Fall foliage in the Berkshires: More than a scenic drive
In New England, the swan song of a dying leaf has become the foundation of a healthy fall tourism season.
Like storm chasers, so-called leaf peepers tend to devoutly chase the colors as it slowly burns across the region's canopies, stopping at every country/general store, apple orchard and pumpkin patch in between.
There's nothing wrong with enjoying these traditions. Heck, I still make the annual pilgrimage with my family to Ioka Valley Farm in Hancock to pet cows and ride a tractor across the road to pick out a pumpkin, photograph the mountains and pretend to get lost in their kid-friendly corn maze.
FALL FOLIAGE | Follow New England's changing colors
But you don't have to limit yourself to the old long autumn drive and lunch stop routine.
Here are some ideas for doing and seeing other things in Berkshire County, while enjoying peak season of the color-changing leaves:
Get out of the car
Some of the best tree views are off the beaten path and beyond the roadside.
Ramble up Sheep Hill in Williamstown or scramble down to the base of Bash Bish Falls in Mount Washington.
Take a canoe or kayak up to October Mountain State Forest in Becket and paddle around the coves and inlets.
Bike, jog or rollerblade the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, which runs through Lanesborough, Cheshire and Adams.
Head to a local ski area for adventure with a view. Bousquet Ski Area in Pittsfield and Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock, and Catamount Adventure Park in nearby Hillsdale, N.Y., all have outdoor aerial and activity parks, which remain open through Columbus Day weekend.
Or, give your feet a rest and take a ride. The weekend of Oct. 12 and 13, Ski Butternut in Great Barrington will offer special 40-minute fall foliage chairlift rides to the mountain's 1,800-foot summit and back for $5 per person.
Drink it in
If you're 21 or older, grab some friends and a designated driver and go on a local libations tour.
Like wine? Les Trois Emme Winery in New Marlborough offers groomed grounds for walking, tours of the facility and tastings for $7 per person. They recently garnered several medals at The Big E fair for fall-themed flavors like "Stingy Jack's Pumpkin" and "Wizard's Cranberry wines."
Furnace Brook Winery at Hilltop Orchards in Richmond has a tasting room and also hosts moonlight hike and bonfire events along its cross-country trails. They also participate in the "2nd Saturdays on the Wine Trail" series as part of the Hudson Berkshire Beverage Trail. Upcoming dates for this series include Oct. 12, Nov. 9 and Dec. 14. In addition to wine, they also make Johnny Mash Original American Cider, a hard cider made with regional apples.
On Saturday, check out the sixth annual Pittsfield Berktoberfest of beer, food and fun. Tickets range from $31 to $41 day of, discounts in advance. This year's event benefits Berkshire Brewing Heritage, The Elizabeth Freeman Center and Moments House.
Berkshire County loves its fall-themed festivals. These celebrations are a perfect excuse to drive up and down the county to eat food, drink, see beautiful and fun sights and listen to live music.
Berkshire Botanical Garden will hold its annual Harvest Festival on Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Admission is $5 for adults, free for kids and includes live music, crafts, food, vendors, farmers market; plant, book and tag sales.
On Sunday, North Adams will host its annual Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Festival Parade, beginning at 1 p.m. Continuing through Oct. 12 is the popular leaf-hunt event. Brightly colored paper leaves are hidden throughout the area and participants must solve the clues in order to find the leaves. For complete Fall Foliage Festival details, visit www.fallfoliageparade.com.
As for Columbus Day Weekend (Oct. 12-14), the town of Adams will host Ramblefest 2013 events on Sunday and Monday. From 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Adams Visitors Center there will be a free party with live music by Dublin Porter and Rebel Alliance, as well as food and drink. There will also be trolley tours through the town, food demos by local chefs, the second annual Ramble Toss Bean Bag Tournament, a community campfire and fall art activities. The annual ramble up Mount Greylock takes place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14 and will include prizes and refreshments.
Though not outdoors, it's also worth mentioning that Friday through Sunday, Oct. 11 through 13, is the annual Made in the Berkshires festival of locally grown theater, film, dance, poetry, music, short stories, performance and visual art, held at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.
With all this going on and a whole lot more, it's easy to be creative and find plenty of reasons to get outside and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the fall.
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