Fall color spreads across tranquil valley communities in this summit view from the Mount Greylock State Reservation, where hiking routes include an 11.5-mile segment of the Appalachian Trail.Photo Credit : Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism
Sponsored by the Mohawk Trail Association
No matter their reason for wanting to shake off everyday life and experience something new, travelers tend to fall into two main categories: planners and explorers. The first build their itinerary around bucket-list events and fleeting seasonal activities; the second rely on their destination’s longstanding diversity of things to do and see. Luckily for those who set their sights on the Mohawk Trail Region, there’s plenty to inspire any flavor of getaway to this northwest Massachusetts enclave, which spreads across the length of one of the country’s most famous scenic byways.
Fall is an especially magical time to wander this region’s rolling landscape: Shaped by the Connecticut River Valley and the Berkshire Hills, and threaded by the sparkling ribbon of the Deerfield River, it provides the ideal stage for nature’s color show to play out on. Along the way, there are 30-plus towns where history and rural coziness sit side by side with world-class museums, thrilling outdoor adventures, and a full spectrum of dining, lodging, and shopping opportunities.
So whether you like to hit the highlights or just see where your nose leads you — or maybe a little of both — read on for a sampling of the unforgettable travel memories that await you this fall in the Mohawk Trail Region.
FOLIAGE HIGHLIGHTS: To immerse yourself in the reds and golds of foliage season, now is the time, with color hitting its October peak across the hills and through the valleys of the Mohawk Trail Region. One of the most spectacular foliage vistas can be claimed by leaf peepers traveling the 63-mile stretch of Route 2 known as the Mohawk Trail Scenic Byway, which traces an ancient Native American footpath between the Connecticut and Hudson River valleys. At the Hairpin Turn in Clarksburg, the route rises sharply to the Western Summit (called Spirit Mountain by indigenous peoples) and looks out across northwestern Massachusetts into Vermont — a view that takes in Mount Greylock, Mount Prospect, and Mount Williams.
Beyond the Mohawk Trail itself, the region boasts several other scenic drives worthy of a spot on your list, from a cruise past the magnificent Quabbin Reservoir to a North Adams–Berkshire loop that’s punctuated by a trip up Mount Greylock, the state’s highest peak — and with Greylock’s auto road closing Oct. 29, that’s one you definitely don’t want to wait on.
And remember: As the leaves begin to fade, so do some don’t-miss fall experiences you can find along the way, like sampling the region’s harvest bounty at outdoor farmers markets or loading up bags of juicy pick-your-own apples at Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, Apex Orchards in Shelburne Falls, and Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, to name a few.
OUTDOOR FUN: October is also when some of the Mohawk Trail Region’s signature outdoor experiences wind up their season. Although whitewater rafting on the Deerfield River will have ended by Oct. 8, it’s still worth heading to Charlemont, where the three main rafting companies operate and which serves as the unofficial adventure capital of the region. After paying a visit to the town’s landmark “Hail to the Sunrise” statue, depicting a Mohawk Indian with his arms raised to greet the Great Spirit, you can get in on some zipline action at Zoar Outdoor (last day Oct. 29) or Berkshire East Mountain Resort (last day Nov. 5), both of which deliver high-speed, high-flying thrills amid the fall foliage. Prefer to get your adrenaline rush on two wheels? There’s Berkshire East’s Thunder Mountain Bike Park, a lift-served gravity downhill bike park considered to be one of the best in New England (last day Nov. 12).
For outdoorsy types, there may be no better way to end a day of fun than toasting s’mores over the campfire. Convenience and amenities are the order of the day at the family-owned Lamb City Campground in Phillipston (closes mid-October) and Country Aire Campground in Shelburne Falls (closes end of October). For a more rugged experience, Savoy Mountain State Forest has seasonal camping till Oct. 14.
ARTS & CULTURE FINALES: One of the splashiest exhibitions to hit the Mohawk Trail Region lately is “Edvard Munch: Trembling Earth”at the Clark Art Institute, which features more than 70 works by the Norwegian artist who is best known for his painting titled The Scream. If you can’t make it to Williamstown before the Munch show ends Oct. 15, there’s a bit more time to catch two other fascinating exhibits: “Printed Renaissance” (Oct. 22) and “Humane Ecology: Eight Positions” (Oct. 29).
An exhibit of a different sort is coming to a close — at least temporarily — in Shelburne Falls at the end of October. That’s when the horticultural masterpiece known as the Bridge of Flowers will shut down for repairs and won’t open again until 2025. So start planning your farewell stroll along this historic trolley bridge turned garden, while there’s still time to stop and smell the flowers.
