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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Hiking and Camping at Mount Greylock - Massachusetts High Point

When it comes to hiking trails and travel destinations, I typically live by the saying "one and done".   There are so many places to visit, so many trails I want to trek, so many different foods I want to eat and sights I want to see that I often have a hard time going back to the same place twice.  But sometimes I make exceptions and so far, I am glad I have.  When I set aside my need for "new", I am constantly reminded how different a place or hike can be in different seasons with different people.  And so, cue my second time to hike Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts.

Start of the trail off Hopper Road 
If you remember from my last post on hiking Connecticut's high point, this weekend was planned around Chris' High Point Tour and thereby "forcing" me to redo one of my hikes.  The first time I hiked Mount Greylock on my New England Summit Tour, it was September of 2016.  It was Thatcher, Olive and I on one of those hot and hazy New England summer days. We did the "Greylock in the Round" 13-mile loop to the summit where we finally reached the highest point, we had zero views thanks to some clouds and fog that had rolled in.  On top of that, the memorial tower was under construction so all we really saw was a lot of staging, a half-completed memorial, and a thick set of fog in all directions. On the plus side, the Bascom Lodge at the summit was open and we were able to see the lodging options and grab a snack and rest our feet before continuing on our hike.  So when Chris asked about hiking Greylock, I happily agreed to abandon one and done, hoping I could actually see what the view is from the top of Massachusetts.

First time hiking Greylock - September 2016

This was one of those times when saying "yes" truly paid off.  When I hiked this trail in late April, it was a completely different experience. Different trail, different company, a chance to camp, no one around, snow-covered trails, completed memorial, and views in every direction.  Same summit, and some of the same trails, but entirely new experience. 

Views walking down the road 2019 

At the trailhead off Hopper Road 

The dogs on the trail 

This trip was also a bit different as instead of a 13-mile day hike, we turned this into a whole hiking weekend and overnight adventure.  Saturday morning, we left the Connecticut shoreline behind and drove to the Connecticut/Massachusetts border to hike Connecticut's highest point, the South Slope of Mount Frissel.  After that hike, we headed north and grabbed dinner in Massachusetts by the trailhead at Mount Greylock. We stopped for an early dinner of nachos, egg rolls and a burger at the 6 House Pub off Route 7 which had an awesome local vibe and excellent food (10/10 recommend).  With bellies full and gear almost dry, we drove over to the trailhead off Hopper Road where we loaded up our overnight packs and made the 2.5-mile (uphill) trek to Sperry Campground where we would spend the night before heading to the summit.  

Start of the trail off Hopper Road 

Sperry Road Campground Campsite

The only reason I knew this beautiful little campground tucked away in the woods existed was because of this first hike in 2016, "Greylock in the Round".  I had passed the campground and noticed that it was A) spacious and beautiful, tucked in the woods with big campsites spread apart, each with their own bear box, table and fire ring and B) it was only accessible by backpacking (no car access and buzzing generators here).  I wanted to spend a night at this campground as it was a perfect trek for a beginner backpacker.  Going in late April, I knew it would be a quiet night as it was pre-season and temperatures would dip to the mid-thirties overnight. 

Sperry Campground is a "hike-in only" campground but it's still equipped with a little ranger station, potable water, group tent sites, individual sites with picnic tables fire rings and bear boxes, streams to filter water, toilets and group areas.  You have to carry your stuff into the woods but don't be fooled, you have all the amenities you need.  The campground is open for the season from May 15 to November 13.  Before then, the campground is still available for use on a first come first serve basis but the ranger station is closed and the firewood and potable water pump are not available.  In season (after May 14) you will have to make a reservation online here.  Due to the pre-season hiking and chilly temperatures, only the group site and one other site was taken, leaving us with a quiet lovely night 2.5 miles from our car and another 2 miles from the summit. 

War Memorial 

All planning aside, Saturday evening we loaded up our packs for our 2.5-mile (uphill/constant grade) hike in from the Hopper Road Trailhead along the Hopper Trail to the Sperry Camp.  It is early in the hiking season for me and while 2.5-miles is an easy hike along a flat trail but we were feeling the constant incline, tired legs from hiking in Connecticut earlier that day, and heaviness of nachos for dinner. 

We picked out one of the many open campsites and set up our tents before doing a quick lap of the campground and seeking refuge in our (sort of) warm tents.   In the morning, we woke to snow and left our heavy packs at our tent sites bear box for our hike to the summit.  Snow had fallen overnight at the higher elevations and we had the trail to ourselves as we crossed snow-covered bridges and icy spots on the trail.  

We were happy to see we had the summit to ourselves and we spent some time taking photos, checking out the memorial tower, the rewarding views of Massachusetts, and the quaint lodge.  After a quick snack, we decided to follow the auto road down instead of the icy trail to Sperry Road and back to camp.  With our overnight bags back on our backs, we traced our steps the 2.5 miles back to where we left the car Saturday evening.  If you keep scrolling you can get all the hiking details that you are surely looking for, but the takehome?  

This was the perfect way to start of the "backpacking season".  
A short hike with new packs and truth be told my second real "backpacking" adventure.  My first backpacking endeavor entailed two days and roughly 25 miles with some good elevation gain and heavvvvvy packs.  What I am trying to say is I still have a lot to learn in the sport that involves putting everything you need for the night on your back and hiking into the woods.  This was a good short learning experience.  I am quickly learning I only need about half of the items I drag up the mountain and maybe the heavy beers should stay behind. 

