by Darcie Sosa
Although winter is peaceful and beautiful, it can be long and very cold. So, we end up hibernating for a few weeks each year. Getting back outside into the fresh air is a must. Nature is a fantastic cure for your cabin fever. Luckily for us, we live in an area which supplies beautiful hiking year-round. As the snow and ice start to melt and spring begins to show itself, strapping on your hiking boots and getting a little muddy just feels good.
One great place for hikers of all levels is Hilltop Orchards located in Richmond. The different types of terrain and vegetation make Hilltop Orchards a unique and surprising place to explore on a casual stroll or a more strenuous hike. Leashed dogs are also allowed. Casual hikers can take an easy walk to the top of the Orchard and find some picnic tables to enjoy the fabulous 20-mile views of the Berkshire hills from. Moderate hikers can hike the Johnny Mash, a 1-mile wooded country trail. The terrain is flat and follows the Furnace Brook creek to a stunning forest of majestic hemlocks. This entire hike takes about 1-hour round-trip. Hilltop Orchards offers full-moon, cider tasting, and bonfire hiking events. What a great way to spend a spring day or night.
Another popular hiking option is Race Brook Falls, alongside Race Brook Lodge in Sheffield. This hike includes a beautiful waterfall, which spans most of the hike, and includes three tiers of waterfalls. In the spring, lush moss surrounds a thin, worn hiking path and marble stone. It starts through a dense pine forest but quickly opens to a young, quiet forest. Once you reach the top of the waterfall, you can watch the water cascade down big granite rocks and feel the water’s cool spray mist onto your skin. At the top, there is a natural swimming hole. One that will make you dream of hiking back up for a dip in the heat of summer. This hike starts right off Route 41 and is well marked. It is for moderate to experienced hikers and is mostly an inclined hike. After you’ve recharged your batteries with a dose of nature, you can head over to Shays Tavern at Race Brook Lodge for delicious food, drink, and (depending on the night) live music.
A great mix of easy to moderate mountain-top hiking can be found at the Trustees of Reservations property, Notchview. Popular for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter, this mostly flat terrain of old forest and fields has 25-miles of hiking trails and is a popular place to bird watch. Enjoy a family-friendly hiking atmosphere with a warm wooden lodge, that has restrooms and serves food and drink. Along with the other Trustees hiking properties, events like bonfires and beer tastings are often held in conjunction with a hike. For all the dog lovers out there, Notchview also offers a dog-friendly trail that winds you through dense forest and over bridge covered rivers.
Although spring is just around the corner and the temperature is rising, you will still need to bundle up as temperatures are lower at the top of mountains. The Berkshires is a destination for many things including culture, food, arts, and, of course, the great outdoors. Come visit your next hiking and outdoor adventure destination. See you on the trails!