LATE-FALL EVENTS: No matter the season, even the most spontaneous traveler will find something on the Mohawk Trail Region calendar to coincide with their visit. Join in a celebration of the area’s cider-making heritage at Franklin County CiderDays (Nov. 4–5), a weekend filled with hard-cider tastings and workshops, or step inside the world of local artisans during the 20th annual Crafts of Colrain Open Studio Tour (Nov. 11–12), which spans woodworking, pottery, photography, and more. Looking to kick-start your Christmas shopping? Check out the Old Deerfield Holiday Sampler Craft Fair (Nov. 18–19), where you can browse the work of 200-plus juried crafters, designers, and artists and enjoy free family craft activities — there’s even a visit by Santa.
For an ever-changing lineup of exhibits, concerts, and performances, look to the region’s array of top-notch museums. Since admission is always free at the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, you can drop in on a whim to peruse one of the best university art collections in the country, or you can time your visit around one of the myriad cultural happenings on campus, such as the Fall Concert by the Williams concert and chamber choirs on Nov. 17. Also in Williamstown, the Clark Art Institute welcomes off-season visitors with free admission from January through March (as well as on the first Sundays of the month October–December and April–May). The Clark keeps things lively with book talks, film screenings, and concerts including a classical-focused performance on Nov. 5, “The Beethoven Effect Featuring the JAK Duo with Daniel Temkin.”
Meanwhile, theMassachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) lures culture hounds to its sprawling 16-acre campus in North Adams with cutting-edge art shows and concerts; be sure to drop into jazz virtuoso Jason Moran’s exhibit “Black Stars: Writing in the Dark.” And last but not least, Historic Deerfield hosts an engaging peek into the artisanship of yesteryear with “Garden of Hearts: Madeline Yale Wynne and Deerfield’s Arts and Crafts Movement,” which revolves around an ornate oak bride’s chest that Wynne designed and created in 1903.
BIKING AND HIKING SPOTS: The Mohawk Trail Region is an outdoor playground all year long, but if you prefer making tracks before the snow flies, late fall is custom-tailored for getting outside and exploring. The options for bikers range from short and sweet — like the 12.7-mile Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, an old railroad track converted into a 10-foot-wide paved trail that runs a scenic course from Cheshire to Adams — to all-day and multiday touring, which can be enjoyed along the Franklin County Bikeway, a 240-mile network of road and off-road trails. The opportunities for hiking are equally expansive, starting with Mount Greylock State Reservation, whose namesake mountain stands tall among 12,500 protected acres and 70 miles of trails. More beginner-friendly is Mount Sugarloaf Reservation, whose 1.4-mile South Sugarloaf Trail leads to breathtaking views of the Connecticut River, the Pioneer Valley, and the Pelham and Berkshire Hills. The adventures continue in Mohawk Trail State Forest (60-plus miles of trails); Savoy Mountain State Forest (50-plus miles of trails, plus the 80-foot Tannery Falls); and Monroe State Forest (11 miles of trails).
LODGING, DINING & SHOPPING: The only thing that makes a Mohawk Trail Region getaway even sweeter? The chance to discover off-season lodging deals, of course. Choose from country retreats (including the venerable 1884 Deerfield Inn), cozy motels and B&Bs, and refined boutique hotels such as The Porches Inn at Mass MoCA and, in Shelburne Falls, the recently debuted Shelburne Springs, a renovated 1914 mansion offering six suites and a fully equipped two-bedroom apartment.
Just as there’s lodging for every taste, there’s year-round dining for every palate, from pizza and pub grub to farm-to-table gourmet meals. One notable update on the local restaurant scene: the reopening of The Farm Table, a beloved Bernardston landmark that struggled during the pandemic but came back strong in 2023 under the ownership of Turner Falls native Ashley Evans.
And no visit is complete without a memento (or bona fide treasure) to take back home from one of the unique shops and boutiques that are dotted across the region. Just for starters, you can load up on scented tapers, votives, and more at Yankee Candle; browse works by more than 100 local artists at Salmon Falls Gallery; and enjoy a retro shopping experience at Native Views, a 1950s-era roadside souvenir shop that also encompasses Native American crafts and products.
For more inspiration on where to stay, where to eat, and places to shop, visit the Mohawk Trail Association website. There, you can also download the 2023 Official Visitors Guide, as well as an info-packed booklet on the region’s top driving tours.