Autumn Is Made for Exploring the Mohawk Trail Region

From zip-line thrills to world-class culture, there’s far more to this Massachusetts destination than its famous scenic drive.

By Yankee Staff

Jan 26 2023

Photo Credit : Courtesy of Mohawk Trail Association

Sponsored by the Mohawk Trail Association

Spreading through the Connecticut River Valley and into the Berkshire Hills, the 30-plus towns that make up the Mohawk Trail Region of northwest Massachusetts are home to arts and culture, recreation, history, and rolling vistas of fields and woodlands. Along the namesake Mohawk Trail — the famous scenic byway whose roots trace back to a footpath used by indigenous peoples — you will find everything from the preserved 18th-century village of Historic Deerfield to one of the nation’s largest contemporary art museums, Mass MoCA, along with outdoor adventures such as hiking and whitewater rafting, and plentiful shopping, dining, and lodging opportunities.

Families soak up the autumn sunshine on a visit to Historic Deerfield, a beloved Mohawk Trail Region attraction that celebrates the history and culture of early New England.
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Mohawk Trail Association

In short, there’s a lot packed into this lively, lovely corner of Massachusetts — and when the forests are wearing their brilliant autumn colors, there may be no better time to start sampling the Mohawk Trail Region than right now.


One of the best ways to get your bearings — not to mention an eyeful of splendid foliage — is to head out on one of the many scenic drives in the Mohawk Trail Region, which you’ll find described in detail in this handy online guide.

Foliage colors pop right alongside the road as the Mohawk Trail Scenic Byway (Route 2) wraps around the Hairpin Turn near North Adams.

Among the highlighted routes:

  • Mount Greylock and North Berkshire: Set on the western edge of the Mohawk Trail and running about 33 miles, this route loops from North Adams to Berkshire and back again, and is crowned by a trip up the state’s highest peak, Mount Greylock (3,491 feet).
  • Mohawk Trail and Savoy State Forest: Starting the charming college town of Williamstown, this roughly 55-mile loop serves up a scenic chunk of the Mohawk Trail (Route 2), including the famed Hairpin Turn, where the road rises sharply to the Western Summit and outstanding views of Vermont and Massachusetts.
  • North Berkshire and Mohawk Trail: This extended scenic cruise runs about 53 miles, first on Route 7 through the Berkshires from Lanesborough to Williamstown, then east on the Mohawk Trail all the way to Greenfield. A standout stop here is Shelburne Falls, home to the picturesque Bridge of Flowers.
  • Mohawk Trail and Pioneer Valley: Explore the eastern portion of the Mohawk Trail on this 55-mile loop centered on Greenfield and encompassing Historic Deerfield, Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation, and beautiful river valley views.
  • North Quabbin: This approximately 36-mile mile ramble through the eastern edge of the Mohawk Trail Region begins and ends in Orange; along the way, you’ll get a chance to check out the Quabbin Reservoir: 25,000 acres of sparkling waters surrounded by 81,000 acres of protected watershed lands.
Walk in the footsteps of New England’s indigenous peoples when you venture onto the Mahican Mohawk Trail, which in the Mohawk Trail State Forest follows the exact Native American route over the top of Todd and Clark mountains.

To get up close with the landscape, though, nothing beats adding an autumn hike or two to your itinerary. State parks are an excellent starting point, and the Mohawk Trail Region has some of the best in Massachusetts. Take the 6,000-acre-plus Mohawk Trail State Forest in Charlemont, where you can hike a portion of the original Mohawk Trail footpath (the Mahican Mohawk Trail). To the west is Savoy Mountain State Forest, home to over 50 miles of trails as well as the stunning 80-foot Tannery Falls. And to the north, Monroe State Forest blends amazing views of valleys and waterfalls with reminders of history in the form of 19th-century cellar holes and stone walls.

Whether you get there by car or on foot, the summit of Mount Greylock — the highest point in Massachusetts — rewards your effort with a panoramic vista that encompasses four states and five mountain ranges.

Fans of summit treks can hit the heights in Mount Greylock State Reservation, whose namesake mountain is the centerpiece of some 12,500 protected acres and an unbeatable challenge for adventurous leaf peepers. But you can sidestep the exertion of summiting Greylock while still getting its terrific views by hiking from the summit road to the Stony Ledge outlook, which offers a majestic panorama of the Bay State’s highest peaks. Another favorite for families and less-experienced hikers can be found in Mount Sugarloaf Reservation, home to what Yankee has called the “best beginner hike in Massachusetts,” the 1.4-mile South Sugarloaf Trail.


Allow plenty of time to explore the entire complex at Mass MoCA, where gigantic gallery spaces (totaling 250,000 square feet in all) give artists free rein to unleash their creativity.

Anchoring the arts and culture scene in the Mohawk Trail Region is a trio of first-class art museums, all within a short drive of one another. The biggest is Mass MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), which opened in 1999 in a shuttered 16-acre factory complex in North Adams, and is now one of the best-regarded museums of its kind in the world. Just next door to North Adams is the college hamlet of Williamstown, which boasts the stunning Clark Art Institute, home to European and American paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and more, and the Williams College Museum of Art, whose 15,000-plus holdings include the world’s largest collection of work by the post-Impressionist artists Maurice and Charles Prendergast.

The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown features works by some of the art world’s most famous names, including the French Impressionists Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Claude Monet.

