Far be it from us to disparage the time-honored foliage sightseeing drive, but it has its shortcomings. When the leaves reach their peak, so does the traffic. Rather than sit and grumble about the stop-and-go, we'd rather park the car, limber up, and see those bright leaves without the frame of a windshield. The Berkshire hills are the perfect place to do just that.
GOING ALL TARZAN
From a single elevated central platform, eight different aerial obstacle courses crisscross 10-acre Ramblewild Tree-to-Tree Adventure Park. They are color-coded for difficulty like ski trails, and even youngsters as young as 7 (at least 55 inches tall) can handle the easy yellow courses. Four trails fly over a 100-foot-deep ravine on ziplines, while another spans the gorge with a swaying 200-foot suspension bridge. Once participants clip onto the safety line, most complete three to four courses in about three hours, balancing on logs, climbing rope ladders, crawling through tunnels, and meandering from treetop to treetop. The forest canopy is hemlock, though nearby stands of maple and oak provide the requisite flashes of fall color.
Ramblewild Tree-to-Tree Adventure Park, 110 Brodie Mountain Rd., Lanesborough; 844-472-6253; ramblewild.com; youth $59, adults $69, advance ticket purchase recommended
SITTING ON TOP O
Splendor along the Housatonic River Valley, and the summit provides expansive views of the south end of the valley and the southern Berkshires. Two trails rise from the parking lot. The more direct Hickey Trail is steeper but ascends only 720 feet on the way to the 1,642-foot summit of Squaw Peak. The more meandering Indian Monument Trail follows old carriage roads for some of the ascent, connecting at the top to the half-mile Squaw Peak Trail over the rocky balds. Trustees of Reservations, which oversees the property, suggests bringing plenty of water for the climb. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Oliver Wendell Holmes climbed the hill on Aug. 5, 1850, but toted other libations. Too early for foliage, they consoled themselves with champagne when they took shelter from a thunderstorm.
Monument Mountain Reservation, Route 7, Great Barrington; 413-298-3239; thetrustees.org; $5 parking fee
AN ARTIST'S EYES
Daniel Chester French was best known for such monumental sculptures as the seated figure in the Lincoln Memorial. When he built his Stockbridge summer estate, he focused on another kind of monument. He laid out the buildings and grounds to maximize his views of Monument Mountain and the Housatonic River Valley. Open daily through October 10, the property still features his woodland trails through the edge of a mixed forest of hemlock and hardwoods. Covered with pea stone, the fairly flat trails make for an easy stroll. After visiting the studio and gardens, sit on the wisteria-trimmed studio porch and admire the play of color on the mountainside.
Chesterwood, 4 Williamsville Rd., Stockbridge; 413-298-3579; chesterwood.org; adults $18, seniors $17, ages 13-17 $9, grounds only $10
Like many ski areas, Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort has figured out that a mountain can be plenty of fun even when there's no snow on the ground. Open Saturday and Sunday through late October, the Mountain Adventure Park offers ten activities, including a six-passenger chairlift to the summit for views of Mount Greylock to the east and the Jericho Valley in between. A giant swing at the edge of a hardwood forest and two tracks of alpine slides offer other ways to see the leaves. Nothing quite tops the Mountain Coaster, which twists and turns down a 3,600-foot track. Riders control their own speeds — up to 23 miles per hour, which seems blindingly fast when you are hurtling through the woods on a sled riding two suspended rails. Check the web site for minimum ages and heights for rides.
Jiminy Peak Mountain Adventure Park, 37 Corey Rd., Hancock; 413-738-5500; jiminypeak.com; Mountain Adventure Park day pass $26-$46, depending on height
Located at the southwest corner of Massachusetts, the dramatic woodland cataract known as Bash Bish Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in the state. Bash Bish Brook tumbles through several gorges before it spills off a cliff 60 feet into a serene, deep pool below. The surrounding woodlands are a mix of conifer and maple trees — including especially colorful Norway maples — and the half-mile walk from the trailhead parking lot passes through a stand of brilliantly scarlet staghorn sumac shrubs. The parking lot is just over the border in New York's Taconic State Park.
Bash Bish Falls State Park, Falls Road, Mt. Washington; 413-528-0330; mass.gov; free
BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN
Nestled in rolling hayfields surrounded by hillside forest, aptly named Undermountain Farm operates hour-long horseback trail rides daily through October when the weather permits. This bucolic corner of the Berkshires just northeast of Tanglewood Music Center boasts fairly reliable bright fall colors, thanks to the mix of sugar and Norway maples as well as birch, alder, and black locust trees. Trail rides mostly walk hayfield flats with an occasional duck into the woods, providing riders with fine views of the color-dappled woodlands all the way to the Hoosac range.
Undermountain Farm, 400 Undermountain Road, Lenox; 413-637-3365; undermountainfarm.com; $60 per person
ON TOP OF MASSACHUSETTS
Sometimes it's hard to tell whether the Greylock Ramble — now in its 49th year — is a sporting event, a form of foliage-induced madness, or just the biggest civic gathering in the Berkshires. Every Columbus Day (this year, Oct. 10), hundreds of folks stream up the Cheshire Harbor Trail to the summit of Mount Greylock, the highest point in the state. It's a 6.6-mile round trip, and takes most hikers about four hours. Parking near the trailhead is limited, but free shuttle buses run continuously from the center of Adams to the trailhead from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hikers get up close and personal with the foliage on trails lined with scarlet maples and acid-yellow birches, and enjoy sweeping views of the area forests from the 3,491-foot summit.
Buses leave from Adams Free Library, 92 Park St., Adams; exploreadams.com/ramblefest; free
Contact Patricia Harris and David Lyon at email@example.com.