12 Beautiful Places to Safely Social Distance #intheBerkshires
As the weather warms and we all venture outside, eager for scenic hikes, sunset strolls, and the rush of endorphins that accompany movement in nature, the Berkshires’s beautiful rolling hills and blue skies beckon. Here are just 12 of the places you can visit to safely social distance while taking in the natural wonders of our region. (Pictured above: Bridge Trail at Notchview, a property of The Trustees of Reservations.)
The mission of BNRC is to “protect and preserve the natural beauty and ecological integrity of the Berkshires for public benefit and enjoyment.” With more than 11,000 acres to explore, your options are boundless. Visitors are invited to hike, run, birdwatch, paint, take photos, hunt for or place geocashes, picnic, and responsibly walk dogs. Trailheads are marked with signage specifying guidelines and hikers are encouraged to have a mask on hand should one be needed.
If you live for the rush of wind in your hair, head over to Catamount Mountain Resort where you can tackle the “CataMonster” – at 5,523 feet, it’s the longest zipline in the U.S.! The experience can take two hours, so be sure to book in advance and plan enough time for this adrenaline rush. If you’re up for a physical challenge, check out Catamount’s Aerial Adventure Park “comprised of 12 aerial trails, 180 challenge elements connected by various configurations of cable, wood, and rope to form a unique, fun, challenging and rewarding experience in the trees.” (Pictured: Zip lining at Catamount Mountain Resort.)
If you prefer a more manicured trek, check out the stunning grounds at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown. Open year-round for exploration, the 140 acres of grounds have clearly marked trails that wind through woods then meander through an active cow pasture, cresting at the top of Stone Hill where you can enjoy a beautiful view of Williamstown and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Plus, you can peek into the large-scale sculpture called “Crystal,” created by contemporary artist Thomas Schütte. Don’t miss a contemplative rest by the three-tiered reflective pool. (Pictured: Strollers on Stone Hill at The Clark.)
Mass Audubon, with wild and picturesque sanctuaries such as Pleasant Valley, Canoe Meadows, Lime Kiln, and Tracey Brook, protect more than 38,000 acres across the state. All buildings and facilities are currently closed due to the pandemic, but you can still wander in wonder along scenic hiking trails through varied terrain and ecosystems. Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary is known for its busy beavers, while Canoe Meadows is an excellent spot for birdwatching. Find trail maps and visitation details online. (Pictured: Mass Audubon Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.)
Throughout the pandemic, The Mount, Edith Wharton’s stunningly beautiful historic home and gardens in Lenox, has remained open for strolling. The gardens are blooming and the picture-perfect locale is ripe for a romantic jaunt with your quarantine sweetie or some self care spent reading or drawing. Be sure to check out their online offerings, too.
The roads to the summit of Mount Greylock are now open, though all facilities – including Bascom Lodge and the War Memorial Tower – are closed due to the pandemic. At 3,491 feet, Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts, boasting views of more than 90 miles on clear days. If you want to hike, you can access various trailheads between the base of the mountain and the summit. Check out the online maps to choose your own adventure.
This park in North Adams invites visitors to enjoy the only natural white marble arch in North America, carved by forces of glacial melt over 13,000 years ago. The bridge spans Hudson Brook and twists through “a steep 60-foot gorge–one of the best demonstrations of glacial erosion in New England.” You can also take a tour of an abandoned marble quarry and view a man-made white marble dam. Keep a mask with you in case you encounter others on a similar quest for natural beauty.
There is no shortage of state forests in the Berkshires – 15 to be exact, including Savoy Mountain, Pittsfield, October Mountain, and Beartown State Forests, to name just a few. Visitors should check with each location directly for guidelines and availability, but many offer campsites, as well as miles of hiking trails for every skill level, and waterways perfect for warm weather exploration. (Pictured: Pittsfield State Forest.)
Tanglewood’s famed Music Festival may not be happening this year (*sniffle*) but you can still enjoy the pristinely manicured lawns that feature some of the Berkshires’s most iconic vistas. Starting June 15, 2020, you can book a timed entry onto the grounds for a stroll – or bring a chair and book for a more leisurely visit. Rules put in place due to the pandemic are specific, so be sure to check their website for all the dos and don’ts. You can also enjoy many online offerings including Tanglewood 2020 Online Festival, BSO at Home, and Pops at Home. (Picture by Stu Rosner.)
Located in West Stockbridge, TurnPark Art Space covers 16 acres of recreational space that was once a quarry – views include hills, meadows, and breathtaking vistas of the surrounding Berkshire landscape. Along your walk you will enjoy outdoor sculpture, though all usual seasonal activities planned for the 2020 season have been suspended. You can still enjoy the beauty of the grounds from 10AM to 6PM. Stay tuned for “art-at-a-distance” showcases to be announced on their website. (Photo by Kara Thornton.)
The Trustees of Reservations cares for and protects more than “100 special places” across Massachusetts, making available almost 25,000 acres of preserved land for the public to enjoy by hiking, strolling, biking, birdwatching, and more. Visitors can choose their own adventure – the Berkshires is home to more than a dozen beautiful properties with varied habitats and landscapes. Some of the most popular are Naumkeag, Notchview, Monument Mountain, Field Farm, and Tyringham Cobble. Peruse trail maps and find details online. (Picture of Notchview at top.)
The Berkshires afford ample opportunity for water play, and what better way to social distance than in a kayak or on a paddle board? Usually, you can rent equipment from the Arcadian Shop in Lenox, but due to the pandemic, it’s best to bring your own. White water rafting is an option at Crab Apple Whitewater, which runs trips on Deerfield River dam in Charlemont. You can also seek out waterfalls and swimming holes in which to dip your toes or take a cooling plunge. (Picture: Berkshire Canoe and Kayak Scenic Tours. Photo by Kara Thornton.)
The novel coronavirus pandemic has canceled and postponed many of the beloved seasonal activities of the Berkshires, but our natural resources are still available to engage your body and nourish your soul. Wherever you adventure #intheBerkshries, stay safe and healthy, and enjoy! Find more ideas for daily adventure here. Can’t visit? Explore the Berkshires virtually and plan for future travel.