History buffs can enjoy a bit of time-travel at Historic Deerfield, a museum of history, art, and architecture along a mile-long street laid out in 1671 and still lined with 18th- and 19th-century houses on their original sites. Another preserved gem is the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams: The c. 1781 Federalist home where the future social reformer and women’s rights activist was born in 1820 has been renovated, restored, and filled with artifacts and exhibits related to her extraordinary life. And in Turners Falls, a complex of old mill buildings now houses the Great Falls Discovery Center, a museum that explores the natural, cultural, and industrial history of the Connecticut River watershed.

In Adams, the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace invites visitors to learn about this legendary Massachusetts activist, whose work helped pave the way for the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

In terms of performing arts, the best-known attraction on the Mohawk Trail Region may be the venerable Williamstown Theatre Festival, founded on the campus of Williams College in 1954 and known for drawing such A-list talent as Blythe Danner, Bradley Cooper, and Nathan Lane. While the festival runs only in summer, its home — the ’62 Center for Theatre & Dance — offers theater and dance performances throughout the year. Mass MoCA, too, is a leading performance venue, with more than 40 weekends of live events staged year-round, including popular music, world music dance parties, documentary films, avant-garde theater, and more. The Clark Art Institute, meanwhile, invites the public to enjoy its intimate classical concerts and live, high-definition cinema simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera.


For those who enjoy two-wheeled exploring, the Mohawk Trail Region has trails to suit both mild and wild excursions. The 12.7-mile Ashuwillticook Rail Trail is an old railroad track converted into a 10-foot-wide paved trail that’s ideal for bikers of all ages — pedestrians, skaters, and joggers, too. It runs from Cheshire to Adams, and offers prime leaf-peeping as it passes through the Hoosic River Valley, between Mount Greylock and the Hoosac Mountains.

At Thunder Mountain Bike Park, you can rent equipment and get lessons before heading out onto the trails, which run the gamut from beginner-friendly descents to pro-level jump trails with mandatory drops and gaps.

Mountain bikers, meanwhile, can challenge themselves at Thunder Mountain Bike Park at Berkshire East Mountain Resort in Charlemont. Widely considered one of the best in New England, it has a diverse network of trails that go from beginner to expert to pro and even include a number of cross-country trails, too.

In addition to leading whitewater rafting and kayaking trips, Zoar Outdoor has an exhilarating zip line tour that gives participants a bird’s-eye view of fall foliage.

For high-flying fun above the foliage, check out the region’s zip line offerings, which continue into November. Berkshire East Zip Line Canopy Tours, at Berkshire East Mountain Resort, has been featured by USA Today as one of the top 10 zip lines in the country. Also in Charlemont is Zoar Outdoor, where the first zip line canopy tour in southern New England made its debut in 2009. Its guided three-hour zip line tour takes you through 11 zip lines, two sky bridges and three rappels through the beautiful fall canopies of the Berkshire region.

At the tail end of whitewater season on the Deerfield, outfitters such as Crab Apple Whitewater take adventurers out on their last runs amid a landscape of gold and red.

Last but not least, whitewater rafting is one of the most thrilling adventures to be found in the Mohawk Trail Region, thanks to the Class III and IV rapids of the Deerfield River and Zoar Gap. The season runs from May to early October, with trips offered at Zoar Outdoor, Berkshire East Mountain Resort, and Crab Apple Whitewater — all based in Charlemont.


Located on the site of renovated mill workers’ quarters in North Adams, Porches Inn is a popular choice for visiting Mass MoCA artists and design-minded tourists alike.

Wondering where to dine, shop, and stay on your getaway to the Mohawk Trail Region? A great place to look is the online directory of the Mohawk Trail Association, which spotlights tried-and-true businesses across the region:

  • Dining: Seafood to pizza to craft beer
  • Shopping: Antiques, arts and crafts, souvenirs, and more
  • Accommodations: Campgrounds, historic inns, hotels and motels

A number of these places have also been singled out by the editors at Yankee magazine in their travel articles and annual Best of New England awards. They include:

Coffee and espresso drinks made from hand-roasted beans are the stars of the show at Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, which has seven locations in Western Mass.
  • Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, Shelburne Falls & other locations: Hand-roasted coffees and light bites, plus cold-brew coffee drinks worth driving for.
  • Spice Root, Williamstown: Contemporary Indian cuisine, creative cocktails, and attractive mid-village setting.
  • The Porches Inn, North Adams: Forty-seven eclectic guest rooms in a group of beautifully converted Victorian row houses next to Mass MoCA.
  • Warfield House Inn, Charlemont: Upscale country inn perched on a hilltop overlooking the Deerfield River Valley and just up the road from the Mohawk Trail State Forest.
  • Deerfield Inn, Deerfield: First opened in 1884 and graced with a white-columned front porch that’s perfect for surveying one of the most historic streets in the state.
  • Centennial House, Northfield: Six guest rooms combining comfort and Federal-era style, plus a gazebo with garden and sunset views.
  • Kringle Candle Company, Bernardston: Delightful traditional candle maker founded by Michael Kittredge III, son of the founder of Yankee Candle (located just 20 miles away).
  • Salmon Falls Gallery, Shelburne Falls: Sprawling, barnlike gallery filled with work by close to 100 local artisans, including Shelburne Falls’ glass artist extraordinaire, Josh Simpson
  • Old Deerfield Craft Fairs: Fall, spring, and holiday shows spotlighting the wares of 100–200 juried crafters, designers and artists. Coming up: Holiday Sampler Nov. 19–20, 2022, in West Springfield.
  • Crafts of Colrain, Colrain: Annual fall Open Studio Art Tour (Nov. 12–13, 2022) in a picturesque town known for its diverse collection of artists and artisans.

For more information on visiting the Mohawk Trail Region, go to: