Where We Went : Balance Rock State Park
(Northeast corner of Pittsfield State Forest) / Lanesborough, MA
When We Went : March 2019
Difficulty (Boots 1 - 10) : 2.5 Boots
Trail Length : About 1 mile up & back
How Long it Took Us : 1.5 Hours
Overview : The park is named after the giant triangular boulder, 30 feet long by 15 feet wide. It is positioned on its tip on top of bedrock, a creation of the last glacial era. Balance Rock weighs 330,000 pounds and is made of limestone. Walk about 1/2 mile up a paved road and at the top the crop of glacial erratics are to the right of a (seemingly) defunct parking lot.
What We Dug : The road winds up a hillside of aspen trees and a thick grove of Norway spruce. Their six-inch cones are the largest of all the spruces and are a favorite food of red squirrels who devour them corn on the cob style. We saw one or two in a spring fever of activity as we made our way. The boulder field was an exciting sight as we crested the paved hill. It was challenging to try and explain to my 5 year old how this rock ended up perched atop a smaller stone on a contact point of a few square inches...I tried. The puzzling totem was a tourist destination dating all the way back to author Herman Melville's time and made an appearance in his novel "Pierre." The graffiti here is somewhat of a tradition and we had fun trying to find some of the oldest "artwork."
Downslope of Balance rock is an impressive boulder field of marble rocks. As a result of erosion, the minerals leached from the marble rocks enrich the soil and give hand to a rich array of plant life. We identified (and smelled) the early shoots of wild ginger in small crevices atop the rocks. In Spring, look for miterwort (it's flowers look like tiny snowflakes), yellow trout lily, hepatica and walking fern. On the downhill side of the boulder field is a path that leads back to the paved road and then the parking area.
What We Could Do Without : You may have to explain some of the more "colorful" tags to curious/older children. Other "activities" were evident by the broken glass, litter, etc. I tried to keep in mind it was off-season and hope it's since been cleaned up. Spring thaw had begun and there was lingering ice and fresh puddles in spots that kept us on our toes.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : glacial erratics, red squirrels, Norway spruce, aspen, trillium, jack in the pulpit, violets, wild ginger, miterwort, yellow trout lily, hepatica, walking fern
Must Know Before You Go’s : Free. Unclear if the parking area is open during seasonal months. Can get really buggy in the summer.
Directions : To get to the park gate, travel on Rt. 7 in Lanesborough until you reach Bull Hill Rd. on the left. This road turns curves to the left, but continue until you reach Balance Rock Rd. on the right. Stay on this road until you reach the gate to Balance Rock State Park on the right. From the gate, Balance Rock is about a mile hike away.
GPS 42.508451837, -73.2651389