The “high road” is one of those brilliant rhetorical turns of phrase that simultaneously depicts a useful metaphor and manipulates an audience. Politicians love to tag legislation with similar flourishes that practically guarantee passage of something like the No Child Left Behind Act, because who could possibly vote to leave a child behind?
Similarly, no one ever wants to take the low road. It’s longer, the views are unremarkable, and, metaphorically speaking, it lacks character. Anyone looking to attract hikers would never name their trail “The Low Road,” anymore than they would name it “The Mosquito Path,” although that is a more accurate description of many trails.
You build it, they will come
So although the Berkshire Natural Resources Council may not score points for originality, their name for a new long-distance hiking trail gets the job done when it comes to attracting recreational hikers to the Berkshires. The High Road was opened in 2021 with a “Field of Dreams”-style vision to build a trail network that would connect the many BNRC properties à la Vermont’s Long Trail, drawing hiking enthusiasts to the area and providing a sanctuary for permanent residents. According to former BNRC President Tad Ames, the idea developed in pieces. “It’s a project that we knew would last longer than our lifetimes, but that’s what we’re all about – conservation is perpetuity.”
The first section consists of Yokun Ridge, a section of the west central Berkshires that affords views of Mt. Greylock and eastern New York State, running south from Bousquet Mountain Ski Area to Kripalu. Along the way, the primary route passes through the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Lenox Watershed property, and several BNRC properties. There are several views along the eight-mile ridgeline, as well as several quiet ponds.
The establishment of the connecting trail through Mahanna Cobble after a three-year legal battle suggests that the realization of a completed High Road will take some time as BNRC acquires property and rights-of-way to link together each section of trail, but plans are in the works to extend the trail into south county and properties such as Threemile Hill and the Thomas and Palmer Brook reserve, just outside of Great Barrington.
A recent trip to the area helped put the trail into context. The overall distance of the High Road is not great yet, but the BNRC has managed to thread it through some pricey real estate and connect choice plots of open space, and it is that vision that is probably the most significant achievement so far. It must have been like finding a cloud in the shape of a unicorn when designers realized that somehow, all of these preserves might be connected with a trail system.
And off we go…
The starting point at Bousquet is humble, yet well-marked, with signs inviting hikers not only to explore the trails but also to enjoy the on-site cafe that is open for dinner and Sunday brunch (plus soft serve, for those in need of bribes for younger hikers). Prepare to earn the calories, though, as the trail launches up the ski slope for the better part of the first mile. Once atop Yokun Ridge, however, the trail undulates southward to Kripalu and the Stockbridge Bowl, skirting some precipitous hillsides that provide excellent views to the west of Lenox Mountain. An end-to-end hike will require leaving a car on one end, but a moment’s planning is well worth the effort.
On the day I visited, mountain laurel was about to bloom – one of the wonderful but fleeting events of the calendar. Every year, I try to time some hikes to coincide with the floral display, and this year, I was a little bit early. Like The High Road, the flowers needed a little longer to come into their own, but with some patience, the display will be spectacular. •