A Tourist Guide to the Berkshires

A Tourist Guide to the Berkshires

1. Introduction:

Characterized by rolling hills and peaks, and dissected by river valleys, the Berkshires, considered southern extensions of Vermont’s Green Mountains, traverse Western Massachusetts and Connecticut, diminishing in elevation and profile from both north to south and west to east. Named by Sir Francis Bernard to honor his home county in England, they constitute both a highland geologic and cultural region, attracting considerable tourism during the summer months.

2. History:

Wind, weather, and erosional chiseling of once towering mountains that formed the Housatonic, Green, and Hoosic River valleys after retreat of the last ice age some 25,000 years ago created the current hills and low-elevation peaks.

Mohican Indians, who had defected from the Hudson River Iroquois settlements during the mid-1600s, served as the Berkshire area’s first documented inhabitants and were considered instrumental in teaching white men basic survival skills, such as land clearing for crop cultivation and maple tree tapping for syrup collecting.

Energy-harnessing industries, attracted by the area’s numerous rivers, used abundantly available raw materials, including sand, granite, limestone, and marble from quarries and iron and clay in mines, to produce lumber, grain, paper, and textiles, in the process attracting the work force and their families needed to run their mills and plants.

Instrumental in the transfer of these products and materials, the Hoosac Tunnel, facilitating the state’s first northern rail route, linked Boston on the eastern seaboard with the Midwest.

Generating considerable interest in the region, many notable 19th- and 20th-century authors and visual artists included area settings and themes in their works.

Today, the Berkshires are synonymous with nature, country inns, historic sights, art, theater, film, and music.

3. Orientation:

Other than regional gateways, such as Pittsfield Municipal Airport-which are primarily served by private and corporate aircraft-there are no Berkshire-served scheduled airline facilities, the three closest airports being those in Albany, New York (52 road miles), Hartford, Connecticut (103 miles), and Boston, Massachusetts (143 miles).

Consisting of 32 towns, the region, which can be subdivided into northern, central, and southern sections, requires an hour-and-a-half to a two-hour drive, without stopping, to traverse. Accessed by Route 7 in the west and Route 8 for a portion slightly to the east of it, its picturesque, seemingly time-suspended, quintessential New England towns, framed by inns, white church steeples, art galleries, and crafts and antiques shops, are often dissected by either redesignated or rerouted arteries, including Route 2 in North Adams, Route 7 in Pittsfield, Route 102/Main Street in Stockbridge, and Route 7/Main Street in Great Barrington.

4. Northern Berkshires:

North Adams:
North Adams, as its name indicates, is the principle town in the Northern Berkshires. Once the bustling hub of textiles and shoes during the 19th-century, it has since set its sights on education and culture with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts. Much of its history can be traced at the Western Gateway Heritage State Park.

Western Gateway Heritage State Park:
Occupying the site of the former Boston and Main Railroad’s freight yard, the park, comprised of several restored buildings that once housed cargo and shippable commodities, have been converted into shops, dining venues, and a museum surrounding a cobblestone courtyard, now all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The museum, toted as “celebrating the building of the Hoosac Tunnel and the age of the Iron Horse,” depicts North Adams life at the turn of the 19th-century and the impact both the tunnel and the railroad industry exerted on it and northern Berkshire County.

Laying under a vast and shallow sea some 450 million years ago, according to the museum, the North Adams area extended, in coast line, as far west as Ohio and its greater depths lurked east of Boston. Its Hoosac, Berkshire, Taconic, and Appalachian mountains, themselves formed 225 million years later when the pressure created by North American and African continental plate collisions on the old coastal seabeds pushed underwater rock back, resulting in the folded and over-thrust New England mountain ranges present today.

After the plates had separated and the Atlantic Ocean had opened, the current landscape of peaks, valleys, and plains took form, while the subsequent glacial period, characterized by waves of advancement and retreat, carried huge boulders southward, in the process tearing and grinding the mountains into lower-rising projections.

As the climate warmed, ice, melting from and released by the glaciers, formed vast rivers, their rock, clay, and sand deposits ultimately filling valleys. Water accumulations, now unable to escape, collected into ice sheet edge lakes.

Isolated, the Hoosac Valley was only accessible by steep and treacherous mountain passes, which required days to traverse, and attacks by the French and their allies were not uncommon, yet its advantages conversely proved significant: trees and stones provided raw material for building, the soil was fertile and facilitated crop growing, the powerful rivers served as energy sources, sand provided the foundation for glass making, and iron was transformed into tools.

