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Located in the tri-state area of Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts, Mt. Frissell is an interesting spot. The highest point in Connecticut lies a couple hundred feet down the south slope of Mt. Frissell's summit. The Connecticut high point is 2,380 feet but the summit of Frisselll (2,453 feet) is in Massachusetts. Most people assume Bear Mountain in Salisbury is the highest point in Connecticut but it's about 50 feet shorter than the high point on Mt. Frissell's south slope. Makes you wonder why they just didn't give Connecticut the peak of Frissell since Massachusetts has plenty of peaks taller than Mt. Frissell!
Mt. Frissell is a popular destination for serious hikers, "high point" enthusiasts, and state boundary fanatics. The average day-hiker wouldn't go out of their way to visit Mt. Frissell...and for good reason. It's a nice spot but there are dozens of better sites to visit that surround Frissell (Mt. Alander, Bish Bash Falls, Bear Mt, Sages Ravine, Mt. Brace are a few). Of the hikers that venture off to Frissell many are the "high point" enthusiasts who are trying to visit all the highest spots in all 50 states. Others like to find the old tri-state marker (1896 according to the engraving) that marks the spot where CT, NY, and MA meet.
When you scale Mt. Frissell you're not going to get awesome views from its peak. In fact you won't get any views since the top is densely forested. There is a neat little book/diary that someone has fastened to a tree in order to mark the peak of Frissell and you are encouraged to sign in with any comments. It's fun to peruse the diary and read the comments of different people.
(March 2004 Update: Ted Rybak found this page via an Internet search and informed me that for the past 20 years he has been the keeper of the logbook at Frissell. Though he's now working in Michigan he still makes pilgrimages back to Mt. Frissel to maintain the book. Another visit is planned for March '04. It was great to hear from him and have him explain some of the history of the logbook and Frissell in general. It seems that Dave Ceratta started the logbook a couple years before Ted took over. Ted discovered the book at Frissel and wound up calling Dave after seeing his contact info on the inside of the logbook. Dave explained that he was no longer able to keep the logbook current so Ted offered to take over. Great stuff. There are a small band of folks out there that make hiking possible (volunteering, activism, conservation) and give it a sense of adventure (i.e. the logbook at Frissell). I agree with Ted when he described the Mt. Riga/Mt. Washington region that Mt. Frissell sits in: "The area up there is certainly magical! I believe it to be a power center for positive and spiritual energy. I'm sure the Native Americans viewed it as such also." It's really true. Hard to believe it's just a few hours from NYC and Boston. If you ever signed the book, remember Ted from years past, or just have a question about Mt. Frissell that he knows so much about, I asked if I could post his email address and he said that would be fine: email@example.com.
Mt. Frissell's peak doesn't offer spectacluar 360 degree views (although Ted did point out that the views weren't as limited as I may have led on since trees have been cleared for the views), there are some nice overviews along the way to Frissell via Round Mountain and from certain vantage points along Frissell's mountainside.
The area that surrounds Frissell is beautiful. Flora and fauna dominate. It's all part of a region known as the Taconic Plateau and the forests surrounding Frissell are part of Mt. Washington Reservation, Mt. Riga Reservation, and the South Taconic Trail. Various groups have worked hard to preserve the area and as a result it's about as remote as you could feel within the state of Connecticut. The forest is very thick here and when you hike down in between hilltops and stop for a moment, the only thing you'll hear is the ringing of silence in your ear...and the occasional passing plane. It's very rare in this part of the country that you can stand somewhere and not hear a distant car, lawnmower, motorcycle, leaf blower, etc. Absolute silence is tricky these days but it's possible here.
There are several ways to access Mt. Frissell but Berkshire Hiking is recommending the Mt. Washington Road trailhead on the Connecticut/Massachusetts border. It's just the easiest way to get you to a trailhead. (If you're the type that likes to hike all day, perhaps you could start out on the South Taconic Trail from Bish Bash Falls and hike south to Mt. Brace and then head over to Mt. Frissell. Or stop at Mountain Washington Reservation ranger station that's about a mile before this suggested trailhead. Take note of the trail system posted there and take on the Mt. Alander to Mt. Brace. to Mt. Frissell loop...but be in really good hiking shape if you attempt this!). Anyway you decide to go, you must be in good shape for this hike. It's not for beginners or those who are out of shape. You'll be very isolated here and if you get in trouble because you've overestimated you're abilities, you could find yourself in a sticky situation.
