Recognized as a National Heritage Area, the Upper Housatonic Valley is a collection of communities connected by rolling hills and the meandering Housatonic River.
The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area stretches from Kent, Connecticut to Lanesborough, Massachusetts, covering almost 1,000 square miles of the upper Housatonic River watershed. The Taconic range borders the area on the west, while the east is bounded by the Berkshire Plateau.
Every year for the last 12 years, the heritage organizations of the Upper Housatonic River Valley area and the National Park Service and the Berkshire Visitors Bureau have organized a ‘Walks Program’. The walks range from short jaunts to longer hikes and allow visitors to explore the region with historians, naturalists and environmentalists.
The walks take place over two weekends each fall, with this year’s events happening on September 21 and 22 and October 5 and 6. While historians take visitors to archeological sites and monuments, outdoor recreational organizations invite the public to explore the region’s most interesting and beautiful areas along the Housatonic River.
There are nature and birding walks, historic tours of quaint towns and investigations at industrial site ruin to participate in, as well as opportunities to can canoe or kayak down the Housatonic River.
During these weekends, participating cultural and historical venues invite visitors to see the magic that goes on behind the scenes, as well as to enjoy estate garden tours that showcase the famous autumn foliage that paints the New England region with blazing colours.
The walks and hikes vary each year. Here are some of this year’s highlights:
- Hikes through old growth forests, Tamarack Hollow boreal forest and the Great Mountain Forest;
- The Old Mill Trail along the Housatonic River, the Basin Pond Trail and other walks along the river and waterways;
- Tours of the Berkshire Botanical Gardens, Naumkeag Gardens and the Herbert Arboretum;
- Explorations of the grounds of Elm Court Estate, Ventfort Hall and Bidwell House Museum;
- Visits to the Historic Colonial Theatre and Pittsfield Park Square;
- Hawk watching, bird watching and visits to wildlife sanctuaries and a native farm.
Many other walks exploring the towns, hamlets and villages of the area are scheduled and visitors will find more than enough events to fill both weekends. Some walks are limited in size and require registration to participate.