Although Fort Massachusetts, erected in 1741 and the westernmost one created by the colonial government in Boston to defend its land, was attacked by Indians, it served to mark the location of the future town of North Adams. Replaced by a second structure, it enjoyed a more enduring fate after the 1763 Treaty of Ghent was signed, ensuring French and Indian withdrawal.

British soldiers constituted early Hoosac settlers, who engaged in farming, milling, and woodworking, and it was renamed Adams to honor Boston patriot Samuel Adams after the Revolutionary War.

Growth, prompted by Hoosac River generating power, spawned some dozen small mills, which were able to produce lumber and ground grain, until the burgeoning population necessitated the 1878 creation of a second, separate settlement-that of North Adams.

No greater impact on the area, however, was that created with the 1875 opening of the 4.75-mile-long Hoosac Tunnel. An engineering marvel for its day and the longest such railroad passage in North America east of the Rocky Mountains, it was bored by means of manual labor and rudimentary picks, hammers, and nitroglycerin explosives.

Linking the eastern industrial centers with the west via the state’s only northern rail route, it transformed North Adams into a railroad town.

The Western Heritage Gateway State Park’s Visitor Center Museum features displays, films, an HO-gauge model railroad layout, and interactive exhibits about the tunnel in retired box cars.

Mount Greylock State Reservation:
Mountains, defining the Northern Berkshires, offer additional sightseeing opportunities, particularly in the form of nearby Mount Greylock.

Created between 300 and 600 million years ago when an ancient seabed produced the metamorphic gray-colored Greylock schist and white quartzite that would become its eventual building books, it rose to a mountainous peak when the continental collisions characteristic of the taconic orogeny exerted pressure of such magnitude that rocks folded into 20,000-foot projections. Completing their millennia-long sculpting, weather and erosion ultimately produced their current height and profile.

Now part of the 11-mile-long, 4.5-mile-wide north-south range located between the Green Mountains in the north, the Hoosac Mountains in the east, the Taconic Mountains in the west, and the Berkshires in the south and east, it serves as the centerpiece of the Mount Greylock State Reservation.

Its main roadway is part of the longer, 16.3-mile Mount Greylock Scenic Byway and incorporates an 11.5-mile section of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

Named either after the gray cloud, or lock, which surrounds its peak in the winter or the Native American Indian chief, Gray Lock, it was acquired by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1898 for the purpose of preserving the natural environment for public enjoyment. It is both the state’s first wilderness park and contains its highest peak.

Managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation—Division of State Parks and Recreation, the 12,500-acre reservation, boasting some 70 miles of trails, was transformed into negotiable paths and roads by the 107th Company of the President Roosevelt-created Civilian Conservation Corps to provide Depression era employment, improve the environment, and create public recreational facilities.

Between 1933 and 1939, they cut trees, improved roads, erected buildings, and built stone retaining walls and culverts, most of which are still existent.

Inspiring, like many natural Berkshire attractions, literary expressions by now-famous authors–such as William Cullen Bryant and Oliver Wendell Holmes–the mountain drew them to its summit. Ascending in an ox cart in 1838, for instance, Nathaniel Hawthorne noted, “Every new aspect of the mountains (referring to the Hoosac, Taconic, and Catskill ranges visible to him) or view from a different position creates a surprise in the mind.”

Henry David Thoreau followed in 1844, climbing alone, while Herman Melville made the journey with a party of 11 in 1851.

Mount Greylock State Reservation is accessible from Route 7, which itself passes through Lanesborough, before leading to the entry turn-off and, after a short drive, the Visitor Center. Staffed by park rangers, it features exhibits and films and overlooks field and forest intermeshing habitat indigenous to song birds, wild turkeys, white tailed deer, and black bear. Both hiking trails and the 7.5-mile-long summit road extend from it.

Lofty slopes, glimpsed during the ascent, shelter ancient forest patches that serve as both plant and animal habitats, and several overlooks facilitate views of them.

Rounds Rock at mile 3.0, for example, offers hardwood forest scenic views and enables the visitor to inspect small boreal spruce bogs and blueberry barrens, while Jones Nose, only.7 miles further up the road, conversely overlooks open meadows and small shrubs ideal for butterfly watching.

