Destinations: Alander Mountain Backpack

AlandarLocationMap

Nestled into the southwest corner of Massachusetts along the New York border sits the Mount Washington State Forest (no, no .. the other Mt. Washington). The park offers 30 miles of hiking trails along the Taconic Ridge as well as primitive, back-country camping.

The park makes a great destination for a backpacking trip and offers a variety of options depending on the experience and stamina of your group.

Land Management

Mount Washington State Forest is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and is one of several parks and reservations in the area.

Camping

The park lists “Wilderness Camping” as one of the activities.

Campsite on the Alander Mountain Trail

Campsite on the Alander Mountain Trail

There is a large primitive campground on the Alander Mountain Trail about 2 1/2 miles from the parking area on East Road.  The campground has several large sites suitable for groups or smaller parties. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring.  There is a common outhouse/privy near the center of the campground.

There is no well or water supply in the camp. Water can be obtained from the nearby brook along the Alander Mountain Trail. Make sure you treat or filter the water before consuming.

Reservations are not required and there is (currently) no camping fees associated with the campground.  Groups should contact the park, however, in advance of their stay to tell the rangers that you will be in the park. (At the time of our last visit in April 2013, the park ranger advised us that the DCR was considering a small use/reservation fee for the backcountry sites)

The trail map shows a backpackers shelter near the summit of Alander Mountain.  This is a primitive cabin that sleeps 4-6 people.  The cabin seems frequented by local youth and there was evidence of beer and alcohol present when we hiked past the cabin in the fall. I would not recommend this shelter for a group.

Hiking Trails

There are a number of hiking trails through the park which can give backpackers several options to reach the campground.

The easiest route to the campground is directly up the Alander Mountain Trail from the park headquarters.  This is a 2 1/2 mile hike partially along a fire road.  The hike is quite easy and makes a great route for younger hikers or “first timers” on a backpacking trip.

View from the Summit of Mt. Alander

View from the Summit of Mt. Alander

The South Taconic Trail follows the ridge line across the summit of Alander Mountain. The views from the ridge and summit are quite spectacular with clear views through the western valley to the Hudson River.

The Ashley Brook Trail diverges south from the Alander Mountain Trail about 1 1/2 miles from the trailhead. Following Ashley Brook Trail to the South Taconic Trail would give hikers a nice 10-mile loop to the campground.

Bish Bash Falls

Bish Bash Falls

To the north of Alander Mountain lies Bish Bash Falls State Park. Hikers can join the South Taconic Trail from the falls and hike south to the campground.

To the east of the park lies Mount Everett State Reservation, which includes the southern end of the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts.  The Mt. Frissell Trail connects Mt. Washington State Forest with Mt. Everett State Reservations.  Hikers interested in a multi-day trip could easily find a nice loop including trails in both DCR properties.

Map of Mt. Alander and Surrounding Parks

Map of Mt. Alander and Surrounding Parks

The full trail map of Mt. Washington State Forest and Mt. Everett State Reservation can be found on the DCR website as a PDF document.

Directions

Mt. Washington State Forest lies in the southwest corner of Massachusetts. Great Barrington, MA is the nearest major town.

From the MA Turnpike take Exit 2 in Lee. Follow MA Rt. 102 west for 4.7 miles to Stockbridge. Turn left and follow U.S. Rt. 7 south for 7.7 miles through Great Barrington. Turn right and follow MA Rt. 23 west for 4.9 miles to South Egremont. Turn left on MA Rte. 41 south, then take an immediate right on Mount Washington Road; continue for 8.8 miles (becomes East St.) to park entrance and headquarters.

For More Information

Visit the park’s website under http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/

Contact the park directly at (413) 528-0330