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As spring arrives, and then turns into summer, there’s something fun to uncover in each corner of the Commonwealth, from outdoor concerts to art exhibitions to festivals. Even better, there are several trails that tie together many of these attractions, making a trip all the more worthwhile.
One of these routes that’s pitch-perfect for an outing is the Jacob’s Ladder Trail, which runs from Lee, MA in the Berkshires to Russell, MA in the Pioneer Valley. Filled with natural wonders, industrial heritage, historic sites, arts, and outdoor recreation, this part of Massachusetts is packed with wonderful things to do and see.
Photo: Berkshires Pasture by Tim Grafft
Perhaps the most iconic symbol along the trail is the Morey Hill Summit in Becket, where the country’s first auto road was built to cross a mountain range in 1910. At the 1,775-feet summit, visitors can observe the stone cairn that marks this historic overpass.
In fact, many of the sites on the Jacob’s Ladder Trail haven’t changed much since the early 1900s, allowing you to feel transported to an earlier time. One example of this is the Keystone Arch Bridges on the railroads in Middlefield, Becket and Chester. Built around 1840 without mortar or steel reinforcements, these 70-foot bridges are an impressive testament to the engineering accomplishments of the era. The Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum in Lenox exhibits the railroading industry and how it helped build up the region’s economy, and will reopen for the season in May.
The exquisite natural beauty of the region also imbues the Jacob’s Ladder Trail with a sense of timelessness. The area is home to October Mountain State Forest in Lee, the largest state forest in Massachusetts, which counts more than 16,500 acres of terrain, as well as the breathtaking waterfalls of Sanderson Brook and Goldmine Brook in Chester-Blandford State Forest.
When the weather is chillier, Canterbury Farm in Becket, MA is a popular destination for cross-country skiers; in the summer months, it’s a great spot for to kayak and stay, thanks to its charming bed & breakfast.
Photo: Canterbury Farm via Facebook
For more outdoor recreational activities, the National Wild & Scenic Westfield River spans more than 78 miles and is perfect for whitewater canoeing, kayaking, tubing and observing wildlife. The annual Westfield River Whitewater Races, held every year since 1953, will take place on April 19th this year, and spectators can watch from Huntington and Russell.
Photo: Westfield River Wildwater Races via Facebook
If whitewater river tubing doesn’t sound like the best way to spend your day, then perhaps you’d prefer a day boating, with boat launches in Lenox and Lenox Dale. Plus, there’s year-round fishing on Laurel Lake – a great chance to relax and take in the scenery around you. For travelers looking to set up camp in the area, the Birchwood Inn and Kemble Inn both provide comfy nearby accommodations.
Another sight along the Jacob’s Ladder Trail is The Mount Estate and Gardens in Lenox. Both a historic landmark and contemporary cultural center, The Mount represents the literary and artistic heritage of Edith Wharton, author of The Age of Innocence and more than 40 other books. On your visit to the estate, you can walk the beautiful grounds and gardens, explore the surrounding woodlands, dine on the terrace, or browse the bookstore.
Photo: The Mount Estate and Gardens via MOTT
Check the calendar for upcoming events, which span literature programs, landscape design, cultural lectures and more. There are also guided tours of the house and gardens beginning in May and running through October.
For anyone who loves the arts, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is something truly special. Running from June 14 – August 24, the festival features vibrant dance performances from over 50 international dance companies. Although still a couple months away, tickets went on sale to the public April 1, and it’s always a good idea to get yours early! Click here to reserve your spot.
Photo: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival via MOTT
In addition to the ticketed performances, the free, family-friendly performance series “Inside/Out” occurs every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night from June 18th to August 24th. While no ticket is needed for these performances, you’re advised to arrive early to claim a seat or bring chairs from home as the space fills up quickly. You can stay over nearby at the Jonathan Foote 1778 House B&B, Historic Merrell Inn and quite a few other places, too.
Even with all that Jacob’s Ladder has to offer, it’s just the beginning; there are plenty of other Massachusetts trails that also offer great scenery, activities and places to say. For more ideas on travel destinations and places to rest while you enjoy them, click here and here.
Where do you like to go to get away in Massachusetts when spring returns? Let us know in the comments!