The CCC Dynamite Trail at mile 5.6, named after the 107th Company’s explosive storage area, leads to ferns, streams, and wildflowers.

The New Ashford Overlook, located.3 miles beyond and offering views of the Green River Valley, Stony Ledge, and the town of Williamstown, offers an interesting glimpse into the ultimate flow of water. That originating in Hopper Brook, for instance, next ambles to the Green, Hoosic, and Hudson rivers before reaching its final outflow into the Atlantic Ocean in New York City.

Because the upper elevations are characterized by longer winters, precipitation predominance, and lower temperatures, conditions resemble those found in Canadian boreal forests, their fierce winds stunting and gnarling trees as they battle the elements for survival and their ice crystals, like a multitude of miniature knives, cutting into their barks and branches.

The Hopper, a glacial cirque located on the steep western slope, is the southernmost such feature in New England and has thus been designated a National Natural Landmark.

Canadian boreal forest-approximating growth, visible from the Appalachian Trail at mile 6.7, results in a dominance of red spruce and balsam fir at and above the 3,000-foot elevation level, along with mountain ash and yellow birch, while the twisted profiles of maple and beech trees express their winter fights for survival. As its name suggests, the area is part of the 2,172-mile path that stretches from Maine to Georgia.

The 3,491-foot Adams Overlook summit, at mile 7.5, requires modest-fee parking, but it, along with all areas above 3,100 feet, has been designated a National Historic District by the US Department of Interior for the purpose of honoring and preserving the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Like waves shaded green by filtering clouds, the Hoosac and Berkshire hills, along with the Green Mountains in Vermont and the Taconic and Catskill peaks in New York, become an ever-changing color palette. Stark and shadowed, sometimes bathed by the sun and floodlit by the moon, they assume an almost ethereal appearance, viewed from a summit considered an island in the clouds, which itself has been shaped by and is therefore frozen in time.

There are several mountaintop structures, including the 92-foot Veterans War Memorial tower, dedicated by the State of Massachusetts to its war victims in 1933, and Bascom Lodge, a rustic, post-and-beam building designed by Pittsfield architect Joseph McArthur Vance between 1936 and 1937 to blend into the landscape with its use of Greylock schist stone and red spruce and oak wood features. Named after John Bascom, an early Mount Greylock Reservation commissioner who advocated constructing fine summit houses, it contains stone fireplaces and wood beamed ceilings, and has been welcoming hikers, skiers, and sunrise seekers since it was completed. Meals are available in its restaurant and overnight accommodations can be reserved.

Its architecture is reflected by that of the nearby Thunderbolt Ski Shelter, which was built during the same period.

5. Central Berkshires:


As the hub of Berkshire County, Pittsfield became the first neighborhood west of Boston to be designated a Cultural District by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Since renamed the Upstreet Cultural District, it offers a rich array of visual and performing arts venues, including the annual, outdoor Artscapes exhibition, the Barrington Stage Company, the Town Players of Pittsfield, the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, and the Gilded Age, 780-seat Colonial Theatre, which is part of the Berkshire Theatre Group and has since been proclaimed a “national treasure” by Hillary Clinton.

Additional information can be obtained from the Pittsfield Visitors Center, located on North Street and Columbus Avenue, in the modern Intermodal Transportation Center, converging point for taxis, buses, and trains.


Aside from its arts concentration, interest in the area was peaked by a later-famous resident, author Herman Melville, who lived in the now-visitable Arrowhead farmhouse in which another peak-that of Mount Greylock-served as the inspiration for his famous novel, Moby Dick.

Born in New York City in 1819, Melville first visited the Pittsfield house, then owned by his uncle, 13 years later, farming, hiking, and making annual trips to it until he permanently moved there with his family in 1850. But the road to that destination would prove circuitous and global as any would-be author, whose calling he had yet to answer, required material and experiences gathered along the way.

Sporadically and ill educated, he initially tested the waters through menial positions before he sailed them-literally-embarking on a three-year voyage on the Acushnet, a whaling ship. Briefly shedding the sea for land in the Marquesas Islands, he once again set sail for Hawaii on a series of boats and finally joined the Navy on whose United States he returned to New York, now homesick and in need of a more sedentary lifestyle.

A journey’s destination is sometimes not apparent until it has been competed-in this case, that destination became the pages he filled with the fruits his journey bore, resulting in five published novels.

