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Scenic Day Trip #6 - Taconic-Mohawk Trail

The Taconic-Mohawk Trail winds through centuries of history and some of the most charming towns in Northern Berkshire County. Walk in the footsteps of indigenous peoples on this trail that was a major artery for Native Americans and tour some of the more outstanding historical and cultural features of the area.

Begin in charming Williamstown, home of Williams College. Located on the campus is the Chapin Library of Rare Books in Stetson Hall, which displays original copies of the Four Founding Documents of the United States. Across Main Street from the Chapin Library is the Williams College Museum of Art, noted for its permanent collection and changing exhibitions that emphasize American art, modern and contemporary art and non-western art. The college's Thompson Memorial Chapel, a Gothic structure built in 1904, is on the north side of Main Street in Williamstown. A series of stained glass windows merit special attention, especially when viewed from within the chapel. The Williamstown House of Local History, which includes a collection of artifacts, photographs and documents from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, is located at the town library, 1095 Main Street.

Continuing west on Main Street is the picturesque First Congregational Church. Farther along Main Street is the Adams Memorial Theatre, which is the summer home of the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Going west on Main Street, the road leads into Field Park, where a faithful reproduction of a 1753 house was built in 1953 for the town's bicentennial. On the west side of South Street is the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, well known for its impressionist collection, old masters, English silver, prints and drawings.

Proceeding east on Route 2 to downtown North Adams, a vast historic mill complex houses MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), which presents art exhibitions, music, dance, theater and multimedia events. North Adams is also home to the Fall Foliage Festival.

Located east of North Adams off Route 2 and 8 is Natural Bridge State Park. This bridge of white marble was created by the waters of Hudson Brook. Next to the park is the Contemporary Artist Center and Gallery. The Gallery is open only in the summer. Route 2 east from North Adams leads to the Mohawk Trail, one of the most famous scenic drives in the Berkshires. The road follows the old trail that Native Americans of the Five Nations used to pass between the Connecticut and Hudson Valleys. First point of interest on the trail is the Hairpin Turn, where the trail rises sharply to the Western Summit (called Spirit Mountain by Native Americans). There is an observation point from which excellent views of mountainous portions of southern Vermont and northwestern Massachusetts can be seen including Mount Greylock, Mount Prospect and Mount Williams.

Continuing up the trail, the next stop is Whitcomb Summit, the top of the trail. From the elevation of 2,173 feet one can see far into southern Vermont and New Hampshire. Further along, the trail crosses a bridge and turns sharply to the left. Another road leads to the right. Here you have three choices: 1. To continue along the trail to Charlemont, Shelburne Falls and Greenfield; 2. To retrace the route back to North Adams; 3. To turn right into the Savoy Mountain State Forest for a visit to Tannery Falls.

The road out of the Tannery Falls area on the return leg of this Circle Tour leads just northwest of Savoy Center and onto East Road in the town of Adams. East Road paralleling Route 8 to the North leads back to North Adams and gives a commanding view of Greylock Mountain towering over Adams, a charming Victorian town with an elegantly restored Main Street.

A must-see is the Western Gateway Heritage State Park, located on Route 8 in the center of North Adams. The freight yard district of North Adams has been restored and now houses a variety of contemporary and historical attractions including an excellent exhibit on the building of the Hoosac Tunnel. To complete the tour, turn left on Route 2 and return to Williamstown.

Editor's Note: For more information on this and eight other day trips, pick up a copy of "Touring the Berkshires and the Mohawk Trail," available at the Berkshires Visitors Bureau, Berkshire Common, Plaza Level, Pittsfield, (413) 443-9186. Or write to The Mohawk Trail Association, P.O. Box 2031, Charlemont, MA 01339 or call (413) 664-6256.