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 reserve, 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 Taconics were created 440 million years ago by a tectonic collision of the North American plate with a volcanic island chain. The local valley regions on either side of the mountain ridge are underlain with limestone. Quarrying of marble was a significant industry in Alford in the 1800’s. Alford marble, prized for its color, was used in building the New York City Hall.
This land has been more hospitable to wildlife than human beings. There are cellar holes, remains of barns or outbuildings, and stonewalls on the property, mostly abandoned in the 19th century. These structures represent the past agricultural history of the area. “Sheep fever” took hold of New England between 1810 and 1840 and resulted in 8o% of forests being cleared for pasture or hayfield. 1837 was the peak year of sheep in Berkshire County with 136,000 sheep and 40,000 people. By 1900, more than half of the cleared land was becoming reforested.
In the 1970’s Old Village Road was developed, and much of the current reserve was surveyed to become phase two of the subdivision. Luckily, the market slowed and BNRC, in partnership with MassWildlife, was able to acquire the land for conservation. From 2002 to 2018, BNRC has acquired parcels, piecing together the current reserve.
In 2016, a 25-acre forestry project on the Father Loop created early successional habitat along with excellent views of Mt. Greylock.
Wild berries are abundant at Alford Springs, which is one reason you may see sign of bear. 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.
A cold water brook and several intermittent streams tumble down from Alford Springs to feed Alford Brook, a cold water fishery of high water quality. Alford Brook joins the Green River and eventually the Housatonic. The Green River is part of the public water supply for Great Barrington, and known for its water quality and trout fishing.
2. Hoosac Range
3. Basin Pond
4. Stevens Glen
6. Clam River
8. Bob’s Way
10. Housatonic Flats