My “50 Hikes” describes climbing Lenox Mountain on the Overbrook Trail and descending partway on the Ledges Trail before turning on the Laurel Trail. The management of Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary would now like people to ascend the Ledges Trail, because that seems a safer way to go on a steep trail. So, those who make a loop would descend Overbrook. OK by me. I usually prefer to climb the steeper and descend the more gradual.
Due to the microburst windstorm of July 27, some of the trails on the 3,000-acre sanctuary are still closed. Although you see a bit of the damage when you start out around Pike’s Pond and two cross trails that connect to the Ledges remain closed, your route is open. Even if it is discouraging to see downed trees, blowdowns are perfectly natural.
Massachusetts Audubon, which runs Pleasant Valley, would like a small donation to hike on its property, so start at the office and gift shop on gravel West Mountain Road. To get to West Mountain, turn west off Routes 7 and 20 south of Pittsfield on West Dugway Road and bear left at the intersection.
This three-mile loop gains (and loses) about 800 feet in elevation. No dogs, please. The Pike’s Pond Trail starts southwesterly on a boardwalk close to the road. Remember that at Pleasant Valley, trails leading away from the center are blazed blue and returning are blazed yellow. You pass an area used for camp programs.
Mostly what you see, from additional stretches of boardwalk, is not so much pond as wetland vegetation and some of the downed trees. When the Ledges Trail departs left, the climbing begins. You pass the Waycross Trail, taped closed and ditto the Ravine Trail. Your trail winds among hemlock, beech, maple and oak. In places, especially while scrambling up some, well, ledges, you need your hands to assist your feet. You pass a lovely, small waterfall that probably wouldn’t be running in a summer/fall less wet than this.
On the map, the junction with the Laurel Trail is labelled “Fairviews (1,850 feet),” yet the views appear to have been eclipsed by the trees. The steepest part of the Ledges climb is behind you, although some testing sections remain. You’re about halfway to the summit. Trees get smaller, as you continue through some damp dells.
Truth to tell, at first the summit is disappointing, as you are greeted by a massive former fire tower converted to a bulbous communications tower — and an access road to same. Get over it and enjoy the lovely view of Richmond Pond and the Taconic Range from the 2,126-foot peak, complete with bench. By moving about you can broaden your fair views.
For the return, the sign that guides you to the Overbrook Trail is on the fencing at the foot of the tower. Overbrook also has some steep sections; none as steep as Ledges, however. The trail soon starts following the brook for which it was named and, as it descends, becomes wider and smoother, no doubt at one time a forest road. The Bluebird Trail, crossing two bog bridges, takes off to the right, leading back to the fields that surround the Pleasant Valley buildings.
This relative short, steep hike climbs a peak with memorable Berkshire views and descends with no nonsense. The hardwood forest has considerable variety, as with the dry and wet landscape. And at the bottom, the civilized pleasures of Pleasant Valley await, including educational offerings and, yes, bathrooms.
Happy trails to you.