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Visitors to the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail will find the full splendor of the scenic Berkshires along this nearly 12-mile-long paved trail. The Ashuwillticook (ash-oo-will-ti-cook) follows MA 8 through the Hoosic River valley between Lanesborough and Adams while providing views of mountains, lakes, and rivers, as well as turning leaves in autumn.
The trail owes its existence to the Pittsfield and North Adams Railroad, which sought to extend the Housatonic Railroad from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Rutland, Vermont, in the 1840s. The Western Railroad acquired the line before its completion, and it was later operated by the Boston & Albany Railroad, the New York Central, and finally the Boston and Maine Railroad. The corridor became disused in 1990, and local residents gained support for a multiuse trail. It opened in three phases in 2001, 2004, and 2017.
The route starts at a trailhead in Lanesborough on the outskirts of Pittsfield, a manufacturing center of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Consider packing a picnic lunch, so you can relax and see the sights along the trail. Although there are food stops, most are on the wrong side of a busy state highway.
The trail rolls into the woods between the tranquil Hoosic River and MA 8, which is screened from the path by trees. You’ll pass Berkshire Pond in the first mile before arriving at the 418-acre Cheshire Reservoir, created in the 1860s to provide power for area textile mills. Along its 2.4-mile trailside shoreline, you might see anglers casting for bass, northern pike, and yellow perch. Keep your eyes open for ospreys and herons, as well as turtles sunning themselves on logs. You’ll have an unobstructed view of Mount Greylock, the highest point in the state, across the lake.
You can find snacks and refreshments in Cheshire at the north end of the reservoir; an old Boston & Albany Railroad station houses a business next to the trail. The remaining 4 miles to the edge of Adams passes wood lots and farms.
The area’s manufacturing history unfolds as you arrive in Adams and see old mill buildings on the far shore of the Hoosic River. The route parallels the town’s restored main street that boasts quaint stores and eateries. Archways and banners throughout Adams sport a black bear riding a bicycle, a nod to both the trail and the resident black bear population. The old passenger station still stands at 10 Pleasant Street, and parking is available at the visitor center (3 Hoosac Street).
A trail segment that opened in 2017 rolls north 1.1 miles to Lime Street in the vicinity of a lime mining and production facility that dates to the 1840s. Future extensions north to North Adams and south into Pittsfield are in the planning stage.
To reach the Lanesborough trailhead from I-90, take Exit 2 to the toll plaza and bear right onto US 20/Housatonic St. toward Pittsfield. In 0.7 mile turn right onto Main St. Go 0.4 mile, and turn slightly left to remain on US 20 W. Go 10.2 miles and turn right in Pittsfield onto MA 9/East St. toward Dalton/Northampton. Go 1.4 miles and continue straight onto Merrill Road, and then go 1.8 miles and bear left onto MA 8/Cheshire Road. Go 1.5 miles and turn left onto US 7/MA 8 Connector Road. Parking is on the left and the right after the turn.
To reach the Adams trailhead, follow the directions above to MA 8/Cheshire Road. Go 12.1 miles north on MA 8/Cheshire Road, and turn left onto Center St./Park St. In 0.3 mile, turn right onto Hoosac St., and then take an immediate right onto Depot St.
To reach the Adams trailhead from the intersection of MA 2 and MA 8 in North Adams, head south on MA 8/State St. Go 5.5 miles and turn left onto Hoosac St. Take an immediate right onto Depot St. Parking is on the left. Cross Hoosac St. and continue 1.2 miles north to reach the endpoint on Lime St.