Hiking Monroe State Forest
Located on the northwestern tip of Massachusetts the Monroe State Forest offers over 4,000 acres of majestic New England woodlands, planted on the northern end of the Hoosac Range.
The most important thing you need to know about hiking the Monroe State Forest is that there are better options available. Although spots along these trails can be tranquil the repeated intrusion of civilization will prevent you from really getting lost in the moment. The trails themselves are neither particularly easy enough to accommodate all comers nor particularly challenging enough to attract spirited hikers. Given that the maintenance has fallen into somewhat disrepair the best reason to hike this park is simply because that is where you happen to be today.
Although there are several minor alternatives, hiking these woods really comes down to the Dunbar Brook Trail and the Spruce Mountain Trail. One offering a waterside view the other a birds eye view from the ridge-line. When traveled together the two trails offer a nice afternoon hike of about 9 miles round-trip and some rustic overnight lodgings are available. For the less ambitious each trail can be traveled separately the Dunbar Trail is roughly 3 miles one-way and the Spruce Mountain Trail about 1.6 Miles one-way.
The trail start at the base of the brook on the Dunbar Trail. The first quarter-mile or so can be discouraging as signs of civilization are all around. Not far in though things will improve about the time you get to the first designated campsite. The campsite offers some of the nicer overlooks along the trail and may be worth a quick stop.
A short while past the camping area opportunities will present themselves to take side trails for more scenic views. Caution is warranted however as much of the hiking trails are no longer in good condition and some missed markings can make it easy to get lost. If you are looking to take some majestic pictures it may be worth it to take the Raycroft side trail to the lookout above, otherwise I would suggest staying on the main trail.
If you do stay on the main trail you will shortly arrive at a second designated camping area. This is a good place to stop and take a breather. The campsite offers some enjoyable waterways and the opportunity to make a decision about whether to continue on the second leg or not. The next leg of the trail is mostly an ascent and is often interrupted by inelegant man made intrusions.
The first part of the ascent offers some interesting picture taking opportunities. Large boulders, sparkling waterworks and a surprising variety of trees and fauna should satisfy any shutterbug. Take the opportunity to snap some shots and recover your breath as the ascent after this becomes more aggressive. Shortly you will reach Raycroft road and soon the Spruce Mountain Trail. You will know you are at the right place when you come to the bridge.
Although the beginning of this trail is quite steep the wildlife sounds and new natural colors are enjoyable. As you near the end of your journey you will come to a fork in the road. The right fork leads to an outcropped area that offers marginal views and a place to rest. The left trail offers a scenic ‘long way home’ that will offer a little variety on the trip back.
Whenever you venture into the outdoors always think safety first. Make sure you bring items like first aid kits, cold weather gear and snake bite kits when appropriate. One item often overlooked is a reliable communication device in case of emergency. Cell phones often do not work in wilderness environemtns. A small portable radio is a good idea. If you are looking for hand held CB Radios for sale or more powerful 10 Meter Radios we can help.