Warm Up to Winter in the Mohawk Trail Region

From cultural and historical tourism to exhilarating outdoor activities, the adventures never stop in this corner of Massachusetts.

By Kate Grip Denon

Feb 06 2023


Sponsored by the Mohawk Trail Association

Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, culture, or tasty cuisine, the Mohawk Trail Region of northwest Massachusetts has it all. Encompassing more than 30 distinctive, welcoming towns and stretching from the Connecticut River Valley into the Berkshire Hills, this region is steeped in history and packed with plenty to do. Better yet, the Mohawk Trail Region is a true year-round getaway — making it the perfect place to shake off those late-winter blahs and celebrate the beauty and endless opportunities of this season.

Skiers enjoy the ride — and the views — on their way to the top at Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Princeton, which has been a favorite winter-fun destination since the 1960s.

Outdoor Adventures

February into March is a great time to dive into winter activities, and the Mohawk Trail Region has so much to offer when it comes to outdoor fun. Downhill skiers and snowboarders will revel in the options at Berkshire EastMountain Resort in Charlemont, which has 32 trails and five lifts, plus lots of green, blue, and black diamond trails to keep everyone happy — not to mention three terrain parks. Tubing more your speed? Try one of the resort’s three 500-foot-long tubing lanes with a “magic carpet” lift to bring you back to the top for more runs.

For more downhill action, look to Wachusett Mountain SkiArea in Princeton: With a summit elevation of 2,006 feet, 27 trails, and eight lifts, there’s something for every level of skier (and with 100 percent snowmaking, you can plan on having plenty of snow for making your turns).

At Berkshire Mountain East Resort in Charlemont, snow sports enthusiasts can kick back amid the classic Alpine vibe of the cozy main lodge.

For those who prefer venturing into the lower elevations, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking options abound. Blend art with exercise as you trek through the grounds of the Williams College Museum of Art; sculptures and installations can be found throughout the Williamstown college campus. Keep the artistic vibe going and check out another Williamstown favorite, The Clark: Roughly 140 acres of this art institute’s 1,600 acres make up Stone Hill, whose many paths showcase sculptures made of stone and steel, including large abstract sculptures of notable intellects Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Hegel. Follow this intellectual thread with a visit to the Poet’s SeatTower at Rocky Mountain Park in nearby Greenfield. At the base of the 1912 sandstone observation tower (which replaced an earlier wooden version), a plaque explains the tower is named for local poet Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821–1873). Take a moment and soak it all in with a seat in the natural armchair found at the base of the tower — an ideal spot to rest and reflect.

Little snowshoers take a break while trekking through a winter wonderland at Stone Hill, part of the sprawling campus of The Clark in Williamstown.

Look to the state’s highest peak, Mount Greylock (3,491 feet), for more outdoor adventures. The trails and campgrounds at Mount Greylock State Reservation stay open year-round, and there are often special guided hikes in winter that range from wildlife tracking to “mountain mindfulness” walks. Alongside Mount Greylock, nestled in the Hoosic River Valley, the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail delights snowshoers and cross-country skiers with 12.7 miles of converted railroad track that weaves through the towns of Cheshire, Lanesborough, and Adams, providing plenty of chances for scenic views and spotting wildlife en route. For more glimpses of wildlife and sweeping views of the Deerfield River Valley and Mount Greylock, visit Mass Audubon’s High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary in Shelburne: While its five miles of trails will challenge even seasoned hikers, the paths are well marked, with views that are worth the effort.

Mass Audubon’s aptly named High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary in Shelburne offers hikers a postcard-worthy panorama of the Deerfield River Valley.

The Mohawk Trail Region overall is rich in public lands, meaning there’s no shortage of places in which to soak up natural beauty. Mohawk State Trail Forest in Charlemont — considered one of the most scenic woodland areas in Massachusetts — has 6,000 acres filled with towering trees, dramatic gorges, and lofty mountain ridges. Others not to miss include Natural Bridge State Park in North Adams, named for the natural white marble arch spanning the Hudson Brook; Savoy Mountain State Forest in Florida, laced with 50 miles of scenic trails; and Northfield Mountain RecreationArea, which unfurls along a seven-mile stretch of the Connecticut River and offers 26 miles of trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking. (If you’re looking to rev up your winter getaway, snowmobiling trails can also be found at many parks, including Mount Greylock State Reservation and Savoy Mountain State Forest.)

And finally, for those whose favorite sport involves staying put and dropping a line, winter fishing can be enjoyed on the Deerfield River all season long. Plus, many ponds and lakes around the Mohawk Trail Region — such as Lake Rohunta in the North Quabbin Woods and Lake Mattawa in Orange—provide great setups for ice fishing.

Arts & Culture

When you’ve had your fill of fresh air, take a break and step inside to enjoy all that the Mohawk Trail Region’s top-notch museums have to offer. With free admission for all visitors to TheClark through March, there’s no reason not to immerse yourself in exhibits such as “Promenades on Paper: 18th-Century French Drawings from the Bibliotheque Nationale de France” (open through March 12) and permanent collections featuring works by Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and Mary Cassatt. Continue your budget-friendly art tour at the Williams College Museum of Art: With free admission always, the museum houses 15,000 works and is currently presenting “Remixing the Hall: WCMA’s Collection in Perpetual Transition.” On display through July, the exhibit highlights new research, acquisitions, and curatorial voices drawn from the museum’s permanent collection.