Although these captured sea adventures proved fluid, the monetary rewards from their sales amounted to little more than a trickle.

Returning to the location of his childhood visits, Melville took his family to Pittsfield in the summer of 1850 for a hiatus from New York’s heat and noise, and impulsively purchased the farm he subsequently named “Arrowhead: after the native artifacts he unearthed while plowing its fields.

With the sea in his blood, it never failed to flow on land, particularly in his second floor library/study, which served as a refuge from the otherwise chaotic house he shared with his mother, sisters, and, of course, his own family.

Tickets for house tours are available in the Visitor Center/gift shop behind it.

Although the area provided ample inspiration and material, woven, like threads, throughout his literary expressions, the farmhouse itself-and, specifically, the dining room-served as the basis of a narrative entitled, “I and My Chimney,” which focused on the efforts of a wife to replace it with a grand hallway. Words from that story have since been painted on it, as testament to his own wife’s struggles to do so, but perhaps as his own successful triumph over them. Nevertheless, the tale includes the most complete description of the house.

The likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Oliver Wendell Holmes were entertained in the north parlor, which features a second, smaller fireplace and a table complete with a tea set.

Although Melville’s wife wrote all of her correspondence in the second floor bed chamber, it was the study across from it in which Herman himself achieved his literary stature, particularly while gazing at the window-framed view of Mount Greylock.

Despite its landlocked location, it served to mentally transport him to the sea. “I have a sort of sea feeling here in the country… ,” he wrote in December of 1850. “My room seems a ship’s cabin, and at night, when I wake up and hear the winds shrieking, I almost fancy there is too much sail on the house, and I had better go on the roof and rig the chimney.”

His nautical imagery did not end there, however. Indeed, inspired by the mountain’s imposing view during the winter, whose snow-covered profile reminded him of a great white sperm whale’s back breaking the ocean’s surface, he created the now-famous classic novel, Moby Dick, which he originally intended to call, simply, The Whale.

The impulsiveness exercised to acquire the house, which apparently bypassed logic, proved the catalyst to his creativity, as the 13 years he spent at Arrowhead enabled him to soar as high in fame as the mountain which inspired it, prompting him to write four novels, almost all of his short stories, and begin a volume of poetry there.

The Mount:

Arrowhead was not the only famous residence from which prize-wining words flowed. Straddling the Pittsfield-Lenox line is The Mount, the autobiographical home of author Edith Wharton, which “… showcases her architectural and landscape design theories,” according to the museum.

“Born into the privileged world of old New York, where, for women, social expectations eclipsed intellectual ambitions,” it continued, “(she was) essentially self-educated (like Herman Melville) and was the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the first… to receive an honorary doctorate of letters from Yale.”

Completing more than 40 books in 40 years, including best sellers such as The House of Mirth in 1905 and the New England classic, Ethan Frome, in 1911, she achieved literary fame.

Constructed itself in 1902 based upon the principles discussed in her 1897 work, The Decoration of Houses-which was co-authored by architect Ogden Codman, Jr.-The Mount is considered an autobiographical expression of her architectural and landscape design theories, and is today a National Historic landmark, only five percent of such designations awarded to women-related achievements.

Enamored with the Berkshires, she expressed her emotions to Codman in a letter when she wrote, “The truth is, I am in love with the place-climate, scenery, life, and all.”

As had occurred with Herman Melville and Arrowhead, Edith Wharton drew inspiration from The Mount, whose influences were woven throughout her works. While Melville absorbed the view of Mount Greylock, she did the same with Laurel Lake and Laurel Pond.

Also like Arrowhead, conducted tours can be taken of the Wharton home, which she considered a personal house and not a grand mansion. “We have to make things beautiful,” she wrote in The Decoration of Houses. “They do not grow so of themselves.”

Transferring her innermost emotions into words here, she experienced considerable change, turmoil, and personal growth, despite the fact that her occupation of the house only spanned a decade, to 1911.

Characters, settings, plots, and dialogue that formed the basis of her best-selling books were captured on paper in her second floor bedroom, across the hall from her boudoir. Surrounded by her dogs, she wrote in the morning, using a board propped up by her knees, and dropped completed, handwritten pages on the floor for later collection and typing by her maid.

