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Scenic Day Trip #8 - North Berkshire/Mohawk Trail

The rugged mountains of the Berkshires explode with fall color, and this scenic tour brings you north on Route 7 to the Mohawk Trail, which was the original route Native Americans used for travel and trade. This tour is approximately 53 miles. Starting in Pittsfield, take Route 7 to Lanesboro and continue north to South Williamstown and the Historic Five Corners. Here, several walking tours to historic homes are available. Following Route 7 to Williamstown you are now on Route 2, the Mohawk Trail, between Williamstown and Greenfield. Start in Williamstown, home to the Williamstown Theatre Festival. This quaint village also features the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art, both of which showcase celebrated works of art along with many contemporary exhibitions. Enjoy its many fine restaurants, unique specialty shops, crafts stores and art galleries. This beautiful town deserves a tour of its own (see Tour #2 for more), so be sure to budget some time here. Continue on Route 2, east to North Adams. This charming hamlet is known as "The Town of Steeples and Peaks" for the spires of its many churches. Stop by the Western Gateway Heritage State Park, located in the historical Boston & Maine Restored Freight Yard on Rt. 8 and learn about the building of the Hoosac Tunnel. Don't miss the Natural Bridge, a geological wonder that is the only water-eroded natural marble bridge in North America. The 30-foot bridge is within a 475-foot chasm. North Adams is also home to MASS MoCA, one of the country's newest and foremost museums of contemporary art, and North Adams State College. After touring North Adams, ascend the Hoosac Mountain Range to the notorious Hairpin Turn with its spectacular vistas of Mt. Greylock, the Green Mountains and Hoosac Valley. The trail then rises sharply to the Western Summit (called Spirit Mountain by Native Americans). Travel through the scenic town of Florida to the Whitcomb Summit, home to the Elk Memorial on the highest point of the Mohawk Trail at 2,200 feet. One quarter mile past the summit, Whitcomb Hill Road leads to the eastern portal of the Hoosac Tunnel, engineered and built in the 1870s by blasting through five miles of sheer granite. Continue left on River Road to Bear Swamp Project and Visitors' Center which has picnic facilities. Retrace River Road and cross the iron bridge over the Deerfield River until the junction of Route 2 at the Indian Bridge. Take a right and after a short distance view the famous Hail to the Sunrise Statue, a memorial to the Mohawk Native Americans sponsored by the Improved Order of the Redman. Continue easterly on Route 2 to Charlemont. Route 8A North hosts the 160-foot long Bissell Covered Bridge just 600 feet off Route 2. Continue easterly to Shelburne Falls, home of the Bridge of Flowers, an old arched trolley bridge transformed into a garden of flowers from spring to fall. Follow signs to Salmon Falls and view the Glacial Potholes, located below Salmon Falls and carved out of rock during the Ice Age. Visit the museum located in the Arms Academy Building. Rejoin Route 2 and proceed to Greenfield, incorporated in 1753. At the time, Greenfield was considered the northernmost frontier before the Canadian border. Visit the Poet's Seat Tower, off High Street on Greenfield Mountain. There is a superb view of the Greenfield Valley from here. Then return to Main St.

This entire Mohawk Trail tour exposes you to numerous state parks and forests with swimming, picnicking and camping, hotels, motels, gift shops, restaurants, maple sugar houses and pumpkin & apple orchards. There are signs for scenic and historic attractions all along the way. Tourist information booths are located on Route 2 in Williamstown, North Adams, Shelburne Falls and Greenfield.

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.