By Makayla-Courtney McGeeney
Anywhere you go, the season of fall is not complete without scouting out the biggest pumpkin, indulging in a hot cider donut, exploring seasonal vegetables at local farm stands and admiring the northeast’s richest autumn foliage. Red, orange and yellow leaves blanket the Berkshires and Southern Vermont between September and October each year, giving them the aureate glow leaf peepers long for.
The drive: Vermont Route 30, Jamaica to Brattleboro
Stop No. 1: Jamaica State Park
48 Salmon Hole Lane, Jamaica
Comprised of 772 acres and opened to the public in 1969, this state park offers 41 tent/RV sites and 18 lean-to sites for camping, swimming at Salmon Hole, picnicking, five miles of hiking, fishing on the West River, mountain biking and a release for whitewater kayaking. The deep pools and shallow areas along the river are perfect spots to cool off in.
The West River Railroad used to travel through the park when it was active from 1879 to 1927 until a flood wiped it out.
If that’s not enough for one park, folks can take a three mile hike up to Hamilton Falls for a beautiful view of the river or even to catch someone whitewater kayaking.
Stop No. 2: Townshend Lake
3845 VT-30, Townshend
Down the West River is Townshend Lake with similar amenities to Jamaica State Park. Very much a stop for families, the lake is accompanied by a beach, picnic shelters, a scenic overlook, boat ramp, playground and much more.
The lake is known for hosting interpretive programs such as family-oriented activities, geocaching demonstrations and a junior ranger program.. The West River is stocked with brown, rainbow and brook trout by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Stop No. 3: Twitchell House Antiques
You can’t miss this big yellow farmhouse on Route 30 full of items that once belonged to another day and age. From cemetery gates and metal garden structures for a patio to vintage jewelry and furniture, there’s something for the everyday wanderer or routine thrift shopper.
Last October, the 13-year-old antique shop was featured in the treehouse building episode of “Backyard Gold Mine” on the DIY Network.
Stop No. 4: Dutton Berry Farm
407 VT-30, Newfane
There’s no better place to pick your own fruit in southern Vermont than at this family farm. Visitors rave about the abunance of local produce, homemade pies and jams.
The business’ popularity picked up after the family began selling products at the Manchester Farmer’s Market in the 1990s. In addition to the Newfane farm, there is also a apple orchard in West Brattleboro and a sugarhouse in Manchester. Call 802-365-4168 for conditions and to see what’s available before heading out to pick your own.
Stop No. 5: West Dummerston Covered Bridge
2891 W River Rd, Dummerston
While the bridge can be enjoyed any season, weather permitting, visitors say the fall colors make the experience much prettier. Steps lead into the shallow water under the bridge that invites children to play in and to skip stones. Motor vehicles are permitted to cross the bridge. There’s also plenty of parking available.
The drive: Mass. Route 2 on the Mohawk Trail, North Adams to Shelburne Falls
Stop No. 1: Golden Eagle Restaurant and the Hairpin Turn
1935 Mohawk Trail, Clarksburg
About 27 crimson dazzling miles lay between North Adams and Shelburne Falls on Massachusetts Route 2 heading east. Sure you can peep trees from any part of Route 2, but there’s a few specific stops to get the most ideal view. One in particular includes looking down at an ocean of colors from 1,700 feet above sea level on the Hairpin Turn.
Since 1914, the turn has delivered visitors the a view and gift shop until the restaurant was built in 1980 and it became an eatery. Now, diners can enjoy the sight of Berkshire Hills and the Hoosic River Valley in the horizon and below. See it for yourself during dinner, seven days as week, for lunch on the weekends, or outside on the curve through binoculars. More information: thegoldeneaglerestaurant.com
Stop No. 2: Mohawk Park Restaurant and Campground
559 Tea St., Charlemont
Spend the day fishing, tubing, kayaking or camp for a few days on the Deerfield River. Then, take a history break over at the Hail to the Sunrise Monument. It’s a 900-pound, 8-foot-tall bronze sculpture of a Mohawk American Indian, arms outstretched to the east as he greets the Great Spirit. Unveiled in 1932 by sculptor Joseph Pollia, the monument honors the five Mohawk nations that lived in Western Massachusetts and New York.