Once you reach the trailhead (driving directions are below) via Mt. Washington Road you immediately are immersed into thick forest with dense ground cover. Lush bushes, ferns, plants, wild berry bushes cover the forest floor; hardwoods and pine trees complete the canopy. Depending upon your pace, you can expect to reach the top of Frissell in about 30 minutes to 1 hour after leaving the trailhead. About 15 minutes into the hike a short but steep section takes you to the top of a hill (Round Mountain) with some cozy spots and nice overviews. Hikers seem to go a little overboard with the small rock piles they are erecting but it does add an interesting human touch in an area dominated by nature. Many folks mistake this as Mt. Frissell but the larger mountain just to the northwest is Mt. Frissell. Keep an eye out for a side trail that goes up to the right as you near the summit. This path leads to the book/diary marking the top of Frissell. You can stop in to read the booklet but if you're not into that kind of stuff there really is no reason to head up this trail. As noted, there are no great views from the peak of Frissell. Continue on the main trail and as it begins to descend you'll come upon a rock pile that hikers have built and next to that is a small surveyor's marker that notes the CT/MA state borderline (the main photo above shows the short greenish pipe sticking up on of the ground to the left of the rock pile). This spot marks the highest point in the state of Connecticut. It's very strange that there isn't an official (or unofficial) sign indicated the high point (maybe Connecticut is embarrassed that its highest point is on the side of a Massachusetts mountain?!). Anyway, once you have conquered the highest point in CT, continue down until the trail starts to flatten out again. Soon you'll come upon the stone pillar that marks the spot where CT, NY, and MA meet. It's about 3 feet tall and you can't miss it since it stands right on the trail (the photo to the left shows the tri-state marker). And just as it's strange that there is no official notification of the CT high point, it's strange that CT was left off the engraving on this pillar. NY and MA are clearly engraved on their sides but someone (likely a passing hiker with a rock) took the time to scratch out "CT" on the Connecticut side.
If you've had enough at this point you should turn around especially if its late in the day. But if you're feeling good, hike another 20 minutes or so to Brace Mt. in NY state. Great views from there (crystal clear days reveal the Catskills looming off in the distance) and also a plateau region just before Brace that is fun to explore. To get to Brace, just follow the trail passed the tri-state marker and when you come upon a trail intersection keep going straight. (Going left takes you into the Mt. Riga preserve and right takes you back to the Mt. Washington ranger's station.) The trail eventually meets the South Taconic Trail. Where these two trails meet is a nice hilltop plateau that is reminiscent of certain spots in Ireland (a great spot for a lunch break or long rest). Take a right if you want to investigate this area or go left and up to Mt. Brace where you'll clearly note its peak with a large rock pile and grassy peak. The views from Mt. Brace are fantastic.
Directions: Get on Route 41 in Sheffield, 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 (leftside of road if you're heading north, rightside if you're southbound). Take Mt. Washington Road all the way up the mountain and it will eventually flatten out. Eventually you'll pass Mt. Everett State Reservation on your left and then a short distance later Mt. Washington State Reservation on your right. (As you proceed through here you'll come upon an intersection with a white church and you just want to continue straight...DO NOT follow the sign to Bash Bish Falls towards Copake, NY.). Mt. Washington Road becomes East Street. East Street passes by homes and wooded area and becomes a dirt road. Follow this road to the Connecticut/Massachusetts border. Directly across the street from the road sign and border marker is a small grass parking area. Red paint marks note the trail to Mt. Frissell. A short distance after you begin hiking, the trail turns left...keep your eyes open and follow the red markers to the left and don't continue straight. (If grass parking lot is full, about 50 feet up the dirt road is a larger dirt lot with a big AMC sign. This is the lot to hike Sages Ravine, Bear Mt., the Appalachian Trail and other great hikes. Mt. Washington State Forest is also a good staging ground for many hikes in the area. Visit the http://www.mass.gov/dem/parks/mwas.htm official website for Mt. Washington as it also has a map online of the area. Download it so you'll have a copy.
© Berkshire Hiking 2004