The Berkshires are in Berkshire County at the western end of Massachusetts. They are actually three separate mountain ranges, separated by the valleys of the Housatonic River in the south and the Hoosic River in the north. East of the valleys a hilly plateau rising as high as 2,600 ft (790 m) extends eastward toward the Connecticut River. Beyond the limits of Berkshire County it is known as the Hilltowns and is covered in the Pioneer Valley region. West of the valleys the narrower Taconic Range rises along the New York state border. The third Berkshire range is Mount Greylock, at 3,487 ft (1,063 m) Massachusetts' high point, and its satellite peaks rising out of the valley between two upper branches of the Hoosac River.
Although the Berkshires were historically part of New England's traditions of intellectualism, idealism, subsistence farming, logging, and early industrialization, they are almost equidistant between New York and Boston. Because New York has grown considerably larger and wealthier, the Berkshires are increasingly drawn into its economic and cultural orbit.
Cities and townsEdit
- 1 Adams - Birthplace of suffragist Susan B. Anthony.
- 2 Becket - the home of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.
- 3 Cheshire Very small town with an interesting landmarked stone tower
- 4 Florida - on the Mohawk Trail with an entrance to Savoy Mountain State Forest.
- 5 Great Barrington A pleasant town with a walkable downtown with restaurants, shops, specialty stores, banks, etc. and a couple of mountains to climb.
- 6 Hancock - Jiminy Peak ski area and Ramblewild, a tree-top forest adventure park.
- 7 Lanesborough - Gateway to Mt. Greylock and the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail. Small family-owned and -operated farms dot this country town.
- 8 Lee - a 1-mile stretch of road reveals a pretty downtown where you can discover more than 7 nationalities represented in restaurants. Enjoy antiquing, bakeries, and many other interesting shops/stores/hidden gems.
- 9 Lenox - Home to Tanglewood Music Center (the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and various shops that tend toward the high end. Downtown Lenox is bustling with artisan shops and lots of tasty restaurants.
- 10 Monterey - home of the Beartown State Forest, a small downtown strip with an old-timey General Store. Cool and off the beaten path.
- 11 Mount Washington - Great place to hike and enjoy nature. Borders New York and Connecticut.
- 12 New Ashford Small town with some good hiking including access to Mt. Greylock, the tallest mountain in Massachusetts.
- 13 North Adams - The Berkshires' second largest city. Two state parks: Western Gateway Heritage and Natural Bridge.
- 14 Otis Tiny town with campgrounds.
- 15 Pittsfield - The Berkshires' largest city (about 42,000). A bustling downtown undergoing a renaissance. Lots of shopping, hotels, restaurants, and the former home of Herman Melville who wrote Moby Dick. Find Barrington Stage Company in its downtown center, along with the Berkshire Museum and the Berkshire Athenaeum.
- 16 Sheffield - the antique capital of Massachusetts, in the southern part of the county. Countryside and antique homes.
- 17 Stockbridge - a compact downtown in the Historic District of Stockbridge. Boutique shopping, a handful of restaurants, and anchored by the Red Lion Inn, a landmark which has operated for over two centuries.
- 18 West Stockbridge - restaurants, shopping, coffee house, art, and a bustling market.
- 19 Williamstown - Home of Williams College, The Clark Art Institute, the Williams College Museum of Art, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Beautiful buildings and very walkable.
- Mount Greylock State Reservation, with visitor centers in Lanesborough and North Adams.
- Western Gateway Heritage State Park and Natural Bridge State Park in North Adams.
- Savoy Mountain State Forest, accessed in the town of Florida.
- Mount Washington State Forest, in Mount Washington.
- The Appalachian Trail runs through the entire region.
Berkshire County is at the western extreme of Massachusetts and borders Rensselaer and Columbia counties in New York, Bennington County and Windham County in Southern Vermont, and the Litchfield Hills region of Connecticut. The Berkshires are the size of Rhode Island and offer year-round visitation. Their peak seasons are summer and fall.
- Albany Airport ALB IATA, Albany, New York.
- Bradley International Airport BDL IATA, Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
- Boston Logan BOS, Boston, Massachusetts
- Interstate 90, the "Massachusetts Turnpike" or "Mass Pike" runs through the southern portion of the Berkshires. I-90 goes west to Albany, NY and east to Springfield, Worcester, and Boston. Access to I-90 is at Exit 1 in West Stockbridge and Exit 2 in Lee. From Lee one can take Route 7 either north or south.
- In the northern part of the region Route 2, also known as the Mohawk Trail, runs from the New York state border in the west at Williamstown to Interstate 91 at Greenfield.
In this rural region a car is preferred. However, there is bus service between many of the communities, and the centers of most towns in the region are small enough to walk through. Biking is also possible, if you are looking for a great quad workout. Remember, you're in hill country!
- Tanglewood - Tanglewood in Lenox is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. During the summer it is not unusual to see James Taylor perform at this venue, because he lives just outside of the town. The population of Lenox swells to nearly 30,000 for the show.
- Stockbridge is the former home of Norman Rockwell and the location of the Norman Rockwell Museum, a museum he founded.
- Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Williams College in Williamstown.
- The Clark.
- MASS MoCA. A visual arts and performance museum located in North Adams near the Mohawk Trail
- Berkshire Botanical Gardens. It's in Stockbridge -- a relaxing day among local and exotic plant life. You can also take classes or participate in workshops. Admission: $12/adult; $10 students and seniors; Free for children under 12. Hours are 9AM-5PM daily. Look for special events in the fall and spring such as Harvest Fest and Plant Sale.
- Jacob's Pillow in Becket is a dance center, school and performance space with a variety of functions and shows to visit throughout the year.
- Berkshire Museum. Visit for a unique array of attractions, activities, and exhibitions for all ages: fine art, fossils, aquarium, and seasonally changing exhibits for all to enjoy. Admission: $13/adult; $6/child. Hours: M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. In Pittsfield.
- Schenob Brook wetland complex (Sheffield). Unique and unspoiled ecosystem.
- Cranwell Resort and Spa. In Lenox offers spa treatments, fine American cuisine dining, and a private golf course.
- Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. In the lush woods of Stockbridge at a non-profit educational organization dedicated to the art and science of yoga.
- Jiminy Peak Resort in Hancock offers a full slate of year-round mountain activities. Mountain biking is available there and at several state forests throughout the region. There are also extensive excellent hiking trails, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Mount Washington is home to some of the state's best trail scenery.
- The Berkshires are a good place for walking and relaxing and perhaps taking in a summer play in the college town of Williamstown. In October this area shares in the colorful fall foliage show.
- Charlemont-based Zoar Outdoor, Phone: +1-800-532-7483, offers rafting and kayaking on portions of the Deerfield and Miller rivers, as well as other outdoor activities.
The area is home to a local currency experiment known as Berkshares. Berkshares banknotes can be purchased from several local banks and credit unions and spent at many local businesses. Buying with Berkshares gets you a 5% discount on any transaction. It also helps support the local economy.
- Check out the many antique shops for great finds all over the county.
- Visit the Premium Outletsin Lee for great deals on brand name items.
- Barrington Brewery. It's in Great Barrington and has a variety of original brews and an outdoor beer garden to enjoy drinks on a warm summer afternoon.
- Moe's Tavern in Lee for a craft Whiskey selection that is unparalleled.
- Berkshire Mountain Distillers in Sheffield.
- Big Elm Brewery in Sheffield.
Southern Vermont offers similar rural attractions. For a change of pace, Greater Boston is a little over two hours away. If headed there, a stop at Sturbridge to see Sturbridge Village is worthwhile.