Grab a pair of snowshoes and put on extra layers because it’s winter in the Berkshires, and you might as well enjoy it.
Sure, we’ve all been known to enjoy leaf peeping season, or a hike on a warm summer afternoon, but why not take advantage of what chilly Mother Nature has to offer in January? We asked our resident outdoorsman and Nature Watch columnist Thom Smith for his top five favorite winter hikes in the Berkshires. Here are his picks …
1. Field Farm, Williamstown
Lying in the rich valley between the Greylock Range and the Taconics, Field Farm is an easy four-season destination for hikers. The main trail is a 2.9-mile loop welcoming snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
This trail has something for everyone — pass by a pond, caves and even the former home of Lawrence and Eleanor Bloedel, avid modern art and furniture collectors of the time.
Tired from your winter hike? Make a reservation at the home, which is now a swanky Guest House, complete with modern artwork and furnishings. Visit thetrustees.org/field-farm/about.html for more information.
2. Alford Springs, Alford
This little-known mountainous ridgeline located in the bucolic town of Alford is a great place to cross-country ski, (not suitable for beginners, according to its proprietors, The Berkshire Natural Resources Council) hike, or hunt for geocaches.
According to its website, “You can take a nap or get married on BNRC land. You can run in a snowshoe race. These are your Berkshires — we want you to make the most of every minute you’re outdoors.”
We’d suggest you start with a hike first, then think about marriage.
For directions, visit bnrc.net/item/alford-springs.
3. Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, Sheffield
A hike for the history buffs out there, Mass Audubon’s Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary has two miles of well-kept trails, including a 40-foot tall 1909 kiln — limestone was once quarried and turned into lime here.
More than 500 species of plants — some rare — call this land home, though these days most should be covered by snow. You won’t get to enjoy the more than 50 species of butterflies attracted to the area in warmer months, but there is a killer view of Mount Everett to be enjoyed any time of the year.
For directions, visit massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/lime-kiln-farm.
4. Dorothy Frances Rice Sanctuary, Peru
This 276-acre property has well-marked trails best for hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on a winter afternoon in the Berkshires.
Meander through red spruce, balsam fir, and northern hardwood forests where you may even encounter a moose — yes, a moose. When the snow is just right, put your detective skills to the test and follow animal tracks. But be careful not to get lost — if you do, just follow your own tracks right back to where you started.
Trail guides are available at the Visitors Center.
For directions, visit newenglandforestry.org/find-a-forest?forest=24.
5. Diane’s Trail at Gould Farm, Monterey
Diane’s Trail at Gould Farm is a 1-and-a-half-mile loop trail through woods along fields, and for a while follows the Rawson Brook through bottomland, and over a marvelous footbridge.
Pick up a pamphlet at the beginning of the trail to find points of interest, like an old apple tree riddle with small holes drilled by sapsuckers, who will impress you with their ability to create perfect horizontal lines.
If hiking makes you work up an appetite, grab a bite to eat at the Gould Farm Harvest Barn where sweet treats like croissants, almond Danish and caramel apple cheesecake are made and sold as part of the farm’s psychiatric rehabilitation center. The barn is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
For more information, visit gouldfarm.org.
Thom Smith is a naturalist, educator, curator, writer and photographer from the Berkshires.