Stop No. 3: High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary
Off of Patten Road, Shelburne (42.620067, -72.705629)
Submerge yourself into fall foliage with 5 miles of hiking trails and 587 acres of wildlife sanctuary at High Ledges. Catch a glimpse of Mount Greylock and the Deerfield Valley to make the strenuous paths worth it. Located on the northern part of Massaemett Mountain, this outdoorsy attraction is owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. While no view in the Berkshires will disappoint in the fall, this area’s wildflowers and ferns typically make an appearance in the spring.
Stop No. 4: Gould’s Sugar House
570 Mohawk Trail, Shelburne Falls
Since the 1960s, this heart-felt, old-fashioned sugar house has been serving delicious breakfast and lunch. They close every summer but reopen during Labor Day weekend to sell pure maple syrup products carried on through six generations.
In addition to their well-known fluffy pancakes, Gould’s sells maple cream, maple fudge, maple ice cream, pies, pickles and more treats. Similar to other stops on the Mohawk Trail, the experience comes with the most impressive, natural view of orange, green and gold trees.
Stop No. 5: Bridge of Flowers
22 Water St., Shelburne Falls
What was once an eyesore trolley bridge built in 1908 is now a footpath blooming from April to October in brightly colored flowers. Thanks to the Shelburne Women’s Club, the bridge was revived as a garden circa 1928 due to the bridge being overgrown by weeds and the fact that it was too expensive to demolish.
Travel across the 400-foot-long bridge above the Deerfield River and learn about the thousands of perennials, annuals, vines, flowering bulbs, shrubs and more.
The drive: Mass. Route 7, Great Barrington to Connecticut state line
Stop No. 1: Monument Mountain
551 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington
Instead of racing past the gorgeous foliage in a car, take your view 708 feet up to the top of Monument Mountain. The 2.8-mile loop is lightly trafficked, reveals wild flowers and is rated as a moderate trail. Once you make it to the top, there’s a few rocks to perch on to acquire the same long-distance view American novelist Herman Melville once did.
Stop No. 2: Housatonic River Walk
195 Main St., Great Barrington
Get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Great Barrington with a breath of fresh air on the River Walk. It follows the west bank of the Housatonic River between Cottage and Bridge streets with and upstream and downstream pathway.
The walk, constructed in 1992, was the result of a massive cleanup effort that involved debris from buildings that were demolished. Because of that, the surrounding national treasures – bald eagle, osprey, kingfisher, egret, great blue heron native and American invasive plants – are protected.
In 2002 the river park, a section at the entrance of the walk, was dedicated to civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois, about 200 feet from his birthplace. Seven years later the River Walk was designated as a National Recreation Trail and joined America’s 12,000 mile National Trail System. It’s overseen by the Great Barrington Land Conservancy and is tended to daily.
Stop No. 3: Berkshire Great Finds
1840 N. Main St., Sheffield
It’s a mix between Goodwill and an antique store that holds 7,000 square feet of vintage, funky, fun and unique items. If you’re looking for your next craft, Great Finds might have the pieces to create it. It’s also part of a custom frame shop that offers shadow boxes, custom mirrors, canvas/linen stretching, needlework, and sports memorabilia among many other services. Call ahead to learn about their inventory at 413-528-8059.
Stop No. 4: Upper Sheffield Covered Bridge
Covered Bridge Lane, Sheffield
Just a quick stop off Route 7 sits a picturesque New England covered bridge that crosses the Housatonic River. Built in 1837, the Upper Sheffield Bridge or Old Covered Bridge, was destroyed by a fire in 1994. This replica, completed in 1999, is only open to pedestrian traffic.
Stop No. 5: Berkshire Mountain Distillers
356 S. Main St., Sheffield
Visit one of the Berkshire County’s first legal distillery since prohibition and experience their award-winning artisanal spirits handcrafted right in Sheffield. Even if you’re not into liquor, there’s the opportunity to learn about the farm’s diversified garden program that focuses on herbs and botanicals used in conjunction with cocktails and spirits.
The distillery was opened 20 years ago by Chris Weld, founder, owner and distiller, who became a natural in the art with a background in biochemistry. Offered spirits include Ice Glen vodka, Greylock gin, Ragged Mountain rum, Berkshire Bourbon whiskey, Ethereal Gin and New England corn whisky. Tours are $10 per person starting at noon and run every hour on Fridays and Saturdays. They are limited to 20 people. Information: berkshiremountaindistillers.com.