Alford Springs, 899 acres of mostly forested ridgeline, has more than six miles of trails for hikers, snowshoers, seasoned cross-country skiers, hunters and berry-pickers. The preserve, named for feeder streams of Alford Brook and the Green River, offers vistas of Greylock and Tom Ball mountains and Alford Valley
Father Loop: 4.3 miles round-trip, 3 hours, difficult
Mother Loop: 2.4 miles round-trip, 1.5 hours, moderate
Special features: Blackberries, noteworthy backcountry Nordic skiing, with challenging ascents and descents. Gorgeous views of Alford Valley and beyond.
SCROLL FOR TRAIL DESCRIPTION, PROPERTY DESCRIPTION, AND NATURAL HISTORY
From Great Barrington: Take Taconic Avenue, which becomes Alford Road. Drive past Simon’s Rock to a left on Seekonk Road; follow Seekonk Road (becomes Green River 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. Alternatively continue right to reach a second, three-season parking lot further down the street.
From Pittsfield: Take Route 20 West and turn left onto Route 41 heading south. Drive to Great Barrington and turn right onto Division Street which becomes Seekonk Road. Follow Seekonk Road which becomes Green River Road, turning right on Mountain Road (if you cross the NY state border you have gone a little 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. Alternatively continue right to reach a second, three-season parking lot further down the street.
GPS: 42.2482, -73.4458 (Father Loop Trailhead parking)
42.25240, -73.43861 (Mother Loop Trailhead parking- 3 season)
Visitors can explore two connected paths, the 4.3-mile Father Loop and the 2.4-mile Mother Loop. The trails are accessible year-round from a trailhead with parking on Mountain Road and during every season but winter from a parking area at the end of Old Village Road. The Father Loop has vistas to the north and south; both trails have vistas to the east. The southeast corner of the property also has unmarked wood roads. Skiers should note that the trails and roads are not groomed and some can be challenging for beginners.
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.
Did you ever wonder what lies in that shadowy mountainous border region between the Berkshires and New York State? 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 899-acre BNRC property known as Alford Springs.
The Alford Springs reserve lies on the eastern side of the Taconic Mountains, a chain that runs north-south along the Massachusetts-New York 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.
The land has been more hospitable to wildlife than human beings. There are cellar holes, remains of barns or outbuildings, and stonewalls on the property but all are believed to have been abandoned by 1900. A main trail on the property was once a developer’s road for high-end houses that never materialized.
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 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.
The Berkshire Natural Resources Council was assisted in acquiring Alford Springs by the US Department of Agriculture Forest Legacy Program, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the Geoffrey C. Hughes Foundation and the Farmor Foundation. Reed Rubin, the landowner who conveyed the land that comprises the bulk of the preserve, agreed to generous terms with the BNRC in memory of his father-in-law, Philip Gregory, a lifelong conservationist.
In 2016, a 25-acre forestry project on the Father Loop created early successional habitat along with excellent views of Mt. Greylock.
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.
Wild berries are abundant at Alford Springs, which is one reason the area has drawn bears. Deer and bobcat also frequent the reserve. Hardwoods here include northern red oak, white oak and chestnut oak, as well as beech, black birch and red maple. There are American chestnut saplings that have not yet succumbed to the chestnut blight. What was once pastureland now has stands of a variety of trees, including white pine. Small streams wind throughout the area.
2. Hoosac Range
3. Basin Pond
4. Stevens Glen
6. Clam River
8. Bob’s Way
10. Housatonic Flats