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Facts About Mount Greylock

Climbing Massachusetts Highest Mountain

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Mt Greylock is one of the easiest US state high points to climb.

Fog envelopes the summit sign atop Mount Greylock, highest mountain in Massachusetts.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Facts About Mount Greylock

Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts, rises near the New York border.

Photograph copyright David Lyons/Getty Images
Facts About Mount Greylock

Autumn-tinted trees line the scenic road up Mount Greylock in early October.

Photograph copyright Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Getty Images
  • Elevation: 3,489 feet (1,063 meters) 
  • Prominence: 2,464 feet (751 meters) 
  • Location: Appalachian Mountains, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
  • Coordinates: 42°38′13.3″ N / 73°9′57.3″ W
  • First Ascent: First ascent by unknown Native Americans in the distant past.

Fast Facts About Mount Greylock:

  • Mount Greylock, at 3,489 feet high, is the highest point in Massachusetts and the 31st highest state high point in the United States.
     
  • Mount Greylock rises in the far northwestern corner of Massachusetts near the border with Vermont to the north and New York to the west. Greylock, part of the Appalachian Mountains, is the high point of an 11-mile-long mountain range that is surrounded by other ranges—the Taconic Mountains to the west in New York; the Green Mountains in Vermont to the north; the Hoosac Range on the east; and the Berkshire Hills to the south and southeast.
     
  • Mount Greylock, composed of metamorphic rock, is a thrust fault mountain with ancient bedrock lifted above younger rock.
     
  • Mount Greylock was shaped and rounded by periods of intense glaciations, with the most recent being during the Pleistocene epoch between 18,000 and 20,000 years ago when a great continental ice sheet covered New England with ice over a half-mile thick. Mount Greylock’s topography includes glacial cirques like The Hopper, the furthest south cirque in New England, as well as glacial erractics or boulders transported from other regions and deposited as the ice sheet retreated.
     
  • The summit of Mount Greylock offers 100-mile views of five states—Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut—on a clear day. The mountain is locally known as a weather indicator and its summit is often shrouded by clouds.
     
  • Mount Greylock is densely covered by woodlands including the northern hardwood forest on the lower mountain slopes; old growth red spruce in The Hopper cirque; and a sub-alpine forest, the only one in Massachusetts, on the mountain’s highest slopes.
     
  • Mount Greylock is named for Chief Gray Lock, a legendary Waronoke Native American (circa 1660-1750) who lived in the shadow of the mountain. As the British began settling western Massachusetts, the Waronokes, also called the Missisquoi, moved to the Berkshire Hills, then to the Mount Greylock area, before moving north to the Canadian border. The Chief built a fort there and allowed many other natives to stay there. During the French and Indian War, Gray Lock sided with the French and launched many guerrilla raids against British settlements. Despite a generous bounty for his scalp, Chief Gray Lock was never captured but died nine years before the war ended in 1759.
     
  • The Berkshire Hills and Mount Greylock figure prominently in American art and literature with numerous 19th century writers and artists living nearby. Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote The Scarlett Letter, climbed Mount Greylock several times in 1838. Hawthorne’s friend and colleague Herman Melville, who penned Moby Dick, lived in Pittsfield south of Greylock. Melville dedicated his novel Pierre to “Greylock’s Most Excellent Majesty.” Nature writer Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, climbed Mount Greylock and spent a night on the summit in 1844.
     
  • Mount Greylock was one of the first American landscapes to be protected from development. After much of the mountain was denuded by clear-cut logging, a group started the Greylock Park Association in 1885, raising enough cash to buy 400 acres on the mountain top. They also improved Notch Road to allow carriages, which were charged a 25-cent toll, to travel to the summit.
     
  • The Mount Greylock area is still protected by the 12,500-acre Mount Greylock State Reservation, which was established in 1898 to protect the mountain from development, logging, and to protect watersheds from erosion. It was the first public land in Massachusetts set aside for preservation.
     
  • The summit of Mount Greylock is easily reached by car via the 16.3-mile-long Mount Greylock Scenic Byway, a paved road that climbs the north side of the mountain. Rockwell Road, beginning at the Mount Greylock Visitor Center, ascends the mountain from the south. The summit is just above a large parking area, making it a five-minute ascent if you want to tag the state high point—seems kind of like cheating!
     
  • The 93-foot-high Massachusetts War Memorial Tower crowns the summit of Mount Greylock. The granite tower, built in 1931 and 1932, honors war veterans with a bright beacon that is visible up to 75 miles away. Also on the summit is Bascom Lodge, a hotel built in the 1930s after a previous summit house burned down. The Mount Greylock Summit Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places protects these and other structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
     
  • Mount Greylock is laced with over 70 miles of hiking trails. Its most famous trail is a section of the Appalachian Trail which climbs over the summit; that trail section was completed in 1931.

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