The gardens, envisioned as a series of outdoor rooms and consisting of an Italian walled section, a French flower garden, an allee of linden trees, and a terraced lawn, extended her philosophy beyond internal space, enabling her to create a world of gracious beauty with which she could invigorate her creative spirit.

The Terrace Café, overlooking this natural beauty, is located on the house’s main level, while the Pins and Pegs gift shop is on the ground floor.

Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum:

Although the Central Berkshire area is noted for the historic homes of now-famous authors, such as Herman Melville and Edith Wharton, a sightseeing deviation can be enjoyed at the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum in Lenox.

Founded in 1984 as a tourist train, it takes up residence in the Lenox Station, which was one of three such area facilities, along with those of Lenox Dale and New Lenox, constructed in the mid-1850s for the Stockbridge and Pittsfield Railroad. Originally located at Housatonic and Capital streets, and subsequently used by the Housatonic and New York, New Haven, and Hartford railroads, it was claimed by fire on January 24, 1902 and replaced with a rustic fieldstone and stucco structure the following summer.

As other transportation modes, particularly the automobile, replaced the railroads, its stations were often abandoned or employed for other purposes-in this case, a construction company purchased the building in October of 1968 and used it as a motor repair shop and storage facility, ultimately donating it to the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum in 1985. After extensive renovation, it was accepted on the National Register of Historic Places six years later.

Although loss of track usage rights forced it to cancel its ten-mile scenic tourist excursions to Stockbridge, its station building, which features exhibits, a model railroad layout, and a gift shop, can be viewed and a brief rail yard ride, made by an engine and caboose, enables the visitor to climb aboard and inspect is rolling stock.

A 50-ton General Electric diesel-electric industrial switcher, built in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1957 and donated by the United Illuminating Company of New Haven, Connecticut, in 1986 is standardly used for the sprint between the station and the yard.

Eight Pullman Standard coaches, constructed between 1911 and 1925, provided steam engine-propelled suburban service from Hoboken to northern New Jersey points, when they were operated by the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, although 1920s conversions for multiple unit controls permitted electric service to be undertaken after this time.

Retired in 1984 from New Jersey Transit service, prior to which they had also been used by the Erie Lackawanna and Conrail, they were acquired by the Berkshire Scenic Railway.

Caboose C-591, which is also boardable, was constructed in 1942 by the Pullman Standard Company in Worcester, Massachusetts, and was operated as an NE-5 class car by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad and, later, by Penn Central and Conrail. Considered “home” for several days, it housed a freight train conductor and rear-end brakeman, who sat in its cupola to watch for burning axles and other anomalies, cooking on its coal stove and sleeping in its two bunks. A sink and toilet completed its accommodation.


A few miles south of Lenox is Stockbridge, another Central Berkshire town immortalized by a famous artist-in this case, Norman Rockwell.

Incorporated in 1739, Stockbridge itself took root as an Indian mission settlement, then developed into a wealthy summer residence during the Gilded Age, and finally became the picturesque New England snapshot Rockwell endearingly captured on canvas and in publications that it is today.

Many of the views and images he saw can still be glimpsed. The 19th-century Village Green, for example, is the site of the 1824 Congregational Church, while summer mansions built by wealthy industrialists line Main Street as you travel west on it. The Stockbridge Library, one of the state’s oldest, was constructed in 1864, and its left wing constitutes its original structure.

One of the Berkshire Theatre Group’s two campuses is located here, the other being in Pittsfield. Home to the Berkshire Theatre Festival, it offers performances at three Stockbridge venues: the 408-seat Fitzpatrick Main Stage, the 122-seat Unicorn Theatre, and the recently introduced, outdoor Neil Ellenoff Stage.

Hawthorne Cottage, which is slightly north of town, is the home in which Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The House of the Seven Gables between 1850 and 1851.

Red Lion Inn:

One of Stockbridge’s oldest buildings and currently a landmark, the Red Lion Inn, located on the corner of Route 7 and Route 102/Main Street, traces its roots to the small tavern Silas Pepoon established under the sign of the Red Lion in 1773. Progressively enlarged in 1848, when it was known as Stockbridge House, and 36 years later, when a raised roof facilitated the addition of a third floor, it was able to boast a guest room total of 100.

Rebuilt in 1897 after fire consumed the original structure renamed Ye Red Lion Inn the previous year, it opened its doors in the winter for the first time in 1955.