At the Williams College Museum of Art, the art adventure starts even before you step inside, as Louise Bourgeois’s “Eyes” sculpture peeks out from under the snow.

Taking up 16 acres along the Hoosic River in North Adams, and made up of 26 buildings, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) is one of the biggest and best museums of its kind in the world. Showcasing painting, sculpture, music, dance, film, theater, and photography, this renovated mill complex allows for a focus on large-scale, immersive installations. Mass MoCA also hosts roughly 75 performances each year, offering everything from contemporary dance and world-music dance parties to outdoor silent films. Current exhibits to look for include “EJ Hill: Brake Run Helix” (through January 2024), featuring massive installations that incorporate sculptures, paintings, a performance stage, and a rideable sculptural creation inspired by roller coasters. There’s also the photography exhibit “Deep Water” (through summer 2023), celebrating Black musicians from the 1950s and ’60s such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Nina Simone. And don’t miss the large-scale work of “Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective”: Taking up three stories of one of Mass MoCA’s mill buildings, it encompasses 105 large-scale wall drawings that span this conceptual artist’s career. (For more of LeWitt’s work, “Structures” is a concise selection of his three-dimensional sculptures.)

The popular exhibit “Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective” adds a splash of color to a winter day spent wandering Mass MoCA in North Adams.

Move from the contemporary to the timeless with a visit to Historic Deerfield, an 18th-century colonial village surrounded by Deerfield River farmland and lined with homes dating from the 1730s to 1840s. This museum of history, art, and architecture offers events, educational programs, and hands-on learning opportunities throughout the year, including “Fun with Fireplace Cookery: Baking in the Beehive Oven” (March 18) and “Heart of the House: Exploring New England Kitchens” (April 22).

Step into a bygone era at Historic Deerfield, an outdoor museum of preserved 18th-century architecture that also hosts fascinating historical-themed exhibits and events.

As the calendar moves from late winter into spring, keep an eye out for other cultural events and performances throughout the Mohawk Trail Region, including rapper Ivy Sole (February 25) and a dance performance co-presented by Jacob’s Pillow, “Eight Elements in Eight Hours” (March 9, 10, and 11), both at Mass MoCA. The Performing Artists in Residence Concerts at The Clark features pianist Jeewon Park and cellist Edward Arron on March 5, while the Williams College Chamber Choir presents “The Little Match Girl Passion” on April 30.

Events & Festivals

This year marks the 350th anniversary of Northfield’s historic beginning (1673–2023), after centuries of settlement by Native people including the Sokoki and Western Abenaki. Cultural, historical, and educational events are scheduled all year long, including “Kids and Family Fun Day” (February 18) which hosts a birds of prey demonstration, interactive songs and singing games, horse-drawn sleigh and wagon rides, and self-guided tours of the Northfield Mountain Recreation Center’s visitors museum.

Make way for spring at the Old Deerfield Craft Spring Sampler Craft Fair (March 4-5) at the Eastern States Expo in West Springfield, where you can peruse the wares of 120 artisans, enjoy tasty specialty food, and enjoy live music.

March is Massachusetts Maple Month, which makes it prime time for seeking out the sweet amber nectar at sugarhouses and local shops throughout the Mohawk Trail Region.

For something sweeter, maple sugar season is in full swing from late February through March. Plenty of seasonal sugar shacks can be found in the region, including Williams Farm Sugarhouse in Deerfield, where you can sample maple cream cones, maple waffle sundaes, maple cotton candy, and, of course, delicious maple syrup. In Shelburne Falls, meanwhile, Davenport Maple Farm operates a seasonal restaurant serving up a bounty of baked goods to help soak up all that tasty maple syrup, including homemade bread, Finnish pancakes, traditional pancakes and more.

Still hungry? Try the HitchcockBrewing Company Beer Dinner at Champney’s Restaurant & Tavern at the Deerfield Inn. Delectable courses such as smoked brisket chili, and lamb osso buco with toasted barley risotto are paired with the perfect brews February 18 and 25.

Round out your visit to the region with a trip along the Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail. On April 29-30, eight studios open their doors and host 20 nationally recognized potters. The scenic self-guided tour is as much about the journey as the beautiful wares you’ll find to remind you of your time in this region.

Travel Resources

The Mohawk Trail Association website is your handy guide for where to eat, stay and play in the Mohawk Trail Region. Essential links for visitors this winter and beyond include:

Shopping: Fine handcrafts, aromatic candles, kitchen gadgets, homemade fudge… find all these and more in locally owned stores, galleries, and boutiques.

Dining: Whether you’re looking for a quick bite — pizza, pub grub, coffee and a scone — or a relaxed, sit-down meal, the Mohawk Trail Region has your order ready.

Lodging: From the historic 1884 Deerfield Inn to cozy B&Bs and welcoming motels, travelers can find the perfect spot to rest their heads.

Events: There’s always something going on in the Mohawk Trail Region, and these highlighted exhibits, performances, dining events, and festivals are just the beginning.

Free guides: Choose from a comprehensive Mohawk Trail Region visitors guide, or an info-packed booklet on driving tours — or both! — then just download and go.