This will be the first in a series of posts about the Berkshires, which we just returned from recently with its vivid-colored splendor. We explored a number of interesting outdoor spots, so I plan to highlight two per post. This first post will give you two great things to do around the town of Stockbridge.
The Ice Glen is a not-to-miss geological wonder of green mossy boulders and caves within a gorge. Once you park your car, you will first need to cross a bridge that deposits you onto railroad tracks.
Cross the tracks into the forest beyond – you will immediately start seeing giant rocks situated snugly among the trees. Pretty soon, you will come to a fork in the road. Take the path to the right.
As you climb up a bit, you’ll find yourself taking in the solid green masses of close-set rock as you enter the gorge. A damp chill sets in. They say that snow remains hidden in the caves in the summer. I can *maybe* believe it. Be prepared for some rock scrambling up and down the boulders.
There are a lot of red newts underfoot taking advantage of their moist surroundings.
This area is also known for Laura’s Fire Tower trail (the trail to the left at the fork in the road) The trail climbs 600 feet and deposits you at the foot of a metal fire tower that promises a view of three States. We did the steep climb to the fire tower, but when we got onto the platform of the metal contraption, we were sadly disappointed. The view was hidden by too many dense trees that had not yet shed their leaves! I would only recommend this climb when the trees have lost all their leaves and only under non-rainy/snowy conditions because of the steep trail.
Monument Mountain offers much better views on top, but it is not for the faint of heart. You will also need to be in relatively good shape to make the climb up to the 1,642-feet summit, with places where you will be maneuvering along a 1-foot wide ledge on the face of the mountain. There are two lookout points to get to – The Devil’s Pulpit and Squaw Peak.
We decided to take the easy ascent up by way of the Indian Monument trail and then come back down on the very steep Hickey Trail. This worked out well for us. The hike up and down the mountain was also rewarding in its own way, with sunlight bouncing off some of the fuzziest green rocks I’ve ever seen.
Getting to the Devil’s Pulpit is scary. I will not lie to you. I am scared of heights and there were moments climbing up that made me freeze for a good 5 seconds wondering how I got myself into this mess. The view is worth it though. This is a tiny spot on a ledge, so I suggest you go when you don’t expect too many other hikers around.
The view from Squaw Peak is great as well, this one being a full 360-degree view. You can see the Catskills to the west and Mount Greylock to the north. In some places, it may be wiser not to look down the sheer drop. There is not much space up here, so again, make sure you go when you’re not competing with other hikers. I suspect the peak can’t take more than 6 people at a time, given the lack of elbow room…and you certainly don’t want to get elbowed off-balance here!
Both the Ice Glen and Monument Mountain have no entry fees and are open sunrise to sunset. Dogs are ok in both places, but not bikes. To get to the Ice Glen from Stockbridge, turn left onto US Route 7 and travel 0.2 mile to Park Road. Turn left onto Park Road until it ends in a parking lot. Monument Mountain is easier to find – it is along Route 7 between Great Barrington and Stockbridge.