Today, this white-painted, porch-lined landmark offers 125 antique-filled rooms and nine village guest houses; serves American and traditional New England fare in its Main Dining Room, Widow Bingham’s Tavern and the Lion’s Den, and at a seasonal Outdoor Courtyard; and boasts live entertainment and Berkshire-made products in its gift shop.

“In a lovely Berkshire Hills town that was once a village,” it totes itself, “on a street that was once a stagecoach road, the gracious, historic Red Lion Inn bids you a warm welcome.”

Norman Rockwell Museum:

The Red Lion Inn, along with numerous other Stockbridge and area streets and structures, can be seen frozen in time at the world class Norman Rockwell Museum.

Born, like many Berkshire-synonymous artists, in New York City-in this case, in 1894-Rockwell himself, always aware that his life’s destination was art, sought to pave an early path to it, attending the New York School of Art, the National Academy of Design, and the Art Students League. Commencing his career as a freelance illustrator, he initially submitted his work to youth-oriented publications, such as Boys’ Life, and later to those catering to more mature readers, including Life, Literary Digest, Country Gentleman, and the one for which he was most famous, The Saturday Evening Post, which he proclaimed as the “greatest show window in America.” His work eventually graced 321 other covers over a 47-year period.

Moving from Arlington, Vermont, to Stockbridge in 1993, he spent the last 25 years of his life there, all but one of which were in his downtown studio, which was subsequently relocated to the present 36-acre museum site overlooking the Housatonic River Valley.

“Founded in 1969,” according to the facility, “with the help of Norman and Molly Rockwell, the Norman Rockwell Museum is dedicated to the enjoyment and study of Rockwell’s work and contributions to society, popular culture, and social commentary. The museum, which is accredited by the American Association of Museums, is the most popular year-round cultural attraction in the Berkshires.”

Its modern gallery, designed by architect Robert A. M. Stern, contains “the world’s largest collection of original Norman Rockwell art (encompassing 998 original paintings and drawings), including beloved works for The Saturday Evening Post, the iconic Four Freedoms, and inspiring later work, which explored social issues of the day.”

Named the official state artist of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2008, Rockwell succinctly expressed his painting and illustrating philosophy when he said, “Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.”

Perhaps his most famous work, in the museum’s first Norman Rockwell Collection gallery, is “Home for Christmas,” the 1967 oil on canvas which takes the viewer on a Christmas Eve walk on Stockbridge’s Main Street past the Red Lion Inn, the public library, and mansions.

A recent temporary exhibit, “The Unknown Hopper: Edward Hopper as Illustrator,” offered a study of the mostly unknown, 20-year illustration career of this realist master.

“In every artist’s development the germ of the later work is always found in the earlier… ,” he said. “What he was once, he always is, with slight modification. Changing fashions in methods or subject matter may alter him little or not at all.”

Rockwell’s studio, Linwood Cottage, features his furnishings, library, and original art materials, while the museum grounds are enhanced with outdoor sculptures crafted by his son, Peter.

6. Southern Berkshires:

Great Barrington:

Great Barrington, with its restaurant-, crafts store-, and antique shop-lined Main Street, and name-recognizable area hotels, such as the Holiday Inn Express and Marriott’s Fairfield Inn, serves as the tourist center and thus unofficial hub of the Southern Berkshires. It nevertheless offers an array of performing arts venues, with the Berkshire Opera Company, the Barrington Stage Company, and the Aston Magna Festival.

Monument Mountain:

The Southern Berkshires’ principle natural attraction is Monument Mountain, whose trails are accessible from Route 7.

Never failing, like other such regional sights, to attract later-famous authors–who themselves were inspired to include it in their writings–it was first captured in 1815 when William Cullen Bryant penned a story about a Mohican woman who leaped to her death from its Squaw Peak in the simplistically entitled “Monument Mountain.”

Inter-literati verses flowed as easily as the champagne that oiled them 35 years later when Herman Melville met and climbed with Nathaniel Hawthorne, their inspirations sparked by the thunder and lightning intermittently igniting the sky between sips.

Today, three trails lead through the 503-acre open reservation-the 1.51-mile Indian Monument, the 0.83-mile Hickey, and the 0.62-mile Squaw Peak trails, the latter of which connects with the former two and leads to the 1,642-foot summit, affording views of the Housatonic River Valley, the Southern Berkshires, Mount Greylock in the north, and the Catskills in the west.