While your first thoughts after stoking the wood stove on a cold spring morning may be to wrap yourself in a blanket and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a book on the sofa, spring in the Berkshires is a great season to get outdoors.
It’s the forests, parks, and mountains that have drawn residents and visitors – from the first settlers seeking new land and timber, to modern artists and entrepreneurs searching for a respite from the city – and these natural areas are better, in their own unique way, during the spring when everything is waking from its winter slumber.
With over 100,000 acres of state-owned land in the Berkshires, plus more than 20,000 acres of public land managed by organizations like the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, The Trustees of Reservations, and the Mass Audubon, your options for finding a spot to commune with nature are nearly endless.
Head to Beartown State Forest, eight miles east of Great Barrington, where you’ll find the Benedict Pond Trail, a 1.5-mile loop that follows rolling terrain surrounding the 35-acre pond. Whether you’re new to exploring in spring or just looking for a quick walk before dinner, the Benedict Pond Trail provides easy access to the quiet and solitude of the Berkshire forests. On the shore, along the opposite side of the pond from the parking area, you’ll find a wooden bench nestled in the cedars. Take a moment to sit here and listen to the wind move through the branches of this Northern Hardwood Forest and see if you can spot signs of life peeking through the forest floor.
The Guest House at Field Farm in Williamstown, which is open for lodging May – December, combines comfortable, International style lodging with easy access to over 300 acres of forests, open fields, and wetlands, right outside the back door. From the Guest House, take the North Trail to Oak Loop for a moderate 1.7-mile walk, beginning and ending along the scenic hay fields and highlighted by a serene, woodland stream crossing. The trails are open to the public year-round, so you will have easy access for walking the property. Keep your eyes peeled, there is a great variety of birds to enjoy here. Once you have seen the property, you’ll want to stay there, so book your reservation ahead of time for May – December and you’ll be able to enjoy a cozy fire and warm bed after your hike.
The key to enjoying the outdoors in early spring is to dress for the elements, which in every case, includes wearing the proper layers of clothing. On your way into town, stop by Nature’s Closet in Williamstown, Berkshire Outfitters in Adams, the Arcadian Shop in Lenox or Plaine’s in Pittsfield, to make sure you’re covered with the basics – a merino wool or synthetic top and bottom base layer, a synthetic fleece, or micro-down mid layer top layer, and a waterproof top and bottom outer layers, topped off with a warm hat and warm, waterproof gloves and boots. To make your days last a little longer, pick up a headlamp – it’s a good idea to carry one with you while exploring outdoors, plus you’ll find infinite uses for it around the house (a great holiday gift!).
Enhance Your Exploration:
- Bring your camera – use nature guides for the Benedict Pond Trail to create a photo scavenger hunt for yourself. Be sure to share with us on Instagram and use #intheberkshires and #visittheberkshires.
- Bring a journal – stop for a short break every fifteen minutes and write a sentence or two about what you see. (Pencils work better in the cold than pens).
- Draw your own map – combine your photos, journal entries, and memories from your walk to draw your own map when you get home. Use paper or a free computer drawing program to create your map.