By The Berkshire Mountain Rover
As the days grow longer, the nights lose much of their hard, winter chill, which makes March a perfect time to explore winter camping in the Berkshires. Don’t be fooled by the sunny days, though, March is regularly the snowiest month of the year in New England, so prepare accordingly and you’ll be able to enjoy the wonders of waking up to the light of sunrise sparkling across the billions of snow crystals in the Berkshire forest.
First-time and casual winter campers should plan to stay close to their cars. While an unexpected challenge with summer camping can result in an uncomfortable night, mistakes in winter camping can be very dangerous. The winter campsites at Beartown State Forest are perfect for first-time winter campers. You’ll be able to leave your car steps away from your site but may find you have the entire park to yourself for an entire weekend — combining the convenience of car camping with the solace we all look for in winter camping. The trails at Beartown are great for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, and Benedict Pond, when frozen, provides a nice open space for skiing.
Once you’re comfortable with your new winter camping activities and feel the need to venture further into the winter wonderland of the Berkshires, DAR State Forest in Goshen offers beautiful winter camping only 1.5 miles from the trailhead. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your campsite before night falls. Even in March, the sun sets in a hurry, especially when you’re 1.5 miles deep into the woods. Set your alarm for an early rise, because sunrise from the fire tower is not to be missed. Double back on the Moore Hill Road trail to the Fire Tower loop (about .75 miles from your campsite) for a stunning view of the sun rising over the Berkshire Plateau.
The pinnacle of winter camping in the Berkshires can be found on the flanks of Mount Greylock. The sites in Mount Greylock Reservation are truly a backcountry and a fair amount of challenging hiking is required to reach them. But once you’re there, your site is set up and tucked away in your sleeping bag, the wildness of the Berkshires sets in and you feel as though you could be in the most remote regions of Alaska, not 2.5 hours from Manhattan. If you’re seeking a winter camping trip on Greylock, then you should be prepared and knowledgeable enough to include a hike to the summit. Keep in mind, the weather atop the state’s highest peak can be raw and in some cases, extreme. Be aware and be prepared for anything (including turning back), because the view over the rime-covered spruces and snowy valleys below is a life moment that won’t soon be forgotten.
If there’s one thing to remember before beginning a winter camping adventure, it’s to do your research. From weather forecasts to what to pack, you can never be too prepared. Talk to experts at your local outfitters, or one here in the Berkshires. REI has a wonderful winter camping resource that can be found here http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/winter-camping.html. Always check with the Massachusetts DCR or park management before you depart, and check each park’s rules for winter camping. Major winter storms will result in the closure of some campsites. You can find out more about winter camping in Massachusetts State Parks here http://www.mass.gov/dcr/recreate/campInfo/wintercamp.htm. And as always, regular camping guidelines apply, including fire safety, pack-in-pack-out, bear aware etc.
If winter camping is not for you the Berkshires offers camping in the warmer months as well so regardless of the season pack up your tent and head to the Berkshires. For a comprehensive list of camping options in the Berkshires, click here.