New Marlborough | Sandisfield
2/26/2021: During the spring thaw conditions on North Road and the driveway to the trailhead can deteriorate, making the trailhead at Steepletop difficult or impossible to reach. If you encounter poor road conditions (i.e. deep mud, ruts, erosion) on North Road, please consider turning around and visiting another BNRC property. Please respect any “Road Closed” signs. Consider the trailhead closed if only accessible via the closed road; parking on the side of the road is not an alternative. We ask this out of courtesy for our neighbors who need these roads to access their homes, and for the towns who maintain them.
Steepletop’s 1,230 acres make it the Berkshire Natural Resources Council’s largest reserve. Its five miles of marked and maintained trails plus three miles of wood roads, all on easy grades, are ideal for hiking, bird-watching, hunting, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing. The reserve’s woods range from an unusual patch of old-growth forest to quite young forest, managed for wildlife that require that habitat.
This land, and all of the present-day Berkshires, are the homelands of the Mohican people who were forcefully displaced to Wisconsin. These lands continue to be of great signiﬁcance to the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation.
SCROLL FOR TRAIL DESCRIPTION, PROPERTY DESCRIPTION, AND NATURAL HISTORY
From Great Barrington, take Route 23 east to Monterey. Just after the Monterey line, bear right onto Route 57/183 into New Marlborough. Just before the Old Inn on the Green in New Marlborough, turn left onto North Road; follow for 1.6 miles. Turn right at the steep, inclining driveway marked “684”. Bear right into our gravel parking lot at the top of the little hill. The trails begin right at the trailhead parking; there is a kiosk just beyond the gate.
GPS: 42.1370, -73.2082 (trailhead parking)
The well-blazed trails North and South Loops take visitors past extensive stonewalls, near foundations and over brook crossings. While the trails are not groomed for winter skiing, they and the wood roads are often wide enough for skating cross-country skiers as well as those using the classic technique. Winter visitors to the reserve can follow the tracks of many different species.
Steepletop was donated by the Devine family, long-time owners of the reserve and adjacent property. In addition to giving the reserve to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, the family has ensured the conservation of nearly 5,000 contiguous acres located between the village centers of Monterey and New Marlboro. The name of the property reportedly harkens to a time of less dense forest growth when the New Marlboro church steeple was visible from this hillside.
In the property’s far southeast quadrant is a mixture of young and mature forest, managed for wildlife species that depend on young-forest habitat. At the far northwest is a small patch of forest with old-growth characteristics. It’s not virgin forest, but it is unusually old. At the center of the reserve is Harmon Brook flowing from south to north through more than 100 acres of scattered wetland.
The varied habitats and sheer size of the reserve and contiguous protected areas attract a wide range of wildlife. Birders can look for, among others, American woodcocks. Hunters might encounter bears and white-tailed deer. Otter, beaver, and coyotes also inhabit the preserve.
Within the wooded area’s mix of conifers and hardwoods, two queens of the New England forest—white pines and black cherries—often stand next to each other in full growth. Different varieties of birch and maple as well as oaks, beech and hemlock are also abundant. Look for cattails and wild cranberry in the wet areas.