The 278-acre nature reservation called Bartholomew's Cobble, on Route 7A (tel. 413/229-8600; www.thetrustees.org), lies beside an oxbow bend in the Housatonic River. A "cobble," by local definition, is a "scenic, rocky eminence rising from the valley floor." These 6 miles of trails cross pastures, penetrate forests, and provide vistas of the river valley from the area's high point, Hurlburt's Hill. Picnicking is permitted. Birders should take binoculars. Trails are open from sunrise to sunset, and the small natural-history museum is open daily from 9am to 4:30pm. Requested donations are $5 for adults and $3 for children 6 to 12.
Canoe tours on the Housatonic have naturalist guides to seek out wildlife along the river. The trips take 3 hours, departing from the visitor center. Fees are $30 for adults, $15 for children 10 to 16 years. Reservations are required; call the number above. To get here, follow the directions for the Colonel Ashley House, except at the end of Rannapo Road, bear left on Weatogue Road.
Hiking -- Scenic Bash-Bish Falls State Park, on Route 23 (tel. 413/528-0330; www.mass.gov), makes a rewarding outing for a day of hiking, birding, and fishing (no picnicking, though). To get here, drive west on Route 23 from town, turning south on Route 41, and immediately right on Mount Washington Road. Watch for signs directing the way to Mount Washington State Forest and Bash-Bish Falls. After 8 miles, a sign indicates a right turn toward the falls; look for it opposite a church with an unusual steeple. The road begins to follow the course of a mountain stream, going downhill. In about 3 miles is a large parking place next to a craggy promontory.
The sign also points off to a trail down to the falls, which should be negotiated only by reasonably fit adults. First, mount the promontory for a splendid view across the plains of the Hudson Valley to the pale-blue ridgeline of the Catskill Mountains. The falls can be heard, but not yet seen, down to the left. If this trail seems too steep, continue driving down the road to another parking area, on the left. From here, a gentler trail, a little over a mile long, leads to the falls. The falls themselves are quite impressive, crashing down from more than 80 feet. The park is open from dawn to dusk. It has 15 campsites, but there are no services inside the park and alcoholic beverages aren't permitted.
Skiing -- At the western edge of the township, touching the New York border, is the Catamount Ski Area, on Route 23 (tel. 413/528-1262; www.catamountski.com). Only about 2 hours from Manhattan, it is understandably popular with New Yorkers. It has over 30 trails, including the daunting Catapult (the steepest run in the Berkshires) and seven chairlifts, as well as a 400-foot half-pipe for snowboarders. Night skiing and rentals are available. On weekends, full-day lift tickets cost $52 for adults, $42 for seniors and children 7 to 13, and $22 for children 6 and under.
The Egremont Country Club, on Route 23 (tel. 413/528-4222; www.egremontcountryclub.com), is open to the public. Its facilities include a scenic 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, and an Olympic-size pool. Greens fees are $45 on weekends and $25 on weekdays for visitors; tee times required.
Butternut Basin, on Route 23, 2 miles east of town (tel. 413/528-2000, or 800/438-7669 for snow conditions; www.butternutbasin.com), is known for its strong family ski programs. There's day care for kids ages 2 1/2 to 6, from December 23 until the end of the season, and the Mountaineer program for children 4 to 12 offers packages that include lunch, instruction, and lift tickets for $80 per day. Six double and quad chairlifts provide access to 22 trails. There are also 5 miles of cross-country trails. On weekends, full-day lift tickets cost $50 for adults, $40 for seniors and children 7 to 13, and $15 for children 6 and under.
A little over 4 miles north of town, west of Route 7, is Monument Mountain, with two trails to the summit. The easier route is the Indian Monument Trail, about an hour's hike to the top; the more difficult one, the Hickey Trail, isn't much longer but takes the steep way up. The summit, called Squaw Peak, offers splendid views.
October Mountain State Forest (tel. 413/243-1778) offers 50 campsites (with showers) and more than 16,000 acres for hiking, canoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. To get here, drive northwest on Route 20 into town, turn right on Center Street, and follow the signs.
