribbon-thin cascade that is gorgeous in the spring. The spur trail takes you to a nice viewing platform with a bench for relaxing. Retrace your steps on the spur trail until you return to the loop. If you visit in the summer, be sure to spend some time barefoot in the streams.
Difficulty level: Moderate. The loop is flat and easy. The spur trail to the glen is uphill.
Length of trail: 1.2 mile (round trip)
Notes: The trail map can be found here. The trailhead is located on Lenox Branch Road. Click here for the Google Map.
Bash Bish Falls, Mt. Washington, MA
I couldn’t create a hiking in the Berkshires post without including Bash Bish Falls. This is the highest single-drop waterfall in Massachusetts, and it’s a looker! Visitors can either park at the base of the falls in New York or the top of the falls in Massachusetts. The falls are located in Bash Bish Falls State Park in Massachusetts, but very close to the border. The hike down to the base of the falls from the Massachusetts lot is a very steep ⅓ of a mile. If you park in the lower lot, the hike is easy and just ⅔ of a mile in with an elevation gain of 150 feet.
Although swimming is technically not allowed, we witnessed plenty of bathers under the falls in the summer, so you’ll have to use your judgement on whether that rule is meant to be broken. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in any Massachusetts state parks. There are more extensive hiking opportunities in Washington State Forest, just south of the falls or in Taconic State Park across the border in New York.
Difficulty level: Easy
Length of trail: 1.5 miles (round trip)
Dogs: On leash
Notes: Detailed information and a trail map can be found on the Bash Bish Falls State Park webpage. Here is the Google Map location for Massachusetts parking area.
Bartholomew’s Cobble, Sheffield, MA
This is what hiking in the Berkshires is all about — gorgeous, long distance views, dancing streams, hardwood forests, and lush meadows. Bartholomew’s Cobble was named a National Natural Landmark in 1971, and encompasses 329 acres through many different ecosystems, as well as five miles of well-marked hiking trails. The Ledges Trail is a .5-mile loop that takes visitors around the “cobbles” and past several caves. If you want a bit more exercise, consider hiking to the top of Hulbert’s Hill, which provides stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Difficulty level: Easy to Moderate
Length of trail: 5 miles of trails can be combined based on your time and stamina.
Fee: $5 for parking
Notes: Bartholomew’s Cobble is maintained by The Trustees of Reservation — visit their website for a detailed trail map. Here’s a link to the Google map.
If you’ve never explored Western Massachusetts, we urge you to visit for at least a couple of days. The Berkshires are within a day’s drive of New York City, Boston, Montreal, and Philadelphia, and there is so much to do. We often head to the Berkshires for the food, the concerts, and the incredible art, but hiking in the Berkshires is our number one reason for visiting.
No matter why you come to explore the Berkshires, be sure to make some time for outdoor adventures. For more awesome day hiking ideas in the Berkshires, I highly recommend AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Berkshires.