With school out and vacations abounding, summer is arguably the best season to spend time outdoors. With August also being National Family Fun Month, it’s only appropriate that we round up some of the best places to spend time outdoors with your family to end summer the right way. From state parks to outdoor adventures and museums, we’ve got you covered.
Nature / Hiking
Mount Everett State Reservation
143 East St, Mt Washington, MA.
Mount Everett offers a variety of suggested paths, including introductory hikes, which are typically short and appropriate for hikers of all ages, and signature hikes, which are typically longer and more difficult but highlight some of the best views and features of the park.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation recommends the Guilder Pond Loop Trailhead, which clocks in at 1.0 to 1.7 miles round-trip and is of moderate difficulty, as an introductory hike. Guilder Pond is the second highest pond in Massachusetts and features blooming azalea in the spring and gorgeous foliage in the fall. The Massachusetts DCR also recommends two signature hikes: the Race Brook Falls Trail and the Mt. Everett, Mt. Race, and Sage’s Ravine Trail. The Race Brook Falls Trailhead is 4.0 to 4.8 miles round-trip, is rated as difficult, and is three-tiered. The Mt. Everett, Mt. Race, and Sage’s Ravine trail is 7.0 miles one-way and is rated as difficult.
The Mt. Everett/Mt. Race trail has a five-star rating on AllTrails, with many users calling the falls “impressive,” “absolutely gorgeous from start to finish,” and “like an enchanted forest.” Users noted that there aren’t as many views from the summit: the best view is during the elevation climb.
Mohawk Mountain State Park
79 Sharon-Goshen Turnpike, West Cornwall, CT. (860) 424-3200.
Mohawk Mountain State Park encompasses over 4,000 acres in the southern Berkshires and is used for hiking, picnicking, and various winter sports including cross-country skiing. While Mohawk Mountain can be accessed by car and a short hike, it has one main longer hiking trail – Mohawk Mountain and the Pinnacle via Mohawk Pond – that is 4.0 miles and rated as moderately challenging. The trail has an overall rating of 4.3 stars on AllTrails, with many users describing it as “peaceful” and “beautiful.”
An additional sight to see at Mohawk Mountain is the Black Spruce Bog, which is located near the forest headquarters. Connecticut’s official website states that, “the area was probably formed as a ‘sink hole’ after the last glacial period, by the melting of a large block of ice that left a depression about 40 feet deep, which filled with water.” The bog has been recognized as an unusual and unique environmental sight, partly due to the fact that the specimens of black spruce and larch trees have achieved “a stature rarely found in the state.”
Taconic State Park
253 NY-344, Copake Falls, NY.
Taconic State Park encompasses an area of more than 5,000 acres and spans between Dutchess and Columbia Counties in New York. The park offers a variety of activities, including biking, swimming, fishing, camping, and of course, hiking.
Taconic State Park boasts many trails of varying levels of difficulty. Start off easy with the Bash Bish Falls trail, which is only 1.5 miles and provides views of the highest waterfall in the state of Massachusetts.
For moderately challenging options, consider the Sunset Rock Trail, which is a 3.9 mile loop, or the Quarry Hill Trail, which is a 1.3 mile trail that is steep and more densely wooded.
Finally, for a challenging option, head over to the Brace Mountain Trail, which clocks in at 3.6 miles and is very steep and rocky.
Catamount Aerial Adventure Park
17 Catamount Rd, South Egremont, MA. (413) 528-1262.
The Catamount Aerial Adventure Park is one of the largest aerial parks in New England and features nine courses of varying difficulty. The obstacle courses includes bridges, ladders, and ziplines, and each ticket allows for three hours of climbing.
Catamount also offers a Zip Tour, a two-hour experience that includes three dual ziplines and a chairlift ride up the mountain. The Catamount website states, “Our unique braking system allows you to control your speed – race each other down our dual spans at speeds of up to 55+ mph, or take it nice and slow while soaking in the magnificent views of the Berkshires and the Hudson Valley.” The final portion of the tour is the longest zipline span in America at just over one mile long. It is appropriately called the “Cata-monster.”
Norrie Point Paddlesport Center
Norrie State Park, Staatsburgh, NY. (845) 246-2187.
Norrie Point Paddlesport Center offers a three-hour kayak tour of the Hudson River that is perfect for first-timers. The Norrie Short Tour is designed for people with limited to no paddling experience, as well as for those who are more experienced who are just looking for a short day on the water. So long as the weather is good, the tour typically encompasses Black Creek, Esopus Island, and Mills Mansion and also goes past the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club and Bard Rock at Vanderbilt Mansion and to the Payne Mansion Boat House.
The White Memorial Conservation Center
80 Whitehall Rd, Litchfield, CT.
White Memorial is the largest wildlife refuge in Connecticut. The refuge features birds and other wildlife in a variety of diverse habitats.
The conservation center also has a nature museum, which provides a deeper look into the wildlife and biodiversity in the refuge. The museum features hand-painted and photographic murals, dioramas, live animals, a honeybee hive, a digital microscope, and interesting exhibits such as “The Art of Taxidermy.” The museum also has an indoor and outdoor scavenger hunt – something that is sure to keep the kids busy!
The Trevor Zoo
282 Millbrook School Road, Millbrook, NY. (845) 677-3704.
The Trevor Zoo at the Millbrook School encompasses more than six acres, houses more than 170 exotic and indigenous animals, and is home to 11 endangered species. The zoo features animals from around the world, including lemurs, Japanese sika deer, red-necked wallabies, and chinchillas. Additionally, the Trevor Zoo hosts a variety of animals native to North America including bobcats, arctic foxes, turkey vultures, and river otters.
The Berkshire Botanical Garden
5 West Stockbridge Rd. Stockbridge, MA. (413) 298-3926.
The Berkshire Botanical Garden is open April through October and spread across 24 acres in Stockbridge, MA. There are paths throughout the majority of the garden, making it easy to walk through and also mostly wheelchair friendly. Some of the garden areas are only accessible by stone steps, but the areas are viewable from multiple different points, so you don’t have to tackle the stairs if you don’t want to. Guided tours are scheduled daily from June to September. Additionally, the Anna and Frederick Henry Leonhardt Galleries offer seasonal art exhibitions from regional artists as well as world-renowned artists. Entrance to the gallery is free with garden admission. •