From the east or west: Follow the Mass Pike (Rte. I-90) to exit 2 in Lee. Turn right onto Rte. 20 west to Center St. in Lee, follow the state forest signs to the park.An alternative that avoids the center of Lee is to go east for 1 mile on US 20 from Exit 2. Turn hard left onto Maple Street, then bear right (no 90 degree turns) at subsequent intersections. You'll end up on Woodland Road, which runs by the campground.
At 16,127 acres, October Mountain is the largest State Forest in Massachusetts. In such a large area there is a wide variety of terrain and habitat. Trails and forest roads wind though highland woods with tall pines and thickets of blackberry and raspberry bushes and skirt along streams, ponds, reservoirs and flat marshy sections.
The 46 site campground, situated in a lovely three tired, grassy and sunny area, offers easy access to the network of roads and trails within the forest. Facilities include two comfort stations and hot showers. Unfortunately, you will be eaten alive by mosquitoes. They are quite numerous and vicious in the spring and early summer. I found it too buggy to hang around and cook my meals or just relax outside in my camp chair. I noticed other campers seeking refuge in their cars.
Luckily, there are several quick routes of escape. The picturesque town of Lenox is just a short distance away, accessible by car or bike. It offers historic inns and B&B's (where I will stay next time I come), museums (Norman Rockwell), restaurants and shops. Timing is everything, If you want to camp, come during the late summer or fall when the mosquito population winds down.
Nearby, Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home for more than 60 years, can be accessed via Reservoir Road/Under Mountain Road. Bikes are not allowed inside (bring a bike lock) but you can walk around the grounds. Perhaps you have tickets to enjoy an outdoor summer concert in the evening.
October Mountain Trails:
October Mountain State Forest offers trails for all levels of experience. Easier mountain biking can be found on the vast network of dirt roads that bisect and intersect at various points within the forest. These secluded roads climb and descend through the woods. There are some long sustained climbs, but for the most part, the grade is gradual and not too steep. However, there are some lung busting exceptions. Beginners will enjoy these roads.
For a more moderate to advanced riding experience, a network of rugged, multi-use jeep roads and singletrack trails wind through the forest, the heaviest concentration located in the west. These are often rough and rocky requiring steep climbs and descents as well as stream crossings. Some are hard to follow and it's easy to make a wrong turn and get lost. We managed to get lost for two hours and ended up just outside the park in a field with some horses. Luckily, after explaining our predicament, the landowner was kind enough to point us in the right direction back to the park campground.
There are many ride options and we tried several while we were here. Our favorites were:
Roaring Brook / Farnham Reservoir / Schermerhorn Loop Ride:
This ride begins at the campground and travels mostly on dirt roads and doubletrack 4WD roads with brief stretches of paved road at the beginning and end of the loop. There is some steady climbing up from the Housatonic River to the mountain top. Once at the top, expect gradual elevation gains of several hundred feet over rolling hills. What goes up must come down. There is a steep descent on a paved road at the end.
As you exit the campground turn right and head north for about a mile on Woodland Road (paved). Make a sharp right onto Roaring Brook Road (4WD). Woods Pond will be on your left. Ride north keeping the water (the Housatonic River) to your left. Pass Schermerhorn Road (paved) on the right. Continue north along the river until you hit pavement and the intersection with New Lenox Road. Make a sharp right turn. The paved road shortly turns into another 4WD road. Climbing steadily, the road bends sharply to the left and comes to an irregular "T" junction. Turn right (south) onto Whitney Place Road and come to the head of Farnum Reservoir. This is a nice serene spot overlooking the calm blue waters of the reservoir and an ideal place to relax and break for lunch.
The road skirts around the east side of the Reservoir and heads southeast. Pass the intersection with Aqueduct Trail (option 1) on the left and other trailheads on the right. Stay on the road and keep a lookout for Schermerhorn Road, a smooth dirt road that intersects on the right.
Turn right on Schermerhorn Road. This passes scenic vistas and two parking areas. Just past the second parking area the road becomes paved. It's a very steep descent back to Roaring Brook Road. Backtrack the way you came to return to the campground.
Trail Option 1:
Turn left onto the Aqueduct Trail, a double-track jeep road. This loop starts out by heading north towards New Lenox Road. Keep to the right and make right turns at all intersections. You'll pass Ashley Lake and Sandwash Reservoir on the left. Shortly after passing Sandwash Reservoir arrive at the junction with Lenox-Whitney Place Road. Turn left (north) on the road and ride to the Y junction with Schermerhorn Road on the left. Turn left and follow directions above (last paragraph) back to the campground.
Washington Mountain Marsh Loop:
You have to like lung busting climbs and swift, steep descents for this one. As you exit the campground turn right and head north for about a mile on Woodland Road (paved). Make a sharp right onto Roaring Brook Road (4WD). Woods Pond will be on your left. Ride north keeping the water (the Housatonic River) to your left. Turn right at the junction with Schermerhorn Road (paved) and start climbing slowly. It is a steep, steep climb. The road becomes dirt and climbs more gradually. Stay on the dirt road and pass several trail junctions on the left and right. The route curves around the north side of Washington Mountain Marsh, a defunct, now marshy Reservoir and hits a junction with dirt Lenox-Whitney Place Road.
Turn right on the road and stay on it, making note of trail intersections along the way (for future riding possibilities), until you come to a distinct 4 way junction with West Branch Road. Turn right (west) at the intersection, and bear left at the junction onto Navin Road which has now become a woods trail (theres a sign in the tree). At the next intersection turn right onto Spruce Trail which brings you back to Schermerhorn Road and a swift, steep descent back to Roaring Brook Road. Retrace your path from here back to the campground.
(Of course you don't have to torture yourself by climbing up Schermerhorn Road. You can get to the top of the mountain other ways).
Note: If you think you might want to continue west on Navin Road instead of turning right on Spruce Trail, think twice. It does lead back to the campground but it is a steep, treacherous, rocky descent. Only attempt this if you are an expert.
Notes: Massachusetts law requires that children age 16 and under wear a helmet when bicycling.
For more information:
October Mountain State Forest:
Phone: (413) 243-1778