As the snow builds, is hiking still possible? Yes, depending on where you hike and what you wear on your feet.
Lightly trafficked, plowed roads are usually available. Lower elevations will have less snow than higher. Micro-spikes help on ice. Snowshoes or skis can help you over deeper snow. But also remember that popular trails are often so beaten down, any foot gear will do. And — you can pretty much count on a late January or early February thaw.
The part of Mountain Meadow accessed from Mason Street in Williamstown is low and, being a field open to the sun, does not hold snow. Views from there, although from a low elevation, rival most high-elevation vistas. They take in the mountains, south to Greylock, west to the Taconics and north to the hills connected with the Greens. The trails can be hiked or snowshoed or skied under almost all conditions.
Discovery of the beauty of this parcel led Pamela B. Weatherbee of Williamstown to begin assembling the 240-acres she later passed to the Trustees of Reservations, appropriately named the Mountain Meadow Preserve. Enjoy.
Although a steep climb could be part of the outing, the meadow itself is nearly flat. The loop and getting to it is a bit over a mile. The climb to the summit, recommended, adds another mile. In thawing conditions, parts of the trail accessing the meadow can be wet. Although the owners of the property, the Trustees, no longer plow the Pownal access point, the Mason Street parking is plowed.
To get to the southern part of Mountain Meadow, then, take Route 7 north past the Williamstown center. After crossing the Hoosic River and the railroad, look on your right for Mason Street, a gravel road. The trailhead is at the end, 100 yards in.
You walk up a gradual rise through a mowed area to the southern end of the oblong meadow trail, where I suggest turning right. You soon start seeing the southern views. After rounding a corner, a side trail to the left takes you to the high point of the field, with optimum views south, west and north.
Take the trail east from the overlook to the tree line intersection and, suggested if conditions permit, go straight and then left at the fork for the Summit Trail. This climbs steadily under maples and evergreens on a strange narrow shelf to a switchback, then more steeply around another switchback, to 1,102 feet on a ridge. The trees are too thick for much of a distant view, although you do look down on sharply folded terrain. You can return the way you came or follow the ridge south and down to the Grace Greylock Niles trail, right, which will also take you back to the meadow.
Turn right on the meadow trail to complete the loop. It’s enjoyable to alternate wooded and open land when hiking. The farm implement you pass was used to handle hay bales. The trail swings around the wet end of the field, near a pond you can’t see. A private trail enters right, but you continue on the mowed loop trail back to the trailhead.
So, a winter outing with an excellent view — and less snow than most. The important thing is to get out, winter or no. Happy trails to you.