Alford Springs, Alford
Mountainous ridgeline property offers excellent cross-country skiing (not suitable for beginners, though), snowshoeing and, in season, outstanding blackberrying, along with fine views north and east of the Alford Valley.
GPS: 42.2482, -73.4458 (Trailhead parking)
Special features: Blackberries in summer, noteworthy backcountry Nordic skiing in winter, with challenging ascents and descents. Gorgeous views of Alford Valley and beyond. Good hunting reported.
Directions to parking
From Great Barrington: Take Taconic Avenue, which becomes Alford Road. Drive past Simon’s Rock to a left on Seekonk Road; follow Seekonk Road for 3.6 miles. Turn right on to Mountain Road (if you come to the New York State line, you’ve gone too far). Follow Mountain Road for 0.8 miles, bearing left at the first “Y” and left again at the sharp right turn at 0.8 miles.
Did you ever wonder what lies in that shadowy mountainous border region between the Berkshires and New YorkState? Not many roads traverse this frontier, and the steep, heavily forested slopes don’t immediately attract the casual visitor. But you might be surprised if you venture that way by the user-friendly trails on the 884-acre BNRC property known as Alford Springs.
You can search all day in vain for the “springs,” for water arises only from feeder streams to two drainages — the Alford Brook valley in Alford and the Green River valley that extends through Great Barrington. However, the interplay of light, greenery, and water that the name implies are part of what makes Alford Springs, even during a short walk, a memorable experience.
The land is part of the Taconic Mountains, a chain that runs north-south along the New York-Massachusetts border. The mountains are about 440 million years old and were formed during the Taconic orogeny, the mountain-building event caused by the tectonic collision of the North American plate with a volcanic island chain. There’s no sign of all that geologic violence here now–there’s just birdsong and the rustle of your boots on the path.
Choose from a “buffet” of activities to enjoy this property. You can hike, ski, snowshoe, horseback ride, hunt for geocaches, or place one yourself (check with us for simple guidelines), run, mountain bike, hunt, nature watch, paint pictures, take photographs, picnic, and walk your dog off-leash (being responsible about pick-ups).
After parking at the western gated entrance off Mountain Road, head north about 2/10ths of a mile on a dirt road to a wide-open bowl-like area, a ledgey former log landing. From here bear right, go through a gate and across a small brook, and in about 15 minutes (1/2 mile) you’ll come to a sign that says “Connector Trail.” You can continue the way you were going on the main trail up to the ridgetop or you can take the Connector Trail that heads east up, over, and down the east side of the ridge on a series of switchbacks expressly designed for skiing. For skiing, conditions have to be right to make the steeper descent on the east side without some nail-biting, but with a good base and some powder, it’s a dream. Caution: Novices may find this trail too challenging. No one will want to do this when it’s icy, and note that BNRC does not groom these trails.
When you reach the woods road at the bottom, at the sign that says “Connector Trail” take a left. Follow the well-maintained woods road, which passes over several culverts, bears left, begins climbing westerly (avoid any right turns) and then turns again southerly quite close to the state line. Now you’re really climbing! When you feel as though you’ve had just about enough, you’ll find yourself on the height of land and will soon pass a couple of dramatic easterly overlooks with views of Tom Ball Mountain and the Alford Valley. At this point keep in mind that the main wide loop trail you are following was once the road infrastructure for a developer’s plans to build high-end houses on this ridge. Thankfully, this never happened.
On a winter’s day, there’s nothing more delightful than skimming along that ridgeline trail high above the valleys, watching the woods fly by. From the ridge’s high point to the parking area is a nice long descent, made quickly on skis. You’ll pass the Connector Trail intersection again and descend a bit more steeply to the old log landing area. Done this way, you’ll do about 600’ of vertical over 4.3 miles. Normally this route takes about 2-3 hours of hiking. A fit skier might navigate the loop in a little more than an hour.
Another option is to bypass the Connector Trail entirely and take the main loop trail up and all around to the eastern side, then retracing your steps back to the parking area or walking down Old Village Road to its intersection with Mountain Road. BNRC is looking at possibilities to create parking on the eastern side of the property, and a future network of trails is planned for that side. Stay tuned.
Description of property
The sloping eastern shoulder of the ridge is heavily forested and these deep woods hold clear streams and abundant wildlife. In season, blackberries abound, and these are one reason black bears love this property. Luckily they are not acclimated to humans, so if you see them, they’ll be running in the opposite direction. A bobcat may dash across your path, and big bucks are known to roam these hills and stream valleys. Be aware that hunters and non-hunters share this property. Wear blaze-orange during hunting seasons and take all necessary care.
BNRC owns and manages the property, but the three separate transactions that have created the reserve would not have been possible without lead funding from the USDA Forest Legacy Program, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, and the Geoffrey C. Hughes Foundation. MA DFW holds a permanent conservation restriction over most of the reserve. Reed Rubin, the landowner who conveyed the land that comprises the bulk of the reserve, agreed to generous terms with BNRC in memory of his father-in-law, Philip Gregory, a lifelong conservationist.
Whether you load up your car with gear or just take a simple walk, heading for these remarkable hills can remind you once again of the plentiful delights of our Berkshire outdoors.
2. Hoosac Range
3. Basin Pond
4. Stevens Glen
6. Clam River
8. Bob’s Way
10. Housatonic Flats