Lenox & Tanglewood
Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, 472 West Mountain Rd. (tel. 413/637-0320; www.massaudubon.org), has a small museum and 7 miles of hiking and snowshoeing trails crossing its 1,300 acres. Beaver lodges and dams can be glimpsed from a distance, and waterfowl and other birds are found in abundance -- bring binoculars. Hours for the nature center are Tuesday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 4pm; admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children 3 to 15. Drive north about 6 1/2 miles on routes 7 and 20 and turn left on West Dugway Road.
More extensive trails can be found at Beartown State Forest, 69 Blue Hill Rd., in nearby Monterey (tel. 413/528-0904; www.mass.gov). The Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia, connects here with a loop trail around a small pond with a nice swimming area. Take Route 7 south for 3 1/2 miles, then turn left onto West Road. After 2 1/2 miles, turn left at the T intersection onto Route 102 east. Turn right over the bridge onto Meadow Street, then turn right onto Pine Street and follow the signs.
Plaine's Bike, Ski & Snowboard, 55 W. Housatonic St., at Center Street (tel. 413/499-0294; www.plaines.com), rents bikes and carries equipment for all the sports its name suggests. It's on Route 20, west of downtown.
Pittsfield State Forest, entered on Cascade Street (tel. 413/442-8992; www.mass.gov), is a little over 3 miles west of the center of town. It includes 65 acres of wild azalea fields that explode in pink blossoms in June. There's also camping, boating, fishing, hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing here. Open daily from 8am to 8pm. Admission is $5 per car from early May to mid-Oct.
Boating -- Onota Boat Livery, 463 Pecks Rd. (tel. 413/442-1724), rents canoes and motorboats on Onota Lake, conveniently located at the western edge of the city.
Skiing -- South of the city center, off Route 7 near the Pittsfield city limits, is the Bousquet Ski Area, Dan Fox Drive (tel. 413/442-8316 business office, 413/442-2436 snow phone; www.bousquets.com). Bousquet (pronounced Bos-kay) has 22 trails, with a vertical drop of 750 feet, two double lifts, and two rope tows. Night skiing is available Monday through Saturday. Rentals and lessons are offered. Lift tickets cost $20 to $37. Snow tubing, weekends and holidays only, costs $18.
Proceeding north on Route 7, watch for the turn west on Brodie Mountain Road and continue 2 miles to Jiminy Peak, Hancock (tel. 413/738-5500, or 413/738-7325 for ski reports; www.jiminypeak.com). This expanding resort aspires to four-season activity, so skiing on 28 trails (18 open at night) with seven lifts is supplemented the rest of the year by horseback riding, trapshooting, fishing in a stocked pond, a rock-climbing wall, six tennis courts, mountain biking, pools, and golf at the nearby Waubeeka Springs course. For people staying overnight, lift tickets are included in the room rates. For day-trippers, 4-hour tickets cost adults $48 during the week, $55 on weekends; $38 and $49 for ages 7 to 19; $38 and $39 for seniors; and $17 children under 7.
Mount Greylock State Reservation contains the highest peak (3,491 ft.) in Massachusetts, as well as a section of the Appalachian Trail. A long, narrow, bumpy road allows cars almost to the summit, where the War Memorial Tower affords vistas of the Taconic and Hoosac ranges, far into Vermont and New York (parking $20). The ride down is very popular with mountain bikers. The park's roads and Bascom Lodge are closed for repairs to infrastructure through 2008, so the details below are tentative. Call the number below or check the website for updates.
Ordinarily, the visitor center is open mid-May to mid-October daily from 9am to 5pm, and mid-October to mid-May weekends and holidays from 8am to 4pm. Black bear and deer are often sighted. Trails radiate from the parking lot near Bascom Lodge, North Main Street off Route 7 in Lanesboro (tel. 413/743-1591 or 413/443-0011; www.mass.gov), a grandly rustic creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the New Deal 1930s. Simple dormitory beds and four private rooms accommodating a total of 32 guests are available for rent from mid-May to mid-October. Family-style dinners are available by reservation.