May 2002: Mt.Greylock State Reservation


North Adams, Massachusetts

Long before Mt. Greylock became the first Massachusetts state park in 1898, it had attracted New Englanders with its panoramic five-state views. Great American writers and artists such as Edith Wharton, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville and Henry David Thoreau regularly trekked up the trails to Mt. Greylock's 3,491-foot summit. (Sadly, the natural site most associated with Thoreau, Walden Pond, is not open to dogs).
Threatened by logging and industrial development in the late 1800s, a group of Berkshire County businessmen formed a private land conservation association and purchased 400 acres at the summit to preserve Mt. Greylock. The Massachusetts Legislature purchased Greylock as a State Reservation in 1898 and over the next century the park grew to encompass more than 12,500 acres.

More than 45 miles of trails meander across Mt. Greylock State Reservation, including the Appalachian Trail that runs north-south over the summit. Many of the trails connect and it is easy to create looping circle hikes of any desired duration. An excellent trail map with elevation contours is available for planning a day's excursion.
One of the best ways to explore the park is with a circle hike around the Hopper, a U-shaped glacial ravine studded with old-growth spruce. The 7-mile loop combines several trails to the peaks of Mt. Prospect, Mt. Greylock and Mt. Williams with several outstanding vistas. Although most of the hiking is moderate, with elevation changes less than 1000 feet, the trail into and out of the Hopper, a designated Unique Natural Area, is the steepest in the park.
The Thunderbolt Trail leaves the Appalachian Trail opposite Robinson's point just north of the Mt. Greylock summit and follows the route of the Thunderbolt Ski Trail, an historic championship ski run down the eastern flank of the mountain. The Thunderbolt leads into Greylock Glen at the foot of the mountain where easy-walking trails explore wetlands, forests and farmlands. Side trails lead through Hemlock Gorge to Pecks Falls, one of several pleasing waterfalls at Mt.Greylock. Dogs are permitted in the 35-site campground in the Reservation.

A 100-foot tall stone War Memorial Tower commands the views at the summit of Mt. Greylock. Although your dog can't scale the tower the same sweepog views of the Hoosic River Valley are available from the stone wall and benches on the edge of the ridge. Also on the summit is a detailed three-dimensional sculpture of the Mt. Greylock Reservation.

Bash Bish Falls State Park (Falls Road off MA 41, Mt. Washington). With an 80-foot drop, Bash Bish Falls, in the southwestern corner of the state, is the highest waterfall in Massachusetts. The falls leap across bulging boulders until two divergent cascades freefall the final 45 feet into a sparkling pool. The waters continue plunging through the 200-foot gorge on their way into New York, just 200 yards away. The State of New York has appropriated the dramatic drops just across its border and actively promotes Bash Bish for its Taconic State Park. Parking lots and campsites help lure thousands on summer weekends leading to the base of the falls. 
Massachusetts downplays its secluded jewel, providing only a small parking lot and no brochures or trail maps. The trail leading to the falls covers a steep mile around and into the gorge. The path is generally wide with clear views through the surrounding forest. An additional 30 miles of trails are available in Mount Washington State Forest, which contains Bash Bish State Park.

The Visitor Center is at the extreme southern entrance to the Reservation. From Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike, take Route 20 west to Route 7 north into Lanesborough. After reaching N. Main Street follow signs to Mt. Greylock State Reservation. If approaching from the north on MA 2, cross the junction with MA 8 in North Adams and continue 1.1 miles west and turn left on Notch Road into the Reservation.