New stretch of the Berlin Pass Trail completed

Can you remember a trip up the Berlin Pass Trail that didn’t result in wet feet or a precarious dance around puddles or running water? It’s been awhile — definitely years, if not longer.

Yesterday morning, as the fog burned from the valley, a trail crew from the Student Conservation Association (SCA) put the finishing touches on the brand-new reroute of the Berlin Pass Trail’s lower section. What was once a slog through standing and running water is now a scenic bypass of the trail’s first 1000-feet.

The small (but mighty) four-person crew worked rain or shine for two 10-day stints during the months of September and October. With pick-mattocks, rigging, and rock bars, they crafted what is now one of the most sustainable sections of trail in Williamstown. It is sited and bench-cut to shed water, and the rock staircases allow hikers to gain elevation without risking erosion.

The trail leaves the parking lot at the end of Berlin Road in Williamstown and crosses two short boardwalks before entering the forest. The boardwalks were built in August by a group of Williamstown Rural Lands volunteers as part of our summer series of trail stewardship workdays, and they lead directly to 10 newly placed stepping stones. From there, a carefully crafted retaining wall shores up the slope as the trail ducks into the woods and up the first of five(!) rock staircases. The path follows a graceful climbing turn through a small group of paper birch trees before ascending gently uphill. A few short staircases make the grade, and before you know it you’re at the crowning achievement: a 10-stone stairway that brings you back onto the original Berlin Pass Trail. More importantly, you’ve been deposited onto the trail well above the mud and water that had become the hallmark of this classic Williamstown trail.

The Berlin Pass Trail is the keystone of the Berlin Mountain Recreation Area’s (BMRA) trail network, and it is also the area’s most forgiving approach to the Berlin Mountain summit. This project, specifically, completes a years-long phase of trail upgrades in the BMRA and was made possible by a MassTrails grant awarded to Williamstown Rural Lands in 2020.

The BMRA was created in 2019 when landowners along Berlin Road in Williamstown partnered to manage the area cooperatively for year-round, multi-use passive recreation. Williamstown Rural Lands led the way as the Town of Williamstown, Williams College, and Berkshire Natural Resources Council joined together behind this common goal.

October is one of the best months to get out and about Williamstown hills. If you’re up for it, head to the end of Berlin Road to check out the handiwork! We promise: your boots will stay dry.

Thank you to the SCA, our trail stewardship workday volunteers, and MassTrails!

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