Backcountry Shelters and Camping on Mount Greylock’s Western Slopes

August 15, 2016

At 3,491 feet, Mount Greylock is the highest mountain in Massachusetts. It is also a delightful destination if you’re looking for a short overnight backpacking adventure.

Mount Greylock
The west side of Mount Greylock. You can clearly see the deep ravine of The Hopper near the center of the image. Photo: ericshawwhite/Wikimedia

There are several options for camping on Mount Greylock. Five backcountry shelters dot the flanks of the mountain, two of which are on the mountain’s western slopes. There’s also Sperry Road campground, a walk-in only campground that can only be accessed via a 1-mile hike. (It’s more of a backpacking campground, really.) You can see them all on the state park map. Camping is prohibited outside of these areas. (Note: Hopper Brook Dispersed Camping Area is now closed and camping is no longer permitted near the Hopper Road trailhead at the western base of the mountain.)

While staying at the campground requires a reservation (www.reserveamerica.com; $8 per night plus reservation fees; tons of availability for the remainder of the 2016 season), the backcountry shelters are all free and first-come, first-serve.

Of the many trails and shelters on the mountain, I’m personally partial to those on Greylock’s western flanks. This area—which consists of steep slopes and a deep ravine known as The Hopper—features striking examples of old-growth trees and forest; crystalline streams and waterfalls; and lush and diverse vegetation. It’s a gem of an area.

Deer Hill Shelter

On the western side of the mountain, one of the easiest shelters to access is Deer Hill shelter, which can be reached via a short 1-mile hike from the Campground Trail parking area south of the summit (overnight parking allowed).

Perched on steep slopes in a hemlock grove, Deer Hill is a lightly used shelter with a few small tent sites on the surrounding slopes. Year-round water can be obtained from a delightful stream a short distance downslope. It’s a bit of a detour from the Appalachian Trail, which runs north-south over the spine of the mountain, and consequently doesn’t receive as much use as other shelters on the mountain.

Wilbur’s Clearing

The other option on the western side is Wilbur’s Clearing shelter, the northernmost shelter on the mountain. It’s a short distance from the park road, but the trailhead parking area is day-use only, which means you would need to leave your vehicle at the summit parking area overnight.

The surrounding forest is grand, with mature yellow birch and red oak next to the shelter and large sugar maples interspersed throughout. Two tent platforms provide camping space and water is readily accessible from a nearby brook. The shelter is close to the AT and receives much heavier use than Deer Hill.

The best hike on the mountain

In my opinion, the best hiking/backpacking adventure you can do on Greylock is an 11-mile loop hike around the Hopper and along the mountain’s ridgeline.

The journey starts from the Hopper Road trailhead at the base of the mountains, travels the Money Brook Trail to climb to Wilbur’s Clearing (passing Money Brook Falls along the way), and then heads south on the AT over the summit. From there you head to Sperry Campground, where you can make the detour to Deer Hill shelter, and head down the Hopper Trail to return to the trailhead.

The forest in the Hopper is stunning, with many remarkable trees, and the trip makes for an excellent overnight backpacking trip or very leisurely two-night journey. You can read more about it (and many other great trips in New England), in my  guidebook AMC’s Best Backpacking in New England.

Enjoy!

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.