Mount Greylock is the highest natural point in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet (1,064 m). Its peak is located in the northwest corner of the state in the western part of the town of Adams (near its border with Williamstown) in Berkshire County. Although geologically part of the Taconic Mountains, Mount Greylock is commonly associated with the abutting Berkshire Hills to the east. The mountain is known for its expansive views encompassing five states and the only taiga-boreal forest in the state.
A seasonal automobile road (open annually from late May through November 1) climbs to the summit, where stands the iconic 93-foot-high (28 m) lighthouse-like Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial Tower. A network of hiking trails traverse the mountain, including the 2,179-mile (3,507 km) Appalachian Trail. Mount Greylock State Reservation was created in 1898 as Massachusetts' first public land for the purpose of forest preservation.
Geographically, Mount Greylock is part of a 11-mile-long (18 km) by 4.5-mile-wide (7.2 km) island-like range that runs north-south between the Hoosac Range to the east, the Green Mountains to the north, The Berkshires to both the south and east, and the Taconic Mountains to the west with which it is geologically associated; all ranges are associated with the Appalachian mountain chain. The summit of Mount Greylock is located in Adams, Massachusetts, but the mountain also extends into Cheshire, Lanesborough, New Ashford, North Adams and Williamstown. The range includes peaks with elevation less than Greylock, such as Saddle Ball Mountain and Mount Fitch.
On average, Mount Greylock rises 2,000 ft (610 m) above surrounding river valleys and 1,000 ft (300 m) above the Berkshires and Taconic Mountains. From the summit, views of up to 70–135 mi (110–217 km) are possible into five different states: Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The northwest side of Mount Greylock drains into the Green River, then into the Hoosic River, Hudson River, and New York Harbor. The south side of the mountain drains into Town Brook, then into the Housatonic River and Long Island Sound. The rest of the mountain drains into the Hoosic River.
Geology and ecosystem:
Mount Greylock and the neighboring Taconic Mountains are comprised predominately of Ordovician phyllite, a metamorphic rock, overlain on younger layers of metamorphized sedimentary rock, especially marble. Mount Greylock is the product of thrust faulting, a tectonic process by which older rock is thrust up and above younger rock during periods of intense mountain building. The younger, underlying marble bedrock layers have been quarried in the lower foothills of the mountain in nearby Adams and North Adams, Massachusetts.
During the Pleistocene, 18,000 years ago, Mount Greylock and the surrounding region were covered by ice sheets up to 1-kilometer (0.62 mi) in thickness. Glaciation rounded and wore down the mountain, carving out U-shaped valleys and leaving glacial erratics such as the balanced rock on the west side of Greylock. The Hopper, a cirque, also located on the west side of Greylock, is the southernmost such glacial feature in New England.
Forests and old growth:
During the 19th century, much of the mountain was denuded by logging, fires, and grazing. Forests have since reclaimed the mountain. Several forest communities exist on Mount Greylock. Lower slopes are inhabited by northern hardwood forest species while upper summits are dominated by boreal balsam fir and red spruce. The ridgeline of Greylock, between Mount Fitch on the north and Saddle Ball on the south, is the only place in Massachusetts where a taiga-boreal or sub-alpine forest flourishes. Researchers have identified 555 acres (2.25 km2) of old growth forest on the mountain. The steep western slopes (which include The Hopper) contain northern hardwood forest biome species up to 350 years old, including a 120-foot-tall (37 m) red spruce. Because of its extensive stands of red spruce old growth, The Hopper has been designated a National Natural Landmark.
Mount Greylock is designated as an important bird area (IBA). There are a number of species of birds which breed in the taiga or boreal forests at the higher altitudes of the mountain, which are not normally found breeding in Massachusetts. These species include the blackpoll warbler and Bicknell's thrush. eBird has records of 132 species of birds on Mount Greylock. There is less known about birds visiting the mountain in winter, as the mountain is more difficult to access during this time.
Structures on the mountain:
Today, the 12,500 acres (51 km2) is managed and operated by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of State Parks and Recreation. The staffed Visitors Center in Lanesborough is open year-round (1.5 miles off Route 7) and provides orientation, trail maps, informational brochures, exhibits, and accessible rest rooms. Five lean-to shelters and Mount Greylock Campground are available for backpacking. About 70 mi (110 km) of trails are located on the mountain, including the Appalachian Trail.
Prominent features on the summit are the Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial Tower, Bascom Lodge, the Thunderbolt Ski Shelter, and a television and radio tower. Because of the cultural significance of the mountain and excellent examples CCC period park structures, the Mount Greylock Summit Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in on April 20, 1998, reference number 98000349.
Activity: Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding , Hiking , Snowshoeing
Prominence: 2464 ft/751 m
Peak elevation: 3,488 feet (1,063.14 m)