Long a leafy playground for urban dwellers seeking a rural escape from Boston and New York, the Berkshires remain a place of unspoiled natural beauty and artistic inspiration. Writers Herman Melville and Edith Wharton were drawn to its secluded hills and lakes, a pastoral landscape tucked into two mountain ranges -- the Taconic and Hoosac -- in western Massachusetts. It's a popular warm-weather destination, but outdoorsy types can find plenty to do here year-round. The cultural offerings are first-rate, from Tanglewood's alfresco musical concerts to the Williamstown Theatre festivals.
Winter draws skiers to the slopes of the Catamount Ski Area, which contains the Catapult, the steepest run in the Berkshires. Hike part of the Appalachian Trail at the Mount Greylock State Reservation; it also contains the highest peak in the state, at 3,491 feet. Jiminy Peak offers year-round activity, with 28 trails for skiing and tennis, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Bash Bish Falls State Park makes for a rewarding day of hiking, birding and fishing.
Many folks come to the Berkshires to do as little as possible. For a real retreat, sans phone or Internet access, head to the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Workshops, wellness and yoga classes and nutrition counseling provide a total mind-body experience. Spend a leisurely afternoon admiring the more than 3,000 species of flora and fauna at the Berkshire Botanical Garden.
Where to Stay
Lodging in the Berkshires can be modestly charming -- at farmhouses where breakfast goes from farm to table, and rooms look out on Mount Greylock. Or downright indulgent -- at historic country mansions where guests have every creature comfort possible. Campgrounds in Mount Greylock and Mount Washington keep you close to nature.