Pittsfield State Forest
Pittsfield State Forest
Welcome to Pittsfield State Forest. Maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) Division of Forests and parks on behalf of the citizens of the commonwealth, the forest offers a wide range of recreational activities throughout the year, and provides lovely views of the Berkshire Hills.
Berry Pond campground offers 13 rustic campsites atop Berry Mountain. Parker Brook campground, at the mountain’s base, offers 18 sites with flush toilets. Neither location provides showers. Two group sites are available to nonprofit organizations by advance reservation.
An earthen dam at Lulu brook holds clear, cold spring water is perfect for a brisk swim. Visitors can enjoy picnicking there or at Parker Brook. Picnic sites accessible to people who use wheelchairs are located near Tranquillity Trail, a paved 3/4 mile nature trail. An accessible restroom is located there. Thirty-five miles of additional marked trails and logging roads which traverse the forest are used by hikers, equestrians, all-terrain-vehicles, Nordic skiers and snowmobiles.
During the summer, interpretive programs include guided hikes, natural and cultural history walks, slide shows, and exhibits. Fishing and nonmotorizing boating are available at Berry Pond.
Natural and Cultural History
The 9,695-acre forest is located on the ridgeline of Taconic Range. Its scenic terrain was shaped by a glacier that retreated from the North American continent about 12,000 years ago. Balance Rock, in the northeastern section of the forest, is evidence of the glacier’s power. This 165-ton limestone boulder, balanced on bedrock, is a mere three feet in diameter at its base.
North American Indians hunted throughout the Berkshire Hills about 10,000 years before the first white settlers arrived. Dutch and English fur traders frequently traveled through the area during the 17th century. In 1777, George Washington granted a portion of the land that is now Pittsfield State Forest to William Berry in return for his service at the Battle of Bennington in the Revolutionary War. Berry Pond and Berry Mountain are named after him.
During the Colonial period some of the land was cleared for sheep grazing and farming, but by the mid-1800s those enterprises had become unprofitable and had largely disappeared. As the century wore on, timber was cut to make charcoal to fuel Berkshire County’s iron and glass industries. Around 1900 the Estes Stave Factory used large quantities of oak from the forest to manufacture wooden casks.
By the latter half of the 19th century much of the forest’s southern portion was owned by Hancock and New Lebanon Shaker communities. Several cemeteries and remnants of their holy sites can still be found within the forest. This 125-acre section, called Shaker Mountain, appears in the National Register of Historic Places. the Hancock Shaker Village, now a museum, abuts the forest on its southern end. A trail from the village leads to a holy site in the forest where Shakers worshipped with music and dancing.
In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) planted large tracts of spruce and red pine on the former grazing land. They also constructed roads, dams, and buildings. The land, which had remained in private ownership, was then sold to the state. Many of the forest’s present buildings date from the CCC era, including the ski lodge with its enormous stone fireplace.
A spectacular show of pink azaleas each June delights visitors to the summit of Berry Mountain. The broad vista from the montaintop changes with the seasons. Berry Pond, at 2,150 feet is the highest natural body of Water in Massachusetts.
Pittsfield State Forest is home to many kinds of wildlife, such as wild turkey, fox, deer, weasel, and porcupines. Black bear are frequent visitors. Dozens of bird species are sighted each year, including: great blue herons; Canada geese; turkey vultures; sharp-shinned, broad winged and red-tailed hawks; great horned and barred owls; pileated woodpeckers; and ruby-throated hummingbirds.
DEM foresters use forest management techniques such a cutting, thinning and pruning to provide a continuing supply of wood products, and to enhance and protect plant and wildlife habitats.
We hop you enjoy your visit to Pittsfield State Forest and that you return frequently. DEM’s rules exist for the protection of the environment and to ensure the safety of visitors. Please observe these rules closely for your own enjoyment and the enjoyment of others.
The day-use area closes at 8 p.m. Quiet time in campgrounds begins at 10 p.m. Two cars, two tents and five people are allowed per campsite. Dogs must be restrained and attended at all times. Speed limit is 15 miles per hour on all forest roads.
A complete list of rules and regulations for Pittsfield State Forest is available from forest staff.
Pittsfield State Forest
Cascade Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201
413.442.8992 and 413.442.8928 (TDD)