The Berkshires has been beloved for centuries and is known for its incredible scenic beauty, Gilded Age mansions, picturesque towns, farm-to-table dining, and culture that abounds from North to South. Here we take you on a tour of the northern part of our region. Be sure to stop along the way to enjoy Instagram-worthy moments, as well as to take time to visit some of the spots mentioned. So, hop aboard… here we go!
One of the most unique spots in the Berkshires is Mount Greylock, Massachusetts’ highest peak at 3,491 feet. Start in the city of Pittsfield, which offers some great eateries and coffee shops, Barrington Stage Company, and the Berkshire Museum. Head up Route 7 North for 6.6 miles, then take a right onto North Main Street, followed by a right on Rockwell Road, and it’s ten miles to the summit (road to summit is closed in winter). Two miles up is the Visitor Center, which is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas and offers environmental displays, trail maps, and information. There are numerous foot trails for you to enjoy, and at the summit you will see the Veterans War Memorial Tower (there is also parking at the top). The 92-foot granite tower was erected as a memorial to Massachusetts casualties of all wars. On a clear day, it affords a view extending from Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, the Green Mountains in Vermont, the Adirondacks and Catskills in New York, and Mount Everett in the Southern Berkshires.
There are beautiful views to be enjoyed and Bascom Lodge, also located at the top of Mount Greylock, serves snacks, lunch, and dinner. A fun fact: Mount Greylock has also been identified as Ilvermorny, the American school of witchcraft and wizardry identified by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling in her recent stories. After your trip to the top, you’ll understand why.
The same route can be retraced as you make your descent from the summit, or you may decide to take Notch Road into Route 2 in North Adams, proceeding west on out to Williamstown. If coming back down to Route 7, take a drive to Williamstown, where you’ll find Clark Art Institute, Williams College, Field Farm, and Williams College Museum of Art. To get to Field Farm, turn right on Route 7 and proceed north for 7.88 miles. Turn left on to Hancock Road/ MA-43, and right on to Sloan Road. Proceed for .98 miles until you see the venue on the right. Open year-round, Field Farm houses a pair of modernist homes surrounded by 300 acres of open fields, woods and wetlands, through which four miles of footpaths meander. The trails are moderate hiking – follow the North Trail, which circles the centrally located pasture in a wide loop and affords mountain views in all directions.
After Field Farm head into the heart of Williamstown. Go east on Sloan Road, turn left on to Hancock Road/MA-43, and then another left onto Cold Spring Road/US Rt. 7, and continue to follow. This road has another beautiful view of Mount Greylock to the right, and gorgeous rolling hills and countryside. After 4.22 miles, turn right onto South Street, where you’ll find The Clark Art Institute.
The Clark’s collection features European and American paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, and decorative arts from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. The Clark’s 140-acre campus provides an opportunity to view great works of art and dramatic architecture in a setting of profound natural beauty. The campus includes three miles of public walking and hiking trails with scenic views of the Green Mountains and Taconic Range. After the Clark, turn left on South and right on MA 2/Main Street/Mohawk Trail and head into Williamstown to check out Williams College, the stores and eateries, and Williams College Museum of Art.
When finished head to see MASS MoCA, one of the world’s liveliest centers for making and enjoying today’s most evocative modern art, shown in soaring galleries with 250,000 square feet of open and often naturally-lit spaces. From Williamstown, follow Main Street/MA-2 for 5.14 miles, turn slight right on Main Street, and take the first left onto State Street/ MA-8. Continue to follow MA-8, stay straight to head on to Marshall Street, and MASS MoCA is on the left.
After MoCA, head south on Marshall Street toward Route 8, take the first left on to Saint Anthony, and then a right on to Holden Street/Rt. 8. Take the first left onto Veteran’s Memorial Drive/MA 2/MA 8, where you’ll come across The Mohawk Trail, a well-known scenic drive of the Berkshires. The road follows the old trail Native Americans used to pass between both the Connecticut and Hudson Valley. You’ll want to stop at either the Hairpin Turn, where the trail rises sharply to the Western Summit, or at the newly reopened Wigwam Western Summit. There are excellent views of mountainous portions of Southern Vermont and Northwestern Massachusetts from both spots. Continuing up the trail is Whitcomb Summit, the top of the trail. From this elevation of 2,173 feet you can see far into Southern Vermont and New Hampshire. Further along, the trail crosses a bridge and turns sharply to the left, and another road leads to the right. Here the visitor has a choice of three routes: continue along the trail to Charlemont, Shelburne Falls, and Greenfield; retrace the route back to North Adams; 3; or turn right away into Savoy.
This is one bus ride that your group won’t be able to stop talking about. So what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to plan your Berkshire itinerary.
Words and photos: Kara L. Thornton