By Darcie Sosa
In the Berkshires, we are lucky enough to have an abundance of great hiking options. While some days you want a good workout in the woods with a more strenuous hike, others you want a calming experience that brings you closer to the elements. Luckily, Berkshire County is able to offer plenty of accessible trails and easier hiking options.
One excellent option is the Pittsfield State Forest. Located on Cascade St. in Pittsfield, this forest is full of birds, streams, waterfalls, and flowering shrubs. You could easily make a day or weekend option out of your visit as it has two camping areas and two picnic areas. Access is available at several locations to the Taconic Crest Trail, a 35-mile long hiking trail. The paved three-quarter mile Tranquility Trail is popular with wheelchair-users and other visitors who favor its smooth surface. A wheelchair-accessible picnic area and restroom are located nearby. Visit Balance Rock State Park, located in the northeast corner of Pittsfield State Forest, where a huge 165-ton limestone boulder is balanced daringly on bedrock. Check mass.gov for more information.
Another great option for easy hiking is The Boulders. Recently donated to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, these well-maintained trails are a great option for those that want a gentle hike. There are access points at Berkshire Crossing in Pittsfield, where Hubbard and Dalton Ave meet, and in Dalton. The area encompasses over twenty easy-to-hike trails, a pond, streams, a young forest, lush moss, large boulders, and sunlight that streams between tree tops.
Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, in Lenox, sounds as good as its name. Part of Mass Audubon, this sanctuary is well known by bird lovers. There are seven miles of well-marked walking trails including three popular loops for you to explore, two of which are easy walks/hikes. All Persons Trail/Pike’s Pond Trail Loop is a mostly flat and easy 30-40 minute walk (less than one mile) around the area’s Pike’s Pond. The Yokun/Beaver Lodge Trails Loop is more of a walk than a hike. A popular trail for bird watchers, this mile-and-a-half-long trail offers views of the northern beaver ponds and the Lenox Mountain ridge.
The Trustees of Reservations is a nonprofit that maintains several properties in the Berkshires, including Notchview in Windsor, MA. With more than 3,000 acres of rolling terrain, Notchview offers an idyllic escape. Popular in the winter with cross-country skiers, the property offers wide trails among gorgeous spruce and fir trees. Many trails open up to large fields where depending on the time of day and year, creatures of all sizes can be spotted. Many people come to look for deer and moose tracks, or to birdwatch the sparrows, chickadees, barred owls, and woodpeckers that fly among the trees. There is also a visitor center on the property that offers a selection of snacks and beverages.
Here, in the Berkshires, nature and hiking are accessible to all and a relaxing afternoon can be had in any part of the county.
Darcie Sosa is a Berkshire marketing/PR professional, who when isn’t working loves being outside hiking with her dogs, going to live music and theatre shows, networking, trying new restaurants and volunteering for local nonprofits. She is an alumni of Berkshire Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and University of Massachusetts, Amherst.