Lauren R. Stevens | Hikes & Walks: Many improvements to Berlin Mountain trails make hiking more enjoyable
Once again to the pyramidal-shaped peak on the Taconic skyline just south of Petersburg Mountain (sometimes called Mount Raimer). Berlin Mountain is just as steep a climb as it looks, especially by the Class of '33 Trail. After a slightly confusing stretch of stream crossings and old roads, it reaches the summit by a no-nonsense slab 1,400-feet in elevation gain in two miles up the side of the mountain. With the return loop by the Berlin Pass, the hike totals nearly five miles. The woods and streams are lovely.
Last January I reported on the plan by Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, Williamstown, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation — and ultimately the New York Department of Environmental Conservation — to create an outdoor recreation hub at the old Williams College ski area. Later I reported that the town had improved the road and created a decent parking lot instead of the mud hole there previously.
Now I can report that WRLF and town employee Dan Gura, and his summer crew, have completed herculean labors on a half-dozen trails, including the '33 Trail, clearing, putting in water bars, installing steps, erecting signs and daubing a multi-color scheme of trail blazes to keep every hiker on the right path. I like it when various groups come together to make something happen.
The '33 trail begins 400-feet down Berlin Road from the WRLF parking — although it can also be reached by parking in the ski area and following the Rural Lands Loop Trail or the Bullock Trail back to the `33. The '33 Trail is blazed blue and well signed. Starting from the pullover, follow many new sections of bog bridges over what is a wet area most of the year. Then cross Haley Brook (brook crossings may be difficult in heavy water).
Bear left where the WRLF Loop Trail bears right. Follow up hill, past the Bullock Trail, and then up the steep and deeply eroded logging road to a left in a level area under hemlocks. Follow the trail generally leftward until it comes out at the old Williams Outing Club cabin site. All that remains now is the tipped over outhouse, but a Boy Scout proposes to build tent platforms here and install a composting toilet. See what I mean about good things happening when groups work together?
A sharp right takes you to a much-improved switchback down to another stream crossing, over a branch of Hemlock Brook. Climbing out of the brook you first get on a logging road and then bear more steeply up hill, left, to the ridge that takes you, again steeply, toward the summit. There is a view right, under the evergreens, of Broad Brook and the Dome, at about 1.5 miles.
Approaching the summit, first you turn left on the old ski trail and then reach the bald crown with the remains of the fire tower. Maybe if you're taller than me you can get a wide-angle view; from my height I'm more aware that trees have grown to obscure the views. Still, you can picnic or nap on needles, ferns or moss. Off-road vehicles have caused the erosion along the Taconic Crest Trail, although New York is trying to control them.
Follow the blue and white markers of the TCT north down to the saddle, where a four-wheel-vehicle trail comes up from Green Hollow in New York state, the TCT goes straight to Route 2 and the old Berlin Turnpike drops to the east. That's your route, marked by a color I'll call "perhaps pink."
As you descend you may pick out the old toll house cellar hole, right. The trail is eroded; fortunately the summer crew created a detour around the wettest section. Well, the wettest except for the bottom, where the trail comes out on the parking lot. There some ditching or a re-routing would help. In any case, if you left your car in the lot, you're there; if you left it at WRLF parking you have a pleasant, half-mile on a stroll on a gravel road ahead.
Happy trails to you.
Lauren R. Stevens is author of "50 Hikes in the Berkshire Hills," Countryman Press/W.W. Norton, 2016.
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