My “50 hikes” describes climbing Lenox Mountain on the Overbrook Trail and partially descending on the Ledges Trail before turning onto the Laurel Trail. Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary management would now like people to hike the Ledges Trail as it seems a safer way to hike up a steep trail. So those doing a loop would descend Overbrook. OK by me. I generally prefer to go up the steeper and go down more gradually.
Due to the microburst of wind on July 27, some of the trails at the 3,000-acre sanctuary are still closed. Although you do see a bit of damage when you start around Pike’s Pond and two side trails that connect to the Ledges remain closed, your route is open. While it’s disheartening to see downed trees, windfall is perfectly natural.
Massachusetts Audubon, who runs Pleasant Valley, would like to make a small donation to hike their property, so start with the office and gift shop on the gravel of West Mountain Road. To get to West Mountain, turn west on Highways 7 and 20 south of Pittsfield onto West Dugway Road and turn left at the intersection.
This three mile loop gains (and loses) about 800 feet in elevation. No dogs, please. The Pike’s Pond trail begins in a southwest direction on a boardwalk near the road. Remember that in Pleasant Valley, the trails starting from the center are in blazing blue and the returns in blazing yellow. You pass an area used for camp programs.
Most of the time what you see from additional stretches of boardwalk is not so much a pond as wetland vegetation and some of the downed trees. When the Ledges Trail heads left, the climb begins. You pass the Waycross Trail, taped closed and ditto for the Ravine Trail. Your path winds through hemlock, beech, maple and oak. In some places, especially when you are climbing ledges, well, you need your hands to help your feet. You pass a cute little waterfall that probably wouldn’t work in a summer / fall less humid than this.
On the map, the junction with the Laurel Trail is labeled âFairviews (1,850 feet),â but the views appear to have been overshadowed by the trees. The steepest part of the Ledges climb is behind you, although there are a few test sections left. You are halfway to the top. The trees get smaller as you continue through wet valleys.
Truth be told, at first the summit is disappointing, as you are greeted by a massive old fire tower converted into a bulbous communication tower – and an access road to it. Overcome it and enjoy the beautiful view of Richmond Pond and the Taconic Range from the 2,126 foot summit, complete with bench. As you move, you can broaden your fair viewpoints.
For the return, the sign that guides you to the Overbrook trail is on the fence at the base of the tower. Overbrook also has a few steep sections; none as steep as Ledges, however. The trail soon begins along the stream that gave it its name and as it descends becomes wider and smoother, arguably once a forest path. The Bluebird Trail, crossing two bog bridges, takes off to the right, leading to the fields that surround the buildings of Pleasant Valley.
This relatively short, steep hike climbs a peak with memorable views of Berkshire and descends without nonsense. The deciduous forest has considerable variety, as does the dry and wet landscape. And deep down, the civilized pleasures of Pleasant Valley await, including educational offerings and, yes, bathrooms.
Good road to you.
Lauren R. Stevens is the author of â50 Hikes in the Berkshire Hillsâ, Countryman Press / WW Norton, 2016.