End of the AT by the war memorial 
Following the AT North 

Abandoned hut along the AT  

We had a picture perfect weekend, swapping rain for snow and dodging the storm on Sunday altogether.  After two days we had hiked three different states including CT and MA highpoints.  We camped at a new campground and Marshall the terrier mix experienced his first night in a tent (I think he's hooked).  Two days, three humans, two dogs, unexpected snow and a great weekend had by all.  Keep reading for everything you need to know about this hike. 

Adam and I at the start of the trail
Summit of Mount Greylock, 3,491'

About: The park was created in 1898 and the park covers some 12,000 acres 
Recreation:  70 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, back-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling - the park includes an 11.5-mile section of the Appalachian Trail and the historic Thunderbolt Ski Trail. 
Visitor Center hours: (Mid May to October) Sunday - Saturday:  9:00 am-4:00 pm
Travel:  Auto Roads to the summit of Mt. Greylock, Bascom Lodge and the War Memorial Tower open Mid May to October. 
Daily parking fees: (seasonal at the summit only):  MA resident $5, Non-MA resident $10

Following the AT

Trailhead:  Hopper Road Trailhead at the end of Hopper Road.  Parking is at the end of the road by a working farm. 
Trail:  Hopper Trail (blue blazed) to Sperry Campground/Sperry Road (2.4-miles), continue on Hopper Trail to the Appalachian Trail North to the summit (1.7-miles from the campground).  From the summit, we walked the auto road back to Sperry Road (dirt road the campground is on).  From there, we followed the 2.5-miles back on the Hopper Trail to our car. 
Distance and Elevation Day 1 - Hopper Road Trailhead to Sperry Camp: 2.4-miles & 1,263' elevation 
Distance and Elevation Day 2- Sperry Camp to the summit, auto road to Sperry Camp, Hopper Trail to the Trailhead:  7.87-miles and 1,138' elevation gain 
Summit Elevation: Summit of Mount Greylock, 3,491'
Total Distance and Elevation:  10.2 miles and 2,401' elevation gained 
Parking:  Decent sized lot off Hopper Road
Red Tape: Rockwell Road (main road into the park) is only open Mid May to November. 
Facilities:  No bathrooms or garbage at the trailhead - there is a large map/kiosk 

Following the blue blazed Hopper Trail to Sperry Campground 

Pit Toilets and pavilion at Sperry Campground 

"Mount Greylock Primitive Camping Area" 
Fees:  $8 MA resident / $10 non-resident 
Reservations:  Reservations are needed when the campground is officially open May 16 to October 13.  Off-season camping is available November 1 - May 13 and campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Wildlife: Black Bears can be visitors to this campground. Keep all food, coolers, cooking supplies and equipment in the food storage lockers provided. Do not keep food or toiletries in your tent or camper. 
Access:  Summer:  Easiest option (when the road is open mid-May to mid-October) 1.3-mile hike to the camping area is available from the parking lot located on Rockwell Road.  During the winter/when the road is closed, the campground can be reached via a 2.5-mile hike from the Hopper Road Trail Head at the base of the mountain or a 2-mile "strenuous" hike on Roaring Brook or Stony Ledge trails from Roaring Brook Road in New Ashford. 
Sites:  18 Sites which allow up to four people and 9 group areas that allow up to 12 campers each.  If by chance the campground is full, there are several shelters along the AT and in the park (Deer Hill, Pecks Brook, Bellow's Pipe, Wilbur Clearing and Mark Noepel).  
Pets:  Dogs are allowed!  Maximum four dogs per site.
Map:  Mount Greylock State Reservation Campground Map
Amenities:  Pit toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, group areas, ranger station with firewood for purchase, filtered water (pump)

Bascom Lodge and the Auto Road 
About:  Bascom Lodge was built between 1932-1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The lodge at the top of Mount Greylock and can be reached via the auto road (yes, you can drive to the summit here).  The lodge serves weekend warriors and weary thru-hikers making their way across the AT.  
Schedule/Hours:  May 18 opening day- weekends only in May (open memorial day)
June 1-14: Lodging, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) 
June 14-October 20:  Open 7 days a week for Lodging, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
**Open to the public for breakfast Fridays through Sundays only 
Hours:  Open daily to the public from 9am to 5pm,  doors are locked after 11 pm
Events: Sunset "Beverage Hour"  Wednesday through Sunday, 4-7pm.  Local beer, wine, and house-made sangria by the fire or on the porch. 
Rates:  Group bunks: $40 per person per night ($35 for AT thru-hikers); small private room (double bed) $125 per night; private family room (queen bed and bunk bed) $150 per night for 2 plus $20 per person.  All includes wifi and breakfast. 
Reservations: or  (917) 680-0079

Veterans War Memorial 

Veterans War Memorial 

The 92 foot Memorial Tower was first built 1931-32 at a cost of $200,000.  It was designed to be a perpetually lighted beacon to honor the state's dead from World War I  and the light was at the time the strongest beacon in Massachusetts (nighttime visible range of up to 70 miles).  Due to structural issues from water infiltration, the tower was closed in 2013 and was rebuilt, rededicated and reopened on July 26, 2017, a $2.6 million restoration project 

Stream at the Campground 

Auto Road to the Summit 

Auto Road 

Back at the Trailhead overlooking the farm

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