Trail Mix – Stone Hill

Stone Hill is a great hike for the “non-hiker,” as it can be short and has relatively little vertical gain. There are numerous trails on the hill that can be combined for hikes ranging from 0.7 to 4.0 miles in length. When hiked clockwise, the approximately 4-mile path described here provides the hiker with dense forests, massive rock outcroppings and, at the very end, one of the Purple Valley’s more magnificent vistas – an open view to the northeast of Williamstown, Pine Cobble and the Hoosac River Valley. However, every route on Stone Hill has its own unique features, so it is not necessary to follow exactly what is described to see what Stone Hill has to offer.

Stone Hill is located directly behind the Clark Art Institute, making it a 10-minute walk from Agard House up South Street. To access the trailhead, walk around to the parking lot behind the Clark. When facing the meadow, the trailhead will be on the left. It is marked inconspicuously with several stone tablets. The trail crosses a creek and winds its way up Stone Hill. Compared with the other hills in the area, the trees covering Stone Hill are mostly evergreens, providing a great deal of shade throughout the hike. When the combination of the canopy and pine needle-covered ground make the trail difficult to see (very possible if you’re on a sunset hike), follow the distinctive white blazes.

Just before the half-mile mark, the trail forks, with one branch leading to the right. After another half-mile through the open meadow, this branch returns to the Clark via the meadow, providing those looking for a brief excursion with a memorable panorama.

From the first fork, the original trail flattens out a bit and crosses the service road. After a rainstorm, the trail can be muddy here, so take care when getting around puddles. At 0.6 miles, the trail forks once again, with the right branch leading over a small hill to the Stone Bench and the left continuing up Stone Hill. Following the left branch (now with orange blazes), the trail follows the ridge through a more deciduous forest.

The next branch, the Stone Hill Loop (on the right), descends through several switchbacks towards South Street. After about a mile, it ends up a few hundred yards south of the Clark, concluding a 2-mile loop.

From here, the main trail descends the backside of Stone Hill. After a quarter mile, it meets with another trail, the yellow-blazed Gale Road Cutoff, on the right. This trail gradually meanders down Stone Hill before crossing a creek and entering an open field. After climbing a short hill, the trail turns to the left, and the hiker is treated to a magnificent view of Mount Greylock. From here, it coasts through the meadow, reaching Gale Road after a half-mile.

The Stone Hill trail continues to the left, passing through a trademark New England stone wall that once probably divided two fields in the bygone era when almost the entire forest had been clear-cut for farmland. Several switchbacks quickly drop down to the Stone Hill Road.

Heading to the left, the road continues for another mile until it reaches Scott Hill Road, which leads to Route 43 (to the left) or Route 7 (to the right). At this point, retracing your steps is the shortest and, unless you have a ride, fastest way back.

Taking the Stone Hill Road to the right, you pass by several impressive rock formations on the right. After passing through several swampy (and puddle-prone) patches, the road arrives at the Stone Bench, named by early 20th century Williams professor George Moritz Wahl.

If you make a left and head through a small meadow, you will reach a small gate that marks the entrance to the grand Stone Hill pasture. After closing the gate behind you, continue along the edge of the field. Even long after the springtime bloom, the pasture is still filled with vibrant color. The path intersects with the Stone Hill pasture loop, the first branch off the main trail. After passing a grove of trees, the trail drops down and the entire panorama comes into view. From here, the entire Williamstown area can be seen, from the Dome to Mount Greylock and from the Taconic Range to West Summit beyond North Adams. From here, the Clark is a half-mile downhill walk. Remember to close the gate at the bottom of the hill.

Stone Hill is a great place to try out hiking if you’ve never done it before. The dense forest and open meadow provides a good introduction to the New England landscape and the numerous trails allow for hikes of almost any length.

The North Berkshire Outdoor Guide, published by the Outing Club, has a wonderful description of this and many other hikes in the surrounding area. The Outing Club also publishes an excellent hiking map of the entire area. Contact Scott Lewis at slewis@williams.edu for more information.

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