Beartown State Forest is located in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts.
From the Mass Turnpike (Rte. I-90): Take exit 2 to Rte. 102 west to Rte. 7 south. Follow Rte. 7 to Rte. 23 east to Monterey (Blue Hill Rd), then follow the brown signs.
12,000 acre Beartown State Forest, situated in the heart of the Berkshires is the third largest state forest in Massachusetts. There are camping facilities, swimming and picnic areas at 35-acre Benedict Pond, the rest of the forest is remote, wild and undeveloped (nice!). The extensive networks of multi-use trails offer visitors an outdoor wilderness experience and a chance to travel through the otherwise inaccessible forest and perhaps catch fleeting glimpses of deer, bear, bobcat, grouse, fisher and other wild animals who make the forest their home. Beaver ponds and clear brooks are plentiful.
During the summer months, pristine 35-acre Benedict Pond in Beartown State Forest attracts swimmers kayakers and canoers. It's sandy beach, picnic areas and beautiful forested setting make it a great place to unwind and get wet after a day on the trails. The pond is located just inside the main entrance to the forest and facilities include a campground, picnic area and restrooms.
The Appalachian Trail (hiking only) intersects the forest's trails near Benedict Pond and runs through the forest. Aspen, grey birch, scrub white pine and red maple are the most common trees in the forest. The Fall color is magical when the leaves change. In the winter, trails are open for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling. The quaint village of Great Barrington is only a few miles west of the forest and a good place to stock up on supplies.
The trails wind through the rugged, mountainous forest and provide what can be best described as wilderness mountain biking experience. You won't find a lot of other traffic on them. It's always a good idea to ride with at least one other person. Before you ride, let someone know where you are going and time of expected return. Be well-prepared with a good trail map, energy fuel and any other necessary supplies.
Beginners will live longer and be most happy sticking to the gravel roads. The other trails are geared for moderate and advanced riders. The roller coaster, rugged terrain varies from moderate to extremely technically challenging with steep climbs and descents. You will encounter rocks, roots, mud pits, loose eroded steep sections and tight, twisty turns.
The Bridle Trail: Still technically challenging singletrack, but easier than the others. This trail is one of the more popular rides in the Beartown State Forest. The trail begins at the beach area of Benedict Pond and forms a 12 mile loop ride.
There are lots of loop ride options on a combination of trails and forest roads. Design your own mountain bike ride according to your skills and how much time you have.
A local favorite is to start out on the rough and rugged Bebee Trail with a long steady climb right off the bat. At the intersection turn left onto the forested Sky Peak Trail and continue to the next intersection. From here you can either turn right onto the Turkey Trail and eventually hook up to the Wildcat Trail to complete your loop or bear to the left and stay on the Skypeak Trail. If you opt to stay on the Skypeak, the trail will turn into a dirt road and come to an intersection with Beartown Road. Go straight at this 4 way intersection, climb the hill. and turn right at the next intersection onto the Airplane Trail. The trail travels downhill and at the junction with the Turkey Trail, turn left onto it and eventually hook up with the Wildcat Trail to complete your loop.
By the late 19th century, the decline of the colonial iron industry and agriculture led many farmers and settlers to abandon open areas. The wealthy moved in and bought up old or abandoned mountain farms and turned them into game preserves.
Many of these estates, including William Whitney's acreage in Washington and Frederick Pearson's land in Great Barrington, became state parks after their owners died. Some of the estates were bare of trees then. Pearson's land, which is now Beartown State Forest, had to be re-planted by the Civilian Corp in the 1930s.
For more information:
Beartown State Forest
Phone: (413) 528-0904