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According to The Nature Conservancy, Jug End State Reservation in Egremont, MA is one of the last great places...and you'll get no argument from me. It's fortunate for us that groups like this aggressively seek to preserve natural treasures. Otherwise, this area would have gone the same route as surrounding lands...suburbia. Actually, Jug End is located in a very picturesque part of southwestern Massachusetts and suburban sprawl isn't too bad around these parts. So by preserving this land and making it accessible to all, hikers can hop out of their car and disappear for a while into a serene natural environment.
Like many of the hikes in and around the Taconic Plateau region, Jug End gives the impression that you are far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Hike Jug End on a crystal clear day and you should come away feeling refreshed. It's one of those places where you can almost feel the clean air. The open field views are great and the forest hike that follows along a cascading stream is quiet and peaceful. You'll even get a taste of the past when you stumble upon the old furnace that must have been a part of an old milling process.
Jug End Trail Loop can be hiked within an hour or two depending upon your pace. You just follow the trail markers (blue triangles with a picture of an acorn) that are posted on trees at regular intervals. With the exception of a few small areas, the trails are well maintained and clearly marked so you shouldn't have any problems finding your way around. For the most part the terrain is flat but the farther back you go the more the trail rises up. So if you're not looking for a workout or if you hike alone and don't like to be out in the woods then just explore the beautiful fields and mountain views to the left or right of the main entrance area.
If you intend to do the trail loop, start out by going right from the parking lot (heading west). You'll cross over a footbridge that spans a nice stream and then head out towards a great open field teaming with wild flowers and a nice mountain scene that frames out the view perfectly. If you're into photography or painting, this is your spot to explore (during the fall foliage season, this spot would be ideal to paint or photograph). In the distance you might see a tractor or two tending to Indian Line Farm. According to The Nature Conservancy webpage, this farm has historical significance and is supported by a community of farmers http://www.lastgreatplaces.org/berkshire/explore/art6564.html. Take your time in this region before heading off into the forest. In summer take notice of the frantic activity of birds, bees, dragon flies, butterflies, etc. A ton of wild flowers, bushes, and tall grasses create a perfect world for them and if you don't take the time to notice that microcosm world you'll miss out on a lot.
A short distance after the open field area the trail makes its way into the woods. Immediately you are transported into a completely different environment. The tall hardwoods and pine trees create a cool, dark cover and the trail begins a slight but steady incline into the forest. A small stream parallels the trail and even during drought conditions it continues to flow and provide perfect conditions for frogs, toads, and insects to thrive. The trail follows an old utility road for quite some time and can become muddy if it's been raining. Muddy pools emerge so watch your step...not only wouldn't you want to step into a mess, you wouldn't want to step on one of the
toads/frogs that seem to love these muddy playgrounds.
Depending upon your pace and if you stop to investigate various things, 15-30 minutes later you'll come upon an old furnace that seems to be a remnant from by a gone era. Given that the stream flows down it's a good guess that it's part of an old milling process. It's here that you need to go left in front of this furnace and not straight in order to stay with the loop. You could follow the trail straight if you wanted to investigate what's up ahead but you're on your own from that point on. I hiked up until I came across a compound/house that seemed deserted but I didn't venture to close since I couldn't tell if it was owned by someone who really likes to get away from it all! The utility road kept going beyond this area but I turned back.
But taking a left at the furnace and following Jug End Loop will eventually take you back to your car. Along the way you'll continue to hike through the dark forest canopy but eventually you come out into a spectacular open field scene. One of the best open field views listed on this site. The field is teeming with life during the summertime and the bees are so numerous pollinating the abundant wild flowers that you can actually hear a large humming made by all their wings. At first it can be a little disconcerting since we all associate that noise with a mad swarm. But there's just so many bees that they can create quite a noise. I must have walked right over/through hundreds of individual bees and they were too busy to care about my presence. The tall grasses and underbrush also provides nice cover for birds of all types and you'll surely flush out more than a few as you hike along. The trail stays close to the edge of the forest and you look down into the field which is bounded on the far side by the forest you initially walked through. Then rising up are some nice mountains that are completely covered with trees. With the exception of a radio tower on one of these mountains, there's not a sign of humanity to be found. It's just a great spot. As you hike back towards the parking lot keep an eye out as the trail darts down to the left and eventually back to your car. It's easy to miss this turn and if you do you'll wind up in the back yard of a home. If that happens just follow the dirt road down to the main paved road. At the main paved road take a left and a short distance later will be the parking lot of Jug End.
Jug End is a beautiful spot anytime of year but it's probably at its most spectacular during the spring, summer, and fall season. October thru February there are various hunting seasons that go on and off. Although hunting is not allowed at Jug End some homeowners allow some type of hunting on their surrounding lands. A lot of locals use Jug End for recreation purposes and local hunters would know to stay clear so you shouldn't have any problems but where bright orange or red jackets/hats during hunting season just to be extra safe.
Directions: Get on Route 41 in Egremont, MA (41 heads north out of Salisbury, CT and south out of Egremont, MA.). Just south of Egremont, MA., Mt. Washington Road is off of Route 41 (left side of road if you're heading north, right side if you're southbound). Take Mt. Washington Road for about 2 miles and you'll see a green street sign on the left side of the road that says Jug End Road. Take a left onto Jug End and follow it to the parking lot which is on the right side after the farm area.
You can also go to mapquest.com and type in Jug End Road Egremont, MA for customized directions.
© Berkshire Hiking 2004