Home to Appalachian mountain vistas, scenic rivers, historic town commons, covered bridges, and valley farms, western Massachusetts offers a wealth of photographic opportunities for fall foliage enthusiasts.
With the variable topography and unusual autumns we’ve been having recently, defining a ‘peak’ can be tricky, but Columbus Day weekend is generally a reliable reference for the uplands, with the valleys a week to ten days later. If you’re late for the best conditions in the Berkshires, head for the valleys, and if it’s green in the valleys, head for the mountains. The region is driver-friendly, as most attractions are accessible by car, and there are many recreational trails at the various state forests and nature preserves. Below are some recommended destinations to get you started in planning an excursion — good luck!
Mount Greylock Scenic Byway, off of Route 2, North Adams and Route 7, Lanesborough. This 16-mile long paved road climbs to the 3491-foot summit of southern New England’s highest mountain, passing many trailheads and attractions along the way.
Pittsfield State Forest, off of Route 7, Pittsfield. The summit of Berry Mountain, which is accessible by auto road, is home to fine westerly views and the highest-elevation pond in Massachusetts.
Mount Everett State Reservation, off of Route 41, town of Mount Washington. Attractions of the highest summit in the southern Berkshires include sweeping views, waterfalls, and another high-elevation pond.
Burkeville Village, Route 116, Conway. A historic covered bridge and Catholic church make for a classic village scene.
Mount Sugarloaf, Route 116, South Deerfield. Accessible by car or a short climb, this distinctive low peak has outstanding panoramic views of the Connecticut River, Sunderland village, and the adjacent farms and hills.
Mount Holyoke, Route 47, South Hadley. This well-known peak of the Holyoke Range offers more views of the Connecticut Valley, a historic summit house, and valley farms.
French King Gorge, Route 2, Gill. The famous French King Bridge offers a striking perspective of this long, deep gorge on the Connecticut River.
Quabbin Park, Route 9, Ware and Belchertown. A 5.3-mile long auto road passes scenic overlooks, wildlife meadows, and forest groves at southern New England’s largest conservation area.
New Salem Village, Route 202. Two church steeples and other historic buildings line a classic green lined with maples, and there are several overlooks of Quabbin Reservoir nearby.
Wachusett Mountain State Reservation, Route 140, Princeton. The highest summit east of the Berkshires offers long views from Boston to Mounts Greylock and Monadnock, old-growth forests, and a recently renovated auto road.
Crow Hill/Leominster State Forest, Route 31, Leominster. A short climb up Crow Hill leads to an outstanding view across the Leominster State Forest, and there are several scenic ponds and recreational trails.
~ John Burk
John Burk is the author of several books and guides related to New England, including New England’s Natural Wonders: An Explorer’s Guide, which will be released this month. These may be viewed on his Amazon page.